New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
Dave Gettleman got aggressive in 2018, signing Nate Solder from NE to a 4 year $62 million contract. It was a move that put former top 10 pick Ereck Flowers at right tackle. Fast forward two seasons and Flowers is now a guard on the Dolphins after playing the 2019 season with the Redskins and Nate Solder grades out as one of the bottom third left tackles in the game despite having the third highest contract in the league. One has to assume they will move forward in 2020 with Solder on the left side but his $20.5 Million cap hit next year leads me to the notion he will not be playing for NYG beyond this season.
Mike Remmers left for KC in free agency to be a backup, which leaves the right side up to the winner of Nick Gates and the newly signed Cameron Fleming. Fleming has started 6 games over the past 2 seasons for Dallas and in fact has never started more than 7 games in a single season in his career. Gates saw three starts in 2019 and played both inside and outside. He showed promise but remember, the bar has been set so low here in regard to the offensive line and Gates would be best suited for a 6th or 7th blocker role. Chad Slade and Eric Smith are training camp bodies who can compete for a roster spot respectively. All in, the lack of quality both short term and long term at this position is incredibly weak.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
- Tristan Wirfs / Iowa / 6’5 – 320
Summary: Junior entry and three year starter from Mount Vernon, Iowa. After a record setting high school shot put and discuss career, Wirfs stepped in as a starting right and left tackle as a true freshman in 2017. He settled in on the right side as the Hawkeyes have another future NFL prospect manning the left side, Alaric Jackson. Wirfs is a physical freak in the weight room and keeping that in mind with his background as a thrower, it was a sight to see as his football skill set and performance started to catch up with his upside in 2019. The foot-quickness, hand-striking, and easy knee bend gives him the look of a franchise offensive tackle. There are multiple inconsistencies that remain, however. He overextends too often and the speed/power combination of NFL edge rushers can eat that up for breakfast if it isn’t fixed. The just-turned 21 year old has work in front of him to do but if he can correct the very correctable issues, he can be a star.
*Another really interesting pre-draft study here that I spent a ton of time on. Wirfs has shutdown ability. What I mean by that is no matter what kind of pass rusher he is up against, Wirfs has the physical ability to dominate. Against power he can anchor, re-anchor, and keep his hands locked inside. Against pure speed he can beat the defender to the meeting point without losing the width of his feet. Against quickness, he can adjust inside and out while keeping his hands in the right place and maintaining his knee bend. All of these skills and tools are there, but the snap to snap consistency isn’t there when it comes to balance and timing. That is the reason why he doesn’t approach the 90-point mark. With that said, we are talking about correctable issues here, not physical shortcomings. Wirfs is a dominant run blocker right now, he can project to both right and left tackle, and he is a week 1 starter on this team. Because of where the NYG situation resides and because I think we are looking at a Pro Bowl tackle, Wirfs gets my vote for who NYG should take at #4 unless Young somehow falls into their lap.
- Jedrick Wills / Alabama / 6’4 – 312
Summary: Junior entry from Lexington, Kentucky. A two-year starter at right tackle who earned 1st Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honors in 2019. Wills was the most physical blocker on the Crimson Tide offensive line but also turned heads with his quality, consistent performance as a pass blocker. It can be hard to locate a true dent in his armor outside of the fact he can get out-reached by longer defenders. His footwork and hands are as sure as it gets and he plays with an ever-present competitive streak that every team wants in the trenches. He has the look of a first-year starter who could move inside if the situation he is drafted into doesn’t initially demand a new face at tackle.
*Wills grew on me more and more as the scouting process got under way. Initially, he doesn’t have the traditional tackle body. He is a little light in the pants, he is a little short, and there isn’t a great reach-game. For those reasons I don’t see Gettleman considering him at #4, as he just doesn’t fit the profile. However, for me, I think Wills is probably the most polished and NFL ready tackle in the group. If these tackles all start in 2020, I bet Wills has the best rookie season. While he isn’t a road grader in the running game, he plays with some good fire and he can translate speed into power. He will be fine there. My question long term with him is stoutness against the ends who really bull rush under the blocker’s pads. All that in mind, I see a David Bakhtiari type tackle here, who is very good.
