Time to go into the trenches! After talking about skill-positions over the last two weeks, I want to shift my focus on the offensive and defensive lines. In this edition of my positional rankings, we are taking a look at the top interior O-linemen available in the draft.
There is one standout prospect, who I believe is one of the top three overall players available. Behind him, I think there are three more potential first-round picks and even after those, there are up to four guards or centers, who I think are worthy of a second round selection. To me, this class of interior OL is the best we’ve seen in a couple of years now.
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
This young man redshirted as a freshman, but then started the next three years at left guard next to Ronnie Stanley and then Mike McGlinchey at tackle, who is now coming out with him. Those guys kicked butt on that left side of that offensive line under the coaching of Harry Hiestand. Nelson was a unanimous All-American, after not allowing a single sack in all of 2017. He also surrendered just four total QB pressures and earned PFF’s highest grade as a pass- and run-blocker.
Nelson is very explosive and quick out of his stance. He has the upper body strength to torque big bodies, which is the starting point to creating movement in the run game. Then he combines weight-lifting power in his thighs with great leg-drive to push defenders around. He makes sure to get D-linemen out of the hole and stays attached to them until the whistle blows. Nelson wants to put his man on the ground and bury him, displaying a nasty streak, which I really love. He was the primary puller on a Notre Dame offense, that averaged 270 yards per game on the ground.
While Nelson is perfect for a ground-and-pound gap-scheme running team, he is a tremendous pass protector as well. His crazy balance comes from his taekwondo-background, which allows him to do some things in protection, rarely anybody can at 330 pounds. He uses a short-set as his set-up to shut down rushers immediately off the snap, keeps a wide base to anchor and barely ever gets out of position. His hip flexibility is off the charts, which allows him to recover if a rusher once gets a step on him off the line and unlike a lot of those phonebooth-guys, his arms and legs are in sync, when looking to get his target squared up again.
The Irish standout shows a lot of football smarts in blitz-pickups, as well as when to release on combo-blocks and where the unblocked defenders are coming from. Nelson was draped all over LSU’s star sophomore linebacker Devin White in the Citrus Bowl, when he went to the second level. That’s what happens to a lot of linebackers when facing the 6’5’’ guard – once he gets his paws on those guys, they’re done. They few times he did miss targets in space, was when they shot downhill and he couldn’t reach them anymore.
Nelson might not be the fastest man in the world and isn’t at his best in the open field, but at his weight, I can live with that and he has no problem coming around and getting onto targets. He looked outstanding at the combine and his pro day, not showing any signs of a lack of mobility. You can nitpick with Nelson, like him dropping his eyes when a rusher grabs the back of his pads on an arm-over swim move, but let me make this very clear – this is pretty much a perfect O-line prospect. Nelson is set up for success, as long as his coaches don’t ask him to be a pure zone-blocker and throw 20 screens a game.
2. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
This former top-10 guard recruit played left tackle for the Bulldogs out of necessity, despite lacking some length for the outside at 6’2’’ and didn’t let that bother him. Wynn’s measurements make a projection inside much easier though. He leaves Georgia as a first-team All-SEC member and second-team All-American, looking to be one of the top offensive linemen drafted and making an immediate impact for an NFL franchise.
Wynn is built like a block upstairs, but has calves like a wide receiver. He owns very quick feet, pops out of his stance and finishes his blocks. The SEC standout does a good job twisting defenders on combo-blocks and double-teams to set up easier blocks for his teammate and allows himself to climb to the second level. Wynn was used plenty as a puller on toss plays and didn’t show any problems kicking out cornerbacks or continuing upfield and getting his hands on somebody else coming up.
