After talking about some of the most talented position groups in the running backs and safeties last week, I’d like to take a look at one of worst offensive tackle classes in a while.
When you read about scouts’ opinions you see that there is no clear-cut number one prospect across the boards and you understand that if you need someone at the position you either grab him early or try to find somebody in free agency. To me there are three prospects in the top 40, but after them there’s a pretty significant drop-off. On the other hand, I have to say there are some intriguing developmental guys in the middle- and later rounds.
1. Cam Robinson, Alabama:
The gigantic Bama tackle can really drive maul defenders in the run game, as the offense primarily ran to left side unlike most playcallers’ approaches. While he might not have super-quick feet, he knows how to set up and when to drive D-ends away from the QB when he’s beat early. Most of the time he lands the first punch in pass pros and then doesn’t let his rusher go. He and the likely No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett had one of the best battles I’ve seen in collegiate football last season. Robinson didn’t allow a sack to the A&M superstar, although Jalen Hurts’ scrambling probably helped. Alabama’s starting left tackle for the last three years is kind of hard to project because he has the size to line up at guard and make up for some of his balance deficiencies when asked to protect the edge, but at the same time he moved better than pretty much anybody at his position at the combine. To me he just oversets to the outside too often and struggles against very active rushers, but he wins with great technique, length and a strong grip on defenders. When I think of where the 2016 Outland Trophy winner would fit best I’d say he’s a starting right tackle, who could really boost a team’s ground game and can work on his weight distribution in protection with NFL coaches to develop into an All-Pro player at the position.
2. Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin:
Unlike Robinson, the Badgers one-year starter on the blind side is very determined not to open his hips too much and overset as a pass protector. If he has to, he pushes his rushers away from the pocket. I wouldn’t call him a dancing bear either, but he’s a great technician. He is excellent on combo-blocking, definitely showing the ability to drive defenders off the ball, but he also knows when it’s more about positioning and turning his shoulders to open up running lanes. He understands angles and can climb to the second level. Ramczyk was outstanding against Michigan’s Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley, not allowing any sack or much pressure. He is very aware of stunts, but he’s had his share of problems when asked to pick up blitzing DBs because he couldn’t get into his normal passing set. To be fair, you can’t really ask offensive linemen to stay in front of defenders weighing a hundred or more pounds less than them though. My only question is how he will fare against some of the elite speed rushers in the league and he just recently had hip surgery. He transferred from a D-III school and only had one year against major competition, but he fared really well against the best edge rushers in the country.
3. Garett Bolles, Utah:
This guy had a huge breakout year after going from a troubled childhood to garage door repairman before becoming a five-star recruit in 2015. To me he is one of the few guys who has the potential to be a true blindside-protector and probably has the highest ceiling in this class. He put on a show in Indianapolis at the combine running sub-five seconds in the 40 and showing incredible open field movement skills. In pads, he always keeps his legs moving through contact and pushes people around until the echo of the whistle, showing one of the nastier streaks from OTs I’ve watched. Bolles displays the athleticism as a puller in running schemes or get out on screen plays and deliver devastating blows. He understands when to lay out his body and cut defenders down at their feet. UCLA’s Takkarist McKinkley had a huge day against Utah, but he was neutralized when lined up against their left tackle. He will turn 25 in about a week and like I said he has just one year of college football experience, but he received All-Pac-12 honors and shows the natural combination of size, strength and athleticism to only get better as he moves on to the next level. Although he needs to refine his technique, most importantly keeping his feet moving and latching onto opponents more consistently in protection as well as simply sinking his hips more the way I saw him do in shorts, his potential goes through the roof.
4. Taylor Moton, Western Michigan:
This guy impresses with high football and overall IQ. He really knows how to lock people out and has the looks of a right tackle with tremendous power and the will to finish. When he was lined up at guard in 2015 he destroyed Ohio State’s interior defensive linemen and he has shown he could have a future inside as well. Even as a tackle he punishes interior-linemen when they are out of position and he is asked to open up a hole in combination will a puller. Moton might be limited to power-schemes and needs to play with quicker hands and feet, but his durability, toughness and versatility make him an interesting prospect. For people who say that he can’t be that good if his coaches put him on the right side, they should watch Western Michigan’s junior left tackle Okorafor play. He’ll be a stud.
5. Antonia Garcia, Troy:
At 6’7’’ Garcia shows impressive lateral agility to mirror edge rushers. He did get beat up some at Senior Bowl practices early on, but improved every day and made me really go through his tape. He looked very good against Ohio’s Tarell Basham during the year, who I have at least close to my top 50 overall prospects. He is very aware of blitzes in addition to being one of the nastier guys in the class, as he looks to push people around until the refs break things up. His feet don’t stick to the turf enough and he gets knocked around too easily at times, but I think he could still add some extra weight to his frame and improve his core strength. Right now he is still rather passive as a backside-blocker in his approach and in his pass sets he plays way too high and lets his hands get outside the rusher’s frame. Still, he was one of the few bright spot in their horrible 35-3 defeat to Arkansas State and with his combination of athleticism in the lower body and the mean-streak he displays he is a developmental guy who could become a quality starter with some time to learn and train.
