On Day 3 of interviews of the 2022 NFL Combine, the offensive linemen and running backs were scheduled to speak to the media. Compared to the previous day with the QBs, WRs, and TEs, there were notably way less media members in attendance, as the flashy names at QB weren’t there. This allowed me and several other media members to get more questions in and spend almost some one-on-one time with several key draft prospects.
Personally, I fell in love with Mississippi State OT Charles Cross when studying his tape for a pre-draft profile I wrote for Steelers Depot, so he was high on my list of guys to interview and get a better feel of today.
JH: Charles, have you met with the Steelers in a formal meeting or do you anticipate meeting with Mike Tomlin the Steelers here this week?
CC: Ya, I have met with the Steelers in a formal meeting.
JH: How did that go?
CC: I feel like it went pretty well.
CC: Ya, I definitely was impressed by them. We talked a little football.
JH: What are your thoughts on Coach Tomlin and that organization?
CC: I’ve heard a lot of good things and I definitely enjoyed the meeting.
JH: Are there any offensive linemen you watch in the NFL that you like to model your game after?
CC: I watch a lot of guys. Tyron Smith, Elgton Jenkins, and Trent Williams. I’m probably missing some guys, but I like to take away bits and pieces from their game.
Personally, I was ecstatic when he mentioned Tyron Smith as the first name that came to his mind as a player he likes to study and model his game after. Smith was a player I closely studied while doing Cross’s draft report and ended up being my pro comparison for him at the next level due to a bevy or shared similarities that you can see here:
Another question I wanted to ask Cross regarded his ability as a run blocker, which, while there were instances on tape of him being an effective player in that aspect, those instances were few and far between because of his offensive system. His response to my question was perfect.
JH: Charles, with being in the Mike Leach offense, the stigma is that obviously you guys are great past protectors, but not as good quality run blockers. Compared to other tackles in this class, how do you answer that question to people saying that, “I’m just as good if not better as a run blocker as the other guys here.”
CC: Go watch the film. I’ll Say to them go watch the film. You’ll see.
I had conversations with several other OL evaluators, saying they liked Cross’s talent be weren’t sure about his prowess as a run blocker at the next level. The fact of the matter is, Cross was hardly ever asked to run block in Leach’s Air Raid offense. however, on occasions where they would run or throw WR screen passes, you definitely saw Cross’s ability as a run blocker pop on tape like he mentioned.
JH: Charles, you have added mass to your frame and have really grown in your body during your time Mississippi State. Have teens talked to you about to you about adding more mass to your frame as you transition from college to the pros?
CC: They really haven’t but I feel like I can gain an extra 5-10lb and that could definitely help my game to play in the NFL. That would put me at an ideal playing weight of 310-315lb in the league.
JH: Charles, who’s the best player that you went up against this season?
CC: The best player that I went up against I feel like gave me the best game was Sam Williams from Ole Miss.
I definitely agree with Cross that he could stand to add some more weight to his frame to be stronger at the point of attack in the run game as well as consistently anchor better against power rushers at the next level, and I am happy that he recognized that. When it comes to Sam Williams, I was a big fan of his throughout the 2021 season as well as in the brief action I saw him at the Senior Bowl, so Cross’s mention of Williams being the toughest defender he faced this season over other household names doesn’t come as a shock to me.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Charles Cross. The guy has a bubbly personality, cracking a smile constantly and answers every question in a laid back kind of way. The interest the Steelers have in Cross, having conducted a formal interview with him, makes me excited, as I personally see him as the best pass protector in this draft class as well as potentially the best tackle prospect overall.
Now the likelihood of Cross making it all the way to #20 overall is probably slim, especially if he indeed rips of a 4.8 40-yard dash he intends to run on Friday. However, I see a prototypical LT prospect that has phenomenal athletic traits and is only scratching the surface of his potential, having been limited in his usage and exposure to other concepts in the scheme he played at Mississippi State.
Cross said he wants to rip off a 4.8 40👀🔥
— Jonathan Heitritter (@J_Heits) March 3, 2022
Should he be on the board when the Pittsburgh Steelers select, I would sprint to the podium and hand in the card, regardless if one of the other interior offensive line prospects were on the board. Cross confirmed today that not only is he a talented player, but he is also a cool, quality human being.
What are your thoughts on Charles Cross? Do you think that he projects to be a successful tackle in the NFL? Where would you grade him in comparison to other tackles in this draft class? Do you think he can develop into a well-round offensive tackle in the league? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!