Should Pittsburgh spend a priority pick on a Tackle? Two weeks ago I thought I knew the answer. I’m a lot less sure now that I’ve done the research.
Those who favor the idea will point out that the Steeler OT’s are no better than average unless you assume a major jump by Dan Moore Jr. and either a healthy Zach Banner or a re-signed Chuks Okorafor. Those are all possible, but even then there would be no actual star. Thus there is definitely room for improvement and, since Tackle is a premium position, you aren’t going to find a top notch prospect if you wait until later in the draft.
Those who oppose the idea will point out that Pittsburgh prioritizes Centers and Guards over Tackles. So much so that you cannot find a single all-time great Tackle in the history of a team that’s had several great Guards. As for Center? No team, anywhere, at any spot, in any sport, can surpass the Steelers’ record at that position. I’m far from sure that anyone can legitimately claim to be a rival. Maybe the Yankees’ centerfielders?
Opponents of a high OT pick will also point out that the Steeler OT’s are a much stronger group than what the team can field on the inside.
THE CURRENT ROSTER
Football teams aim to have a starting Tackle for both the left and right sides, a solid backup, and a promising young buck who is learning the ropes. Special points go to Tackles that can move inside to also play Guard. The Steelers have these players:
- OT Dan Moore Jr., 6’5″, 315 lbs. with long 34½” arms and big 10½” hands. Drafted at 4:23 (#128 overall) in 2021. Turns 24 in September. The brightest spot on a dismal 2021 unit, last year’s 4th Round rookie was forced to play by Banner’s injuries, and then did a journeyman-level job on Big Ben’s blind side. Should be fine with any kind of a Sophomore Leap, and may be more than that. Roethlisberger himself issued a glowing recommendation: “He’s the Left Tackle of the future for this football team.” So let it be written, so let it be done. Fans will worry. It’s what we do. But Pittsburgh isn’t going to invest any draft capital just for the chance of finding an improvement over the young Mr. Moore.
- OT Zach Banner, 6’8″, 335 lbs. with long 34⅞” arms and 10¾” hands. Drafted at 4:30 (#137 overall) in 2017. Turns 29 in December. See below for more thorough discussion.
- OT Chukwuma “Chuks” Okorafor, 6’6″, 320 lbs. with long 34½” arms and 10¼” hands. Drafted at 3:28 (#92 overall) in 2018. Turns 25 in August. Free agent. See below for more thorough discussion.
- OL Joe Haeg, 6’6″, 298 lbs. with 33¾” arms and 9⅝” hands. Drafted at 5:16 (#155 overall) in 2016. Turns 29 in March. A journeyman who provides solid backup service at both Tackle and Guard. You’d think he was a little small, but he plays a good deal bigger than he measures, particularly in the run game, and has very good mobility and native athleticism. Will earn $3.1 Million in 2022 and be a free agent in 2023. That sounds like an ideal swing-Tackle to my ear.
- OL John Leglue, 6’7″, 310 lbs. with long 34⅛” arms and big 10” hands. Turns 26 in April. A 2019 UDFA, Leglue is built like a Tackle but served as the ultra-emergency LG #4 last year, and did it well enough to stop the hemorrhaging. No better than that, but it’s a lot more than nothing. Known for excellent athleticism. He will cost the team an extremely reasonable $825,000 in 2022 and will be an ERFA in 2023.
- RESERVE/FUTURE OL Chaz Green, 6’4⅝”, 318 lbs. with 33⅜” arms and big 10⅞” hands. Turns 30 in April. A career Journeyman selected by the Cowboys at 3:27 (#91 overall) 2015. Has been plagued with injuries for his whole career, and never seems to have recovered from getting butchered, carved, and served up in slices for four sacks in his only start of 2017. He’s never held a starting or full time backup job since that debacle.
ZACH BANNER OR CHUKS OKORAFOR? COULD IT BE BOTH?
Zach Banner is an enormous man with an eclipse-sized personality and endless potential as both a run- and pass blocker. No man that size should move as well as he does; at least when healthy and keeping his weight down. The 2019 version of Zach Banner showed flashes of finally realizing some of that awesome potential, but injuries intervened to wipe out everything in both 2020 and 2021; including most of the fan goodwill he’d earned.
Those two lost seasons coincide with some interesting contract moves. Banner entered 2020 on a shiny new, one-year, $1.75 Million “prove it” contract. His goal was obvious: follow up on his good 2019 with an even better 2020, and then negotiate for a career-making deal in the years to follow. Things looked good for that design as the preseason went on. He won the starting RT job away from Okorafor, and entered the actual games with high hopes and great momentum. Then came Snap #4 of Game #1, and poof. Torn ACL. Gone for the year.
