2022 NFL Draft: Could Mississippi State’s Charles Cross Be OT1?

2022 NFL Mock Draft, Charles Cross. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
2022 NFL Mock Draft, Charles Cross. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Don’t rule out Mississippi State Bulldogs tackle Charles Cross in the OT1 race for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Early on in the 2022 NFL Draft process, it looked like the tackle class had its work ahead of itself to match up with the past two classes. The 2020 group featured Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, and Andrew Thomas, while 2021 had a clear top two in Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater.

The 2022 group was led in the preseason by Alabama’s Evan Neal, who was a bit of a projection as he was making his move from right tackle to the left side. Jaxson Kirkland was another to watch in Washington. Darian Kinnard and Ikem Ekwonu were though to be potential tackles who could move to the inside at the next level. Then, there was Mississippi State’s Charles Cross.

Cross had excellent athleticism that flashed on tape during 2020 summer scouting, but he struggled with power in his lower half and lacked the anchor to reset against rushers who could convert speed to power.

Flash forward and Cross made the leap he needed to in order to move into first round discussion for the 2022 NFL Draft. Cross improved mightily in pass protection in terms of holding up against power and possessing the overall strength to handle the SEC’s best. Combine that with the ability to recover with great quickness and athleticism, and Cross looks like a complete player. He recently declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, and should hear his name called pretty early come April, especially with teams at the top of the draft in serious need of help along the offensive line.

He’ll go in the first round, but could Charles Cross contend for OT1? His main competition right now are Neal and Ekwonu, and both play with the mauler mentality as pass protectors and road graders in the run game. Neal has elite size and great athleticism, and Ekwonu has improved his hands and technique on the outside.

Cross might not be at the level of the other two in the run game, but his excellent athleticism and baseline of traits in pass protection give him the ability to start at left tackle and grow into an elite player in the NFL. Is he guaranteed to be OT1? Probably not, but don’t count him out.