2017 NFL Scouting Combine
Alabama tackle Cam Robinson was the most impressive lineman at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

The first day of the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. The offensive lineman, specialists, and running backs set the tone for the 2017 combine. In general, this year’s offensive line class is considered to be much weaker than other years. Part of that reason is because the college game is becoming faster making it more difficult to find guys at the position.

2017 NFL Combine Offensive Line *General Overview:

A lot of the verbiage in this section may be difficult to understand but I will simplify it as best I can. When watching the offensive lineman during the on the field drills I take a different approach than more draft experts would. For example, one player may be a natural knee bender while the other bends at his back instead. Does a player show fluid hip movement? It’s things of that nature that I care about. The normal arm length measurables that people look for is 32″ arms for guards and 34″ arms for tackles. I will break the offensive lineman into groups to give the viewer a better understanding of what kind of offensive lineman each player is.

2017 NFL Combine Offensive Line: Technically Sound Left Tackles:

In what is considered a weak offensive line class, two tackles stood out above the rest. Alabama’s Cam Robinson led the way as the most impressive offensive lineman in the combine. In terms of polished pass protectors, Robinson is the epitome of this. At 6’6″, 322, Robinson was a heck of a lot faster than I thought he was going to be with a 5.15 – 40 yard dash time.

His technique is very similar to Laremy Tunsil a year ago but doesn’t move as well in space. Just look at the flawless kickslide above it’s a thing of beauty. Robinson can look stiff at times but moves very well. Robinson could get kicked inside to guard but I think he has a chance to really shine as a tackle. His 35.5″ arms are part of the reason why he is so dominant in pass protection. He is even better in the run game and powerful at the point of attack. The 3-year starter at left tackle for Alabama definitely proved that as the Crimson Tide always have a terrific ground game. I originally didn’t think he would test very well as he has been known to show lazy streaks at Alabama but he tops the list of top tier tackles. He is a guy you want in an organization that knows how to win. The last two highly drafted Alabama tackle was D.J. Fluker and he did not pan out to say the least. Robinson declined to perform in the bench press.

The Utah left tackle measured in at 6’5″, 297 and could use to put on some more muscle. His arm length is perfectly fine at 34′. Coming into this week I predicted Utah tackle Garrett Boles was going to perform very well at the combine. He is a terrific athlete that plays with a real nasty streak from what I saw during his collegiate days. Bolles ran the 2nd fastest 40 yard dash time with a 4.95 time as a really long strider.

 

 

In the movement drills, he moved extremely well. That showed up on tape watching his games as he progresses to the 2nd level of the defense with ease. There was some concern as he was a little stiff in his hip movements but he bends well as a natural knee bender. While I would compare Bolles’ potential to a Joe Staley or Lane Johnson type, I would drop him a round or two considering he will be 25 by the start of the season. I like Bolles but I have a 3rd round grade on him when you factor in his questionable off the field stuff and the fact that he didn’t bench press questioning his pure strength. Surrounding this guy in a winning environment may be the key to success because of his knucklehead personality.

2017 NFL Combine Offensive Line: Right Tackles Only

This category includes highly productive tackles but doesn’t move well enough to be pure blindside tackles. These guys typical dominant in the running game but can struggle with your so called elite pass rushers. Topping the list is Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton. We first saw Moton at the Reese’s Senior Bowl where he really impressed during the week of practices. I was shocked by how well Moton moved in space. He is probably athletic enough to be a starting left tackle in the pros. I have two on field clips of Moton working out at the combine. In the first I want you to watch how fluid his hips are. Remember this is coming from a guy who is 6’5″, 320. The second shows his ability to pull and get to the second level of the defense. I thought the Western Michigan product had an outstanding day and a plug and play starting right tackle day 1. Moton also bench pressed 23 reps and was a top performer in the vertical jump at 30.5 inches.

Another guy who continued the momentum from the Senior Bowl is Zach Banner. The USC product is the modern day version of Bryant McKinnie. He is the oversized tackle that won’t test well but will stonewall people at the point of attack. At the Senior Bowl, we saw how he performed better than expected against speed rushers walling them off with his 34-7/8 inch arms. Going into today I was expecting Banner to be the slowest offensive lineman in the 40-yardd dash because of his size (6’8″, 353 and was around 400 at times during his days at USC). His 5.58 – 40 time was comparable to some of the other stiff legged right tackles. I would absolutely feel comfortable taking Banner in the 2nd round but is absolutely a better fit for teams that are committed to the running game.