Knee injuries and big men are a bad mix, but the Steelers must have been satisfied with the prognosis because they signed Banner to a two-year deal for 2021 (at about the same price with a small bump) and 2022 (where he’d earn a 3x salary increase if he didn’t get cut).
People may have forgotten the sense of cautious hope we had for the 2021 O-Line right after the draft. DeCastro would be the veteran anchor of the line. The rising Zach Banner would play on his right, and the newly returned fan favorite, B.J. Finney, would start at Center. Chuks Okorafor would get a chance to prove himself at LT in a contract year. And Kevin Dotson, the 2019 sensation, would step in for serious play at LG with a sophomore leap under his belt. Meanwhile Round 3’s Kendrick Green would study madly to convert from being a college Guard to an NFL Center, and Round 4 Tackle Dan Moore Jr. would develop on a redshirt year. It sounded good! Especially with the veteran Joe Haeg coming in to serve as the swing Tackle.
What’s that they say about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men?’ We lost the great DeCastro before the season began; Dotson spent most of the year hurt; B.J. Finney couldn’t get on the field; Banner never played a starting snap; and Okorafor had to shift over to RT. 100% casualty rate. The only thing worse was what happened to the D-Line, where the starters were better (three all-stars), two were lost for the season, and then we went through the backups, emergency backups, converted special teamers, and barrel-scraping desperation backups from other teams’ practice squads.
Getting back to the point, Zach Banner was forced to spend his second year in a row on IR, riding the pine at a cost of $2.875 Million. Was it the knee again? Could he have come back at 80% if Okorafor stank the joint up? We assume so, but have no confirmation.
Banner is scheduled to earn $6.625 Million in 2022, and would save the team $5 Million in cap space if he got cut. Speculation has run rampant that he might sign an extension on more or less identical terms to his last deal. But it should be noted that these speculations have all come from the fans, not the team or the player. Fans think emotionally. “You promised us two good years at an economy price, which would make the third year a bargain as well. Instead you gave us four snaps in 2020, and only five in 2021. You owe us! So how about we make 2022 another ‘prove it’ year, and save the price hike for 2023?”
Banner isn’t going to see things in that light. At 29 he is in his prime, and has to expect that his market will start to diminish. All he needs is that one big contract to set his family up for the rest of his life. That has to be his goal. But what is the best way to get there? Dropping his salary by $4 Million would hurt. That’s half of what he’s earned in his entire career! Doing so with no guarantee of future earnings…? Tough ask. OTOH, Pittsburgh could invest those cap savings in a proven commodity. Maybe even Chuks Okorafor. And where would Zach Banner be then, but out on the street after two years of idleness?
It won’t be an easy or comfortable negotiation for either side.
Chuks Okorafor has pass blocking skills that are well above the line, particularly against super quick and slippery rushers like Von Miller. Long, tall, athletic, easy moving, still improving. and only now entering the start of his prime. By all accounts, he is also a good teammate, a decent guy, a hard worker, and a credit to the city. There is a lot to like about Chuks Okorafor. And he stays healthy.
Those positives weigh against two negatives. First, he is little more than a positional blocker in the run game. Okorafor is not a people-mover who will dig out and relocate an unwilling NFL opponent. And second, he is now a free agent coming off his rookie deal, and likely to become more expensive than any team should be spending on a backup.
Okorafor, like Banner, is looking for that one big deal to set his family up for life. He’s earned all of $4 Million in his career while quietly plugging away on his rookie deal. Now is his chance! Dave Bryan has estimated the floor of his new contract to be around $7 Million per year, a number that would have to include a high percentage of bonus money to keep the annual salary down. Pittsburgh could afford that… but it would pinch pretty hard to pay Banner $6-7 Million and Okorafor $6-8 Million when only one of the two would be playing.
This creates an easy bottom line. Pittsburgh will have Dan Moore as one of its two starters in the years to come. The second will be either Okorafor or Banner. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where both would stay. It would simply cost too much when one of the two would end up warming the bench. The equation would change if either one had the ability to move inside and play Guard, but that just isn’t the case.
There are some alternatives, like an outside free agent. I personally find that unlikely. Maybe both of them will agree to a short term deal for 2022, since everyone expects that contracts will leap in value when the new cap money arrives in 2023? From the players point of view that argument ignores the injury risks and the fact that one of them would be sitting. Maybe it’s not such a good idea after all. And where would it leave the Steelers in 2023?
