The term “franchise left tackle” is starting to become a little outdated with the current direction of the NFL. There is an emphasis on interior pressure and the guard position is gaining more and more importance. Additionally, now that there are so many good pass rushers in the league the right tackle has become just as important as the left tackle. For instance, Von Miller typically lines up on the right side of the line and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Last year’s group of tackles was pretty weak outside of Jonah Williams if you ask me. Willams went 11th overall and got hurt already, so we won’t see him this season. Andre Dillard was drafted in the first round but should sit his first season in Philadelphia. I actually like Juwaan Taylor and Cody Ford more than Dillard who were both drafted in the second round by the Jaguars and Bills. Don’t even get me started on the huge reach made by Houston taking Tytus Howard in the first round.
I say all of that because offense tackles see a similar “draft inflation” that quarterbacks do. They will get drafted higher than they should because of perceived positional value. The 2020 class has some hope to be better than 2019 but a lot of underclassmen will have to declare in order for that to truly happen.
As always any comments or questions hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli.
Andrew Thomas, Junior, Georgia
Thomas is just soooooo smooth in everything that he does. His kick slide is quick and with no wasted movement. On almost all of his pass reps, he is waiting for the defender to arrive with his base already set in order to absorb contact. He did a nice job of pushing defenders around the outside of the pocket allowing for his quarterback to step up and make throws in the pocket. In the running game, I thought Thomas did a good job collapsing the line of scrimmage creating some good outside rushing lanes. He showed an ability to seal off defenders in the hole allowing for running lanes right off of his hip. There is a good example of him doing that against Alabama in the thread below. My concerns with Thomas center around how he handles inside moves because that’s the only time you see him get beat. He just needs to clean up his hand usage in those situations, and he should be just fine. Thomas as the athletic profile that teams are looking for at the tackle position which will help him greatly if he decides to declare this year.
Tristian Wirfs, Junior, Iowa
Honestly, I could have switched Thomas and Wirfs on this list and still felt good about it, he’s that good. Something that stuck out to me with Wirfs is how hot his motor runs on every play. I saw him run down defenders off of an interception and saw him always looking for work when left without anyone to block. Wirfs does a great job mirroring defenders when pass blocking using quick feet and smooth hips. He has powerful hands that he uses to stun defenders in their tracks before they can even get into their first pass rush move. As a run blocker, there are plenty of reps where Wirfs finishes his defender into the ground or pushes them five yards up the field. The reason I put Wirfs second and not first is that I think Wirfs is just slightly less athletic than Thomas at this stage. There is an entire season of tape to be seen still, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Wirfs finishes as OT 1 due to his technical prowess in all facets of the game.
Trey Adams, Senior, Washington
Trey Adams makes his second straight appearance on a prospect preview list. He was my number two tackle going into the 2019 draft season, but he suffered an injury and missed a good chunk of the season. He returned and played in the Pac-12 championship game as well as the Bowl game against Ohio State. He looked like he was back to his pre-injury self in those games, so I’m excited to see what he does this year. I thought Adams did a good job using his length to keep defenders off of his chest creating some separation. Adams has really good recovery speed when he gets beat off the edge. It doesn’t happen a whole lot, however, he’s great at using his recovery speed to guide defenders way outside the pocket. In the running game, I saw him use leverage and leg drive in order to create displacement at the line of scrimmage. If Adams can continue to improve this season and stay healthy he will be in the first round conversation come draft time.
Alaric Jackson, Junior, Iowa
Not gonna lie to you all this is where the drop off point for me is in the tackles I’ve seen so far. For the first three players, I saw paths for them to be first round picks but from here on out I am a lot more skeptical. Jackson has plenty of good traits as the starting left tackle for the Hawkeyes. I think he has good natural length and does a good job of using it to keep defenders at bay. I thought he did a solid job of handling multiple pass rush moves when the defender was able to string them together. Jackson was effective when asked to seal block on the outside creating some good running lanes. Something negative that popped out on tape for me was that Jackson seemed to end up on the ground too often for me. In the running game, especially, I saw too many reps where defenders would just swim move him to the ground and then disrupt the play. I saw a couple of reps where he fired out in the run game and barely made contact with anyone at all. To be fair, I did watch him right after I watched Wirfs and the difference in the physicality they play with is startling. I don’t wanna sound too down on Jackson because he does plenty of things that I like but he’s a couple of steps behind his teammate at this stage in the process.
Calvin Throckmorton, Senior, Oregon
Here we have yet another Oregon offensive lineman making it into my top 5. Throckmorton is a weird player to watch on tape because he will move around the Oregon offensive line during the course of one drive. Throckmorton logs most of his reps at right tackle but played a couple of games at right guard. Ironically, I actually think Throckmorton’s tape at right tackle is much better than his tape at guard. Throckmorton did a good job using his length and natural play strength to move guys in the running game. As a pass blocker, I thought Throckmorton did a good job getting to his spots and using his hands to stun defenders. I thought Throckmorton lacked athletic ability on tape. He wasn’t asked to pull out in front of a lot of runs and didn’t look overly smooth when out in space. Throckmorton’s versatility makes him a relatively safe prospect to project to the NFL level.
Number 6: Prince Tega-Wanogho, Senior, Auburn
Number 7: Lucas Niang, Senior, TCU
Number 8: Walker Little, Junior, Stanford
Number 9: Trey Smith, Junior, Tennessee
Number 10: Brady Ailleo, Senior, Oregon
Players I need to Watch still:
Number 1: Mekhi Becton, Junior, Louisville
Number 2: Austin Jackson, Junior, USC
Number 3: Drew Richmond, RS Junior, Tennessee