Now that we’ve completed the interior portion of the offensive line, it is time to look at the guys on the edges. When it comes to offensive tackles, maybe more than at any other position, size is definitely a skill. While you don’t have to be exact prototype size and weight, there are thresholds when it comes to height and length that all successful players at the position seem to reach. Until a few years ago, people acted like your left tackle is far more important than the one on your right side. However, once defenses started putting their top pass rushers against those formerly less talented right tackles, the NFL learned that both those spots have to filled with quality players if you want to survive in this league.
This class of offensive tackles is falsely labelled as a poor one in my opinion. It more so due to the fact that four of the top five guys are better suited to play on the right side. I think there is one prospect that should absolutely be a top ten pick and at least four more that I could easily see going in the first round. After that there are a lot of different opinions, but no matter how you turn it, twelve of them should end up being top 100 prospects. I will refer a lot to these guys’ performances at the Senior Bowl, because with offensive linemen the one-on-ones against quality competitions are the most indicative drills when it comes to their pass pro abilities.
1. Jonah Williams, Alabama
A former five-star recruit from California, Williams was one of the highly coveted offensive line prospects in the country. He didn’t fail to meet expectations but only exceeded them during his time with the Crimson Tide, immediately earning the starting right tackle spot, where he outperformed Cam Robinson on the opposite end and was named a Freshman All-American. He moved into that left tackle spot when Robinson departed for his draft and was not only a two-time first-team All-SEC selection, but also a Outland Trophy finalist and unanimous first-team All-American last season.
This is about as rock-solid an offensive line prospect as we’ve have in recent years. Jonah might not be the greatest athlete, but he plays under control and with excellent technique. He brings a good thump at initial contact in the run-game and plays with excellent leg-drive until the whistle blows. He does a nice job locking out defensive ends on the backside, is comfortable pulling around, driving guys on the second level or putting hands on people in space. Williams flies to the second level if he can directly go there and makes linebackers back up. Once his running back is stood up, he continues to push the pile and grind out extra yardage. During his time at Alabama he has collected experience in different zone and gap-schemes, showing mobility and proper hand-placement.
The best thing Williams does in protection is squaring up his target and being patient with his hands as well as making those edge guys widen the arc and driving them deeper into the backfield. He keeps that post-leg ready to shut down counter moves consistently and makes it look easy when mirroring some of the top edge rushers in the country. There’s good sink in his hips and perfect timing in his strikes. Williams makes up space to his teammate when he sees defensive twists and then takes on the secondary defender with a good punch. Overall Williams is just so consistent in protection and it shows in the numbers, as he didn’t allow a single sack and just 12 total pressures all of 2018 despite facing all the best pass rushers of the SEC.
Williams doesn’t have prototype length at 33 5/8-inch arms and a move to guard has been discussed a lot during this pre-draft process. He simply isn’t the most devastating drive-blocker, especially when you look at some of the guys behind him on this list. Williams occasionally ducks his head too much into contact and can be slipped by. Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell did that to him a couple of times in the 2017 Sugar Bowl and even made things more uncomfortable for him in last year’s National Championship game, when he lifted him off his feet once and put him on his back, as well as throwing him off balance on a couple of other snaps.
I don’t really understand the doubts that have come up about Williams’ ability to play on the edge at the next level. I think he could play guard if a team really wanted him to, but to me he is a plug-and-play starter at right tackle and clearly the most consistent guy at the position in this class. Just go back to his freshman tape. People always talk about that game against Clelin Ferrell at the end of the season, but there was really just a few bad plays for him and that only shows you how good Jonah really is, if we talk about how he gets beat every once in a while. To me this is the clear-cut number one guy across the offensive line, because he is a natural and technically sound player.