Free agency. What fun. It’s going to be a three-sided dance, with one young man losing out. I feel for everyone involved.
BOTTOM LINE TIME: WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF “WANT” GOING INTO THE DRAFT?
- LT1: The Steelers have one starting position set, with Dan Moore Jr. I can think of no reason beyond native caution to question Roethlisberger’s evaluation.
- RT1: Okorafor or Banner. Free agency will tell us which.
- SWING OT1: Joe Haeg. He’s earned it, and his versatility makes him extra valuable.
- SWING OL2: John Leglue. Ditto.
Opening? Well… none. Surprise! [And don’t kid me about not being surprised. I certainly was.]
That isn’t the end of the analysis. Not by a long shot, because up to now I have ignored the room for improvement. None of those five players has set the world on fire. They may be “reliable,” in the sense of not being an actual hole for opponents to take advantage of, but what about the chance of turning the position into an actual strength?
This runs into the twin problems of team philosophy and greater need on the inside. As noted above, Pittsburgh tends to prioritize Centers and Guards over OT’s. We need to anticipate bigger investments at those positions as the team retools. And second, the IOL depth is abysmal by comparison to what we just looked at. Dotson did not make the anticipated sophomore leap, and it would be hard to describe his occasional 2021 play as significantly better than any of the Tackles (Okorafor, Moore, Haeg, or the memory of Banner). Kendrick Green… the less said about his rookie year, the better. And RG is currently empty.
No one doubts that the front office will bring in a journeyman-level Guard to fill that hole, and maybe a Center as well. Kevin Colbert hates to enter the draft with an actual “need” on the roster. But do we really expect the Steelers to invest so much free agency money into Center and Guard that those positions will become actively stronger than what we’ve outlined at Tackle? I don’t. And that means it will make much more sense – vastly, incomparably more sense! – to spend the draft capital on a player for the interior O-Line, or at least on a Tackle who’s capable of moving inside while he learns his trade.
A Round 1 pick on someone who’d be a Tackle and nothing else? It just doesn’t make sense to me, even if that pick would instantly be the best lineman on the team. Not unless the team is willing to double dip, since the group of Round 2 Guards looks pretty good. But that will have to wait for a different article.
If you’re focused on the pure Tackles anyway, allow me to suggest Round 4 as your target. (Round 5 would be ideal, but that’s the pick that was traded away last year in order to get Isaiahh Loudermilk). The names to read up on are Abraham Lucas and Max Mitchell, both of whom would be steals since they’ll probably get picked in Round 3, and a boom-or-bust prospect named Dare Rosenthal. There are also some decent developmental talents that might be available in Round 6.
But my bottom line remains the same. Dan Moore on one side. Banner, Okorafor, or (less likely) an outside free agent on the other side. And Haeg as the swing Tackle. That will be the starting OT lineup going into 2022. We’re not going to get our dancing bear.
Please drop your thoughts on that in the comments, along with your thoughts on my initial prospect grades. And on how big a discount we should apply to those one-position prospects. I haven’t applied one yet even though I think we should.
NOTE: Players in italcized gray may have Tackle flexibility but are projected primarily as Guards:
|1:05||T/G Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, NC St. (Junior). 6’4”, 320 lbs. with long ___” arms and ___” hands. Your author’s draft crush of the year, Ekwonu is a natural athlete with sweet feet, tremendous strength, and a desire to dominate opponents that will endear him to fans of all kinds. Viewed purely as a Tackle, he has enough promise to earn Lance Zierlein’s Top 10-15 grade and a comparison to Kelechi Osemele. He looks even better as a potential Guard! The length, wrestling background, natural athletic talent, native strength, and other assets are all top notch. All of which adds up to this: Pittsburgh could plug him in right away as an elite Guard prospect, while he works on the things that might let him mature to be an elite Tackle as well. Puzzle, meet piece. The best part may be that Ekwonu is, in Zierlein’s words, “A gentleman in class and killer on the grass, [whose] football character and urgent field demeanor make it easier to… anticipate him landing closer to his ceiling than his floor as either a guard or tackle.” That’s as good a floor as you’re going to see for an OL prospect. Ekwonu will fit any scheme and, even more important, be a decade-long credit to his team and his city. Me want. But me ain’t gonna get. He could get picked in the Top 5, and will get picked in the Top 10 if there is any justice in the world. I’m not the only one with a draft crush, either. Consider this scouting profile from the well respected Brandon Thorn: “As a run-blocker, Ekwonu uses a stunning blend of athletic ability, size and power to dominate on the front and backside of wide-zone runs and in space as a puller to both sides. His ability to track down smaller targets in space as a puller is special, and it results in at least a few spectacular blocks per game…” It goes on. Joe Marino’s TDN scouting profile ends in an easy Top 10 grade. This detailed scouting profile lays out the issues with his pass blocking, which are all correctable but still there. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report likewise ends in a Top 10 grade, though he does sound a few doubts about Ickey’s ability to excel purely as a Tackle due to some inconsistent footwork and a tendency to dip his head when searching for extra power on some plays.|