- Andrew Thomas / Georgia / 6’5 – 315
Summary: Junior entry from Lithonia, Ga. A three year starter with experience at both tackle positions and a two-time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Thomas has the tools and more than enough quality tape over three years to sell himself as an elite left tackle prospect. The issue, however, is the amount of inconsistencies he shows in pass protection when it comes to technique. He doesn’t maximize those tools and has gotten used to playing catch-up football which will be much more difficult to do against NFL edge players. Thomas will be a plus-run blocker right away but whatever team ends up with him will need to be patient in his development as a pass blocker.
*When I look at who Dave Gettleman has drafted in the past at the offensive tackle position, Thomas looks like that guy. Big, thick, long-armed and really physical. He is a really fun player to watch when he’s pissed off. He moves guys into another zip code as a run blocker, he really gets after guys in space, and he finishes. The issues here are two-fold. His effort isn’t consistent and that is the number one red flag. In the intense moments, big games…etc Thomas gets after it. But too many times throughout the past two seasons I saw a guy who simply tried to get by on talent. The second issue, he looks like a train wreck in pass protection at times. He struggles to reach his point against speed and he shows his numbers to the ground too often. While his power and reach can partially make up for it, he simply needs to get better there or he will get eaten alive by the top end pass rushers. I’ll end with this: Thomas at his absolute best is better than Wirfs and Wills. But do you want to gamble on his work ethic and lack of athletic ability? More power to you if you do, but I only want him if it meant NYG traded down and the two guys above were off the board.
- Mekhi Becton / Louisville / 6’8 – 364
Summary: Junior entry and three year starter from Highland Springs, Virginia. First team All ACC in 2019 as the team’s starting left tackle. Becton has played on both sides of the line and could project to either in the NFL. His game very much depends on the elite length and upper body explosion that can take over a one on one battle right away. Becton is rare physical force who gets movement at both the point of attack and in space the second he comes in contact with the defender. His issues are partially technique-based which, in theory, can be corrected but there are also movement issues. It can be hard for a player at his height to adjust with balance and precision and even his length can’t hide those issues in pass protection. His sometimes-inaccurate hands aren’t backed up by other physical attributes and techniques which gives him a rather large buyer-beware label. Boom or bust prospect who turns 21 just days prior to the draft.
*I don’t expect a guy this big to move like Tyron Smith from DAL, I get it. Yes, guys with this kind of length and width can get away with movement issues. Yes, I have been wrong a couple of times in recent years about mammoth tackles. All that in mind, I am placing a first round grade on Becton but I don’t think he is a top 10 pick for NYG, certainly not the guy I want at 4. Do I see NYG pursuing him? Sure. He is huge and explosive, he can be a dominant force in the running game, and he isn’t even 21 years old yet. There are a couple medical red flags that need to check out however. If a guy who weighs 360-380 pounds comes into the league with any injury red flag, I would be more worried than usual. Throw in some more red flags centering around his willingness to work and grind, I just don’t want to take the risk but I can see why some wouldn’t mind going for it. This is a rare specimen who has some quality tape.
- Ezra Cleveland / Boise State / 6’6 – 311
Summary: Fourth year junior from Spanaway, Washington. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2017, and 1st Team honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Cleveland has a wrestling background and it shows on tape. His body control and balance are noteworthy, as he never seems to lose his feet and you rarely find him lunging for a defender or wind up on the ground. His techniques with his hand and feet create the notion that his learning curve in the NFL won’t be as steep as some others. The question for him will center around length and lockout and whether or not that makes him move inside. He could likely be a quality backup at both spots and a starter once he adds more strength and power to his arsenal.
*A huge part of my offensive tackle evaluation is balance and body control. If I had to rank which tackle in this class had the best of both, it is Cleveland. I am not comparing him to Joe Thomas, but that is how he moves. Just smooth and easy, movement across the line never seems to disrupt his approach. The issue? He has short arms, lacks a true power game, and his body may not be ready in year one. I can’t use a first rounder on someone like that and I don’t think he is in play at #36. If NYG ends up with an early third or late second somehow, then we can talk.