2. Jawaan Taylor, Florida
Taylor was highly recruited coming out of high school but needed to shed some weight off the 380 pounds he had at that point. His efforts were rewarded in Gainesville, starting all but one game in his first year and earning Freshman All-American honors. He played in all 11 games as a sophomore, splitting time between the right and left side. While he didn’t receive any All-SEC honors, Taylor was widely regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive linemen last season
This kid has excellent length at 6’5” with 35-inch arms. He aims his pads towards the sideline and washes down the defensive end on run plays that way. Taylor plays with that tenacious attitude to put people on the ground once he takes them off balance. He gets on the move with ease, whether that may be kicking out the D-end on counter plays or putting hands on people in space. Taylor also has the ability to turn the pads of a down-lineman by just lending a handing to set up his teammate and instantly moving on to a linebacker, while creating major movement on combo-blocks working back to the inside. Taylor does a nice job sealing the back-side by taking a vertical step and turning his pads 90 degrees in order to force his man to go through him. He also displays loose hips when he is moving down the line on zone-plays and adjusts at the last second to the backside linebacker trying to shoot in behind his back. In the screen he just wallops smaller bodies.
With the way Taylor pops out of his stance you think he commits false starts at times. He is very patient in his pass sets, getting good depth with his horse-kicks and squaring up his rusher, while being able to quicken it up against true speed rushers and keeping that post-leg ready to react to inside counters. Once his man gets a good step on him, Taylor turns and rides him upfield to negate any pressure. He has the base power to re-anchor against bull-rushers by dropping his hips and getting his hands back underneath the pads of his opponent. He has excellent grip and upper body strength to stymie the rush once he is engaged with a defender off play-action. Taylor is active enough with his slide to pick up blitzing DBs and makes them pay for coming his way. Overall the Florida tackle allowed just 11 total pressures on more than 800 overall snaps last season, despite facing some of the best pass rushers in the SEC, including Kentucky’s freakish Josh Allen, who couldn’t touch the opposing quarterback when matched up against this guy.
Taylor needs to play with some better ankle flexion and knee bend in the run game, as he got away with hooking some defenders and getting control over them with his arms, which won’t be the same in the pros, while his hands land near the neck region at times. Occasionally he gets caught stopping his feet against up-and-under moves and will over-set to the outside. Taylor was drawn for a false start on the first play at Mississippi State last year because the D-line shifted and has been prone to jumping early these last two years. He also sat out the team’s first offensive series in the 2018 season-opener because he “didn’t meet the Gator standards”.
Taylor is a guy who just makes playing the position look effortless. He is probably best suited to remain at right tackle spot. With some work on the flexibility in his lower body to enable him to play with better pad level and leg drive, he could develop into an even better run blocker with excellent feet to along in protection. I wouldn’t be shocked if he went inside the top ten.
3. Cody Ford, Oklahoma
A four-star recruit from Louisiana, Ford decided against several SEC schools in favor of coming to Norman. He redshirted his freshman year and was named the scout team’s Offensive Player of the Year. After starting the first three games at left guard in 2016 he broke his leg and missed the rest of the season. He appeared in 12 games the following campaign, but it wasn’t until last year when he moved to right tackle that he started every single game, which ended with first-time All-Big XII honors.
This is a big dude at 6’4”, about 340 pounds, but he can really move for that size. While a lot of draft analysts project him to play guard, I think Ford has the length and mobility to play on the edge, preferably at right tackle. He rolls his hips into defenders as a run-blocker and finishes with a nasty attitude, often times landing on top of those guys. He has the power to wash down interior D-lineman and pass them on to his fellow big guys with an easy loop around to the play-side linebacker, while also being able to yank and torque defenders at their pads. Even he doesn’t win a lot with pad level, the hand-positioning and grip strength he brings to the table give him control over edge defenders and he just clear out space at the point of attack. Ford was even used as a power-puller from that right tackle spot and he is load for a linebacker to take on when he is on the move.
While he is extremely tall in his stance, I think Ford’s feet for that size are outstanding and he stays active with the footwork, plus his arms are so long that defenders might get their hands extended against his chest, but he can still grab them with bent elbows. Ford can clamp down on pass rushers and when he gets his hands inside their chests, it’s over. His upper body is so wide that pass rushers seem to forget the plan they had against him, leading them to stop their feet and it can get pretty frustrating for guys after so many snaps of just not getting around him. What I appreciate most in Ford’s pass sets is the way he stays under control and doesn’t overcommit at all, always being ready for inside counters and he just trusts his anchor to hold up against power, as he surrendered just seven quarterback pressures in all of 2018. However just because the ball comes out doesn’t mean he will quit on plays, often times staying engaged to keep the defender from chasing after it.