Wynn showed up at the Senior Bowl, despite playing in the National Championship game a couple of weeks prior and was as consistent all week as it gets, probably not losing a single rep throughout practices, while making the transition inside look flawless. He showed great base power, feet and just grip to stay glued to defenders in protection. In that championship game, Wynn was matched up mostly with Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand and occasionally Rashaan Evans or one of the outside linebackers and he shut those guys down. One play nobody really paid close attention to in that contest, was the interception by one of Bama’s young defensive linemen (Raekwon Davis). The part that I was amazed by was Georgia using a half-line slide to the left, which left Wynn matched up with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick rushing off the edge from five yards away. Wynn was out there so quickly and stonewalled number 29, before just pancaking him like it was nothing.
Overall, his protection was pretty much perfect for most of the tape I watched, as he kept rushers right in the center of his body and didn’t give them any way to go. He combined that with displaying excellent awareness in picking up twists and different blitzers. I thought Wynn over-set too much to the outside at times in the zone run game, which led to him not being able to bring his body in front and allowed the defender to slip inside. Yet, he is pretty much automatic on pure down-blocks to shield edge rushers, as he brings his hips around and moves that guy for a couple of yards every single time.
If Wynn was three inches taller, he’d be competing for the top spot among tackle prospects. At his size, he offers tremendous athleticism and pass protection for a guard, but he might lack some of the power to be a gap-scheme mauler. He might have been too quick for his own good, but teaching him how to initiate and sustain his blocks in the zone game should be a simple adjustment and I can easily see him be an integral part of a space-based offensive system for the next decade.
3. James Daniels, Iowa
Daniels didn’t wait for very long when he arrived in Iowa City, as he saw action in every game as a true freshman and even started a couple of them at guard. Over the next two years, he started every week at center and decided to leave for the next level after an impressive junior campaign, which he was an honorable mention for the All-Big-10 team, despite a multitude of impressive players at the position.
The 6’3’’ middle-man plays with great pad-level and knee-bend. He is a very easy mover at the center position and has no issues snapping and getting on the move instantly. Daniels can block zone, pull around, reach 3-techs and protect the passer all very well. He shows no wasted motion on the inside and he is so quick for the interior O-line. I’ve even seen him overrun linebackers in space, because he beat so many inside guys to the spot and sealed them away from the play.
Daniels keeps his legs moving and pivots around the target on reach-blocks, plus he has the flexibility to torque his upper body and get into the right position. The way he can get on the move, wall of defenders and open up running lanes in the prorcess is unmatched by anybody in this draft class, especially centers. When he’s driving his man, he rolls his hips into the blocks and those feet won’t stop churning. With all those different things he could do for your running game, nobody in the country demanded more difficult tasks from their centers than Iowa’s and Daniels mastered them.
The Hawkeyes used a ton of slide protections, but I’ve seen Daniels sit in that chair and take on nose tackles one-on-one, as well as helping out his guards by setting up straight blocks for them and protecting one side. When I watched him run around at the combine, I was so impressed with the way he could move and comparing him to the other prospects on the interior line, it only manifested my opinion on him.
However, he doesn’t always stay on his feet and occasionally he has no other option than to give his man a final push on the way by him, when he is on his way to the ground. Daniels leans a lot into his targets and while most guys can’t get away from him, those crafty defenders in the NFL will use that to their advantage to let him slip past. I saw that on a few occasions on tape already, where he was pulled by, but that will only amplify at the next level.
This guy is the most mobile center to enter the draft in years. While there are things NFL defensive linemen will take advantage of about his technique, if he doesn’t add mass to his 295-pound frame – to allow himself to keep those shoulders back a little – he is an outstanding prospect and will be a great player in this league.
4. Will Hernandez, UTEP
This monster of a man out of Texas-El Paso started all of his 37 career games at left guard since redshirting his freshman year. In 2016, Hernandez was named a second-team All-American despite coming from a small school, in addition to being rated the top pass protector and the best run-blocking guard in the country by Pro Football Focus in 2016. He continued to impose himself on defenders as a senior and now enters the draft as one of the most talked-about offensive linemen prospects.
