After talking about the top running backs and linebackers to kick things off and then the best interior linemen on either side of the ball last week, we now look at the guys on the edges – starting out with the offensive tackle position.
I really think this is as good a tackle class – when you look at the top four – as we have seen in a long, long time. While all but the number one prospect definitely still need some development before reaching their potential, I would much rather draft them than a lot of the other overhyped guys we have seen recently.
However, even after that group, I believe there are several intriguing options out there, who may have some negatives to consider, but could certainly develop into some valuable starters at the next level.
Here is the list:
1. Jedrick Wills Jr. Alabama
Even though Wills was an all-state selection in Kentucky and a five-star recruit, he only started one game as a true freshman due to the depth on the Alabama O-line, which came in a game where the Tide used a six-man front on the first play. In year two, he started all 15 games, but he took his game to a completely different level last season, when he was a first-team All-SEC and a second-team All-American selection, starting all 13 games at right tackle.
At 6’4”, around 315 pounds, Wills is a highly explosive and aggressive run-blocker, who rolls his hips into contact and throws some guys down to the turf at the end of plays. He pushes guys out of the action when he arrives from the side on some type of combo-block and gets underneath the shoulder plates of those guys. Then his eyes toggle back to the next linebacker and he gets hands on those guy as effectively. Alabama ran a lot of inside and outside zone, where Wills did a great job ripping through the inside arm of D-linemen trying to slant towards the inside gap on the backside and then progressed to the backer if he was in reach. When Wills meets linebackers at the second level, he brings some pop and moves them backwards right away. He was also used on some skip-pulls from his tackle spot.
This young man puts out some textbook film in pass protection. He is highly patient with his punch and opening up his hips, not panicking about where his defenders goes and his pads stay squared to the line of scrimmage as long as possible. Wills uses his outside hand very well to hit the chest of his guy on the edge to square him up better. He also has very agile feet to ride speed guys past the quarterback and take away any lane back towards the passer. Wills mirrors spin moves beautifully and stays attached to the defender throughout that play usually. Even when his rusher gets some good movement backwards on him with the bull-rush, you seen the all-rounder get those hands inside the chest and put that ass to the ground to stop the momentum. Wills finds work in protection even if his man drops out and delivers a shot to somebody on the inside. He displays excellent recognition and footwork on twists and stunts, where he stuns looper when he lands that punch inside their chest as they come around. Overall he has allowed just one sack on 936 pass-blocking snaps over these last two years.
Alabama’s starting right tackle over these last two years also gets out quickly in the quick screen game and he does a nice job throttling down to get his hands on smaller guys in space. Wills had an excellent combine showing, running a 5.05 in the 40, finishing second among O-linemen with a 34.5-inch vertical, showing outstanding lateral agility in the mirror drill and almost knocking one of the coaches out with a punch at the bag. If it wasn’t for some other physical freaks at the position coming to Indy, people would be talking way more about him. For anybody questioning why he lined up on the right side, it was probably due to Tua Tagovailoa being left-handed, even if I haven’t seen anybody say that in an actual interview.
My critism on Wills is very slim, because he just is a very consistent player. Every once in a while you see him use a little wind-up with arms coming behind his hips and miss his land-marks as a run-blocker because of it. For teams in search of a left tackle, we haven’t seen Wills play on that side during his collegiate career, even if you can’t really blame him for that. If you want to nit-pick, you can say that he only played at this level for one year and his base can get a little too wide at times.
To me Wills is just a rock-solid all-around tackle prospect. He was dominant as a junior in the best conference in college football, is already very technically refined and has an athletic profile that only isn’t talked about more because of freaks like Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton. Wills’ ceiling might be a tiny notch below the level of those guys, but he will be an excellent player right away and should contribute on a Pro Bowl level for the next decade.
2. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
This kid has put together a pretty strong legacy in his home-state Iowa. Wirfs was the state’s 2A Offensive Linemen of the Year and the state wrestling champ as a senior, as well as the shot put champ his last two years in high school. As he moved on to the collegiate level, he became the first true freshman to start at either tackle spot for the Hawkeyes during the Kirk Ferentz era and he finished as a second-team All-American selection in 2019, manning the right side of the line.