|1:10||T/G Evan Neal, Alabama. (Junior). 6’6”, 360 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. There’s a HOF ceiling here, if Neal can tighten everything up. And there is a solid starting-Guard floor if he can’t. Combine those and you end up with a very high draft grade. The only question is, “how high?” His issues basically come down to an array of niggling balance problems, a bad habit of allowing his feet to stall, and a pattern of inconsistency you might describe as ‘running hot and cold.’ NFL Edge Rushers routinely embarrass Tackles with those problems, and the best ones will do just that to Neal if he cannot tighten things up. So why doubt that he’ll do just that? The work we’re talking about involves breaking old habits and then building up new ones. That is a difficult, tedious, and frustrating task for anyone, and it may not help that his poor outcomes would disappear if he moved inside to Guard. How much harder would it be to battle through the nasty, thorny, maddening path toward greatness, when the easy path leads to a decade-long career with Pro Bowls mixed in? Just remember the wow! if he does get them fixed. Neal isn’t just an enormous man even for an NFL Tackle, he can carry that size with the grace of someone a hundred pounds lighter. That HOF ceiling is very, very real. But so is the level of work required to get there. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a fringe-1st grade and a comparison is to D.J. Fluker: “a solid yet unspectacular tackle who suffers the same problems in his play as Neal does.” That’s as harsh a verdict as you’ll find. The well respected Brandon Thorn ends with a Top 10 grade, based on the fact that his issues really can be fixed. Why assume the worst for Neal and not for others? The TDN scouting profile agrees with Jonathan, ending with a fringe-1st grade despite a player comp to Orlando Brown. “Ideal Role: A dominant run blocking RT [in a] downhill power scheme that allows him to use his rare combination of size and power to punish defensive lineman.” This thorough and detailed scouting profile goes in with the Top-5 talent crowd, acknowledging the issues but believing he will solve them. Back and forth, forth and back. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile ends with the “Year 1 Quality Starter” grade seen in Top 10 picks, while simultaneously naming a lot more concerns than one typically sees with that kind of grade. An internal seesaw perhaps?|
|1:10||T Charles Cross, Miss. St. (RS Sophomore). 6’5”, 305 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Will be a 21 year old rookie, turning 22 in November. A brilliant athlete who can actually match up to pass rushers on that basis, while almost every other Tackle needs to compensate with size and strength instead. It’s special. But Cross will struggle with pure power until he comes into his full grown-man strength, and will develop in sync with the quality of his coaching and culture. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report sees little reason to doubt his ability to add that power, and thus ends with a Top 10 grade, an “eerily similar” player comp to Tyron Smith, and the statement that Cross should be able to develop into a sound run blocker and a premier pass protector. Daniel Jeremiah called the foot quickness and knee bend “average” but still had Cross at #10 overall in his first big board. This scouting report from the well respected Brandon Thorn ends in a solid Round 1 grade and the opinion, “He should be an immediate-impact starter.”|
|1:15||T/G Trevor Penning, N. Iowa (RS Senior). 6’7”, 321 lbs. with 34⅞” arms and 10⅛” hands. A small school star whose power and multisport athleticism are as good as anyone’s, and who plays with a nasty streak that’s almost fearsome to watch. He’s played some Guard despite the towering height, which can only help. The gif-supported scouting report from Jonathan Heitritter ends with a mid- to late-1st grade based on the endless upside as offset by niggling balance and technique concerns, with the time it may take to nail them down. This clip-supported, detailed pre-Senior Bowl scouting report from a Raiders POV would agree on the grade, but sees Penning as more of a power Tackle than a fluid mover, with questions about slower feet and choppy/inefficient footwork in his vertical sets. Here is a nice TDN article/interview from the Senior Bowl, where Penning’s power and mean streak were on full display along with some footwork and balance lapses that got him forklifted when he lost the leverage battle. His strength and nastiness were on full display at the Senior Bowl, but so were the occasional problems with sometimes-lagging feet and losing leverage from playing too high.|
