The offensive tackle position is as important as any position on the field, outside of possibly the quarterback. Last year saw tackles go first and second overall. While this year may not see that again, there are a number of potential top ten picks at the position.
- Jake Matthews, Texas AM
- Greg Robinson, Auburn
- Taylor Lewan, Michigan
- Zack Martin, Notre Dame
- Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
- Morgan Moses, Virginia
- Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
- JaĠWaun James, Tennessee
- Jack Mewhort, Ohio St.
- Billy Turner, North Dakota St.
Texas AM's Jake Matthews has shifted from right tackle to left tackle, replacing last year's #2 overall pick Luke Joeckel. While not an athletic marvel or physically imposing figure, very few can match his total package. He has solid physical tools across the board, but is so well prepared and polished, that he is always in the right position as well. He sets up very quickly off the snap, can move well laterally, and has quick hands to control pass rushers off the edge. He isn't going to move many people off the ball, but he does have good initial power, strong hands, and will battle to the whistle. He can get out on the move and pick up a moving target as well. Matthews comes from a family of football players, and it shows in his on field intelligence and preparation. He has good physical tools, is tough, intelligent, and plays with a mean streak. Matthews has a chance to land in the top five come draft day, but is almost certainly a top ten pick.
Auburn's Greg Robinson didn't generate much hype as a 2014 draft prospect at the beginning of the year because he is just a redshirt sophomore. It isn't often that an offensive lineman is ready to head to the NFL after just two seasons, but Robinson is an exception. He has been dominant at left tackle as both a run and pass blocker. Robinson has impressive natural strength, showing the ability to overpower defenders at the point of attack. He can drive them off the line and into the ground. He has a great anchor in his lower body, and shows excellent balance when adjusting to speed and power. Robinson's athleticism and light feet allow him to keep his quarterback upright, but also get out and block in space. Robinson had a fantastic combine and may have pushed himself to the top of most tackle rankings. He is a more impressive physical specimen than Matthews, but there are some technical improvements he could make. He could land as high as #2, but looks like a top ten pick, at worst.
Taylor Lewan comes from an offensive linemen factory: Michigan. He was the start of the show at the combine, showing off freakish natural ability. He ran a 4.87 40 with the prototype LT frame at 6'7 309. Lewan is a solid athlete that has the feet to stick at left tackle in the NFL, but his toughness and strength would fit on either side of the line. He does struggle with speed rushers on the edge, because he does stand a bit tall and can lose balance. Lewan's ability to play both tackle spots will make him attractive to a lot of teams, but he'll provide better value on the left side. The talent says top ten, but there are some off the field concerns that could impact his draft stock, as a December arrest will need to be checked out.
Notre Dame's Zack Martin is the fourth tackle that looks like a sure bet to come off the board in the first round. He has started on the left side since his freshmen season, and that experience shows on the field. He is a polished, intelligent, and steady protector on the blind side. He shows excellent balance, shuffles his feet well laterally, and has very good mobility. There are no issues in pass protection, and all the talent is there to get out and block on the run. While Martin will not overpower defenders with sheer strength, he shows an impressive initial jolt with his hand punch to control defenders and get movement. Martin legitimately could play all five positions on the offensive line, but left tackle carries the most value. There is some concern over his lack of ideal height and wingspan, but he has more than enough ability to make up for it.
Cyrus Kouandjio is Alabama's latest first rounder on the offensive line. He may be the most physically gifted linemen Alabama has produced in recent years. He has good size but combines it with good athleticism and strength. He has the tools to do whatever he wants on the field. Kouandjio has shown the quickness, agility, and ability to block in space, but can also physically overpower defenders at the point of attack. He does need a little work on technique, as he can get a little off balance at times, and relies on his natural tools. Pure speed can give him fits off the edge as well. But as a true junior, the sky is the limit. The physical tools and toughness are there. He may be a guy that starts on the right side as he continues to develop, but there is legitimate potential on the left side as well. There are some concerns about a knee injury that popped up at the combine that could effect his stock on draft day. While he is raw, there is the talent there to play four of the five offensive line positions and that will not be ignored.