Wirfs is a mountain of a man at 6’5”, 325 pounds with incredible athleticism and about half his weight in his thighs – which was illustrated by one of the freakiest combine performances we have ever seen. He put up the best numbers in vertical jump (36 ½) and broad (10’1”) on the O-line since the NFL started recording in 2003, also ran a 4.85 in the 40 with an insane 1.69 ten-yard split, which led all offensive linemen this year. However, Wirfs is much more than just this all-time athlete on the O-line. He has experience in a pro-style rushing offense and has executed multiple protection schemes – big on big, half and full slide, some rollouts and heavy play-action.
A 33-game starter at Iowa, Wirfs displays good, natural bend in his knees. He has some thump behind those pads at initial contact and brings the lateral movement you want to see when setting up combo-blocks or helping push somebody five yards into the defensive backfield in short-yardage situations. The former Hawkeye can ride people down the line on zone run plays and has the unbelievable grip strength to torque the pads of D-linemen however he wants to. Wirfs shows continuous leg drive and lands on top of plenty of defenders. At the same time, he has the fluid hips to see a linebacker try to shoot upfield on the wrong side of a double-team and still find a way to pin that guy inside, to allow the ball-carrier to get to the edge. It is almost comical at times when he pulls out wide and just pushes some smaller defender down to the ground on his way.
Wirfs’ anchor seems almost unbreakable. You see him stymie some bull rushes and as those guys try to find a way to escape, he puts a lot of them flat on their backs. You rarely see him get beat around the corner with speed and he mostly lands the first punch versus his defenders. When Wirfs’ man drops out, his eyes immediately shift inside and he is looking to help out or pick up any loopers towards him. He also plenty of experience at passing on twists. You see Wirfs come out in space at time with nobody to block and as he sees the ball-carrier pop out, he turns on the jets and finds somebody way downfield, showing off those ridiculous wheels for a big man.
With that being said, the freak athlete has some problems gathering himself and getting hands on people at the second level due to somewhat limited agility in space. His cut-blocking technique in the quick game is pretty atrocious, not putting his body in-between the defender and the QB with a lot of success. He could also use some refinement in his kick-slide and hand-placement in his punch, where he exposes his chest for long-arm maneuvers. You rarely see Wirfs take true vertical pass-sets and he doesn’t make up much ground with those couple of initial steps. He also needs to do a better job keeping that post-leg ready for any inside counter once somebody stresses the edge with speed initially.
This is a rare prospect on the offensive line with excellent tape already, but the crazy athleticism and progression curve to become an All-Pro at the next level. Wirfs is still a pretty raw player, but when you consider that he already was a pretty dominant perfomer in the Big Ten with that, his future seems extremely bright. I would not be surprised at all if he ended up being the first OL off the board and developed into one of the best guys in the league.
3. Mekhi Becton, Louisville
After helping his high school win back-to-back state titles in Virginia, Becton joined the Cardinal as a four-star prospect and immediately contributed for them, starting double-digit games as a freshman. Over these last two years, he didn’t miss a start outside of skipping Louisville’s most recent bowl game, as he earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2019 and decided to concentrate on the draft after hearing some of the reviews he got from NFL people.
This is a huge man at 6’7”, almost 370 pounds with incredible athleticism. Becton could dunk in high school at 360 pounds and just wowed everybody at the combine by running a stupid 5.1 flat slightly above that weight. The Louisville product is a mauler in the run game. He has so much power in his hands that he can grab pads and just move guys to wherever he wants them in the run game, sometimes almost grabbing and re-locating defenders or just throwing guys out of the club. He can cut off defensive linemen on the backside of zone plays very well, which is uncommon for big tackles like him. Becton also has the short-area agility to reach three-technique defensive tackles, as well as the raw power to bury them underneath himself on down- or inside zone-blocks. His mobility is also plenty good to climb up to linebackers and shield them from the play, even if he needs to work on breaking down in space. While the new coaching staff kept Becton on the left side for the most part, Louisville still made him switch sides every once in a while to be able to run behind him.
As a pass-protector, the giant has the length to redirect rushers and you can forget about trying to go through this guy with a bull-rush. He already shows some pretty good agility on his horse-kick and you see guys going up against him just stop their rush once he puts hands on them, because they just seem to not know where to go due to his huge frame and long arms. When Becton’s man drops out and he has nobody to pick up, he gets some punches on guys on the inside and those guys seem to not even know what the hell hit them. With the Louisville offense based around a lot of movement and play-action, the amount of true dropback pass-sets on Becton was somewhat limited however.
