The first day of the combine is in the books. The offensive lineman, specialists, and running backs set the tone for the 2016 combine. For this article let’s check out some lineman who caught my eye for better or worse.
2016 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. I will break the offensive lineman into groups to give the viewer a better understanding of what kind of offensive lineman each player is.
2016 NFL Combine Offensive Line: Technically Sound Tackles
Two tackles are considered the cream of the crop (Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley). Both tackles are very similar in that they are both very fundamentally sound. Starting with Laremy Tunsil he really stood out in the on the field drills in more ways than one. Tunsil possess a very natural kick slide combined with extremely rare footwork that makes him a day one starting left tackle in the pros. Tunsil also showed he has great hit flexibility and really shined in the drills. The part that bothered me about his day was when he declined to participate in a number of events including the 40 yard dash and bench press. This may not concern a lot of people but if I am going to draft a player in the first round I want a guy who is super competitive in every facet of the game. The fact that he did not participate is a red flag to me. The Titans have rumored Tunsil as the consensus number one pick at this point even though I would be shopping the heck out of the pick in what appears to be a very deep draft.
Stanley appears to be molded in a similar fashion as Tunsil in terms of skill set. Stanley is a little thicker in his lower body but I have questions about his upper body strength. Stanley declined to bench which confirms that thought. Stanley is a superior pass blocker and excels in getting into the second level of the running game. His pass blocking skills are aided by his massive 35 and 5/8th inch arms. Stanley appears to be the only other player who could be a day one starting left tackle in the league.
The other player I will add to this list is Indiana’s Jason Spriggs. Spriggs reminds me a lot of Eagles tackle Lane Johnson as both players were former tight ends. Spriggs lead the way from a numbers stand point running a combine lineman best at 4.94. He also led the way in broad jump that showed off his lower body explosion. His on the field drills were also just as impressive. Spriggs is a natural knee bender and kept his eyes and hand fighting in check all day. His feet were also of note as he was able to cut and slide much faster than any of the other lineman. Spriggs may have found his way into the first round after his combine performance.
2016 NFL Combine Offensive Line: The Mauling Guards
This group includes Joshua Garnett, Vadal Alexander, and Sebastian Tretola. All three players are 312 plus in terms of weight. Garnett was probably the best in terms of footwork but the others were impressive as well. Neither of these guys are laterally quick but work best in a run heavy offense where once they get their hands on you its over. A common theme included choppy footwork and unnatural knee bend having an awkward tilt. The good news is that in the right scheme each of these players can have a successful career. Fun fact Tretola actually threw a touchdown pass for Arkansas this year so there’s that.
2016 NFL Combine Offensive Line: The Centers
This is a great year for centers and one stands out the most in my eyes. Alabama’s Ryan Kelly looked to have an edge to him all evening having arguably the best day of any lineman. Kelly ran an impressive 5.03, 40 time and really moved well for a center. Kelly took precise angles in the drills showing his ability to pull in the running game. He also possesses a great sense of leverage and lower body power. I expect Kelly to go in the middle of round two as he was named the nations top center this past season. Nick Martin also stood out to me as he is the brother of Cowboys all pro guard Zack Martin. USC’s Max Tuerk and Michigan’s Graham Glasgow will also figure to have successful pro careers in the future.
2016 NFL Combine Offensive Line The Developmental Guys
From a General Managers point of view this area figures to be the most important. Gm’s are hesitant to pull the trigger early in a draft on a lineman, and for good reason as it is a very hit or miss position. If I can find a guy in the middle rounds that I can develop for a year or two and convert into an all pro offensive lineman I would be a very happy man. Of this group Stephane Nembot, Willie Beavers, Le’Raven Clark, Joe Haeg, and Brandon Shell have the best odds of accomplishing this in my opinion. Nembot we saw a bunch of in the East-West Shrine game and didn’t start playing the game until his junior year of high school. The man from Congo is very raw but could develop into a premier talent in a few years. Beavers in my opinion had the prettiest feat in the workouts changing his level and shifting his hips better then everyone I saw. Clark was horrifying to watch during the Senior Bowl but there is no denying there is something there. Maybe it is his 36 inch arms as he literally looks like a foreign creature. I wouldn’t be surprised if his knuckles touch the ground when he walks. Haeg reminds me a bit of David Bakhitiari serving as Carson Wentz’s left tackle at North Dakota State. I recently discussed Shell’s potential during the East-West Shrine Game.
*Honorable Mentions: Evan Boehm, Joe Dahl, Germain Ifedi, Tyler Johnstone, Connor McGovern
A lot of people came away impressed with a pair of Big 10 tackles in Taylor Decker and Jack Conklin while I simply didn’t see the same appeal. Decker in my opinion went through the drills very high unable to gain any leverage. At 6’7” you better believe that area better be addressed or powerful pass rushers are going to eat him alive. Khalil Mack was an example of that during his collegiate days at Buffalo. Conklin seemed the fit the prototypical Michigan State lineman. His best trait is his grit and grind but his movement skills appeared very average with choppy footwork. For a guy who ran a sub 5.1, 40 he should have glided much better in the on the field drills. There must be a reason that didn’t translate. The other guy who disappointed for me was Cody Whitehair of Kansas State. Whitehair came into the week as the top rated guard and for good reason. He was a gazelle out on the field and appeared very smooth. The problem for me was he only benched 16 reps for 225. That is unacceptable for an NFL offensive lineman especially when you consider the guy who typed out this article was able to do more reps than he was at a much smaller size. Others who left me shaking my head were Fahn Cooper, Spencer Drango, Parker Ehiner, Nila Kasitati, Denver Kirkland, Tyler Marz, and Avery Young. When it comes to drafting you can’t afford to make mistakes or it could cost you your job. Those players above showed me their footwork was unsatisfactory for the pro level.
2016 NFL Scouting Combine Offensive Line: Top 5 Offensive Tackles
- Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss)
- Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)
- Jason Spriggs (Indiana)
- Willie Beavers (Western Michigan)
- Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M)
2016 NFL Scouting Combine Offensive Line: Top 5 Offensive Guards
- Joshua Garnett (Stanford)
- Vadal Alexander (LSU)
- Sebastian Tretola (Arkansas)
- Joe Dahl (Washington State)
- Christian Westerman (Arizona State)