Justin Senior also falls into this category. I thought he moved better than Banner but doesn’t have the strength. Senior didn’t bench at the combine and really relies on his solid base and long arms (34 inch arms). The former Canadian football player is a 3-year starter for Mississipi State in the SEC which cannot be overlooked. Again this guy didn’t test off the charts at 6’5″ 331 and a  5.55 – 40 yard dash time but he does have really heavy hands in the pad drills. I project him to be a right tackle but Senior could also wind up as a terrific guard if he struggles at the next level.

The last guy that falls into this category is David Sharpe of Florida. I don’t know how Florida does it but they seem to crank out one of these humongous tackle prospects every year. Sharpe comes in at 6’6″, 343 but has terrific length at 35-3/8 inch arms. The problem with Sharpe is that he is legally blind in his right eye which often caused him to be late off the snap in college. While he has overcome it, the eye issue could be a problem as speed only becomes more relevant at this level. Sharpe ran a 5.44 – 40 yard dash time with 19 reps for 225. I worry about how stiff he and his ankle flexibility isn’t great either. I think it’s important to remember that these talent evaluators go over this tape numerous times. It will be interesting to see how the teams rank these players heading into the draft with time to go over the tape.

2017 NFL Combine Offensive Line: The Mauling Guards

I’ve always tended to believe that selecting a collegiate tackle and converting him to guard was always the best course of action. It minimizes risk at the position when you take a guy who is an above average athlete for the interior line spots. Your best guards in football Zack Martin, Kelechi Osemele, and Marshal Yanda played tackle in college. We might have another Pro Bowl caliber guard in this draft class. His name is Dion Dawkins from Temple. Dawkins listed at 6’4″, 314, has the superior length for an interior lineman with 35-inch arms. He also moved a lot better than anticipated running a 5.11 which is very good for a guard.

There’s no doubt Dawkins could play tackle at the next level in a pinch as he did at Temple but this guy can be a Pro Bowl caliber guard. The thing you love about Dawkins is he showed in the drills that can pull with ease. He is a natural knee-bender and took very precise and efficient slide steps.  Go back and just watch his feet, it’s something to marvel at. As he develops in the NFL, he will continue to get stronger but already shows nice upper body strength and bench 26 reps. Dawkins is going to be a special player.

The other guy who blew the doors off the combine is Forrest Lamp. Run Forrest Run; A 5.00 – 40 time is beyond impressive for a guard. He doesn’t have the elite measurables that Dawkins did with 32 1/4 inch arms, but he couldn’t have had a better day. The Western Kentucky product (6’4″ – 309)  was a top performer in the bench press and broad jump too (34 bench press reps and 111-inch broad jump). I do think there is some risk in taking Lamp however. Lamp put himself on the map early in the season with a dominating performance against Alabama but really got his tailed kicked at the Senior Bowl. I like Forrest Lamp but I don’t think he replicates the success of Zack Martin like so many draft experts seem to project. I don’t know many success stories from Western Kentucky but I would take him in the late 2nd or 3rd round.

2017 NFL Combine Offensive Line: The Centers

Ethan Pocic tops my center list. He isn’t going to warrant a top draft pick but he offers a ton of versatility. Pocic can realistically play all 5 positions along the offensive line but is a really natural fit in a zone scheme at center. Think Max Unger as Pocic would be one of the taller centers entering the league at 6’6″. You can see how well he moves and how easy he can bend for a guy his size. He really showed off some nice athleticism with a 5.15 – 40 time and 26 bench press reps(33 1/2 inch arms).

Pat Elflein (6’3″ 303) is the other who comes from Ohio State. With any center, you love the fact that he is a former wrestler and it translates and you can see he has terrific balance. The best word for Elflein would simply be stout. He has a thick lower body and can move well laterally to pull in the run game. You do worry that he isn’t a great athlete and doesn’t have the greatest footwork. His 5.32 and 22 bench press reps were maybe a little worse than expected.