Tennessee's Antonio Richardson is one of the more physically imposing linemen available this year. He has a huge frame at 6'6 325lbs, and plays up to every inch of it. He is overpowering at the point of attack, and plays with a mean streak, so he is a force in the running game. Richardson also shows solid athleticism and balance. He can move well laterally in a short area, and his long arms and natural strength allow him to keep pass rushers at bay. He does seem to wear down a bit so he may need to develop a little more stamina, which will only help his all around game. The skills are there to be a left tackle in the NFL, but he could also play on the right side with his power and ability in the running game.
Other tackles to keep an eye on: Jack Mewhort(Ohio St.), James Hurst(North Carolina), and Morgan Moses(Virginia)
- Joel Bitonio, Nevada
- Xavier SuĠa-Filo, UCLA
- David Yankey, Stanford
- Gabe Jackson, Mississippi St.
- Brandon Thomas, Clemson
- Cyril Richardson, Baylor
- Dakota Dozier, Furman
- Trai Turner, LSU
- Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee St.
- John Urschel, Penn St.
Stanford's David Yankey is a player that may project as a right tackle to some, and a guard to others. He has experience at left tackle for Stanford but projects better on the inside because of his marginal athleticism for the position. He fits the profile of a Stanford lineman: tough, versatile, and intelligent. He lacks the foot speed to match up at left tackle in the NFL, but because he sets up quickly, he does a good job keeping pass rushers in front of him. That trait will serve him well on the right side, but quality pass rushers will give him major fits. Yankey has good initial power, keeps his feet moving, and doesn't give up in the running game. He gets movement, but has success more with technique and toughness. He shows good awareness to get out and pull, but may not have the feet to get out to the second level with consistency. Depending on what position he is ultimately valued out may determine how high he goes, but Yankey is a definite day two prospect.
UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo is another guard prospect that has spent time at tackle but clearly projects better inside. He started at left tackle as a true freshman before going on a Mormon mission. As a guard prospect, he is a good athlete and shows the quickness to pull and get out to the second level, but also shows the ability to bend his knees and mirror defenders in a short area. He isn't going to overpower anyone at the point of attack but he does battle and get the job done as a run blocker. Su'a-Filo needs to get stronger, gain more experience, and polish off his game. The time away from the game and a training table as well as spending time at left tackle, which is not suited for at the professional level, has stunted his growth a bit. But the natural ability as a guard is there to be a tremendous NFL interior linemen.
Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State is more of the traditional guard in a power blocking scheme. He is a huge body at 6'3 336lbs and plays like it. Jackson also shows tremendous natural strength and the ability to dominate defenders at the point of attack. He has surprising quickness for a player his size, showing a great burst off the line at times. He can really overwhelm defenders and clear a running lane by himself. Jackson also shows some ability to pull and hit a defender on the move. He should be an excellent selection on day two of the draft for a team in need of interior line help.
Other guards to watch: Brandon Thomas(Clemson), Joel Bitonio(Nevada), Cyril Richardson(Baylor), Anthony Steen(Alabama), and Chris Watt(Notre Dame)
- Weston Richburg, Colorado St.
- Marcus Martin, USC
- Travis Swanson, Arkansas
- Russell Bodine, North Carolina
- Bryan Stork, Florida St.
The most gifted center in this years draft is USC's Marcus Martin. He spent his first two years at guard before shifting to center this year. He is the complete package from a physical standpoint. He has the bulk and natural strength to get movement in the running game and could thrive at guard if asked to play there. But he is also a solid athlete that moves well in a short area and in space. Martin has a lot of game experience but still needs more work as a center. He does not always play with proper balance. He can have trouble with quick interior linemen and gets pushed back and knocked off balance. Martin will also lunge at times, negating his natural strength. Martin has the physical tools and intelligence to be a standout at center, but he will need some coaching at the position. His ability to play both guard and center definitely work to his advantage. He could be a late day two selection but would be a very good day three pick.
Other centers to watch: Weston Richburg(Colorado St), Travis Swanson(Arkansas), Jonathan Harrison(Florida), and Bryan Stork(Florida St.)
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