|1:20||G/T/C Zion Johnson, Boston Coll. (RS Senior). 6’2¾”, 314 lbs. with 33⅞” arms and big 10⅞” hands. [Mtg. at Senior Bowl] A JUCO transfer and lifelong Steelers fan who became a multiyear starter at a really good program that’s more similar to the pros than most. Johnson is a sneaky good athlete with a nasty attitude, and feet good enough to survive as a college Tackle despite his lack of height and length. The kind of player who seems to “get it”. B+ power on the absurd scale of “NFL Guard”. Likely to be seen in a lot of Steeler Nation mocks as the Round 2 target when some other position got addressed in the 1st. This goes to a top notch, clip-supported January scouting report from a Raiders POV, which expresses a little concern about his anchor, but many more doubts about his ability to stay outside at Tackle. Worked out at Center during the Senior Bowl, which would be awesome. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with an early-2nd grade based on his projection as a powerful, run blocking Guard with enough pass-blocking issues to make him no more than an emergency backup at Tackle. This early February scouting profile from a Giants POV sees a versatile player with few weaknesses except (maybe) limited “jolt” in his punch.|
|2:01||G/T Darian Kinnard, Kentucky. 6’4¾”, 324 lbs. with 34⅝” arms and big 11½” hands. Reportedly played at 345 lbs. In college. An enormous man who carries his weight naturally and with ease, Kinnard played Tackle throughout college but projects better as Guard for the pros. Three year starter in the SEC, but not so polished that you worry about his ability to improve once a pro coach starts working on the details. This good looking scouting profile from the respected Brandon Thorn ends with a comparison to Cody Ford, after noting that Kinnard shows real flashes of “jarring power and quickness” that are held back by “pad level and hand placement [that] are extremely up and down, leaving him high, off-balance and struggling to control blocks consistently.” Kyle Crabbs’ TDN scouting profile is quite similar but a little more positive, ending in a Round 2 grade. This scouting profile goes up to a fringe-1st grade, and this Ravens-oriented article could even see Kinnard going at 1:14. A prospect who clearly offers a lot of upside. Here is a thoughtful, clip-supported January scouting report from a Raiders POV, which breaks the mold by suggesting that Kinnard might do better if he continues at RT despite the doubts about his foot speed. The PFN scouting profile could also see him as a Tackle if he can clean up the sloppy hand work. This good-looking, Giants-oriented scouting profile sees a Round 2 guard with “potential tackle upside.”|
|2:12||T Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (Senior). 6’8⅛”, 387 lbs. with 35⅜” arms and 11” hands. A freak of nature whose frightening size, athletic talents, and overall potential has teased, tantalized, and dazzled draft watchers for the past several years. Faalele grew up as a rugby and basketball player in Australia, only transitioning to football in 2017 (there’s a cute story about learning the rules by playing Madden after he was discovered by Jim Harbaugh in 2016). He’s developed every year, but he still has some way to go in order to keep NFL technicians from using his height against him. Bottom line? The potential is literally off the chart, so much so that one can see him becoming the single best player of this year’s class. El numero uno. But he could also end up as a career-long might’a-been. Jacob Harrison’s gif- supported Depot scouting report ends in a late-1st grade after showing that you can’t go around him, or over him, or through him, and only occasionally underneath him – and that is both hard to do and fixable. Here is a brief follow-up interview from the Senior Bowl.|
|2:12||T Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio St. (RS Junior). 6’5”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. How can you fail to love a giant human being whose name translates to “little brother”? A two year starter in an elite program where he played both LT and RT, Petit-Frere looks like he was designed in the OT laboratory, and has the quick twitch, explosive reflexes and response time that separate elite prospects from the plodders. These made him the #1 OL recruit coming out of H.S. He’s a bit more divisive now because he plays with much more suddenness and power than he does with grace and control, and it makes for a difficult evaluation. Has dominated lesser competition, but been beaten by top talent such as the Michigan pass rush duo. This scouting profile from TDN’s Kyle Crabbs may be the most enthusiastic you’ll see, projecting Petit-Frere as a solid, plug and play, Round 1 talent comparable to Ronnie Stanley. The equally respected Brandon Thorn’s scouting profile ends with a Round 3 grade, largely on the basis of “choppy loud feet with disjointed footwork” that can cause him to play too high, and some objections to his “messy and unreliable use of hands.” This careful looking January scouting profile also ends with a fringe 2/3 grade, based on “franchise” potential offset by overaggression, balance, and handwork issues. This easy-reading scouting profile comes closer to the Round 1 grade. This point-by-point scouting profile believes the issues come down to coachable inconsistency, and ends with an early-2nd grade.|