The big guy might not necessarily a natural bender and won’t be able to move people off the spot in the pros the way he did in the Big XII. With how tall he is in his stance, he might have some trouble against those power rushers who can get inside his chest, if there is enough of a threat to just speed around the arc. He also overextends at times when trying to quick-set and misses that punch. Ford has recorded just 21 total starts and only seven of those came at guard, considering how many people project him to move back inside.
Ford’s combination of that massive frame, nimble feet for his size and finisher attitude make him an intriguing prospect at right tackle or guard. His tape versus Alabama in the Orange Bowl was highly impressive, facing top tier competition, and if not for Anfernee Jennings’ ridiculous grip to just pull Kyler Murray down while running past him, he would have stayed cleaned in terms of no negative plays allowed in that game. If you consider Ford a guard, he is probably the number one guy at that spot, but at tackle he lands here. Either way he is clearly a first-rounder to me.
4. Andre Dillard, Washington State
Following the footsteps of his father, who played on the O-line for the Cougars in the late 1980s, Dillard made a name for himself coming from the Seattle area. He played a reserve role for the Cougars his redshirt freshman year before stepping in as Washington State’s left tackle for the next 39 games. Dillard was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection by league coaches in 2017 before making the first-team all-conference last season, protecting the blindside of long-time Heisman trophy candidate Garnder Minshew.
Dillard does a nice job locking out the edge defender on the back-side of run plays by stepping up and turning his pads to shield the inside. He can get some pretty good movement on slanting defenders if he has an angle on them, When he is in a battle with a defensive lineman, Dillard sometimes uses that outside arm to go underneath the pad and actually open up a running lane. He solo-reaches defensive linemen lined up in 4i and sometimes even 3-technique. At the same time he has quality experience pulling across the line and kicking out to end-man as well as on power plays, where he gets in front of linebackers and has the balance to adjust his angles. Dillard was used quite a bit to set up wide receiver screens into the boundary by getting out and blocking cornerbacks. He is also is comfortable at getting to the second level on draw plays or those shovel passes to the running back the Cougars ran.
This kid has really athletic feet that allowed him to operate in Wazzu’s pass-happy offense. I love the way he jumps out of his stance in pass protection and can set up perfect posture before the defender is even engaging with him. Dillard puts himself in a position where the defender doesn’t really know where he should go and once he gets his hands on an opponent it’s time to say good night. You can actually see guys on the edge hesitating and stopping their feet against him, which doesn’t take them anywhere either, and if they do get a step on him, the Cougar tackle widens his strides and somehow make up that space in a flash again. Dillard puts a hand on the guard next to him when the defense is showing pressure or he has no clear responsibility, in order to make picking up everybody easier. He displays good snap and catch technique to defeat twist effectiveness, while also displaying a lot of awareness for late rush games, such as the D-end coming upfield and engaging before stunting inside while the linebacker to his side is coming on a delayed blitz off the edge.
With that being said, Dillard More of a people-turner than -mover as a run blocker, without any kind of pop against the defender. His hand-placement is a little too high at times, which leads to little drive in the run game and hinders his core strength. If you can a get a hand inside his chest, Dillard can be thrown off balance and taken for a ride occasionally as well as taking his eyes down every once in a while when he does try to take away the momentum from his rusher. He was pushed around quite a bit by Texas’ Charles Omenihu and gave up a strip-sack in the Senior Bowl game.
Dillard really stood out among the OT group at the NFL combine, where he ran sub-five in the 40, led all offensive linemen with a broad jump of almost ten feet and easily had the best 20-yard shuttle time, while showing light feet and loose hips during the on-field workout session. He is the best pure left tackle prospect in this draft. He might not be the guy you want to run right behind, but he can seal and climb in the run game, while giving you tremendous feet and protection of the blind side.
5. Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
Here we have a two-time All-State pick from Colorado, who started every game at center in his first year at campus where he received Freshman All-American honors. Risner moved to right tackle as a sophomore and has started 36 games at that spot since then (with the only missed start coming due to having shoulder surgery). He put up a Pro Football Focus grade above 90 in three consecutive seasons and was named first-team All-Big XII in each of those.
Risner is a mauling run-blocker, who has the grip strength to torque the pads of defensive linemen or absolutely throw them to the ground and open up a running lanes, plus he brings that nasty attitude to push people around past the whistle or jump on top of them if they are already on the ground. He excels at reaching five-techniques and sealing the backside on run plays, while being very fluid at passing on assignments and working his way to the second level, where he just swallows some linebackers. The three-time first-team All-Big XII selection switches up hand-positioning in order to seal or drive defenders, either getting a hand on the inside pad to turn the defender’s body or underneath it to grab and move.. He is effective at kicking out and skip-pulling to clear up space for his backs by finding targets on his radar and identifying end-man getting upfield aggressively. You can see that he takes pride in imposing his will on defenders by continuously driving his legs and he had great success doing so at K-State.
In the passing game Risner has that wide frame that forces defenders to go through him and that’s a hard thing to do considering the sturdy base he has to anchor. He combines that with well-coordinated footwork and a broad base, while showing active feet to mirror counter moves and protecting the inside. Risner has a strong push to get somebody past the quarterback late if a safety comes with a head-start, his running back messes up in a full line slide or he has to help out late. He processes information and adjusts to defensive movement better than anybody in this class, constantly picking up late pressure and altering angles in the run game. In his senior year he almost scored a touchdown in the late stages of the season versus Texas Tech, but it was called back because it was ruled a forward pass. Altogether Risner allowed just one sack and 28 total pressures in four years for the Wildcats on 1490 pass-blocking snaps, with only four of them coming in 2018.
There might be some athletic limitations for Risner at the next level if he stays on the edge, as you see him have some issues with pure speed and he doesn’t have the length most of those guys in front of him do. He loses balance in the run game on a high rate and lands on the ground quite a bit. He also lunges over his toes at times and can be arm-overed or push-pulled past. Risner has a general flaw in his pass sets as he slides his inside foot before kicking and with Kansas State running plays almost exclusively out of shotgun he only used verticals sets up to this point.
Risner was really solid all Senior Bowl week long, as he showed some feistiness in one-on-one drills where he added that little shove at the end and created a lot of movement as a run blocker. Length was a concern early on in the process, but with 34-inch arms that is good enough for me. Overall there are some limitations with his athleticism, but Risner has been extremely consistent for the Wildcats and you rarely see him get out of position or just whiff on a block. The last sack he surrendered came in week five of 2016 – almost 1000 pass-blocking snaps have passed since then. Like his former teammate Cody Whitehair, he might ultimately move inside, but Risner has high football IQ and is technically sound, plus I love the edge he plays with on an every-down basis.
6. Greg Little, Ole Miss
This former five-star recruit who was part of that Allen, Texas team alongside Kyler Murray, which won a national title back in 2014. Little stepped in off the bat as a Freshman All-American selection for the Rebels. League coaches voted him second-team All-SEC as a sophomore before making first-team all-conference finally last season and he has only cemented his future in the pros with those 29 consecutive starts on the blindside.
Little is a behemoth at 6’6”, 325 pounds. He gets a good jump off the snap is not afraid to lock horns with some of those big SEC defensive linemen, getting nice initial drive on them. Ole Miss ran this unique gap run play, where they had one side of the offensive pulling across and Little almost slipped his man to get onto a linebacker. Of course they ran it the other way around as well with the left side pulling and threw RPOs off it. Little swallows linebacker on combo-schemes where he can climb with momentum already and beats them to the spot plenty of times. He shows the agility and body control to step around bodies on skip pulls and such as, where he plasters onto targets in space.