Hernandez plays with a nasty streak and through the echo of the whistle. He brings all of those 340 pounds and is a large target to go around for defenders. While he clearly is a road-grader in the run game, he showed some excellent lateral agility for his size at the Senior Bowl and he dominated those Ohio State guys. Hernandez consistently finished his blocks by landing on the chest of the opponent. He has the looks of someone like Richie Incognito, but much like the perennial Pro-Bowler, he just carries that massive body very well.
You’d like his arms to be a little longer and hands to be a little bigger, when you look at the rest of his body, but Hernandez showed the mobility to pull around and get onto linebackers on the second level. UTEP also used him as pretty much as a personal protector on counter play fakes on some snaps, where he pulled around and just looked out for the first guy coming. Hernandez likes to short-set in protection, but he needs to keep his elbows tight to not slide outside with his arms, as he can get grabby at times, because of how far he gets outside the frame of the guy across from him. That butt needs to stay closer to the ground and he needs tp maximize his leg-drive by keeping his pads lower.
This guy has got so much bear strength, that he got away with a lot of improper technique at the collegiate level, but if he works on becoming more fundamentally sounds in terms of hand-placement and knee-bend, he can kick even more butt. I think Hernandez also catches a lot of rushers, instead of punching them and sitting in his chair. He definitely has the power to stand rushers straight up, but he doesn’t really use it at this point. I mean, his arms and hands are so strong, he can just grab pads and torque defensive linemen by will.
I thought Hernandez had a tremendous combine performance, including the high number on the bench press with 37 reps, a 5.14 in the 40 and fluid movement skills in the on-field drills. He is the most imposing guy in a phonebooth in this class, but he is clearly more than just that and he has a lot of room to improve at the next level, which he certainly will due to his love for the game.
5. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
This guy was a three-year team captain at Arkansas and already carries himself like a pro. Ragnow started off quickly as a member of the Freshman All-American team and after spending his sophomore campaign at right guard, he has pretty much been the SEC’s premiere center from that point on. He is now looking to carry over that same kind of consistent reliability to the next level.
Ragnow was the center(-piece) of Arkansas’ run-based offensive attack, since moving to that spot in 2015. He displays excellent quickness from snap to step and keeps his eyes downfield on combo-blocks. The 310-pounder has no problem sealing middle and backside linebackers, often beating that guy to the punch. He was used a ton as a puller and asked to get onto different bodies in the ground game, but he lacks some speed around that corner. Ragnow puts himself into a position, where the defender needs to go around him and as he continues to work, his opponent is getting more and more out of position, until the big man lands on them with their chest.
At 6’5’’, Ragnow has above-average size of the interior O-line, which helps him sustain vision on the entire defense. He shows excellent awareness in protection with outstretched arms and moving eyes, while helping out his buddies by delivering a blow to the guys going up against them and stalling their rush. In addition to that, Ragnow shows good flexibility to torque defenders as well as recovering from rushers, who get on one of his shoulders. He might not be sprinting 40 yards downfield, but he likes to get out on screens and take down the first target in range.
To his disadvantage, he’s not really explosive out of his stance and rather just latches onto defenders initially and then tries to create movement, which will be exposed by some of those big, aggressive nose-tackles at the next level. The Razorback leader lacks some quickness to adjust to angles towards lighter defenders in the open field. More concerningly, he gets bent backwards by some powerful D-linemen, who gets their hands under his pads. Ragnow stands up late into his pass pro and can get driven back by power-rushers slanting or countering his way.
Ragnow’s toughness and leadership qualities are off the charts. His former head coach Brent Bieleman called him an incredible football player and Pro Football Focus rated him the best offensive lineman in the country after the 2016 season. He doesn’t possess the power or athletic traits some of these other top prospects do, but he will walk into an NFL room ready to go and be a dependable contributor for ten years plus.