|2:24||T Bernhard Raimann, Central Mich. (Senior). 6’6⅛”, 304 lbs. with 33” arms and 10⅜” hands. Would have a solid Round 1 grade on this board if not for the fact that he will turn 25 at the start (September) of his rookie season. Age matters less for OL’s, but that is enough to push him down by a round. A small school star with huge upside from both his footwork and the “combination of core and hand strength” that led to him coming in at #10 overall in Daniel Jeremiah’s first big board. Came to college from Austria as a wrestler with track and field experience, became a TE, and has now matured into a two-year starting Tackle. Two years only, and he could go on Day 1! Talk about a combination of aptitude and fast learning… May require a redshirt year because he’ll be making several steps up the LOC ladder at once, but his potential is sky high. Looked great during the Senior Bowl practices and also in the game. Brandon Thorn’s Bleacher Report scouting profile ends with a Round 2 grade for this “surprisingly polished [tackle] with an uncanny knack for staying attached to blocks using skilled, strong hands, [plus] excellent body control and weight distribution to recover and maintain his center of gravity.” This nice little scouting profile by Devin Jackson sees “a developmental piece, with the upside to be a starter by year 2 and a reliable starter for the next decade.” Here is a good, pre-Senior Bowl scouting profile from a Giants POV.|
|2:24||G/T Sean Rhyan, UCLA. (Junior). 6’5”, 318 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. A good college Tackle whose odds of success will rise if he focuses on moving inside, at least to start his career. Fundamentally sound, with good balance and technique that compensate for moderate length. Another fine value pick if the OL does not get addressed in Round 1. A multisport athlete (track & field, baseball, rugby) and freshman starter. This good looking NFL Draft Buzz scouting profile describes a dominant run blocking Tackle with questionable length who might make it on the outside, but could dominate at Guard. This scouting profile from the respected Brandon Thorn sees almost no chance for success at Tackle, and ends with a Day 3 grade based on sub-average movement skills and “persistent lunging and getting beat clean across his face on kick-out blocks.” The strength, explosiveness, and ferocity would fit better at Guard. By contrast, this February scouting profile sees “silky smooth feet, and excellent, effortless quickness.”|
|3:01||T/G Jaxson Kirkland, Washington. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 310 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. A really good prospect who has been held back by obvious and fixable flaws. Inadequate hand fighting skills would be #1 on that list of complaints, followed by a real need for a professional strength coach. Fixing those two would simultaneously fix his only-okay anchoring skills, and allow all the other, positive assets to shine that much more. Redshirt year required, with obvious starter potential down the road. Here is a January scouting profile from a Giants POV. The TDN scouting profile sees handwork and pure weight room power as his biggest weakness, which is good news in a way because those are some of the easiest flaws to fix.|
|3:01||T Rasheed Walker, Penn St. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 312 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. The well respected Brandon Thorn’s scouting profile ends in a Round 2 grade for a prospect with a “special blend of size, natural power and body control,” held back by severely inconsistent pass sets and “a glaring overreliance on using two-hand strikes to initiate contact.” The TDN scouting profile gives off a vague Chuks Okorafor vibe with a better pedigree, focusing on the dextrous feet, quality starting experience, and good hand fighting skills, but complaining about a lack of dig’em out power and plain, old fashioned nastiness.|
|3:12||T Abraham Lucas, Wash. St. (RS Senior). 6’6⅛”, 322 lbs. with very long 34⅝” arms and 10⅜” hands. A fine athlete with all the natural assets you look for, offset against a need for professional strength and position coaching to improve his anchor and clean up some bad habits that bleed into his movement and balance skills. Those arms and hands are powerful assets that he uses well, but there are signs that sophisticated pass rushers might find ways to use his flaws against him. This scouting profile from Brandon Thorn ends in a boom-or-bust Round 5 grade based on the difficulty of “retooling his technique from the ground up.” That is the most critical scouting profile I’ve seen. This lengthy PFN scouting profile is more optimistic, seeing a solid run blocker and excellent pass protector who played well against top prospects like Kayvon Thibodeaux. The TDN scouting profile ends with a Round 3 grade. So does this point by point scouting profile from around the Senior Bowl. This Jets-oriented February scouting profile joins others in emphasizing how playing in an air-raid offense has distorted the film, creating a more difficult evaluation. Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a fringe-2nd grade.|