Becton raises up way too much straight out of his stance. He needs to play with better pad-level and hand-placement overall. He will certainly not manhandle edge defenders in the pros the way he did in college with his technique. Becton needs to start landing his hands inside the chest of defenders and staying attached to them throughout play. He doesn’t always play all the way to the whistle when he doesn’t think he can influence the play anymore, leading to some of the defender he blocks actually getting involved as they chase behind the ball-carrier. He is also a little late with identifying twists and picking up assignments if his D-end is looping inside. And finally, I think Becton is right on the edge of the weight I can see any NFL player have success, especially at the tackle position, and whoever drafts him will need to monitor that.
This phenom is still pretty raw with his technique, but you just don’t find guys at his size move the way he does. His development at the tackle position was stunted by having to switch back-and-forth between left and right tackle through his first two years depending on the play. If you as an NFL team can develop his technique and keep him in the shape he needs to be, the sky is the limit for this kid. This is a rare prospect you maybe find once a decade, but his range of outcome is so much larger than those other guys at the top of the class.
4. Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Coming to Athens as a top-50 national recruit back in 2017, it didn’t take Thomas very long to make an impact, as he started all 15 games at right tackle as a true freshman and was named to the Freshman All-American team by multiple outlets. In year two he moved to the left side and was voted All-SEC first team by the league’s coaches, Still. he took another step in 2019, when he was named an AP first-team All-American, as part of a team that reached the SEC Championship game for the third time in a row.
Thomas has prototype measurements at 6’5”, 320 pounds with 36-inch arms. His mobility to work down the line in the zone run game is off the charts and you see him use sort of a hook technique on the backside at times, where he pins the inside arm of the defender and doesn’t allow him to cross his face. Thomas sets up that initial thump with good pad-level and brings his hips through on the contact as well as continuing to reposition his hands in the run game. He washes guys down the line on zone plays or climbs up to the second level and takes linebackers for a ride. You see him really turn his back towards the sideline and provide a nice cutback lane if the end-man doesn’t chase after the play hard enough. Thomas also has the loose hips to redirect and seal a linebacker on the backside of run plays, trying to shoot up the gap. The Georgia prospect has some experience getting on the move on toss plays and putting hands on defenders on the perimeter. He led the way for two separate 1000-yard rushers in each of his first two years with the Bulldogs and had their top three guys average over 5.6 yards per carry last season.
This kid has patient feet in protection, displaying an easy kick-slide with natural knee-bend and good rhythm. He usually has that post-leg ready to take away any inside counters, as well as landing that inside hand in the frame of the defender to take away his burst. He rarely gets too wide with his feet, staying right on top of any spins to the interior and then takes those guys off the path to the QB, going all the way across the line at times with them. When he is responsible for the B-gap on full-line slides, he can just stone some of those guys on the inside. Thomas is also excellent at transitioning on twists. He does a nice job inviting edge rushers upfield and then riding or just shooting them past the arc on draw and screen plays, flying several yards towards the end-zone at times. He had a tremendous showing versus LSU in the SEC Championship in an otherwise pretty disappointing 27-point loss, where he basically shut out K’Lavon Chaisson outside of one snap, where no other player in the country would have probably gotten a hand on the quarterback. Overall he allowed just one sacks and no extra hits on the QB last season.
However, Thomas does not quite have the brute strength to blow guys off the ball in power-based run schemes, as he would benefit a lot from landing in a zone-heavy system. He is content with stalemates and body-turns against some defenders on the edge, which he outweighs by 50+ pounds at times. The Georgia LT is not quite the same type of explosive athlete the other three tackles in the top four are and doesn’t have the most base strength, being able to sit back against the most powerful guys off the edge, especially with that high clamp action he uses and exposes his chest that way. I also think he plays a little top-heavy at times and doesn’t get vertical depth quickly enough in protection against some true speed rushers.
If you are looking for an offensive tackle with a proven track record of improving every single year and has been elite at the highest level of the collegiate game, Thomas is pretty much a sure-fire thing. I also thought he moved around extremely well at the combine, not showing any wasted movement and light feet, even if his testing numbers weren’t off the charts. I had the Georgia standout as my number one tackle coming into 2019 and I couldn’t blame anybody for making this low-risk investment in the top ten.
