Taylor Decker – © USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Giants 2016 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*These rankings and grades are based somewhat on NYG schemes and perspective.
WHERE THEY STAND
Two of the past three first round picks have been spent on prospects that played left tackle in college. Both appear to be keepers for the offensive line but I’m very hesitant to call Pugh or Flowers top tier left tackles in this league, or even top half. Pugh appears to be settled in nicely at LG where I always said he would was destined for. It is nice to know he could move outside if a bad injury situation arose. Flowers is the X factor here and I think what NYG sees him as will be a major factor in what ends up happening at #10 overall Flowers did play on a bum ankle in 2015 but I think the same way about him as I did when he was drafted…he is best suited for the RT spot. That isn’t a knock on him at all and as the NFL pass rush game gets better and better, the gap between RT and LT lessens. The point remains though, Flowers ability is better suited for RT even though he could pass as a serviceable LT. In addition, I’m not convinced NYG is confident with Marshall Newhouse being a starter. He had an up and down 2015 (more down than up) and there is very little quality depth on this team at OT. I think NYG has a lot of concerns and questions within this group and it will only become more important as Manning ages.
TOP 20 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1 – TAYLOR DECKER – 6’7/310 – OHIO STATE: 84
Mr. Consistency after starting every game of his four year career. Smooth operator that never seems fooled. Always has his feet under him with good knee bend and his chest up. Clean mechanics. Does the little things right to make himself better. Powerful six inch punch. Gets to the second level fast and will overpower linebackers with ease. Reliable edge protector. Average foot speed. Doesn’t always maintain his power through the end of a play. Needs more leg drive. Will get grabby in pass protection.
*As you will see, my top OTs have very close grades. I don’t think one stands out among the others at all. But gun to my head if I had to choose one, I am going with the smooth, always in control Decker. This guy has the perfect mix of aggression and patience. I don’t think any of these OTs show the control and repetitive mechanics/technique that Decker does. Blockers with this kind of height often have a hard time bending but I don’t see that here, Decker plays a low game with knee bend and inside hand position. He can overwhelm defenders with his size and some of his best tape came against his top competition. I’ll take Decker as my LT anyday.
Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Thomas/CLE
2 – LAREMY TUNSIL – 6’5/310 – OLE MISS: 84
Junior entry. Was a blue chip recruit out of high school and started all three years. Two time 2nd Team All American. Suspended seven games in 2015 for receiving impressible benefits. Tunsil is a gifted and rare athlete for the position. He has all the foot speed and easy movement to hang with anyone off the edge. His performance as a run blocker against second level defenders is NFL ready. He can finish blocks and his effort is consistent. Tunsil’s biggest struggle will be the jump in power and strength that he will face in the NFL trenches. He does not derive enough force from his lower body yet. He will need to apply himself in the weight room, as finesse tackles have a hard time in the league.
*I don’t see the elite in Tunsil that others do. I’ve looked at him over and over and I just don’t see it. The footwork is outstanding. The hands are always on point. He can move in space well. But at the end of the day his warts pop up in literally every game I watch. He plays with poor pad level and doesn’t hold his ground against power rushers. Sure he could develop the strength over time and paired with his movement ability, you could have an elite tackle. But he is not a #1 overall guy to me. Tunsil was such a highly touted high school recruit and I honestly think that is partially why guys put the elite label on him. Tunsil is good. He isn’t elite.
Upside Pro Comparison – Tyron Smith/DAL
3 – JACK CONKLIN – 6’6/308 – MICHIGAN STATE: 84
Fourth year Junior entry. Three year starter, primarily at left tackle. 2nd Team All American in 2015 despite battling a nagging knee injury. Conklin is a blue collar type that lacks talent (originally walked on to the MSU roster) but puts forth a ton of effort and fight in to his game. Conklin is a massive body that can move well enough to handle outside responsibility, but may need to be kept on the right side. He lacks the natural foot speed and flexibility to be trusted on the left side without earning it. His size, strength and head down approach will get him a starting job in the NFL for a long time.