|3:12||T Max Mitchell, Louisiana. (Senior). 6’5¾”, 299 lbs. with 33⅝” arms and 9⅝” hands. A prospect who fits the Chuks Okorafor stereotype of great feet and good hands, with a need for growth in order to develop his grown man strength, anchor, and pro-level technique. Projects better in pass protection than run blocking because his game is based on quick feet, mobility, and length, while the flaws go to lack of pure heft and play strength. The Bleacher Report scouting profile by Brandon Thorn ends with a solid Round 3 grade, summarizing Mitchell as a player who “springs out of his stance with very good foot quickness and range to play on an island with quick, crafty hands to keep rushers guessing, [but]… is light in the pants with middling play strength that results in getting knocked back on contact and overextended on drive blocks.” This point by point NFL Draft Buzz scouting profile also admires the fact that he “is supremely athletic and moves like a TE,” but worries about the play strength and therefore projects him as a better fit for zone blocking teams.|
|3:24||G/T Thayer Munford, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’6”, 320 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. Held down the job as starting Left Tackle for Ohio State until 2021, when he took one for the team by moving inside to his natural position as a Guard in order to allow natural-Tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere to step up. Everyone expected Munford to kill it, but instead we got “meh.” Potential #1 pick Aidan Hutchinson humiliated the poor guy. What went wrong? How did he become so much less consistent? And will it be fixable at the next level? Those are the questions that need to be answered.|
|4:16||T Dare Rosenthal, Kentucky. (RS Senior). 6’7”, 325 lbs. with ___” arms and __” hands. Want a toy for your new OL coach to play with? A miracle athlete with very little technique, Rosenthal offers a Day 3 boom-or-bust bet of epic proportions. The TDN scouting profile from Kyle Crabbs describes him in jaw-dropping superlatives: “absolutely stupid levels of quickness and power… If you built an offensive tackle body in a lab, he’d look like Rosenthal. The wingspan and reach that he offers is textbook and he offers a very high level of strength and power at full extension.” Etc. But the footwork is all natural and therefore inefficient, with balance that cannot be relied on, and hand work that is “very, very irregular.” Had a 5-game suspension at LSU for unknown, “violation of school policy” reasons. This December PFN scouting profile concurs on the ultimate boom-or-bust judgment.|
|4:16||T/G Andrew Stueber, Mich. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 327 lbs. with long 34⅛” arms and 10⅛” hands. Uses his length and strength well to compensate for some lack of mobility, due in part to a 2019 ACL tear. An old school, brawling, people-moving RT who should consider the benefits of adding Guard play versatility to his repertoire. The Bleacher Report scouting profile by Brandon Thorn ends with a Round 5 grade based on the judgment that “Stueber will need to move inside in the NFL due to limited range at tackle that hinders his ability to protect the corner and poor lateral quickness to redirect against inside counters and movement across his face. He also needs to play with better pad level and hand placement.” This post-Senior Bowl scouting profile ends in a Round 4-5 grade, after noting that Stueber exceeded expectations by showing a sophisticated understanding of several different pass rush moves. The TDN scouting profile ends with a Round 4 grade, loving the “active and accurate hands,” but questioning the ability to move inside.|
|5:01||T Braxton Jones, S. Utah. (RS Senior). 6’5⅛”, 306 lbs. with astonishing 36” arms and 10⅛” hands. Plays with good physicality and run blocking technique, but not a genuine people mover. Plays with good feet, but hasn’t looked special. Has fantastic length that he doesn’t know how to fully use yet, suggesting an easy area for significant growth. Good experience, but at a smaller program. Loves football but his favorite team is the Ravens. Lots of good, yet there’s always a “but.” Brandon Thorn’s scouting profile ends with a Round 6/7 grade based on his struggles in pass protection and the difficult ground-up work he will need to fix the underlying problems. Joe Marino’s TDN scouting profile sees fewer and more fixable problems, ending in a Round 3 grade instead. This briefer, point by point scouting profile worries most about his habit of falling into waist bending as a play moves forward. This Packers-oriented scouting profile agrees on a Day 3 grade, but sees “all the tools to develop into a rock-solid NFL tackle.” The PFN scouting profile sees a Round 4-5 prospect with an “exciting ceiling” held back by lack of pure strength, foot work issues, and a recurring problem with pad level. This particularly critical scouting profile ends with a UDFA grade.|