5. Josh Jones, Houston
After originally commited to Oklahoma State, then-Houston head coach Tom Herman convinced the former three-star recruit to change his decision and join him in H-Town. Jones redshirted his first year on campus, before starting all 13 games in 2016. Even when Herman left for Texas the following offseason, Jones stayed with the Cougars and started all but two games his sophomore year at left tackle, which he was hurt for. Last season he played his best ball yet, as he was named a second-team All-AAC selection.
This 6’5”, 320-pounder creates plenty of push when riding guys down the line on the back-side of zone run plays. He uses different aiming point to turn bodies and create holes that way, like guiding edge defender the wrong way with the inside hand on the near-hip of that guy. Jones was heavily utilized as a puller on Houston’s power plays and asked to hinge-block defenders in the B-gap when he was on the back-side of those schemes. He engulfes guys on the second level and can pin them on the inside on runs to the edge. Jones also creates plenty of movement as part of double-teams and can just whack guys to the ground when he comes in late from the side. He rode Wisconsin’s Zack Baun down the line quite a bit during team drills at Senior Bowl practices.
Jones showcases excellent fundamentals as a pass-protector – a flat back, good knee-bend and a tight punch. He uses a variety of hand maneuvers and once he lands them inside the chest of defenders, their rush is pretty much over, with those paws staying attached to the numbers, as if he put glue on them. He buries a lot of edge rushers, who try to dip underneath him. Jones has the agility and ability to recognize slot blitzers and pick them or push them way past the arc, if they come in at full speed. Overall the Houston tackle has allowed just 18 QB pressures on almost 1300 pass-blocking snaps over these last three years. At the Senior Bowl, Jones struggled a bit during the first practice, but as he settled in and the week progressed, he looked like one of the best players there. He barely got beat at all from day two on. That includes completely shutting down North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge on consecutive reps and actually landing on top of one of the better rushers of the week.
With that being said, Jones still needs to work on landing punches instead of catching rushers at least. You see him almost back-pedal at times before getting into his normal kick-slide. I could imagine Jones having his feet get tangled up and get caught off balance by guys who can convert speed to power at the next level. The Cougars also did him some favors by running a lot RPOs and sliding him inside with an H-back or pulling linemen securing the edge. Jones also has some balance issues at times as a run blocker and slips off guys when he doesn’t hit his landmarks accordingly.
With Jones’ excellent measurements and muscular build, he is an intriguing prospect for the next level. There is some technical work he has to get done during his transition to more of a pro style offense, but I think he has all the traits necessary to be a long-time starter for whoever drafts him. While there obviously is a big drop-off from the top four to the rest of the class, Jones is the one guy I wouldn’t mind spending a later first-round pick on
6. Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
Growing up in Nigeria and starring at multiple sports, it was basketball that earned Tega Wanogho a scholarship for a high school in Alabama. There he picked up football and rose all the way to a four-star recruit as a defensive linemen, but switched to the offensive side of the ball as soon as he arrived at Auburn. The Prince – since his grandfather was actually once the king of a Nigerian village – appeared in double-digit games as a redshirt freshman, then started seven of 14 games his second season and these last two years he has started all but one game at left tackle, which he was unavailable for. As a senior he received second-team All-SEC honors.
Tega Wanogho establishes his body-positioning early in the run game and rolls his hips through contact very well. He does a nice job continuing his work his feet in the outside zone and jet sweep game, to not give the defender a path to the ball-carrier. Overall he is at his best when he can work laterally and create movement on an angle. Tega Wanogho was brought around on plenty of skip-pulls and brings some thump when he meets the linebacker in the hole. He also sealed the backside on backside of those power plays very well. Auburn asked him to shift the to the right side outside of the tackle to run the ball that way at times. The big man can also get out on the move in the screen game and put hands on smaller bodies much better than you would expect.
This dude has some massive thighs to anchor down against the bull-rush, but also the length and power to push guys past the quarterback when they have a step on him. He uses his hands independent from his lower body with different punch techniques. Tega Wanogho uses this nifty clamp-down maneuver where he gets pass rushers to the ground and lands on top of them every once in a while. Overall he has given up just one sack and 27 total pressures over these last two years, despite facing a multitude of premiere pass-rushers over that stretch.