*A lot of discussion has surrounded Conklin in recent months. For people that watch his games, you love him because of his consistency and approach. For those that see the clips of him say that he lacks the ideal kick slide and doesn’t have the “sexy” factor to his game. Conklin is a gamer. There is no such thing as a sure-bet in the NFL Draft but Conklin is on a small list of players in this class that I am confident will have a long career in the league barring injury. I question his ability to play left tackle but there are worse athletes in the NFL that play that spot than Conklin, and NYG has one of those guys. Conklin should be in the discussion at #10 overall, absolutely.
Upside Pro Comparison – Sebastian Vollmer/NE
4 – RONNIE STANLEY – 6’6/312 – NOTRE DAME: 83
Fourth year junior. Has one season of starting experience at right tackle and two seasons at left tackle. Underwent elbow surgery in 2012. Stanley has all the ideal physical tool set and more than enough ability to play left tackle in the NFL. His arm length and hand strength consistently control the power rushers. His feet move fast enough to beat speed rushers to the edge. He passes the initial eye test but there are several holes in his game from a mechanical and consistency perspective, respectively. Stanley has elite potential but there are far too many question marks for him to receive an elite grade.
*Stanley is another name I see out there with the elite label next to his name. I don’t agree. I think he is a quality player and a starter in the league but the holes in his games worry me. We aren’t talking about the hardest working kid in the world, either. He didn’t take care of his business in college and this league will eat those kinds of players up really fast. Stanley has as much talent as all the guys above him and if a coach can get him to apply himself off the field and make him truly care, he could approach the sky high upside. But only if all the guys above are gone am I considering him.
Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Albert/MIA
5 – JASON SPRIGGS – 6’7/305 – INDIANA: 81
Fourth year senior with 47 career starts. 2015 All American. Elite athlete with a frame that can easily add more bulk. Uses his length and knee bend effectively. Repeats his technique in pass protection over and over. Explodes out of his stance with good positioning. Effective second level blocker. Will look to end plays with the last lick. Mean and aggressive. Lacks the staying power against a big bull rusher. Doesn’t move guys in the run game. Will overshoot his target on the edge and lose his inside protection. Needs more urgency out of his stance.
*I sound like a broken record here but when looking at Spriggs, we are talking about a guy with very high level upside. I think he is the best athlete of the bunch but simply needs time to increase his power presence and off-snap mechanics. For such a good mover, Spriggs really struggles with initial movement and set up at times. He needs to clean that up if he can factor at LT in the NFL. I don’t think he is going to be a major factor in year one. He can control guys with his hands but he doesn’t get a lot out of his lower body, something he’ll need in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go anywherer between #15 and #45 overall.
Upside Pro Comparison: Terron Armstead/NO
6 – GERMAIN IFEDI – 6’6/324 – TEXAS A& M: 78
Fourth year junior entry. Has played right guard and both tackle spots for the Aggies. Ifedi started his career off hot, earning Freshman All American honors in 2013 but failed to take the next step. His frame and overall ability to move could make a lot of coaches dream of elite upside, but in the end Ifedi has proven to be an underachiever time and time again. He can be a quality backup initially that will need to really apply himself on and off the field if he wants to be anything more. That is something he has yet to show himself being capable of.
*It’s hard not to get excited about Ifedi when you watch him. He can simply dominate with his combination of size, power, and initial quickness. He just looks like an NFL starter right now. Ifedi is really inconsistent though and I can’t tell if it’s an effort thing or a conditioning issue. Perhaps a bit of both. Either way this guy is as gifted as anyone in this group but fails to consistently play up to the level in which he is capable of. He will excite you and disappoint you. Ifedi could be a top tier RT in this league right away if he wants to.
Upside Pro Comparison: Gosder Cherilus/TB
7 – SHON COLEMAN – 6’5/307 – AUBURN: 76
Fifth year junior entry. Missed the 2011 season while battling cancer and needed a redshirt in 2012 to complete his recovery. Coleman was granted four years of eligibility starting in 2013 by the NCAA. He started for two years at left tackle and molded himself back in to a potential star blocker. Coleman has elite size and power presence with good enough feet to handle outside duty. He is best suited for the right side where his pad level and movement in space issues are not as severe. Coleman is more than a feel-good story. He has starter potential.
*Coleman will need a good amount of time to develop in to an NFL lineman. The Auburn scheme is such a quick paced offense and Coleman will need to adjust to consistently playing in a 3 point stance. In addition he has mechanical tendencies that will need to be cleaned up. Some people think he can play the left side in the NFL but I see him as a RT, possibly even a guard at the next level. He has a lot of natural power to him and will be a guy that moves defenders. If he can clean his footwork and pad level up, he’ll be a good one.