In pass pro Little displays nimble left tackle feet and has the big mitts to place on the opposing defender. He can get depth quickly and displays tremendous hip flexibility to flip as his man is trying to counter back inside, plus he brings his feet with him consistently to stay in front of that guy. Little stonewalls people coming his way on twists. I thought he really improved in his second season, surrendering only 14 total pressures on almost 500 pass-blocking snaps and cut that number down to ten on almost the same number of snaps las year. That is even more impressive considering some of the competition he faced off the edge in the SEC.
Little is more of a leaner in the run game and places his hands around the shoulders of his opponents a lot of times. His feet are too wide in protection his hands slide outside the frame of the rusher occasionally. Core strength is definitely a question mark and with how much space he gives up initially, those guys who can convert speed to power can give him a lot of trouble. Most annoying for me however is that he quits on some plays late when he thinks it’s already over anyway and doesn’t necessarily look for help if he is not tasked with somebody or even if the O-line slides one way and the edge defender stunts inside.
This kid just needs to play with a little more aggressiveness and finish blocks the right way. He is ultra-talented and if he played as hard as Dalton Risner, who I just had ahead of him, he might challenge for the top spot at the position. Motivation is my biggest question mark and probably what will determine his future in the NFL – he could look like a top ten pick a couple of years down the road or sit on the bench.
7. Tytus Howard, Alabama State
Another former highschool quarterback and basketball star from Alabama, Howard redshirted his first year as a tight-end before getting action as a right tackle in eight games the following season. He once again started 2017 at that spot before moving to the left side for the final four contests and SWAC coaches voted him the Hornets’ only first-team all-conference selection last season back at right tackle.
Howard is a small-school prospect with NFL size and athleticism, who propelled his draft stock with the Auburn tape from last season. He might not blow people off the ball like some of these other guys on the list, but the former ASU Hornet turns and latches onto defenders and won’t let them just beat him quickly or disengage to make a play. Howard is a natural knee-bender who gets underneath the pads of defenders on angle-blocks. He has excellent agility to reach or hook down-linemen in the gap next to him in the zone run game as well as being able to climb up to the second level and get in front of linebackers. He has done a nice job reaching defenders on his outside shoulder as well and has an innate feel for body-positioning.
The first time you watch Howard on tape, what immediately jumps out are NFL tackle feet in protection. He keeps his feet under him consistently and rarely has them catching up to his upper body, while keeping his eyes up and a help-hand ready for his guard as long as he can kick back. He has experience picking up nickel and safety blitzes. Howard displays excellent technique on cut-blocks, where he gets guys to rush upfield and then cuts across their knees to put them down. He makes up the space in the B-gap quickly on rollout protections the opposite way and turns his hips to make the edge rusher go a long way when they try to run the arc. With how balanced he stays in his pass sets, Howard is ready for any types of stunts or twists. The Alabama State standout welcomes his man upfield and then drives him off the spot to open up running lanes for draw plays.
Howard’s hands slide pretty high and he can get a little grabby around the shoulder plates. There is not a ton of natural power and he gets pushed back at times in the run game when a defensive end decides to just bury his face in Howard’s chest to bust up the play. Howard’s wide stance and overall split between his legs in obvious passing situations make him a target for speed-to-power moves where he can get caught with his post-leg in the air, leading to being driven in the quarterback’s lap while trying to bear-hug his man. He didn’t face a lot of top-tier edge rushers during his collegiate career to evaluate him on.
During Senior Bowl week Howard really struggled versus those Division 1 athletes on the first day, especially in one-on-one pass rush reps where he got put on his back-side by Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, but he acclimated himself better from day two on and displayed very quick feet throughout the week. Howard lacks tremendous physicality and some type of mean streak, but he has all the tools be a long-time starter at tackle and it will be up to his coaches and weight trainers to get the best out of his talent.
8. Chuma Edoga, USC
This former All-state pick from Atlanta was plugged in at right tackle twice as a freshman and played in just nine games the following year while being suspended for one of them. Over these final two years, he has started all but two games at right tackle, being named second-team All-Pac-12 as a senior. He is also one of the guys above 300 pounds that I’ve ever heard about running the 100 meters.