2017 NFL Combine Offensive Line The Developmental Guys

Ethan Cooper topped the list of guys you might want to do more homework on. The interior lineman from Indiana University of Pennsylvania put on a show. At 6’2″, 322, I thought he really bent well. Take a look at an example here of Cooper going through the mirror drill. I want you to watch how he keeps his eyes up, bends his knees, and keeps his weight back on his toes. For a guy that has size a thick lower body, some NFL coach is going to want to develop this guy.

Three guys from the Senior Bowl also caught my attention. Jordan Morgan from Kutztown, Julie’n Davenport from Bucknell, and Antonio Garcia from Troy all relatively underperformed at the Senior Bowl. Then again maybe that is to be expected with guys coming from small schools. Morgan, a guard, impressed me during the drills moving better than expected. You like what you see bending around the corner on the cone drill.

Davenport might have been the worst player at the Senior Bowl but his length is exciting. At 6’7″, 318, and 36 1/2 inch arms could really be something that worth a flier in a late round. Maybe that length comes from his cousin Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and really tends to frustrate pass rushers especially if he can put it all together in a few years. His 18 bench press reps is a red flag.

Garcia is another guy who didn’t perform well at the Senior Bowl but has a really nasty streak to him. NFL coaches want to draft someone who constantly wants to improve. At 6’6″, 302, his arm length is less than to be desired at 33 3/8 inches which originally scared me away. He is very athletic running a 5.15 – 40 time and was a top performer in the vertical jump at 31 inches. The most fun part of watching Garcia was his violent hands.

No Thanks:

In what is regarded as a weak offensive line class, there is a ton of names you could add to this list. Some common themes were the inability to keep their eyes up, starting at the ground watching the cones during the drills. Indiana guard Dan Feeney was the epitome of this as is no surprise after watching him struggle at the Senior Bowl. Jessaman Dunker from Tennessee State showed up to the combine wearing leopard print track shoes. He ran very well for his size at 4.98 but was horrific in short area quickness and often times looked like he was trying to hurdle over things for no reason. Utah tackle Sam Tevi underwhelmed in the drills as well and only did 15 bench press reps which is horrendous for an offensive lineman. USC’s Chad Wheeler also did 15 which is extremely disappointing to put it lightly. You can also throw in Nate Theaker of Wayne State, Chase Roulier of Utah, Colin Buchanon from Miami of Ohio, and Daniel Brunskill who were among the worst performers in the on-field drills. Other guys like Conor McDermott, Jon Toth, and Adam Bisnowaty were essentially taken off my board at the Senior Bowl.

Quick Hitters:

Utah’s Isaac Asiata recorded the most bench press reps with 35. TCU’s Aviante Collins ran the fastest 40-yard dash at 4.81. That’s good news for him boosting his draft stock. Jermaine Eluemunor from Texas A&M I thought had a nice day and grooved through the drills as a nice developmental tackle prospect. Another Texas A&M tackle Avery Gennesy caught my eye at the East-West game but seriously underperformed at the combine. His 5.35 – 40 time is a red flag for a guy I thought was going to be athletic. The same can be said for Will Holden of Vanderbilt who ran a 5.47 but has some nice production in the SEC. Dorian Johnson and Danny Isadora were similar players to me who performed well in the drills but have a base that’s probably too wide. Over Hyped Florida State tackle Roderick Johnson did not perform due to an illness. USC’s Damien Mama ran the slowest 40 time at 4.84. Highly touted tackle Ryan Ramczyk did not perform recovering from hip surgery. San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa is a powerful guy who had a nice day. Jerry Ugokwe from William & Marry looks like a late round developmental tackle. He has elite size but did not move well at all.

2017 Top 5 Interior Offensive Lineman

  1. Dion Dawkins (Temple)
  2. Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky)
  3. Dorian Johnson (Pittsburgh)
  4. Nico Siragusa (San Diego State)
  5. Ethan Cooper (IUP)

2017 Top 5 Offensive Tackles

  1. Cam Robinson (Alabama)
  2. Taylor Moton (Western Michigan)
  3. Zach Banner (USC)
  4. Garrett Bolles (Utah)
  5. Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)

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