Upside Pro Comparison: Donald Stephenson/DEN
8 – HALAPOULIVAATI VAITAI – 6’6/320 – TCU: 76
Fourth year senior. Three year starter that has seen time at both left and right tackle. Vaitai is a smooth operator that has some of the cleanest technique in the class. He could be just a year or two of strength training away from being a starting tackle, and a good one at that. He hustles hard and shows the awareness to make up for any slight physical shortcomings. Vaitai has the body of a future tackle but will simply need time to get stronger. He has a very high upside.
*This is one of my biggest sleepers of the entire draft. Vaitai is another one that needs time to develop NFL-caliber technique, coming from fast paced offense. But I see a guy with really good body control and set up. He mirrors guys in space and gets his hands inside consistently. I think he could use more strength development and likely needs a year to live in the weight room, but he has it all together when he’s up against quality pass rushers. I think he is ideally a RT in the league but he matched up athletically with some of the best pass rushers the country had to offer at LT.
Upside Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth/CIN
9 – PARKER EHINGER – CINCINNATI – 6’7/318: 76
Fifth year senior and 3 year starter. Quick out of his stance and shows a consistent set up and initial punch. Brings a physical presence to line and makes the effort to put his man through the ground each play. Takes pride in defeating his man and playing through the whistle. Shows good balance and body control from start to finish. Shows good quickness to the edge and when chasing after second level defenders. May not have the length for the outside. Will lose to leverage-based pass rushers. Needs to show more ability to adjust to double moves. Over commits to his initial read.
*If you want someone more physical on your line, Ehinger could be a guy you look at. I think he projects at RT and OG in the league. He isn’t a great athlete but he shows very easy body control and balance. Ehinger is a gamer that will be in the league for a long time, but I question the upside. He can be a solid but not great blocker, definitely starter-caliber though.
Upside Pro Comparison: Doug Free/DAL
10 – WILLIE BEAVERS – 6’5/324 – WESTERN MICHIGAN: 75
Fifth year senior and three year starter. Has some impressive tape against some of the best pass rushers the nation has to offer. He held his own against Joey Bosa and Shilique Calhoun, showing flawless and consistent mechanics, lower body strength, and easy awareness. He can reach the edge like a left tackle and there is enough head to toe strength to handle power rushers. He doesn’t bend that well and there is a lot of forward lean to him. He lacks ideal measurements as well and it shows up on tape. Beavers can be a solid backup with the potential to start anywhere on the line if he can up his technique and lower body strength.
*Beavers has a lot of guys in is corner. People like his long term potential and think he can be a starting LT in the league. I still see a guy that may need to make a move inside. For a guy with good athletic ability, he sure does get beat in space a lot. Not very good at adjusting on the move along the edge. He showed flashes though of being a good player. I’m just not sold enough to put him in round 2.
Upside Pro Comparison: Kelvin Beachum/JAC
11 – JOHN THEUS – 6’6/313 – GEORGIA: 75
Fourth year senior, four year starter. Was in and out of the starting lineup early in his career and was probably rushed in to the action. Has the feet to play the left side in the NFL, carries his weight with ease. Needs more weight room development, has an obvious strength and power deficit when matched up against bigger defenders. Does a nice job on the move though, dominates second level defenders. Plays with a chip on his shoulder. Will be a backup for awhile but has the tools to be a starter.
*I liked Theus the more I saw of him as the season went on. I’ve seen a ton of Georgia the past 2-3 years and I really had a low outlook on him coming in to 2015. The light turned on a bit and I think he is a guy you can be confident in to backup both tackle positions. That’s an important role in the NFL. He really needs to get stronger though and clean up his body.
Upside Pro Comparison: J’Marcus Webb/SEA
12 – FAHN COOPER – 6’4/303 – OLE MISS: 72
Fourth year senior that played at Bowling Green and a Junior College prior to joining Ole Miss in 2014. Started both years for the Rebels at RT and LT. Stepped in seamlessly at LT when Laremy Tunsil was suspended for the first half of 2015. Underrated athletic ability with good short area power and suddenness. Has good reach with heavy, fast hands. Very good technique player that has been starting wherever he’s been playing. Might not have the ideal upside but guys like this can tend to stick around for a long time.