Coming out of high school as this 6’7” sensation, Tega Wanogho actually measured in a couple of inches shorter (6’5”) at the combine than it said on the Auburn roster and he does not have overly long arms at 33 ½ inches. He doesn’t have that elite agility and it shows against true speed rushers, where you see him try to catch up at times, which then makes him vulnerable to inside counters when he fully opens those hips. While I like the variety of punches he utilizes, Tega Wanogho needs to understand when it’s just time to grab and control as a pass-protector. His medical is a question mark at this point, as he was held out of the Senior Bowl and combine.
This young man is talented player, who already has a pretty good track record in the best conference of college football, despite still being relatively new to the game – that’s exciting. While I would like to see quicker feet and more power on down-blocks, I think he is less of a project than he is mostly referred to. As his future coaches in the league will continue to work on his technique, I could see the young Nigerian become a ten-year starter in the pros.
7. Lucas Niang, TCU
While standing out on a basketball team with last year’s third-round defensive lineman Zach Allen (Boston College) in Connecticut, Niang was also a three-star recruit with multiple high-class offers for football and decided to join the Horned Frogs. After spending his freshman year as a reserve, he started the final eight games of his second season at right tackle – a spot he wouldn’t give up since then. Niang was a second-team All-Big 12 selection as a junior and was on a good path once again last year, which unfortunately was cut short after seven games with a torn hip labrum,
Niang is 6’6”, close to 320 pounds and played at least ten pounds more than where he is now. He buries his hands inside the chest of defenders and won’t stop moving those bodies until the whistle is blown. He can uproot defenders and rolls his hips to move them out of their run fits consistently. Moreover, Niang has surprisingly good agility and looseness in the hips to adjust aiming points and angles on the fly. His footwork to reach-block base D-ends and B-gap defenders is the best thing he does technically. Niang has plenty of mobility to execute outside zone schemes and climb to the second level, where he just swallows up linebackers. At the same time, he also creates a lot of movement on angle-blocks in the zone run game and locks out edge defenders at the point of attack. He doesn’t seem uncomfortable getting out in front on reverses and put in work in the open field either.
Despite looking huge on tape, Niang pops out of his stance and displays light feet in protection. You rarely see guys on the edge just race past him and when he can square them up, there is no real successful secondary move. The TCU standout uses his length extremely well to at least take defensive ends and even some blitzers from the secondary off course, allowing his quarterback to step up into that space. Very seldom is he caught out of position. As a result, he didn’t allow a single sack and just 16 total pressures on the quarterback on more than 600 pass-blocking snaps over these last two years, while also only having three penalties accepted against him on almost 2000 career plays.
As much as I like the way he carries his body, too much of Niang’s weight is located in the mid-section. You see plenty of false steps in both phases of the game for the TCU product. His footwork in protection in particular is not sustainable for the NFL and he will need to completely overhaul it as he makes the move to the next level. Niang gets caught leaning forward too much and will be pulled to the side by more technically versed edge rushers, who can take advantage of some of his balance issues as he moves on to the pros, where everybody studies those bad habits.
Niang is one of those kids, who has the measurements and college production you want to see as an evaluator, but also technical flaws that need plenty of work. He is coming off surgery and it would have helped to see him perform at the combine, to compare his athleticism to a very talented tackle class, but I wouldn’t mind grabbing him as a developmental starter at right tackle or guard outside the top 50. I think he has been kind of forgotten in this process.
8. Austin Jackson, USC
As a five-star tackle and top overall recruit out of the state of Arizona, Jackson had many Division 1 offers, but decided to follow the footsteps of his grandfather, who won a national championship with the Trojans and played five years for the Packers as an O-lineman. After an up-and-down freshman season as a backup, Jackson has started all 27 games these last two years at left tackle, earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2019, and now decided to skip his senior year to enter the NFL draft.
Jackson features excellent measurements at 6’5”, 322 pounds with wide shoulders and chest as well as good thickness through his lower body. The best parts about Jackson as a run-blocker are the fact he has executed multiple schemes – inside zone, hinge-blocks on the backside of power plays and pulling out in front on tosses – and that he continues to drive his legs until the whistle blows. Jackson has the foot quickness to reach 3-techs or edge defenders and pivot his hips to shield base D-ends to the outside. He does a great job climbing up to the second level and putting his body in front of linebackers, who rarely seem to be able to escape from him. When Jackson has nobody to block right in front of him, he keeps running and will find somebody down the field.