6. Billy Price, Ohio State
After starting three years at guard for the Buckeyes, much like Pat Elflein the prior campaign, Price moved to center as a senior. He possesses a thick frame, with thighs like tree-trunks, and high football IQ, which led him to another All-American campaign at that position as well. While some people have kind of forgotten about him, due to being unable to perform in any pre-draft events because of tearing a pec on the bench press, he is certainly one of the top guys available.
Price likes to get after it in the run game and doesn’t mind if things get a little chippy. Although he is more of a body-turner than driver, he has been a very effective piece to Ohio State’s ground attack and started creating more movement on true down-blocks during his final year in school. When Price hits targets in space, he gets under their pads and pops them straight up for the most part. He was heavily used a kick-out puller from that center spot and was also asked to pull around and get to the second level.
As wide as his base gets in pass protection, Price’s grip on the defender in front of him is equally as tight. Once he gets his hands under the pads of his rusher, you rarely see them escape. Price possesses the base strength to anchor against blitzing linebackers, who hit him at full speed, absorbing the impact and resetting his feet. The Buckeyes even went with play-fakes off that counter-action, which left him one-on-one with defensive ends and he didn’t disappoint at all.
Unfortunately, the 6’4’’ center lacks the loose hips to recover, if the rusher has a step on him. He also tends to fail at picking up looping D-linemen, if he doesn’t realize what they are doing off the snap. That gets him into trouble at points, because he lunges too much towards shed techniques and puts himself out of position that way. Occasionally he will default to punching the chest of a linebacker, instead of staying attached to him, which allows that defender to chase after the play.
Price displays weight-room as well as football strength and is highly regarded for his football smarts, but his tendency of over-setting and lacking patience in protection will be something he has to work on at the NFL level. I think he will be a solid pro with position flexibility due to All-conference performances at both guard and center. To me, Price should not reach the first round, because those other four guys are clearly better than him, but you will be able plug him in at any of those interior spots and you’re set for the next several years at that position.
7. Austin Corbett, Nevada (G)
Corbett played left tackle for the Wolfpack, replacing Browns starting guard Joel Bitonio, who was a second-round pick in 2014. The successor took right over as a team captain and honorable mention in the All-Mountain West as a sophomore and continued playing at a high level through all of his 36 consecutive starts. However, I believe he will probably make a living inside in the NFL, where he shows he can move some bodies and take on different assignments.
The 305-pounder possesses great athleticism, which made him effective in the Nevada spread offense, but I don’t think he will have any problem putting his hand in the dirt and driving people. Corbett has a great initial punch on the defender and uses choppy, powerful steps to sustain the downhill push. He keeps fighting with his hands and re-placing them to get them inside the frame of his man. When creating movement however, I’d like to see him snatch-and-latch more instead of looking to push defenders around and allowing them to run away from him. Corbett just killed some linebackers, when he got a straight shot at them and he helps his buddies out by offering a helping hand to torque the D-lineman a little and make things easier for them on combo-blocks. His angles towards the second level are questionable at times though.
In protection, Corbett shows quick feet and the ability to reset his anchor once a rusher stands him up. The former member of the Wolfpack pushes a bunch of rushers down to his feet, when they lean in too much and he knows they can’t keep their balance. Corbett also understands when his man has overrun the arc and he can just lead that defender further downfield and away from the passer. Nevada used some rollout protections, where he looked like a defensive back back-pedaling. I don’t really like the technique, but it gives you an idea about what kind of an athlete he is. He has experience using cut-blocks and makes sure to keep his defender from staying upright.
The biggest question mark for me will be seeing him go up against true power defensive tackles, who use extension and throw him off balance. I thought Corbett left his feet much more than he needed to in college. Yet, this guy has tackle feet, guard power and center coordinative skills. Corbett might be able to play any spot along the offensive line, but I personally like him best right in the middle of the front.