- Josh Jones / Houston / 6’5 – 319
Summary: Fifth year senior from Richmond, Texas. A four year starter who earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in 2019. Jones put together a really solid season and earned an invite to the Senior Bowl where he performed well all week against the stiffest competition he faced. His length and power game are small red flags but he has the foot speed and techniques that can hide them. He is a really smooth operator who knows and trusts himself. He doesn’t over-set like most tackles do, he doesn’t abandon techniques when he doesn’t win the initial battle like most tackles do, and he still has ton of attainable upside to go before he is a finished product. If he can improve his power game and continue to progress his skill set, he can be a longtime starter in the league. With that said, he should be thrown into the fire right away.
*I know a scout in the league who has Jones on the same tier as the top tackles in the draft. While I don’t think that is a common opinion, I’m sure he isn’t the only one. Jones is a really fluid and easy athlete on the outside who simply needs a key to the weight room. I do think he can handle snaps right away, but I would prefer to him to wait at least half a season if possible. Power guys are going to beat him up pretty good. If he does enhance how own power game, he is a definite starter.
- Isaiah Wilson / Georgia / 6’6 – 350
Summary: Redshirt sophomore entry from Brooklyn, New York. Two year starter who missed 2 games in 2019 with an ankle injury. 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Wilson is a tools-rich tackle who still has a lot to learn and put into practice. He needs to take in NFL coaching so that his footwork can become second nature. He has a lot of ugly tape in that department but when he does line things up, his combination of length and power can be dominant. He is a high-upside prospect who shouldn’t be rushed into action.
*For all the talk Becton gets about his size, I’m surprised Wilson isn’t more talked up. He actually has a wider frame and the 350 pound mark is where I think Becton will come down to. Wilson also has top-shelf length and hand power. He is sloppy though, there is no denying it. Wilson’s hands get really wide and he loses track of the width of his base at times. However when he’s on, there isn’t a huge gap between him and Thomas and I mean that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the top 40, but I would want to wait until the top of round 3 to take him. I bet he’s gone by that point.
- Lucas Niang / TCU / 6’6 – 315
Summary: Senior entry from New Canaan, Connecticut. Three year starter who missed the second half of 2019 with a hip labrum injury that needed surgery. Earned 2nd Team All Big 12 in 2018, the only season he started every game. Niang’s size looks excellent on paper but he has work to do on his body. As he continues to rehab from his surgery, Niang is going to need a sleeping bag in the weight room. He doesn’t play an aggressive game and will too often try to catch defenders rather than impose his will. There is a lot of natural talent to work with however, as he moves very well and produced based on athletic ability and size. If he can combine that with more consistent footwork and effort, he has starter-potential. He simply needs to apply himself in the weight room for a year and clean other areas up.
*This is an interesting prospect. I had a hard time getting information on his hip injury and how much it impacted his play early in 2019. He didn’t look like the same guy as I saw in 2018. I had some really positive notes from his 2018 tape but it just didn’t match up. There is a chance somebody is going to get a starting caliber right tackle here at the end of round 3 or early round 4. You also have to account for the recovery from the hip injury, however. A lot of things to consider in his evaluation but if NYG doesn’t address tackle with their first three picks and he is there at the start of round 4, it would be tough to pass on.
- Austin Jackson / USC / 6’5 – 322
Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Phoenix, Arizona. Grandson of Melvin, a five-year NFL lineman. First team All Pac 12 in 2019. Jackson has the tools and initial movement off the snap with an aggressive playing style and hustle that will get coaches excited about working with him. He can create solid torque and pop off the ball and he has enough athletic ability to play outside. However a deeper look into his game and there are several warts that absolutely need to be ironed out. He needs a lot of core strength and balance work before he can be asked to handle NFL pass rushers. His toughest opponents in college made him look silly at times, out of his league. This is an upside-based prospect who will need a couple years.
*Jackson is impressive initially. He has a good body and plays with good explosion off the snap. He can really get on top of a guy and gain the initial advantage. But when it comes to the secondary stuff, he was woefully inconsistent. I really didn’t like him against his toughest competition. Jackson has more reachable upside than a typical 4th/5th round grade, I will give him that. However the natural imbalance just sticks to my memory too hard.
