Following a whole lotta fun at the Combine, federal mediated meetings and $9 billion disputes, our 2011 Draft Prospect series makes a much awaited return. After all, there still will be a Draft.

At the Combine, we were entertained by Cam Newton. We shared a few laughs with “High” Flyin’ Ryan Mallett. Stocks fell and rose and fell again, without anyone playing a game.

Today we profile Derek Sherrod, one of the top offensive tackles in the draft who might be the most natural – if not the most talented – of all the first-round left tackle prospects. Sherrod has a reputation as being an agile, smooth pass blocker who can handle edge rushers really well; something Dave Diehl struggles with.

Let’s go to the reports.

Derek Sherrod
Senior, OT
Mississippi State
6-6, 305

From the National Football Post:

A tall, long-armed athlete who possesses good overall size and length for the position. Exhibits above-average balance, range and body control on his kick-slide from a two-point stance. Does a nice job reaching the corner, staying somewhat compact with his footwork and is fluid changing directions in space. Possesses good natural flexibility, but struggles to consistently keep his pad level down through the play, has a tendency to get upright at times Has improved his patience and hand placement as a puncher this season, quickly getting in and under opposing defenders and doing a better job sticking though contact. Does a nice job working to stay engaged, is playing with better leverage this season and can get under defenders while keeping his frame clean through pass pro. But, can still be bullied into the backfield at times, gets himself into trouble against physical rushers because of his higher pad level and isn’t the most compact of punchers.

Exhibits a good initial burst out of his stance in the run game, understands angles and has the ability to quickly zone step and seal defenders away from the play. Looks natural on the move, is quickly able to get out of the second level, drop his pad level and hit a moving target. But isn’t overly dominant on contact. Allows defenders to work their way off his blocks and doesn’t have the type of power or mental makeup to simply lock out and drive opposing linebackers into the dirt. Needs to do a better job with his hand placement on contact in the run game as well. Too often keeps his hands too low when asked to engage and can be easily swatted on at the point. However, does exhibit good body control and footwork on the move when trying to mirror on slide-down blocks or get around and reach.

Impression: A smooth, graceful blocker with good range, change of direction skills and quickness in both the run and pass game. Needs to learn to play a little lower, but has the ability to mirror in space and possesses the makeup of a starting left tackle in the NFL.

Next, from Draft Countdown:

– Ideal height and good bulk with large hands
– Quick and agile with above average athleticism
– Light on feet. Able to slide and mirror laterally
– Good footwork, balance and body control
– Technically sound and uses his hands well
– Understands positioning and angles
– Great pass blocker and can protect the edge
– Does a solid job in the run game as a drive blocker
– Effective in space and can get to the second level
– Smart with excellent instincts and awareness
– Mature, hard working and a leader
– Is tough and has proven to be durable
– Tons of experience versus top competition

– Just average strength and overall power
– Doesn’t have real long arms but adequate
– Will get tall and lose leverage at times
– Not overly stout at the point of attack
– Has some trouble anchoring and sustaining
– Isn’t a dominant road grading run blocker
– Not overly aggressive and may lack a killer instinct

Was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Bulldogs and served as a team captain — Brother, Dezmond, also played at Mississippi State as a tight end (2003-2007), spent some time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is currently with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL — Also had scholarship offers from schools like Florida, Miami (FL), Notre Dame and Michigan — Saw extensive action in a backup capacity as a true freshman in ’07 — Missed one game with a foot infection in ’08 — Was named 1st Team All-SEC in 2010 — Also excelled in the classroom, graduating Cum Laude with a degree in business and receiving the NFF Scholar-Athlete Award — The type who does everything well but nothing great — Possesses both the physical tools and intangibles that you look for in a left tackle prospect — Not particularly flashy but very consistent and arguably the best all-around blocker in this class.

Sure, Sherrod doesn’t have that killer instinct everyone seems to love. And he just isn’t the road grader that will rack up pancakes; his strength is described as “adequate” at this point in his career. However, the most important attribute he possesses is keeping the quarterback off the ground. He has good measurables, and had the longest wingspan for an offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. You’d be hard-pressed to find tape of Sherrod giving up a sack; it didn’t happen at the Senior Bowl, even matched up with Cameron Jordan and Ryan Kerrigan – two projected first rounders.

He possesses great quickness and excellent footwork against rushers off the edge, which is something that is extremely difficult to teach at the NFL level. His strength is subpar; but strength can be taught and can be improved much easier than footwork. It would be easier for Sherrod to build up his blocking strength over the next couple of years than it would be for the other prospects to develop quicker feet.

The Giants will certainly have to give Sherrod a look in the first round.