Edoga consistently was the first one to fire off the ball along the Trojan offensive line outside of their center of course. He engulfes defenders in the run game with consistent leg drive and staying attached to his target. Edoga displays fluid transitions to the second level off combo-blocks and smooth adjustments of angles on the move as well as to defensive linemen stunting inside. However, he gets physical with those secondary guys as well, showcased by pushing Stanford’s Bobby Okereke ten yards backwards in their 2018 matchup. Edoga can be tasked reach-responsibilities, as he displays outstanding technique at cutting off the backside of zone run plays, going across the knees of the down-linemen across or inside of him. He was also pulled to the outside with a tight-end taking on his D-end and was highly effective at getting in front of defenders in space. Edoga showcases very crafty technique in the screen game his direction, when he leads his man upfield and then arm-overs him to get out in front.
The two-year started played right tackle at USC, but he has excellent feet that might allow him to move to the blindside at the next level. Edoga jumps out of his stance and covers a ton of room with his kick-slide while his head stays static. He forces opponents to widen their rush and guides them around the quarterback. When those guys try to purely win with his speed, he has the agility to stay stride for stride with edge rushers and really drive them past the ball. Once Edoga recognizes that a defender is crossing his face and becomes the responsibility of somebody else, his eyes immediately go to the closest threat and he shuffles over to put himself in front of that opponent, as he trusts in his teammates. Moreover, he is not thrown off balance by blitzers from the slot and if his defender is gone and nobody is out there on the edge, he closes the space to his guard and helps him protect the B-gap.
On a negative note, his hand-placement is a work in progress. Edoga’s mitts slide up towards the shoulders of his opponent a lot as a run-blocker and he get pretty wide when trying to slow down pass rushers. His base as a drive-blocker is too narrow and he is pretty inconsistent with it in protection. The biggest issue in his game at this point is the lack of an ability to set the anchor against explosive edge rushers. He puts his head out in front in pass pro at times and can lose balance that way. He also received plenty of help by tight-ends to secure the edges during his time at USC- I think Edoga needs to finish plays better overall as you see him standing around while his ball-carrier is still alive or the quarterback hasn’t even released the ball yet.
The former Trojan tackle did an outstanding job in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl and I didn’t count a single lost rep all week long. His tremendous foot quickness, hip mobility and overall athleticism make his a very intriguing prospect, but his lack of functional strength is holding him back in a big way. Even though he doesn’t even quite reach 6’4”, I’m not concerned about his length with 35-inch arm. It will be up to his strength coaches to get him ready for the league and I think he could turn out to be a franchise tackle, although he might also end up as a career backup if he doesn’t hit the weight room heavy enough.
9. David Edwards, Wisconsin
This 6’7”, 315 pound offensive tackle was an option quarterback in high school and started his collegiate career at tight-end before moving to the O-line heading into his second season in Madison. Edwards has started Wisconsin’s last 31 games at right tackle and was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association last season, while leading the way for stud running back Jonathan Taylor, who set a Freshman Big Ten rushing record in 2017 and won the Doak Walker award last year. He was also an Academic All-American in each of the last three years.
Edwards has a good jump off the snap, supreme athleticism and lateral agility for the tackle position. He likes to get on the move and run down the line in the zone-game, while making sure to seal or cut off the backside on run plays. He has enough power to create movement at the point of attack, by getting his hands thrusting up underneath the pads of his opponent and winning the battle early on with his first step. Edwards might not just drive people off the ball consistently, but he gets that late push and turn to open up space for his back to run through. He pulled out in front on some toss plays for the Badgers and put hands on smaller bodies in space. Edwards excels at chipping the initial down-linemen and quickly working to the second level, where I’ve seen him drive a linebacker 15 yards downfield. Overall I think he looks very athletic in space and makes up a lot of ground on outside zone concepts, where he often times crosses the face of a down-linemen in the gap next to him.
The tall Badger tackle has the oily hips and quick feet to mirror defenders in protection, while having the length to win with extended arms. Edwards uses short, choppy steps in his kick-slide which grab a lot of turf and he uses an early punch to control defenders. He is very effective on short sets that way and offers plenty of space for the quarterback to see downfield. There are a multitude of snaps where you think he is beat around the edge because his man gets a step on him, but somehow Edwards’ length saves him as he guides that guy just past the quarterback. Edwards also displays the hip flexibility to turn and ride rushers after early wins. He works well off twists and stunts, making transitions look seamless.