6. Roderick Johnson, Florida State
This two-time All-ACC tackle is a road-grader in the run game with a wide frame and long limbs as arms. He combines good initial quickness off the snap with the enormous wing-span to recover. He can climb to the second level and put fear into smaller defenders. He will probably have to go to the right side because of lacking lateral agility, which can also lead him to being beat to the inside, but he uses his length pretty well to make up for some of those deficiencies. Johnson has yet to develop a kick-step with some depth and has to get a better initial punch on rushers to stone them, as he was knocked on his back a couple of times against Ole Miss last season. While he got away with it for most of his collegiate career his lean into defenders will be exposed more at the pro level, especially by savvy edge players, but he has the athletic traits NFL scouts are looking for if he can work on his body control.
7. Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh:
The Panther’s starting left tackle for the last four years is a hard-nosed football player, who will probably move to the right side as well. He shows nice initial quickness and punch on defenders, while being built more like a tight-end with a muscular upper body. He dishes out nice chips on combo-blocks and finds the guys on the second level. Bisnowaty takes choppy and short steps and falls down too easily in the open field. He plays with too little bend in his knees and doesn’t unlock what I feel like could be looser hips. I love how he always seems to be ready for a man-fight. What I don’t like about him on the field is that he starts to jog easily as soon as his man is past the blocker. I’d like to see him run with his guys because I know he could knock some of those smaller defenders to the turf when they back up.
8. Chad Wheeler, USC:
On an extremely massive SC offensive line I thought Wheeler was the most mobile of the group. He has outstanding overall body control, a strong first punch to stone rushers and really long arms to guide them away from his quarterback. I think he’s at his best on the move and he rarely gets out of control. What I enjoyed about him on tape was how he simply shoves smaller guys to the ground, dishes out pancakes and jumps on top piles. He just likes it when it gets chippy, as he always gives an extra shove at the end of the play. Unfortunately he stands up more and more during plays and doesn’t really use kick steps, which could lead him to struggle against really speedy rushers. That showed up when he had his share of problems against Takk McKinley. There is some concern about his health, because he missed time in all his three seasons as a starter, but I like him much better than the second former Trojan tackle Zach Banner, although a couple of pounds muscle wouldn’t hurt him.
9. Will Holden, Vanderbilt:
There aren’t a lot of three-year starters at left tackle in the SEC that look good against the premiere competition of edge rushers, but Holden has held his ground pretty well. He has a huge frame and simply is a better technician than athlete. He can turn his shoulder and create space when asked to block down on D-tackles, but also stays square to his rushers and really makes them work the edge, with the ability to shut them down once he engages. Holden can get knocked off balance by the better power rushers at times when he lets them get into his chest, even though he has really good core strength, and he tends to get grabby when reach blocks are defeated by the defender. He also has relatively short arms and can be beat off the snap if his man gets a good jump, but in general he relies on his fundamentals to win reps. A thing I’d like to see him wipe out are some of the struggles working through stunts and twists, but he’s a solid player.
10. Dan Skipper, Arkansas:
This 6’10’’ tower can seal the edge with textbook-technique and he has a ton of experience in Brent Bielema’s pro-scheme. He works more with positioning and turning his man to open up lanes instead of driving them down the field, but he finishes his blocks on top his defender if he has the chance to. In combos with guards he gives nice shoves to down-linemen before going to the next level. He can be vulnerable to powerful edge rushers due to his size and lack of anchor and he doesn’t have elite movement skills, but he has the length to counterbalance some of that. He really held his own his LSU’s Arden Key – one of the premiere edge rushers in college football last year. To me the Arkansas tackle simply is a really natural football player, who got the job done in 47 starts in the SEC. If he adds some weight he could be a dominant run-blocker in the NFL.
Just missed the cut:
Conor McDermott, UCLA:
At 6’8’’ McDermott is a better pass protector than run blocker. He has super-quick feet and gains great depth on his first kick slide. He doesn’t get his hands under the pads of his target consistently, but rather bends them like he’s doing a bench press. At the same time he makes up for some of that with a tight grip on his hands to control defenders. The former Bruin doesn’t really drive defenders off the ball in the ground game when there’s no instant movement and he’s too passive in his pass sets as he tends to catch rushers. He was abused by Myles Garrett in the regular season and struggled early in Senior Bowl practices, but he bounced back. I really think he could become a more powerful run blocker with time in the weight room.
Jermaine Eluemunor, Texas A&M:
The London native is an enormous human being with thighs like tree trunks and I have yet to see anybody be able to really push him back. At the same time he is surprisingly mobile for his size shown by skip-pulls and the ability to mirror rushers. Once he gets a grip on defenders they stick like glue to his hands, but he gives up on plays when he feels like he lost the battle too easily and simply lacks the speed to stay in front of edge rushers when the QB is forced to drop back deeper than how the pocket is drawn up. He’s still pretty unexperienced, but he has a lot of room to grow as far as technique and football IQ go and with the right coaching he could become a mauler in the run game.
Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell:
This former basketball player has really good feet and length with 87 inch arms, but he just seems to lack pure strength. To me he is a developmental player, who didn’t face any elite competition until the Senior Bowl, where he looked helpless early on, but felt like he belonged by the end of the week. There are some holes in his game at this point, but certainly has some feet you can work with.
Right behind them:
Erik Magnuson (Michigan), David Sharpe (Florida), Justin Senior (Mississippi State)