The USC tackle likes to get his hands on defenders quickly in protection and keeps distance to them for the most part. Athletically he seems to have all the agility and length to improve in that area of the game, as he receives NFL coaching. He also finds work if his man drops or stunts inside across more than one gap. While Jackson would have probably benefitted from sitting out the Trojans’ bowl game versus Iowa – since he gave up two sacks to A.J. Epenesa – that was half of the total he allowed all season, plus ten additional QB pressures. And actually helping his teammates by playing in a rather meaningless game like that when he was highly projected by analysts is just one of his character traits he shows, in addition to donating bone marrow to his younger sister in the summer of ’19.
On the flipside, Jackson’s initial kick often times is too short and he gets caught clicking his heels as he tries to recover, which opens up the door for edge rushers to transition to power and go through or underneath him. You see his feet get outside his frame on way too many occasions and he also uses very high hand-placement when he attempts to punch, as well as his arms getting a little wide at times. In the run game, Jackson is just not an overly physical player, who will drive guys off the ball. He wins more with body-positioning – if he does. Therefore he is a fit for zone-running teams only at the next level for me.
From the outside, Jackson looks like the type of prospect someone could invest a late first-round pick in and develop into a starting blindside protector quickly. And there will probably be some team actually pulling the trigger, but to me he doesn’t have the tenacity as a run-blocker or balance in pass pro to see the field much his rookie season – much less have a lot of success at it. To me he is day two prospect all the way, with the athletic profile to pay off down the road. Someone will likely overdraft him.
9. Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
An all-state selection on the defensive line in Washington, Cleveland’s strong play on the opposite side of the ball and his wrestling background made the three-star recruit a high priority for Boise. He redshirted his first year with the Broncos, only to take over the left tackle spot for all of the three seasons since then. He was an honorable mention All-Mountain West selection in his debut campaign and made the first-team all-conference these last two.
Cleveland showed tremendous mobility in Boise State’s outside zone rushing attack. He quickly got his head across edge defenders and once that corner was secured, he did a nice job climbing and pinning linebackers on the inside. At the same time, he can cut off three-techs on the backside and work in space if there is nobody in the gap he is responsible for in the zone game. Cleveland’s Agility is off the charts and it was validated by the best number in the three-cone drill at 7.26 seconds. He also ran a 4.93 in the 40 and put up 30 reps on the bench press. That makes him a candidate for different skills and getting on the move in the screen game as well.
This kid is already pretty close to being a textbook pass-protector, who can kick, shuffle and step beautifully. Cleveland gets his shoulders square to the rushers at all times pretty much and doesn’t allow them to get to one shoulder. He rarely loses the race to the edge and appears to be in great position as he sits back for the defender. Overall, Cleveland has allowed just 26 total QB pressures on more than 1000 pass-blocking snaps over these last two years, even if five of them were sacks. Moreover, on almost 3000 overall snaps through his three-year career he was also flagged just seven times.
However, he only has nine-inch hands and doesn’t particular shock anybody with them. Cleveland is pretty lethargic out of his stance in the run game. He rarely overpowers guys at the point of attack and is happy with stalemates. You see him get bent backwards quite a bit when long-armed or bull-rushed as well. He certainly needs to add some more core strength and I would also like to see some more aggression to his game. In addition to that, Cleveland stays flat-footed for the most part if he doesn’t have a direct assignment and can be had on some hesitation moves, where he tends to stop his feet and allow the rusher a way to escape.
Cleveland was an excellent three-year starter for Boise, with the foot quickness and balance to his game that you want to see from a left tackle prospect. However, he needs to go through an NFL strength program and translate it to the field, before I’m ready to put him out there. Even when he does eventually get to that point, I think he is mostly limited to zone schemes and could have his struggles against the elite power-rushers in the league. Still, I wouldn’t mind spending a late day two pick on him based on the athletic profile and performance he has already shown.
10. Matt Peart, UConn
Moving from Kingston, Jamaica to the Bronx with his family when he was just four years old, Peart only played hoops when he was young, but once he joined the Governor’s Academy in Massachussets, he was put on the football team as well. UConn didn’t allow the talented young man to leave the Northeast region as a two-star prospect and they sat him for the first year to add 40 pounds. After that he started every game of his first two years at left tackle and then moved to the right side for the other two, earning first-team All-AAC selection as a senior.