With that being said, Edwards completely whiffs on some blocks when he winds up his arms and ducks his head going into contact with defensive ends, who jump inside quickly. He can get driven backwards when he raises his pads and a D-end goes straight through his chest. Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis did that to him a couple of times in the 2017 conference championship game. Edwards leans over his toes way too far against power-rushers and is susceptible to push-pull moves. He will have to work on widening his kick-slides and being able to move with more speed around the edge, while also being more consistent with his hand timing.
Edwards might not be as technically sound as most offensive linemen coming out of Wisconsin, but he has already made some big strides and has plenty of potential to develop. There are some things that need to be cleaned up about his footwork and hand-positioning in the passing game, plus I think he needs to spend some more time in the weight to trust himself to anchor even if he gets more depth in his kick-slide, but that can be worked on. The best situation for him would be one where he can sit a year behind a veteran tackle and then slide in on the right side.
10. Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois
This all-state selection from Green Bay has been a model of consistency for the NIU program, being named a Freshman All-American as the only player from the MAC and making the All-conference team each of the last four seasons. He has spent time between right guard and tackle before moving to the blindside full-time his junior year, finishing his career starting all 52 possible games.
Scharping has prototypical NFL measurements at 6’6’’, 320 pounds. He gobbles up defensive linemen as a run-blocker, as he keeps their chest close to him and repositions his feet as the play progresses. He kicks back and turns edge defenders towards his own end-zone to open up running lanes behind him, while avoiding immediate penetration inside. Scharping creates excellent movement as that angular driver on combo-blocks and keeps his eyes up for the linebacker. When he is singled up he continues to ride that defender down the line and ends up with his head turned right towards the sideline.
This kid is very solid in protection. He plays with a flat back, good knee-bend and active feet. Scharping opens up his hips rather early, but always stays head-up with his rusher and is extremely patient with his arms. He showcases pretty fluid hips for his size and makes defensive ends widen the arc with his length, while guiding them past the QB once they get to the top of their rush. Scharping lowers his pads and aiming point of his punch against bull-rushes. He does a really nice job sliding towards the guard while kicking back on rollout protection and really forces his man to go a long way around that edge. All this led to his allowing a minimal 11 QB pressures over the last two seasons.
The former Husky makes his chest accessible and can be put on his heels when that extended arm hits him in that area. Overall Scharping is too passive with his hands and sometimes I just want him to engage instead of reacting and waiting a beat to land them in protection. His premature opening of the hips with that wide outside step will be taken advantage of by up-and-under moves and quick spins by NFL pass rushers. He can be a little inconsistent with his footwork at times and crosses his feet occasionally. He is just not a very aggressive run-blocker and doesn’t really latch onto defenders in the ground game, as he benefited from a lack of quality competition on the edge in the MAC, with the best one being on his own team.
Compared to the other guys on this list Scharping doesn’t have to deal with quite the same competition, but he hasn’t surrendered a sack since their bowl game versus Boise State in 2015 and he had a pretty solid Senior Bowl week, even though Oregon’s Jalen Jelks got a couple of wins against him in one-on-ones. NIU trusted him so much creating movement at the line of scrimmage and protecting the blindside one-on-one. Scharping is smart kid and finalist for the Campbell trophy. In three years for the Huskies he has been rated between 85.5 and 89.5 in PFF’s grading scale every season.
