The Cleveland Browns used the 110th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft to select James Hudson, an offensive tackle out of the University of Cincinnati. Hudson was a defensive tackle and started at Michigan before transferring to Cincinnati, so he has limited game experience as an offensive tackle.
Unfortunately, in the final game of his college career, the 2021 Peach Bowl against Georgia, Hudson was ejected before the end of the first half due to a targeting call hitting an opponent after the play at the sideline, which proved a significant factor in the outcome of the game.
Age: 21 (Born May 13th, 1999)
Height: 6’4 3/4″
Weight: 313 lbs
Arm Length: 33″
40-yard dash: 5.38
Broad Jump: 98″
Vertical Jump: 28.5″
Bench Press: 22 reps
Hudson technically has enough athleticism to play tackle, but it’s not good based on his pro day. On his tape, he looks lighter on his feet than this would suggest and one can only hope that workout was not representative of truly what he has to offer.
Nevertheless, what did put out there is enough to be a long term starter at the position, so even if he was this unimpressive, it wouldn’t rule him out.
He’ll turn 22 in May, which is fine. He’s got enough height and long enough arms to satisfy both sides of that argument.
The first attribute that stands out on Hudson’s tape is his demeanor and the nasty streak he brings. Rarely satisfied just to get a block, he’s constantly showing effort, looking to dominate, send a message and just sap the opponent’s will.
The second is how much Hudson does correctly despite being young and having so little game experience. Maybe most importantly, Hudson doesn’t expose his chest to defenders, bends his knees and doesn’t give opponents much surface area for to bull rush or drive him backward.
So often, opponents naturally then try to go around Hudson and he’s capable of getting out and getting the block.
His first step is a little inconsistent. There are times where he’s explosive out of his stance and wins the rep almost immediately, while others simply are not as good.
Hudson is mobile enough to get to the second level, get outside and run on screens. He is pretty good on reach blocks, which is something the Browns use routinely, but powerful enough to down block, moving people off the ball.
Along with protecting his chest, Hudson is excellent at engaging his hips to unlock his leg strength which improves his power and rewards his leg drive. Hudson does a really nice job of working his feet to maximize his position and seal off defenders from the play.
Occasionally, he will end up a little out of control out in space like on screens trying to do more is necessary to land the block, but he’s able to get out there.
In pass protection, Hudson is pretty consistent at being able to get to his pass set. He has pretty good patience and timing when it comes to firing his hands and engaging the block. Hudson keeps his feet moving and uses his power to try to get them out of the play.
There are times when he’s probably leaning too far forward, overextends and can end up off balance, vulnerable to an effective counter move. It also can have him lunge on occasion, which is a hit or miss proposition.
Hudson is fantastic at dealing with power rushers because he does play low and fights power with power. He has experience and has done pretty well against speed, though he’s not as comfortable with it. The big thing is Hudson is able to force them to take the long way around as opposed to allowing them to squeeze as they run the arc.
Hudson and really the entire Cincinnati offensive line has not been exposed to all that much. The left side of the line struggled with stunts. They didn’t face much in terms of blitzing. It’s relatively basic in terms of what Hudson faced during his playing career.
Fit, Usage, and Projection
As long as the athletic component does not limit him, Hudson is going to get every opportunity to play tackle. While he has the nasty streak a team might love in a guard, there’s a lot of similarities in the way Hudson played and the way Jedrick Wills played in college. Their sizes are pretty comparable as well. Hudson looks the part.
It’s more of a question of how the Browns want to employ Hudson and when. At some point, he’s going to need to be able to operate at both tackle spots, but they may be content to let him find confidence and success on the left initially given that’s where his experience is. It’s possible he could also be worked in at guard as well, simply because that would increase his value in terms of depth, but he’s going to be a tackle first, likely the only thing he will operate at this season.
Hudson has to earn his spot on the roster against the likes of Alex Taylor and potentially Chris Hubbard. Given what the Browns have ahead at tackle with Wills and Jack Conklin, he could have a nice opportunity to develop, competing against the Browns talented edge rushers. Preferably, the Browns stay healthy and his name never comes up aside from the preseason for a few years. Hudson needs reps and opportunities to just be exposed to more in terms of blitzes and stunts in addition to just facing higher level competition.
Overall, Hudson, based on the data, that pro day, he projects as a potential long term starter, could be a nice player for the Browns down the road.