8. Braden Smith, Auburn
The nasty people-mover has premier size at 6’6’’ and strength as a shot-put champion in the state of Kansas. Smith started his career as a freshman All-SEC selection, after being the top guard recruit in the country, and now is leaving Auburn as a first-team All-American. He has worked himself into the shape of a battering ram and that’s the way he plays like on the field.
Smith is looking to bury to people in the run game, as he shoots his hands inside the chest of the defender and drives them, until he can put them on their backs. He creates the kind of movement you want to see from a down-blocker and even in the Tiger’s zone-based rushing attack, he pushed around defensive linemen. However, with how much he leans into his blocks, he can lose his balance occasionally when crafty defensive linemen, who can match his power, use that to their advantage by pulling him into either direction or just use a quick swim over him and let him fall down. Smith was kicked out as a swing-tackle quite a bit and did well at getting onto defenders off short-pulls.
The powerful guard gives up some room in protection, because he trusts his base power to sustain the rush. Yet, I think he needs to bring his chest back a little more and sit in that chair, to be able to react to anything happening in front of him. Smith will duck his head at times, which causes his feet to stop and allows the rusher to get past him. He has his eyes going left and right if he doesn’t have a direct matchup, but he has some issues with late blitzers and lacks the reactive ability to mirror counter moves once he shifts his weight the opposite way.
I thought Smith did a pretty good job handling those talented Clemson inside guys, but he also gave up a sack to Christian Wilkins, who basically beat him clean off the snap. I think Braden will be a road-grader in a power running scheme, but he might struggle against those quick 3-techniques at the next level. He looks to be ready for the pros judging by his body-shape, but he needs some work to improve his overall balance and hit the agility ladder to match sub-package rushers consistently.
9. Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech
This dude is built like a fridge and added that mass through the weight-room with maxes of 460 pounds on the bench press and 600+ pounds on his squats. Teller came out of high school as Virginia’s Defensive Player of the Year and took the aggressiveness from the D-line with him. He continued to work on his craft as an offensive guard and was honored with a first-team All-ACC mention.
Teller has a nasty streak, which he makes his opponents feel in the run game. His hand-placement is usually on point, but he lacks some pop out of his stance and sometimes waits to see the movement of a linebacker, if that is his assignment. That hesitancy hurts him with those quick up-the-field three-techs, who get a jump on him as well. Teller gives up some depth, but he can reach one- and three-tech defensive tackles. In addition to that, he does a good job, pulling around and cutting down the first guy coming up or bullying a corner, who stays on the perimeter.
In pass protection, he excels when he can keep his target straight-up, but he struggles when that defender gets a step on him to the side. Once he puts his hands inside the chest of a rusher, he is under control and if that defender doesn’t continue to work, Teller will put him on his back. Moreover, he is aware of T-E-twists and stones the slanting defensive end. However, craftier defensive linemen who can get him to lean into them, can slip past him and make him look bad. The former Hokie guards locks his hips when transitioning his weight, but he allowed just five total pressures and no sacks or QB hits on 443 snaps in protection in 2017. He is also searching for targets to take out when uncovered in the passing game.
I thought Teller was highly impressive against Clemson’s talented interior defensive line with Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. Equally as encouraging was the fact, he looked pretty darn good moving in space at the combine in Indy. I love the tenacious attitude he plays with and I would take him to go into the ring for me, but I think he needs to come out of his stance much more explosively and stay under better control, with his feet doing the work instead of his upper body torqueing and twisting defenders. The big question mark with the big boy is the difference I saw between his 2016 tape and his last season with the Hokies. He didn’t bring the same kind of aggressiveness and overall effort. If he can retain the form he was in two years ago, he could develop into a valuable asset of a power-running scheme.
10. Scott Quessenberry, UCLA
David Quessenberry was drafted by the Texans five years ago and just last year finally saw some game-action, after fighting cancer for most of his time in Houston. His brother Scott started his career at left guard, before being forced to redshirt the 2015 season due to surgeries on both shoulders. Since then, he has started every game over the next two years at center and was honored with a spot on the All-Pac-12 first-team and honorable mention by conference coaches.
