From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
Walker Little / OT/ Stanford – 6’7, 320lb
-Has great size and length with the thickness of a traditional tackle prospect
-Adequate play strength in both pass and run situations
-Does a great job keeping his hands inside the defenders chest
-Once he has his hands on a defender squared up, he’s basically won the rep
-Has decent lateral moments skills in terms of sliding left to right to mirror defenders
-Able to sit down and anchor with a strong base vs power rushers
-Can combo off to backer and climb to the second level to pick off smaller players
-Has shown the ability to pull, reach, and down block effectively
-Continually runs his feet and will play to and through the whistle
-Will engulf smaller defenders with size, making it nearly impossible to work through or around him
-Has a consistent quick set that active hands off the snap to await defenders
-Will look to take defenders to the ground when off balance in his pass set
-Athleticism is limited in terms of speed and explosiveness
-Has great length, but doesn’t always use it to his advantage
-Will get bunched up at tops on run fits, not creating as much drive as you would expect
-Can get out in space, but doesn’t have the athletic traits to catch faster defenders in the open field
-At his best operating in a phone booth rather than in space
-Vertical pass set worries you in his ability to neutralize speed rushers who can turn the corner
-Doesn’t play with as much nasty as you’d like to see from a player of his size
-Gets high on his run fits and can stand to play with more leverage given his size
-Senior prospect from Houston, Texas
-Highly touted 5-star recruit out of high school as the top tackle prospect
-Multi-sport athlete competed in basketball and track
-Athletic bloodline with his father playing baseball at Texas Tech, grandfather playing football at Rice and the New York Giants, and uncle playing football at Texas A&M and the Baltimore Colts
-Played in 9 games as a true freshman for the Cardinal, helping pave the way for Bryce Love’s Heisman caliber campaign
-Started all 12 games as a sophomore at LT and one game as a junior before suffering a season-ending knee injury
-Opted out of the 2020 season
-Academic Honor Role student in 2019
Walker Little was #1 tackle recruit coming out in 2017, meaning the pressure was on to perform at a high level. The Stanford commit made sure to make good on his high ranking early, being the youngest true freshman since 2000 to start for the famously renowned Stanford offensive line. Little possesses the size and frame teams look for in bookend players with the length to match. His size makes him hard to move off of his spot when he anchors down in his pass set or work around either in the passing game or as a run blocker. He has good functional strength to move people at the point of attack and plays with good head placement inside the defender’s chest to steer him wherever he wants to go. Here on this rep vs UCLA, he locks up the edge defender at the line of scrimmage, getting his strong hands engaged the defender’s chest and neutralizing the rush.
He was asked to make all different kinds of blocks at different levels for Stanford, having experience getting out in space and up to the 2nd level. Here is a great example of that in his matchup vs USC where he pulls from the tackle spot on the sweep to Bryce Love, getting out in space and picking up the defender, chopping him down and letting Love run free down the sideline.
Another great example of Little’s ability to move for a big body. Here against Northwestern, he pulls from the tackle spot to the right, leading up the hole and picks up the backer at the 2nd level.
Little operates in the passing game mainly using a quick set and can mirror defenders with good lateral footwork. On this rep he uses his quick set off the snap with active hands, engaging the pass rusher with his initial punch then mirroring with his feet, not allowing the defender to get the corner or chop down his arms.
However, Little needs some refinement with his technique as he doesn’t always utilize his size and length to his advantage. He will keep defenders close to his chest and standing up tall and bunched over himself than with arms extended and better leverage. Here is an example back in 2018 vs Oregon where he does a good job engaging with the defender but keeps him close to his frame and doesn’t drive him back, making it easy for the defender to shed him to the turf.
While he can neutralize power rushers with a strong base, speed rushers can get the better of him in terms of turning the corner around his outside shoulder due to a lack of a consistent kick step in pass protection. That is evident here where the Rams edge rusher Justin Hollins gets around Little due to slow kick step, rounding the edge and getting the sack.
Overall, Little has some refinement he needs to take care of and lacks the athletic upside of other tackles in this class, but he provides a stable presence in the run game and has the size and traits to be a starting option at potentially either tackle spot. He may not be best suited for the QB’s blindside but could stand to move to the right side of the line. In terms of a comp, Rob Havenstein of the Los Angeles Rams comes to mind as a similar sized prospect with a limited athletic ceiling, but has experience playing in a run-heavy system. Like Havenstein did for the Rams, Little should look to provide depth for a run-heavy system right away with the possibly of becoming a solid, low upside/ high floor starting caliber tackle in the league. Pittsburgh may be concerned with Little missing the 2020 campaign, but should they look to go running back and center with their first two selections, Little could present good value in the middle rounds with the pedigree and college production they tend to like.
Projection: Mid-to-Late Day 2
Games Watched: at Oregon (2018), vs UCLA (2018), vs USC (2018), vs Northwestern (2019)