From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling a versatile five-year starter along the O-Line who has played more collegiate games than almost anyone in history.
#64 Ben Petrula, OL, Boston College (Grad Sr.) — 6050, 316 lbs.
Pro Day Measurements
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Ben Petrula||6050/316||10 1/8″||33″||80 1/4″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Outstanding play strength. It takes a special kind of player to bully him on the line.
— Very quick reaction off the snap, driving forward the moment the ball is moving.
— Quick to fire his hands, and it’s rare he doesn’t land at least one of them.
— Grip strength is very strong, few players can slip free from his grasp well enough to generate pressure or stress a run play.
— When he gets his man squared up, can reliably anchor and retain blocks.
— Best move is when he can “scoop” his man — getting good grip on his man’s pads or his arms below his man’s and lifting upward to stall him out. Holds players helpless for the duration of snaps when he gets it.
— Doesn’t give up the long arm to the chest, and doesn’t let it move him much when it does land.
— Moves very well along the arc when he’s actively engaged, using his strength to control the movement and slow players down.
— Had enough speed to drive most college edge rushers wide below the pocket.
— Excels at driving players L/R to clear lanes for his back, will create huge holes to hit.
— Creates big lanes as the final man in a slide block, knows how to finish wiping away the defense from an area without missing someone.
— An absolute pile-mover when he comes in later, can drive piles whatever direction he comes in hitting.
— Incredible durability — never missed a game after entering BC’s lineup as a true freshman. Appeared in a school record 60 games, all starts.
— Has an awkward kick-back off the line that did the job in college, but has to become more fluid in the NFL to match speed rushers off the edge.
— The word “lumbering” comes to mind too often watching him try to move when not engaged in a block. Not a quick or elegant player trying to cover open ground.
— Leans too far forward off the line, uses it well when he has a man to hit, but hurts his chances of winning a block when he needs a step or two to reach a defender.
— Can’t be the lead blocker going out for a screen or at the front of a slide block, doesn’t move well enough to stay in front of teammates or get to his block in the open field in time.
— Doesn’t last long trying to shuffle L/R to stay in front of a rusher, has to get a hand on him to slow him down to stay in front.
— Has to hit pure speed guys as they come off the edge; if he doesn’t make contact early, they can run the arc uninterrupted.
— Doesn’t have the speed to adjust and pick up twists/loopers along the outside.
— Looks lost when he doesn’t have a man off the line, has to find one.
— Inconsistent hitting blocks at second level or picking up blitzers coming from that level. The ones he does hit are guys who don’t try to evade L/R.
— Want to see more of a killer mindset from him than was on his film. With his strength, he could end up on the highlight reel planting guys to the turf.
— Five-year starter at Boston College from 2017-2021. Spent 2018, 2019, and 2021 as team’s right tackle after starting at center as a true freshman, and spent 2020 as the right guard.
— Set the Boston College record for most games played and started, with 60. Made 37 total starts at right tackle, 12 at center, and 11 at right guard.
— Never missed a game in his college career after entering the lineup as a true freshman.
— Named a freshman All-American as a center, after never playing the position before. Came in as an injury replacement.
— 2019, 2020 Outland Trophy Watch Lists (best lineman). 2019, 2020 All-ACC second team, 2021 third team, 2018 honorable mention.
— Part of a line that helped BC lead the ACC in rushing and allowed the fewest sacks in 2019; BC finished third in rushing and allowed the second-fewest sacks in 2017, and allowed the third-fewest sacks in 2021.
— Three-star guard prospect who chose Boston College over nine other schools, including Wisconsin, North and South Carolina, and his hometown Rutgers.
I am grateful for my friend and colleague over at BC Bulletin, Mitchell Wolfe, asking me to offer a second opinion on Petrula, because his name was not one I had as high on my radar as I should have. Such was the case I’m sure for many draft writers, with Petrula overlooked on a line that features a likely first-round pick (Zion Johnson) and a player with more name recognition (Alec Lindstrom) that are also part of the 2022 draft class. After watching five of Petrula’s games from the 2021 season, I came away pleasantly surprised with what I saw, which was the type of later-round player who can outplay his draft slot and become the type of pick that really helps boost an overall draft class for a franchise.