Just missed the cut:
Kaleb McGary, Washington
McGary was a conference defensive player of the year and all-conference tight-end in Washington before joining the Huskies. After redshirting his first year In Seattle, he moved into the starting lineup midway through the 2015 season. McGary started every game at right tackle these last three years, while earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors in each of the last two. He is nasty and tough run-blocker with barely any fat on that 6’7”, 317-pound frame. He excelled in Washington inside/outside zone ground attack that led to four 1250+ yard seasons for running back Myles Gaskin and once he has control, he just continues to drive his man across the field. On B-gap runs inside of him McGary invites the edge defender a step upfield and then rides them upfield towards his own goal-line to give the ball-carrier room. When the run is going the opposite way of him, he closes down the space to his guard and shields the backside to avoid any immediate penetration. McGary stays attached to his man in the run game until the whistle is blown and when he is on the move he is looking to take somebody out. He displays very quiet feet in protection and consistently stays squared up against his rusher. It looks like his opponents often times don’t really know what to do because they have to try to peak around him to find the passer and that enables him to shoot his hands inside the frame of the defender. McGary feels when his opponent is leaning into him and are off balance, enabling him to put them down on their chest and negate their rush. He is looking for work in protection if he doesn’t have anybody in front of him and he delivers a nice jab on the initial stunter on twists, while readying himself for the defender coming over the top. McGary as a ton of quality experience getting out in space in the screen game, as he swipes off the defender’s hands he initially engages with and gets on his horse. With that being said, he takes his eyes down at times as a run blocker because he doesn’t get any natural leverage and oversets to the outside a bit on reach-blocks. While being 6’7” his arms don’t even quite measure in at 33 inches. So he doesn’t have lateral agility or length to recover from early losses in his pass sets, plus guys on the edge can get that stab arm inside the tackle’s chest if there is no immediate contact. While he has been medically cleared to play college ball, McGary’s heart arrhythmia has to be pointed out. He did a nice job staying balanced in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl and landed on top of a couple of guys there. He was a very consistently solid all-around right tackle for the Huskies with limitations that might lead to a move inside. I like his upper body strength and aggressive mindset however.
Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia
After redshirting his first year in Morgantown, Cajuste started the team’s first six games at left tackle the next year but missed the rest of the season with a knee injury. In 2016 his season ended after just one game already, before garnering second-team All-Big XII honors as a full-time blindside protector as a junior. Last season he improved on that, being named Co-Big XII Offensive Linemen of the Year. Built like a tank, Cajuste’s game revolves around power and a mean spirit. He gains a lot ground working down the line on zone-plays for such a big man by rolling his hips and working his legs and he absolutely demolishes guys off the ball on down-blocks and pushing from an angle, where he can directly move onto the second level on combo-action without really having to change his path. Cajuste positions his hands outside the chest of his man and turns his body on seal-blocks on the backside of run plays, which actually opens some space for potential cut-backs. He was used on some power pulls with the Mountaineers and blew the smaller linebackers in that conference up. When the running back is stood up, you will find Cajuste pushing that pile. In protection his hands are coiled and ready shoot, as he has vice-grip on them to just shut rushers down once he gets them inside the opponent’s frame. He has the type of trunks that help him absorb bull rushes and the wide frame that makes it hard for people to just get around. Cajuste uses his length to help him out a lot in pass protection and keep his man at a distance. He didn’t face many true threats off the edge in the Big XII, especially with plenty of three-man rushes, but had a pretty flawless day versus TCU’s Ben Banogu and L.J. Collier. He processes defensive games and overall movement quite well and is ready to shift his focus. Cajuste plays with his chest over his knees way too much and has heavy feet, which make it hard for him to just calmly kick and slide. He was able to excel in the Big XII with all those quick screens and lack of actual drop-backs with those short gallop steps and the length to guide rushers, but he will have to prove he can actual sustain his blocks on the outside and be a full-time pass protector. I thought he showed some hip tightness and he would benefit from shedding ten pounds or so. Unlike some people who project Cajuste as a guard, I think he could play full-time on the edge if he loses a little bit of weight and improves his foot quickness. However, he will have to play on an offense that is built around running the ball, short pass sets and slide protections. He won’t hold up 60 minutes on an island against some of the premiere speedy edge rushers in the NFL.
The next guys up:
Dennis Daley (South Carolina), Bobby Evans (Oklahoma), Mitch Hyatt (Clemson), Isaiah Prince (Ohio State), Derwin Gray (Maryland)
For positional rankings on the top running backs, linebackers, interior offensive and defensive linemen in the NFL draft go to halilsrealfootballtalk.com