The NFL is constantly dealing with a lack of talent on the offensive line, and when a draft class like this year’s presents itself, teams take advantage. There could be as many as six OL taken in the first round, and the amount of talent likely available in the first three rounds is rare. Here are five tackles to keep an eye on when the Combine begins this week.
5. Josh Jones, Houston
When an OT is drafted high, he’s usually played at a big-name school. Jones is hoping to be an exception to that rule. A four-year starter for the Cougars, Jones improved in pass protection each season of his career, and in 1,282 pass blocking snaps since 2017, he gave up just 18 pressures. That’s an impressively low amount, and his senior season, during which he gave up only one sack and three hurries, put him on the map for NFL teams.
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as 93.2 overall, the highest they’ve ever given to a Power-5 OT. Jones has fantastic size at 6’7″ 310lbs, and he’ll have a chance to show off his great athleticism during drills. He does need to add more strength to his frame, and his technique is still iffy at times, but Jones has high-end starter written all over him. A good NFL Combine performance and he could end up as a top-15 pick.
4. Matt Peart, UConn
Another four-year starter at a smaller school, Peart stands 6’7″ 303lbs, and is ridiculously fluid for his size. His PFF grading profile is impressive, culimnating in a 90.0 overall mark as a senior. Both his run block and pass block grades took a massive jump from 2018 to 2019 which is encouraging.
Peart must get stronger, as he is susceptible to the bull rush, and sometimes has issues in the run game. But added strength will hopefully come with an NFL training regimen. Peart is a project, but the potential reward with him is very high. He has everything that you can’t teach a player, and his weaknesses can be improved with time and coaching.
3. Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Thomas was almost universally considered the top OT in this class during last season, but seems to have been overtaken by two or three other prospects for some reason. It’s nothing Thomas did or didn’t do, that’s for sure. Thomas started at RT as a freshman before taking over for New England Patriots first-round pick Isaiah Wynn on the left side. He’s gotten better each season, and finished 2019 with a PFF grade of 92.4. Thomas has good size, good technique, and is very athletic.
It’s almost like draftniks just got tired of mocking Thomas as OT1 and decided to move him down the board to add some variety. Thomas’s athletic testing should vault him back up into the OT1 discussion, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come off the board at pick #4 to the New York Giants.
He is a special player, and while he might not have quite the ceiling as some of the other prospects in the class, his ceiling is still a Pro Bowl-caliber blindside protector.
2. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Wirfs is extremely strong and very agile, a perfect fit in a zone blocking system, which happens to be increasing in popularity in the NFL. His lateral movement ability is a thing to watch, and when he gets his hands into a defender’s chest, it’s over.
Wirfs primarily played RT for the Hawkeyes, but did spend a few games on the left side. Some analysts have expressed concern over Wirfs’ lack of ideal arm length, and have suggested he move inside to guard. While Wirfs would likely excel inside, why write him off as a tackle due to a few fractions of an inch?
He was an excellent OT in college; let him play his natural position until he proves he cannot. Wirfs’ measurements and athletic testing will be interesting to follow, as he is still in serious contention to be a top-10 pick, and could even be the first tackle chosen.
1. Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Speaking of large men who move well, Becton doesn’t even seem human. He is listed at a monstrous 6’7″ 369lbs, and on the field, he is an absolute bully. Over his first two seasons, Becton flipped from left to right side based on the play call, and his consistency suffered because of it.
As a junior, he moved to LT full time, and took a big step forward. He is not as polished as Jones, Wirfs, Thomas, and Jedrick Wills Jr., but Becton’s ceiling is higher because of his immense size and insane athleticism. He bends and moves far too well for his frame.
Is he more boom-or-bust than the other prospects? Absolutely. He lacks refinement and his tape is simply not as impressive. But when he’s straight-up disrespecting defenders like this?
mekhi becton highlights are hilarious pic.twitter.com/ozE0QfAKHR
— charles (TBD) mcdonald (@FourVerts) February 21, 2020
Some team will fall in love with him, especially after he impresses at the Combine. If he gets proper coaching at the next level and is able to keep his weight under control, look out.