|5:16||T Vederian Lowe, Illinois. (Senior). 6’4⅜”, 320 lbs. with very long 34⅞” arms and 10⅛” hands. A well rounded player with extensive experience (40 starts!), who does okay on both run and pass plays. Only 23, but already married and about to have his second child. He also blossomed in a big way as a Senior. A prospect on the rise? Supposed to have a mature and professional attitude as well. This NFL Draft Buzz scouting profile says his “best asset is his strength and disposition as a run blocker,” but also worries about a supposed lack of a “finishing attitude.” It isn’t clear how those go together.|
|5:16||T/G Tyler Vrabel, Boston Coll. (RS Junior). 6’5”, 310 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. The coach’s son gets some points for knowing the game that well, with a gut-level understanding of what it takes to succeed as a pro. Plays like a tough guy with some fixable flaws (poor knee bend in particular) that bleed into his balance, anchor, and other parts of the game. Lacks the ideal length for a Tackle, and the desired heft for a Guard. Life would be great if he only had that special twist required to play Center. This goes to the TDN scouting profile, which ends with a Round 5 grade.|
|6:01||T Jean Delance, Florida. (RS Senior). 6’3⅞”, 296 lbs. with exceptional 36½” arms and 10⅛” hands. Another player whose stock shot up with a dominant series of Shrine Bowl practices, the big issue is the obvious question mark created by his lack of heft. Excellent hand fighting skills build on those apelike arms compensated well in college, but can that carry over to the NFL? Projects better to an outside zone scheme that values mobility and technique (his strengths) over straightforward power. Here is a post-Shrine Bowl interview with TDN.|
|6:01||T Obinna Eze, TCU. (RS Senior). 6’6¼”, 327 lbs. with amazing 36⅛” arms and 9½” hands. One of those wonderful immigrant stories (Nigeria) in which an amazing athlete is discovered in college and starts working to make a career. Decent feet combine with extraordinary length for pass blocking, with very good movement for run blocking. Really needs to work on his knee bend and grown man strength. Something of a boom-or-bust because the assets are amazing but largely unharnessed by pro standards.|
|6:16||T Devin Cochran, Ga. Tech. (RS Senior). 6’6⅞”, 308 lbs. with long 35½” arms and 10⅛” hands. Good experience against top competition, with very good length. The issues all come down to being tall as well as long, playing high, and losing on leverage. Fix that basic issue and many other things will start to really work.|
|6:16||T Bamidele “Bam” Olaseni, Utah. (Senior). 6’7”, 348 lbs. with orangutanish 36½” arms and 9⅞” hands. His wingspan would be the biggest in the NFL at 88⅜”! Comes from London, England. That’s a lot to get around, but there are real gaps in his game beyond the astonishing length. This January scouting profile likes the strength too, but worries that he is “not explosive in any aspect,… bends at the waist, loses leverage, and also has a tendency to lunge and lean too far when flustered.”|
|7:01||T Matt Waletzko, N. Dak. (Senior). 6’6⅞”, 310 lbs. with loooong 35⅛” arms and 10⅛” hands. This scouting profile from the well respected Brandon Thorn loves the length, but sees so many issues with his contact balance, play strength, and technique that Waletzko may be undraftable. The PFN scouting profile sees a developmental prospect with rare traits, but enough flaws to drop him down toward the bottom half of Day 3.|
|7:16||G/T J’Atyre Carter, Southern. (RS Senior). 6’3⅛”, 306 lbs. with 33¼” arms and 10⅛” hands. A small school Tackle who’s built like a Center but has never played the position, and will probably end up at Guard. This NFL Draft Buzz scouting profile sees a quick-footed but otherwise limited player who may struggle to get drafted.|
|7:16||T/G Myron Cunningham, Arkansas. (RS Senior). 6’5⅛”, 323 lbs. with 33⅞” arms and 10⅜” hands. Will turn 25 as a rookie. An experienced, all around, SEC Tackle who does everything well but has enough technical flaws to prevent him from standing out as special. Could be just as solid in the NFL if new coaches and hard work can fix those flaws up to a professional standard.|
|7:16||T Kellen Diesch, Ariz. St. (RS Senior). 6’7”, 300 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. He plays like he measures: with good length and mobility, but lack of strength and anchor. A developmental Tackle best suited for an outside zone team.|
|7:16||T Luke Tenuta, Va. Tech. (RS Senior). 6’7⅞”, 318 lbs. with short 32⅝” arms and 10” hands. A strange build indeed for a player who needs to master his craft in order to use that height well instead of having it used against him by longer-levered defenders.|