James Hudson III has only been an offensive lineman since 2018, but his quick development and strong technique displayed in his final three seasons at Cincinnati made him one of the most raw talents of the 2021 NFL Draft class.
The Browns believe Hudson, who was a defensive lineman until he switched to the other side of the ball in 2018, can continue to grow that talent in Cleveland. That's why they drafted him in the fourth round last April.
Dane Brugler, draft analyst for The Athletic, believes Hudson can become a solid player in Cleveland, too.
"The mobility, the strong hands, those are exciting foundational traits," Brugler said in a "Browns Breakdowns" video with Nathan Zegura. "It's a great place to start for a young offensive lineman. To get him in the fourth round, you love the value there."
Brugler, who ranked Hudson 10th in his player rankings in his annual draft guide, believes Hudson is already capable of holding his ground should the Browns need him on the field at any point as a rookie.
Hudson's background as a defensive lineman translates well to the technique and strength needed in the run game. He made a habit of driving defenders into the ground last season, when he started in all 11 of Cincinnati's games and flashed the hands and footwork necessary to drive through a defender of any size.
"Something that really jumped off his film is the grip strength," Brugler said. "Once he has you in his clutches, he's able to control the point of attack. He's a former defensive lineman. He knows how that works."
In the passing game, Hudson never allowed a sack last season — one of the biggest reasons why his draft stock ascended in 2020. He held his own, too, against Georgia in the Peach Bowl and kept the pocket clean despite going up against several other NFL prospects, including top-ranked defensive end Azeez Ojulari.
Those types of games carry extra value to mid-round prospects such as Hudson, and his strong reps certainly were a reason why the Browns were comfortable taking him in the fourth round.
"He looks like he's been playing tackle for a lot longer than he has," Brugler said. "He doesn't look outmatched. He does a nice job of engaging, controlling his target."
One of the most important reasons Brugler believes Hudson is on track to be a potential starter in coming years is because of who Hudson will have as his coaches.
Bill Callahan, who has more than four decades of coaching experience and is one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the NFL, will be his first offensive line coach, and Scott Peters, assistant offensive line coach and technique guru, will be hands on in helping Hudson grow, too.
The coaching duo helped mold the Browns offensive line into arguably the best unit in the NFL last season, and Brugler knows they were hungry to receive another player like Hudson, who has the raw traits to take some big steps at the professional level.
"The offensive line coaches, once they get their hands on him, it's going to be a lot of fun to watch him progress and develop," Brugler said. "If he's pressed into action, he might impress some people based on the raw skill he has."