2016 Draft – Position Group – Offensive Tackle
I am a really big fan of this class for the Offensive Line in general, and while I believe this may be a better Right Tackle type of class than necessarily providing a ton of players who will anchor the Left Tackle spot for years to come, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of really good players to be had. Whatever type of player you are looking for as an OT you can find them somewhere in this draft, and a lot of them can step in and play right away.
Laremy Tunsil is the sure thing LT every team wants in this draft, but other players like Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame), Jack Conklin (Michigan State), and Taylor Decker (Ohio State) are 1st Round OTs who have a better than okay chance to hold down the blind-side. Dig past the 1st Round and you can also find Jason Spriggs (Indiana) and La’Raven Clarke (Texas Tech) who have a lot of characteristics that project at LT. Want less projection and more of a high floor and low ceiling guy at LT? Then you can look at Kyle Murphy (Stanford) or if your team doctors think he can recover from injury a late pick for Tyler Johnstone (Oregon).
What about a strong run blocking RT? Well Jack Conklin could be an amazing RT, but assuming he goes high and gets a look at LT then you want to draft a player like Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M) or Fahn Cooper (Ole Miss). You could also pick a smaller school player like Joe Haeg (North Dakota State), Cole Toner (Harvard) or Willie Beavers (Western Michigan) who may not have gone up against the greatest competition but have shown ability and may end up being a great value pick.
1. Laremy Tunsil – Ole Miss – 6’5 310Lbs
Tunsil is the prototypical NFL Left Tackle. He’s big, long armed, quick footed, and plays light and mobile despite being the size of a small car. His technique is strong in the pass and run game, playing well with his hands and feet working together and his strong balance keeping him where he wants to be while moving the defender around. He has a good understanding of how to pick up blitzers, where to go in search of a good block when on the move in the run game, and general a strong head for the game.
The concerns for Tunsil primarily come off the field with some legal trouble and a few injuries. On the field, he can get some penalties for being a bit overeager at times and doesn’t play through the whistle on every play, but a strong team with good veterans and coaches ought to help a lot with his few issues. I like the Trent Williams comparison for Tunsil, as an athletic and powerful Left Tackle. Laremy Tunsil is the kind of player every team wants to take, and if for some reason due to trade or other he doesn’t go 1st Overall in the Draft, there is no way he slips out of the top 3 picks.
2. Ronnie Stanley – Notre Dame – 6’6 312Lbs
Stanley is a tall, long armed OT with a ton of game experience at the highest levels of FBS competition. He’s very quick out of his stance in the pass game, using his hands well to get inside of defenders. His long arms and good footwork allow him to handle even the fastest edge rushers, and his athleticism make him a dangerous run blocker especially cracking back or on the move. As a Senior he really worked on his technique and became a dependable finisher of blocks on every play.
While Stanley has long arms and a lot of athleticism, his balance is pretty average and he lacks the plus strength to handle elite bullrushers or get big time push in run blocking. If he cannot get stronger in the NFL then he will find himself getting pushed back if someone bullrushes inside of his technique, which will put him back into the QB. That being said his technique and athleticism are enough to give him the look of a quality Left Tackle, especially in a zone blocking scheme. He will go in the top half of the 1st Round and be the next Lane Johnson for a team like the Ravens or Giants.
3. Jack Conklin – Michigan State – 6’6 308Lbs
Conklin is a seriously strong and physical OT, playing with great core strength and a nasty streak that serves him well. He has a good base and center of gravity, making him hard to move and allowing him to sink, anchor, and maul with his plus strength. He is very aware on the field and is always looking for someone to block in the pass and run game. Strength and technique are the calling card, and his experience at both tackle spots make him all the more appealing.
The drawbacks for Conklin mostly center around length and athleticism. He doesn’t play with his full length, and he doesn’t slide as smoothly as others. At times this can cause him to lunge a bit if beaten by a speed rush, and he comes out of his element and vulnerable to getting beat. He has a strong chance to stick on the left side in the NFL, but if he were forced to swap to RT he would immediately because one of the best in the league. With that upside he is a lock Round 1 Pick, possibly going to the Lions or Colts and for sure not slipping past Seattle at Pick 26.
3 MORE TO WATCH
1. Jason Spriggs – Indiana – 6’6 301Lbs
Spriggs started 46 games at Left Tackle for a pass heavy Indiana offense that also featured a few big time runners. He has a lot of experience, and showed tons of physical tools as one of the darlings on the 2016 Combine. He is a converted TE, and has the athleticism, quickness, and agility that NFL teams covet at LT. He has good size, long enough arms, and shows good balance and body control. However he also comes out of a spread style offense, struggles at times to maintain blocks, and his technique isn’t very polished. Based on experience and athleticism he will come off the board in the late 1st or early 2nd Round to a Zone Blocking team who wants an athletic Tackle.
2. Kyle Murphy – Stanford – 6’6 305Lbs
Murphy is an interesting prospect who has experience at both Tackle positions. He comes from a Stanford program that demands run blocking, and on that front he delivers. As a pass blocker Murphy showed good awareness and athleticism, but not a lot of quickness and at times got a bit high and flat footed. He has a floor as a strong RT who is a plus run blocker, and there is a possibility of him playing as or developing into a LT during his career. As a likely 3rd Round choice, he could end up being one of the steals of the draft.
3. Joe Haeg – North Dakota State – 6’6 304Lbs
Haeg is this year’s best shot at an FCS Tackle being picked in the first 3 Rounds, something that has actually happened in the last 5 NFL Drafts. He has the frame and measurables to make the jump to the NFL, and in that area compares to just about any of the FBS prospects in the Draft. He’s played a ton of games at both Tackle spots, plays with good quickness, and has active feet. He also can play a bit high, lacks core strength coming into the league, and may only fit in a Zone Blocking system. That being said, a lot of teams use those systems and a kid coming from college needing some bulk isn’t a shock to any NFL teams. He’s likely to go in the 3rd or 4th Round and has a good chance to start right away, if not quite holding up as an LT. He’s another player who could be a big time value pick on the line.