Quessenberry brings excellent forward lean and leg-drive with him in the run game. He has no trouble getting on the move instantly after snapping the ball. He actively resets his hands, sustains blocks and often hustles 20 yards down the field. On double-teams and combo-blocks, Q and his guards used to push the D-tackle into the linebacker and take them both out of the play. He clearly has the mobility to pull around and get onto members of the second level, as well as to seal middle linebackers from the play. Quessenberry does a nice job selling pass and getting out on screen plays, to put hands on targets in space. When he cuts down defenders in the open field, he makes sure to get them on the ground.
His issues occur in pass protection. Quessenberry leans too much into contact when looking to catch rushers and gets pulled or slipped by in the process, instead of punching and controlling the target. He does a great job recognizing late stunts and has the hips to pass on his assignments and get his hands on loopers crossing his face. However, he fails to bring his feet with him at times, as well as oversetting on shade nose tackles. Too often, he gets his upper body jacked back when a D-linemen gets one of those long arms in his chest and then he can’t set his anchor properly.
At the Senior Bowl, Quessenberry struggled quite a bit with balance in one-on-ones, but he got some good movement in the run game in team drills, even with Stanford’s Harrison Phillips lined up across from him. When facing Washington, I thought he dealt very well with big Vita Vea, outside of one snap, when Quessenberry overset on him in the 1-tech and the Bruin RB had to bail him out. I think he could be a solid pro, who gives you push in the run game and can hang in there in protection, as long as you don’t leave him on an island.
Just missed the cut:
Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
Bozeman is thick and strong throughout his 6’5’’ frame. He keeps his legs moving as a run-blocker and does an excellent job at passing on defensive linemen to get onto someone at the second level. A starter at center for the Tide, since Ryan Kelly was drafted by the Colts, Bozeman shoots his hands inside the chest of the defender and rarely loses his grip. He initiates contact early on and keeps bringing his hips around to create a running lane. He possesses great balance, which allows his upper body to twist and turn different ways, without having his feet leave the ground. The 315-pounder might not be the guy you want to leave on an island with one of those quicker defensive tackles in protection, which was exposed on a few occasions in one-on-one pass rush drills at the Senior Bowl, but he is used to handling big nose guards in the run game. I mean he and his guards destroyed some of those guys. Bozeman gets good initial depth in protection and keeps his eyes up when sliding, while lowering his rear-end and sitting in there. He extends outside his frame and at times leaps too much when he is asked to block defenders in the open field, but overall he stays true to his technique and is a very consistent and good overall player. While he is not a great athlete, with heavy legs and a lack of explosiveness, he has quality experience at both center and guard. Bozeman probably won’t be in a starting lineup early on based on his athletic limitations, but he will be a more than solid back-up for the interior spots and work himself into a larger role down the road.
Will Clapp, LSU
Clapp moved over from guard to center last season, after Ethan Pocic entered the draft. He received All-SEC honors at both position in consecutive years. Similar to Pocic, this LSU offensive lineman has plenty of size for an inside spot at 6’5’’, but Clapp is much more of a power player. He has no issues getting on the move instantly off the snap and does an excellent job reaching 1-techniques, as well as pulling around and getting his hands on people on toss plays. He overextends at times in the run game and gets his head popped back quite a bit when bigger guys stack him up, but he has no problems walling off defenders from the play-side. While he gets his hands on linebackers for the most part, a lot of times he is looking to run to the spot they originally were in, instead of where they will be and he ends up just reaching the side of those bodies. Clapp possesses outstanding balance to reset multiple times during his pass pro, but simply lacks some hip flexibility to readjust to rushers, who get onto one shoulder of him. The 315-pounder has the awareness and reactive quickness to pick up loopers and blitzers in protection, as well as when to pass someone on to work his way to next man. He delivers some big blows late, when he has no assignment to take care of and a defender is in range. He gets out on screen passes and is looking to take out defenders in the open field. Clapp is a very solid, reliable prospect with some flexibility to play all three interior spots on the O-line. While he is top-heavy and has some athletic limitations, he put in work on Saturdays and will at the least be a valuable asset as the sixth offensive lineman NFL teams carry on Sundays.