This kid looks like he was built in a lab at 6’7”, 318 pounds with 36 ½-inch arms, excellent thickness through his torso and lower body. However, he also has soft feet for a big fella and that basketball background shows up when you watch Peart’s feet setting up run plays. He has plenty of experience in outside zone schemes. With the movement Peart creates on the backside of zone plays, he creates excellent cutback lanes behind him, but he can also cut off defenders. Peart uncoils those hips through contact on drive blocks and once he gets guys moving, he usually takes them for a ride. In addition to that, he displays fluid hips and a great ability to pivot around and get in front of linebackers trying to shoot upfield behind him. Peart has outstanding mobility to lead the way as a puller on power plays, plus when he gets out in the open and puts his paws on some defensive back, that guy is usually done.
Peart displays good agility with his kick-slide. He operates from a wide base and once edge rushers get close to him, that is where they stay. He knows how to give ground slowly and let defenders get off balance themselves or carry them past the quarterback if they rush upfield too hard. Peart is very fluid at exchanging assignments against T-E twists. In the UCF game last year, when the Huskies were down 42-0 at halftime, Peart was basically the only player on their roster who won most of his matchups. Altogether, he has allowed just two sacks in each of the past two years on over 400 pass-blocking snaps respectively and seven total pressures last season. He also showed those skills in protection during one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl.
On the flipside, Peart has some issues transferring his weight at times and can be kind of a waist-bender, which leads to him slipping off some blocks in the run game, when defenders know how to use their hands. He lacks some functional strength or pop in his hands to create initial movement on guys at times. In the pass game, Peart gets a little too wide with his arms and I could see guys who can convert speed to power push him back into the quarterback’s lap, as he allows them to attack his chest.
This is one of those kids I would really like to invest a draft picks in the third or fourth round in. Peart brings that agility and foot quickness from the hardwood to the football field, but he needs to strengthen his core and get teached up a little before he is ready. With that being said, I could easily see him make for a huge payoff as a starting tackle down the line, if he is given time to develop.
Just missed the cut:
These next three prospects I want to mention, are very different in the way they made it here for me. With that I mean one is already a really good played, but doesn’t have the physical tools to be considered above the rest I just talked about. The second, has monstrous and large upside, but is still far from reaching it. And the final one is a small-school prospect, who is a big projection at this point, but certainly looked the part at his level of competition.
Jack Driscoll, Auburn
As just a two-star prospect, Driscoll’s options for college were limited, but he received a scholarship by UMass. He redshirted his first year with the Minutemen and then started eight games between left guard and right tackle. After taking every snap at right tackle the following season and finishing his degree, he became a graduate transfer and joined Auburn. He has started every game at right tackle for the Tigers these last two years, showing little trouble adjusting to the SEC.
Driscoll brings some attitude to his game and will continue to block and push through the whistle. He excelled in the Tigers zone-heavy run scheme, where he displays continuous leg-drive and came off those double-teams with good timing as well as the hip flexibility to transition angles on the move. He was also asked to pull around from his tackle spot on power plays and RPOs off it quite a bit, where he controlled linebackers on the second level. He also finds work out in space in the screen game and doesn’t seem uncomfortable doing so.
This young man’s Grip strength is off the charts. He does a great job riding guys off the edge past the arc and giving his quarterback room to step up. Driscoll keeps his head on swivel to between defenders, as he deciphers games up front and different pressure looks with good awareness in that regard. He moved really well at the East-West Shrine week, where he probably was the best tackle during those one-on-one pass rush periods. He was rarely caught off balance in pass pro with good footwork and patience in his punch. At Auburn he surrendered just one sack and two hits on the quarterback on 829 pass-blocking snaps over these last two years against elite competition.
However, Driscoll oversets edge defenders in the run game at times, which opens up the option of shooting inside, and he has to step backwards against some of those powerful five-techniques or just lean head-over-toes, Driscoll’s arms barely measure 33 inches and he played right around 300 pounds for Auburn. His athletic profile overall simply isn’t even comparable to those guys at the top of the list. Therefore he might benefit from moving inside to guard, but I don’t know how much more he can add to his frame.