*You know, watching Ole Miss early in the year while Tunsil was suspended, you really couldn’t tell a difference at the LT position. I think Cooper opened a lot of eyes with his play this year. And its another reason why I don’t have the elite grade on Tunsil Cooper can be a solid backup and eventual starter in the league. I actually think he can be more NFL ready right now than some of the guys above him on this list. He does a lot of little things very well and he doesn’t have any major holes in his game.
Upside Pro Comparison: Michael Harris/MIN
13 – BRANDON SHELL – 6’5/324 – SOUTH CAROLINA: 71
Four year starter with 47 career starts to his name. Right tackle prospect that will impress most with the initial eyeball test. Has supreme size and shows the capability of winning off the snap. His issues are in space and they are apparent. He needs technique work but also has to step up his foot quickness if he wants to stick around. Shell has gifts but he’s not a football player yet.
*At the East/West Shrine game, I found out there are scouts that think Shell is a 2nd rounder and could be the #5 or #6 guy on the OT board for some teams. Some people love his upside. Personally I think he is too stiff for the NFL edges and won’t play low enough to play guard. I think he is a guy that excites you but at the end of the day he won’t be able to get it done as a starter. He’ll be a long term project for someone.
Upside Pro Comparison: Phil Loadholt/MIN
14 – JOEL HAEG – 6’6/304 – NORTH DAKOTA STATE: 71
Fifth year senior and four year starter. Started 60 games and ended his career with 2 straight FCS All American seasons. He played 2 years at RT and 2 years at LT. Haeg is a top tier athlete with the kind of athletic upside that coaches get excited about. He pops out of his stance in to his kick slide as seamlessly as anyone with full body control and ability to change direction on a dime. He really doesn’t move people, however. He is a guy that need a year-plus of weight training and eating before he can be thrown in to the mix. Upside athlete that already has the technique down, just needs strength.
*Haeg is a lesser version of Jason Spriggs. He has all the movement tools and technique that will lead you to initially believe he can play LT in the NFL. The more you watch though, the more you will notice he doesn’t push anyone around. He struggles to run block with purpose and bull rushers can get under his pads and drive him back. He is making a big jump in competition as well, thus he is a developmental guy that will probably need more than a year. Upside is there, though.
Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Staley/SF
15 – CALEB BENENOCH – 6’5/311 – UCLA: 68
Junior entry. Born in Nigeria. Started for three years primarily at right tackle but did also see some time inside at guard because of injuries to teammates. Benenoch is a high upside athlete for the position. He shows easy foot speed, a good reach, and proper flexibility throughout. There is a sense of rawness to his game still, however. He shows lapses in concentration and will lose out on his technique, relying too much on his athleticism. Benenoch is not a weak body, but there is more lower body strength especially that needs to be added. He cannot handle NFL power defenders yet. He has starting potential down the road, possibly even on the left side.
*Every time I watched Benenoch, I was somewhat intrigued. He had the look and the occasional flashes of a guy that could really get the job done. But then he would have stretches where a good pass rusher would routinely beat him a variety of ways. He will need time to sit and develop but I could see him being a guy that was really worth gambling on.
Upside Pro Comparison: Bryan Bulaga/GB
16 – STEPHANE NEMBOT – 6’7/322 – COLORADO: 69
Fifth year senior wth an interesting story. Was born in Cameroon and didn’t play football until his junior year of high school. He was a defensive end when he stepped foot on campus and satyed there for his redshirt year. He kept growing and the coaches moved him to OL where he started to show signs of special potential. He started 36 straight games, mostly at RT, and wowed scouts on occasion. He is very raw but there are tools here that are actually functional. He struggles to pivot and change direction, but he has such great length and hand power. He is an interesting prospect.
*I like Nembot as a late round project. He is a scary, scary dude when he gets a head full of steam downhill. He is quicker than he times but there is still consistent footwork that needs to be worked on. He looked really bad at times. He had an impressive Shrine week and some scouts left there raving about his progress from day 1 to day 6. You have to like that.