Mason Cole, Michigan
Cole was the first freshman starter on the O-line in Michigan history. He began his collegiate career at left tackle, but moved inside once Ryan Glasgow entered the NFL and now can count 51 consecutive starts for the Wolverines. Cole returned to left tackle for his senior year as a reliable blindside protector. The member of consecutive All-Big Ten second-teams can get out in space and put his hands on defenders, as well as working reach-around blocks as a puller. If he misses somebody or puts his man on the ground, he will look for somebody else to get on. Yet, he also misses some targets in space. Cole kind of leans off the snap instead of popping out of his stance, and therefore nose tackles, who come off the ball with an attitude and extension overpower him at times. He shows good recognition for twists and stunts along the interior. The Wolverine veteran extends too much in protection, which can be taken advantage off on push-and-pull moves, but he does a nice job re-setting once he gets out of position. He displays very tight hips and has troubles if a defender gets a foot into the gap, plus he gets pretty grabby with active defensive linemen working against him. Cole looks like he has weight-room strength, but he doesn’t quite convert that on the field. He will need to learn how to keep his elbows tighter to his body and work heavily on his hand-placement to not have to worry about the upper part and maximize his leg-drive. I think he would benefit from a move to guard, where he doesn’t have to focus on snapping the ball and can come out of his stance with more pop. Cole was the only one to survive versus big B.J. Hill in one-on-ones at Senior Bowl practices. He had some excellent reps overall and even helped out as a QB in those drills. I expect him to improve with NFL training to convert his effort into success.
Tyrone Crowder, Clemson
This 335-pound man was named first-team All-ACC over the last two years. He owns a massive body with a very compact frame and thickness throughout. Crowder latches onto the defender, rolls his hips into contact and keeps his feet moving with strong, heavy steps. He stands up defenders at initial contact, but has to work hard on his hand placement, which too often forces him to hold on to defenders. In addition to that, he offers good push as a combo-blocker, creating easy angles on the secondary target. When he helps on nose guards, he instantly turns them by 90 degrees and allows himself to get to the next level quickly and he keeps his big butt moving when shielding defenders from the play. Crowder is a little slow out of his stance and takes too long to get to the corner as a puller. However, on those skip-pulls, he blows up some linebackers in the hole. He might get stepped around occasionally by quicker guys in the open field, but when they are waiting for him, they will get buried by the big fella. In protection, Crowder shows much better agility than you’d anticipate from a guy his size. He has good awareness for what is going on along the defensive front with all the movement and slanting, plus he has no problem swallowing up charging linebackers. Moreover, he understands when to simply push rushers into the pile to take them out of the play. Anyhow, the former Tiger standout displays some balance issues and his lack of length shows up in a major way, as he tends to lean into his rusher too much, yet he didn’t allow a single sack in all of 2016. Crowder is not extremely confident in open space, but he can move big bodies in the ground game and in gap-schemes, where linebackers need to go through him. I’m not quite sure how he will deal with the long interior guys in the NFL, but he can match the power of a physical defensive line, which he displayed versus Alabama in the 2017 National Championship game. I liked him better as a junior, but I’m interested to see how much coaching can help him at the next level.
The next guys up:
Sam Jones (Arizona State), Taylor Hearn (Clemson), Brian Allen (Michigan State), Tony Adams (N.C. State), Cole Madison (Washington State), Sean Welsh (Iowa), Skyler Phillips (Idaho State), Colby Gossett (Appalachian State)
Find more from Halil’s Real Footballtalk, including prospect rankings on all the other position groups, at https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/