While Driscoll is certainly the least intriguing prospect among this entire group from an upside perspective, the tape and success rate don’t lie. I don’t think he will ever be a Pro Bowl level player, but he can absolutely start at the next level, if he can add some functional strength through an NFL athletic program and isn’t asked to protect for more than three seconds routinely.
Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
This Brooklyn native was a top-20 overall recruit, but ended up redshirting his first year in Athens. After that he took over at right tackle for all 14 games and earned Freshman All-American accolades, as well as being voted co-winner of the Offensive Most Improved Player award by the Bulldogs. He started out last season on the Outland Trophy Watch List and even though he missed three games with injury, he was named a second-team All-SEC performer.
This behemoth at 6’7”, close to 350 pounds is one of those guys you want to get off the bus first. While he is kind of built like a fridge, his 1.79 ten-yard split at the combine proves that he can get off the ball. Wilson is a people-mover, who continues to push defenders down the line on zone run plays. He has the grip and power to torque bodies and was a big reason the Bulldogs have had one of the most effective rushing offenses these last few years.
At his size, Wilson is surprisingly nimble in pass-protection and with his combinaton of wide frame and length and it is tough for defenders to figure out a way around him. When someone does a get a step on him on the edge, his ability to flip the hips and take him for a ride is uncommon for a man his size. He even makes true power guys on the edge look small at times and he stuns guys coming his way on stunts. There are clips of Wilson as a wildcat QB at the goal-line in high school and it’s absolutely comical.
However, he is a little top-heavy overall. Wilson needs to do a better job coming around with those hips on drive-blocks and not giving up a path back inside. He gets his hands outside his frame too much as he sets up his punch and exposes his chest for long-arm and other power moves. You see him struggle to keep up with some of those true speed rushers. Wilson benefitted quite a bit from being on the side the Bulldogs slid towards mostly, with Andrew Thomas manning the left tackle spot.
Wilson will probably have to play on an offense that is built around the run game and a high rate of play-action, but I could definitely see a team like him as a option for a power right tackle at the next level. While he hasn’t lined up inside, I could certainly see a team value him higher as an option at guard.
Ben Bartch, Saint John’s
This guy has one of the most unlikely paths to the NFL. An Oregon native, Bartch decided to join this Division III program in Minnesota as a 6’6”, 230-pound tight-end. Over his collegiate career he added 75 pounds – through a now famous smoothie – and move to left tackle, where he started every single game over these last two years. As a senior, he was named a member of the first-team All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and earned the title of the league’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.
To be completely honest here, I did not know who this kid was before I looked at the rosters for the Senior Bowl, but he really made in impression on me with the way he adjusted to squaring up against some of the top collegiate players in the country and how he improved every day down in Mobile. At 6’6”, 310 pounds, Bartch’s foot quickness and agility is off the charts for the offensive line. He does an outstanding job winning in the run game with body-positioning and leg-drive and you see this guy in the open field on screen passes run almost as fast as some wide receivers. He certainly finishes plays the right way.
Bartch fires out of his stance to get into his kick-slide. He determined the route of edge rushers basically on every single snap and just didn’t lose many battles during his collegiate career, including allowing just four total pressures on 315 pass-blocking snaps in 2019. Bartch is patient with his punch and has the feet to mirror spin moves all day long, plus he has the balance to recover from a mis-step. In addition to the, the former Johnny shows excellent awareness for twists and slot blitzers, while burying plenty of D-ends underneath himself.
Unfortunately, Bartch has sub-33 inch arms and only nine inch hands, which is why they put him inside at guard in Mobile. Moving to the inside at the next level is a question mark, since he has never played the position at any level. You see Bartch overextend his arms at times to land a punch and miss. His tape tells us very tells very little about his potential in the pros, since the level of competition can’t even be measured on any scale really. In Mobile he get caught lunging on multiple reps.
This kid is obviously one of the toughest evaluations in this draft, since the tape is somewhat limited and you can’t learn too much from him dominating 220-pound edge rushers. However from what we saw at the Senior Bowl, we get a pretty good picture of what he can develop into at the next level. I’m really interested to see where he lands and if he can continue to grow on this journey.
Right behind them:
Hakeem Adeniji (Kansas), Tyre Phillips (Mississippi State), Saahdiq Charles (LSU), Trey Adams (Washington), Charlie Heck (North Carolina)