Upside Pro Comparison: Marcus Gilbert/PIT
17 – JERALD HAWKINS – 6’6/305 – LSU: 68
Fourth year junior entry. Started for two seasons at right tackle, one on the left side. Hawkins has a nice frame and good athletic ability. His feet are good enough for the left side but his lack of staying power and inconsistent pad level need a lot o work before he can be thrown in to the mix. Hawkins has an upside that few prospects do, but he will need at least a year of development before he can be considered for contribution.
*Some “experts” were talking about Hawkins as a first rounder during the season. No way. He has a frame that you will want to work with but I was unimpressed with him athletically. I’m not even sure he can hack it as a LT in the league. He may have to be in a scheme specific guard role at the end of the day. He plays with pop and good short area quickness though. I see him as a versatile, solid backup.
Upside Pro Comparison: Vinston Painter/MIA
18 – KYLE MURPHY – 6’6/305 – STANFORD: 68
Two year starter, once on right and left side respectively. All Pac 12 performer. Murphy looks the part right after the snap. He has proper foot quickness and knee bend but his form breaks down as the play ensues. He does not have the pro caliber strength to handle protection duties yet. He is a developmental prospect that has the upside of a starter if he can gain strength and improve his post-engagement mechanics.
*I had an impressed outlook on Murphy when I watched him earlier in the year but towards the end of the season and especially at the Senior Bowl, I kind of took a 180 and I think he is a backup at best-type. When he isn’t run blocking, Murphy is pretty sloppy. He doesn’t have the strength or the foot speed to make up for it. I don’t think we are looking at a ton of talent here with him. Some guys are up on him though.
Upside Pro Comparison: Marshall Newhouse/NYG
19 – LE’RAVEN CLARK – 6’5/316 – TEXAS TECH: 68
Fifth year senior and four year starter. Has one year of experience as a guard and the rest have been at left tackle. Clark has hard-to-find length and power. He can dominate guys at the point of attack but the second he asked to play the game with his feet, his inconsistencies pop up. He has a long ways to go in terms of technique. Developmental prospect here that needs a ton of work.
*Someone is gonna spend a top 100 overall pick on him. Someone recently told me he is in the 2nd round discussion. I don’t see it. I think he is a guy scouts go nuts over because of the hard to find tools. Clark does have elite length and hand power, but he gets beat all the time by guys that won’t play in the league. He is not a good bender and he lacks instincts. Plus, he played in an offense where he was almost never in a 3 point stance. He needs a ton of work.
Upside Pro Comparison: DJ Fluker/SD
20 – ALEX LEWIS – 6’6/312 – NEBRASKA: 66
Fifth year senior that started off at Colorado, where he primarily played guard. After sitting out 2013, Lewis was a 2 year starter at left tackle where he finished as a 2nd Team All Big 10 performer. Lewis has the body and the foot speed that coaches will want to work with. He played below 290 pounds in college, so he will need time to add functional weight that will stay on his frame. He can handle it. Lewis isn’t a power player but he was a very reliable run blocker. If he can add strength without losing his movement ability, he could be a solid backup for both tackle spots.
Upside Pro Comparison: Breno Giacomini/NYJ
THE REST (20-25)
21 – AVRERY YOUNG – 6’5/328 – AUBURN: 66
22 – TYLER JOHNSTONE – 6’5/301 – OREGON: 65
23– TYLER MARZ – 6’7/316 – WISCONSIN: 65
24 – JOE GORE – CLEMSON – 6’6/300: 63
25 – PEARCE SLATER – 6’7/329 – SAN DIEGO STATE: 63
There is a lot of chatter that NYG is going with an OT with their first pick. From the outside, some will kill the decision because they spent a #9 overall pick on one last year and they have another recent first round tackle playing guard now. You know what? This team has a significant hole at RT right now and there is no denying it. If the value matches up early, NYG needs to strongly consider going OT. I really don’t see a big gap between the top 5 guys and I think NYG can realistically grab one of them to start week one. You could play a slightly riskier game by drafting one of those second tier guys day 2 but there is always the risk they aren’t there. NYG can’t be a team that tries to get cute with the OL as Manning enters the slow years of his career. While I wouldn’t go in saying OT or bust, it needs to be constantly on their minds. They need better depth and a more legit starter at RT. The option of moving Flowers over is still alive and well in my book.