Watching Petrula, you don’t need a lot of scouting reports logged to recognize that he possesses a ton of strength. He looks imposing with his 6’5″, 316-pound frame, and he uses every bit of that size to generate plenty of strength to win his blocks with ease. It is rare to find a player strong enough to bully him off the line, and when he gets a solid grip on a rusher, even one-handed, that player is typically out of the play.
Watch his strength on display on these two plays against Virginia Tech, which were actually only two snaps apart from each other, and show how he uses his strength in both the pass and run games.
Watch how Petrula works from his right tackle spot here. Immediately off the snap, he is up and out to meet Virginia Tech’s Amare Barno (another 2022 draft prospect) off the line. He lands his hands high on Barno with his first punch, anchors, and Barno never gets close to pressuring BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec.
Two snaps later, Petrula is helping lead the way on a run up the middle. Watch him get off of his right tackle spot quickly while getting his arms underneath Wilfried Pene’s, get a grip on Pene’s collar, and then simply walk him backwards five yards as his back follows along the lane Petrula created.
In both of those snaps, Petrula getting a solid grip on his assignment is the key to his success, and allows him to use his strength advantage to control their matchup and take his defender out of the play. When he can engage his defender against the pass, Petrula is a reliable anchor who will not be moved back much, if at all, and can retain his blocks to give his QB time to work.
Just another example of Petrula’s anchor here, against Clemson and defensive end Justin Foster. Petrula (still at right tackle) gets his hands on Foster’s shoulders and immediately lifts upward. That stalls out Foster’s rush and lets Petrula anchor in, and like Barno, Foster never makes it close to pressuring the QB. That move, lifting or driving upward on rushers, is Petrula’s best way of stalling out rushes, and he could do it whether he got his hands to the shoulders or to the chest plate of a rusher, most often with his arms inside or below his defender’s.
If you want one more display of Petrula’s strength, just watch how he absorbs this rush from Clemson’s Xavier Thomas (watch the left side of the screen). Thomas creates separation, and tries to bull rush right through Petrula with some momentum and considerable power built up. Petrula absorbs that rush while surrendering only a step, and begins to anchor in as the pass is released. It is just an impressive display of strength from the tackle, and that is the type of strength that can make a player succeed along an NFL O-Line.
Something else noticeable in many of the above clips is Petrula’s quickness off the snap. His reaction time allows him to beat his man off the line, and normally be the one to initiate contact and gain the early advantage.
While not a strong mover overall given his size (more on that below), Petrula is able to follow his defenders along the arc when he is able to make and retain contact with them.
This isn’t a flawless rep against Missouri (he doesn’t entirely seal off Johnny Walker Jr. from putting some pressure on QB Dennis Grosel, who is very deep in the pocket), but you can see Petrula get hands on Walker early, and slow him down as they move along the arc together. On a shorter drop by his QB, Petrula would be driving Walker below the pocket and away from the play. Using his strength to stay in contact, he can slow down edge rushers enough to follow them along, provided he can get that early contact off the line and isn’t required to find and hit them in lots of open space.
Petrula is fundamentally sound in defending the run off the line, and one area he really helps in is clearing lanes for his back while working left (as a right tackle) or to either side (working on the interior of the O-Line).
One of his biggest lanes of the season came in that Clemson game. Petrula comes off the line at an angle, driving left, and catches Thomas working at an angle. He makes solid contact and has the battle won immediately, absolutely driving Thomas away from the play with ease, and creating an enormous cutback lane for Pat Garwo III to run through. Working as the final man in a slide block, Petrula can clear out any traffic from lanes, and blocking left or right by himself or in other assignments, he can pile on with his strength to carry players out of the way.
