Breaking Down The Top Junior And Senior Offensive Tackles for 2013’s Draft
The quarterback position is the “feature” position in the NFL, no doubt about that. But in the past five drafts, there has been an equal number of quarterback and offensive tackles taken in the Top 10 picks (and heavily in OTs favor if you look at Top 15).
While I personally haven’t focused entirely on junior prospects, I did take the time (through Hurricane Sandy and as I played catch-up today) to go through three of the more highly touted junior offensive tackles as well as our current two top seniors.
After reviewing the film (2+ games on each), I came away most impressed (certainly surprisingly) with Jake Matthews, Texas A&M’s right tackle. Matthews stood out to me with his quick, explosive, and quick to change direction footwork first and formost. His explosion off the line in pass protection coupled with his upside thanks to his elite flexibility, balance, and body control makes me believe he may actually have more NFL left tackle upside than his teammate and current Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel. This is CERTAINLY a debate that myself and Alex Brown (our SEC scout) will have all this year. He still, however, has concerns on being more physical in the run game, establishing downfield hand placement against non-defensive linemen, and be more physical in protecting his inside shoulder.
Sandwiched between the two Texas A&M junior offensive linemen in my personal rankings (as of now) is Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. An offensive tackle that I had some concerns in the pre-season thanks to lack of ideal flexibility and limitations in his kick slide, Lewan has improved in both areas as well as doing almost everything else much better as a left tackle. He establishes a wide base, gets great inside hand placement, is very physical as he fights, readjusts, and drives with his arms, and plays both balanced and very physical as he blocks in space, on the move, and upfield versus non-defensive linemen. Still a bit stiff and leans at times to set the edge, Lewan’s ability to dominate inline as a run blocker and technique as a complete offensive tackle makes his concerns overlookable.
I won’t elaborate much on Luke Joeckel because Alex Brown has done a fantastic job breaking down Joeckel (and Matthews) in this article: (Here) But I will say that my concerns with Joeckel stem from his lack of consistently being able to be strong with his hands, struggles against active hand changing rushers and doesn’t protect inside leverage as well as I’d like.
After those two, I’ve really grown more and more of a fan of Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (he’ll be our #1 senior offensive tackle) thanks to his flexibility in his upper and lower half and lateral movement in pass protection, though he isn’t as polished fundamentally as the top three blockers. And finally, Justin Pugh of Syracuse also really impresses in his punch on the edge and physicality as a blocker, but he’s a little more stiff laterally and as a pass blocker.
All five, in my eyes, are 1st round picks. Matthews, Lewan, and Joeckel are Top 10-15 (but not Matt Kalil level) as prospects, Fisher is around the mid to late first round value,and Pugh being in the late first round value range.