Unsurprisingly with his size, Petrula’s biggest weaknesses on the field are mostly tied to his ability to move. The word “lumbering” comes to mind far too often in how he tries to cover ground or stay centered on an oncoming defender, and when he can’t tie a man up before moving laterally, or is asked to cover ground to hit a block, his results suffer.
You’ve seen Petrula succeed against Virginia Tech and Clemson in pass protection by getting early contact on his man off the edge. Watch similar plays, where he doesn’t get that contact off the line.
In the first clip, working against Clemson’s Thomas again, Petrula doesn’t get a grip on him quickly, and Thomas is cornering on him a moment later, forcing a quick throw that is batted down at the line.
And in this clip, against Tech, Petrula chooses to try and shuffle laterally to stay in front of TyJuan Garbutt, something he does not do quickly. Garbutt runs the arc and gets to a spot where he can stick his arm out and corner Petrula, and he helps chase Jurkovec from the pocket, on a play that should have ended in a sack were it not for a great escape by the QB. Petrula exhibits similar struggles in other areas, like trying to stay in front of oncoming defenders from the second level or picking up loopers on twist plays: When he tries to shuffle laterally to stay in front of a player, he will often get beat, and his ability to win blocks and buy time for his QB or create running lanes diminishes with the more open space that is around him.
Similarly, Petrula struggles to go out and find players as one of the lead blockers in a screen pass, slide block, or when he is asked to go hit somebody in the second level.
This play against Missouri shows a couple issues he faces in the open field, on a QB keeper to the right side. Petrula is quick off the line and in getting upfield, but it goes downhill from there. He isn’t quick enough to get to linebacker Devin Nicholson (#11), who is picked up by teammate CJ Lewis instead. Petrula gets tunnel vision at that point, and while chasing that block and being caught up to by his QB, he misses a chance to block oncoming Missouri defensive back Jaylon Carlies (#1), who is able to come in and help Martez Manuel (#3) make the stop. You see on this rep that he is not able to get out to open space ahead of plays, something that also shows when he is sent out ahead of screen plays, and also why the term “lumbering” occasionally comes to mind watching him in the open field.
After watching Petrula’s tape, it is clear his stock should be higher, and that he is a legit NFL prospect who at the worst can be a serviceable backup at the next level, with starting upside for a team that uses a power run scheme rather than zone running, given his play strength skillset and weaknesses when asked to move. His strength is incredible, some of the best in the class, and he really knows how to use it well to win his battles and overcome some of his weaker areas as a blocker. His durability is also outstanding, and would be invaluable to any team, given how often O-Line injuries can occur to one or several players in quick succession. In a similar vein, his versatility (having spent at least a season at center, guard, and tackle in college) would also be an asset to any team and to his draft stock.
Despite spending three of his five collegiate seasons at the position, I don’t think Petrula’s NFL home is at tackle. He was able to keep his head above water against collegiate edge rushers, but he is not a great mover with his size, and a lot of what did the job for him in college will not get it done against NFL edge rushers. As a tackle prospect, I believe he is a backup in the NFL, who would need to become a much better mover, especially laterally, to get a chance as a starter.
Petrula’s NFL home should be at guard, where I believe he can become a long-term, dependable starter for a power-running team while minimizing the amount of moving he is asked to do in space and giving him a chance to really rely purely on his strength as a pass protector and a people-mover for ground plays. His prior experience at center, albeit just one year of it, showed he can handle an interior position, and with some NFL coaching to help him shift back inside, I believe Petrula could enter a lineup as soon as the middle to back half of his rookie year. If he can earn a starting job, his strength can make him a long-term, dependable starter for a franchise who might not offer Pro Bowl play, but can hold down a position over the length of multiple contracts, and become the type of player who is appreciated by a fan base.
Projection: Early-Mid Day 3 (Rounds 4-5)
Depot Draft Grade: 7.6 (Potential Starter/Good Backup)
Games Watched: 2021: vs. Missouri, at Clemson, vs. N.C. State, at Louisville, vs. Virginia Tech