- Matt Peart / Connecticut / 6’7 – 318
Summary: Fifth year senior from Kingston, Jamaica. A four year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All AAC honors as a senior. Peart is relatively new to the game, as he didn’t play football until he started high school. He is a physically gifted player who, when his feet are in the right place, showed dominant traits. He has incredibly strong hands with long arms and an athletic base, he simply just needs to hammer away at his lower body mechanics until they become more natural and consistent. If and when that happens, he is a starting caliber player.
*I did a quick recap of who Gettleman selected in his career as GM along the offensive line. One glaring tendency was his desire for length at tackle. Well, here you go. Peart has the longest arms in the class and the widest frame. Throw in the fact that he has a decently athletic lower body, and there is a chance he is going to hear his name called in round 2. NYG is going to like him, I’m sure of it. How much? Not sure. I personally see a guy who won’t be a factor in year one and he is going to need to really hammer away at lower body mechanics and power. I couldn’t get past the 4th/5th round tier but I can see why some are higher on him because of the ceiling.
- Trey Adams / Washington / 6’8 – 318
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Wenatchee, Washington. Four year starter who began his career on a high note. Adams was a 1st Team All Pac 12 and 2nd Team All American as a sophomore in 2016. However a back injury suffered in 2017 forced him to miss the second half of the year and the entire 2018 regular season. Adams was once viewed as a no-doubt first round pick but questions surrounding his back injury and inconsistent play since he’s come back has made the outlook cloudy. Adams is a plus-athlete with good size and aggression who plays smart and aware. He has enough athletic ability to play tackle in the pros, but the medical screening and how it relates to his potential to add strength and power will mean a lot for his final grade. He is going to need a year at least before he can be counted on as a starter.
*Adams was on his way toward being a sure-thing first round pick. But the back injury that kept him out so long is going to knock is grade down a bug chunk, maybe even make him undraftable to some. For me? If you are sitting there in round 5 or 6 and you need a young tackle to try and develop, I pull the trigger on him. He is a really feisty, nasty, aggressive blocker. It will be considered lucky to see him get completely over the injury but one has to take chances late in the draft at times. And to build a quality offensive line, you have to get lucky once or twice.
- Charlie Heck / North Carolina / 6’8 – 311
Summary: Fifth year senior from Kansas City, Missouri. A three year starter who finished his career as a 2nd Team All ACC tackle. Heck has plenty of experience on both sides and shows the intelligence and natural ability to play on both sides in the NFL. The son of Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach, Andy Heck, Charlie has the look of an eventual starter once he can enhance his staying power and core strength. He is outstanding off the ball but simply needs to clean up his hand placement and footwork that usually stems from his inconsistent pad level. Once he cleans that up, there is starter-potential and in the mean time, he is a solid swing tackle for a team needing to add depth.
*I almost went 3 or 4 points higher on Heck. I liked him a lot down the stretch and he was the best blocker at Shrine week. There is a plus-athlete here and you know he understands the ins and outs of the game as well as anybody. Heck’s height, like a couple others in this class, is a bit of an issue. He doesn’t have a powerful base and its just hard for him to play with consistent knee bend and pad level. That is a problem unless you have elite traits elsewhere, which he does not.
- Colton McKivitz / West Virginia / 6’6 – 306
Summary: Fifth year senior from Jacobsburg, Ohio. A four year starter who has played both tackle positions. Two time Honorable Mention All Big 12 before being named 2nd Team in 2019. Was also named 3rd Team All American as a senior. McKivitz has average size and power that will need to be developed over the course of a year or two, but the former all state high school basketball player has light and quick feet with plus-balance. Combine that with a strong will to win the one on one battles that doesn’t have an off switch, a case can be made he is one of the top tackles who will be available day three. He won’t be ready right away, as he needs to improve his lower body power and hand strength, but if he can tidy those areas up he is proficient everywhere else. Swing tackle candidate.
*McKivitz is an intriguing athlete who simply didn’t lose much in college. He has plenty of work ahead to get his power presence up to par, but for a team that can stash him away for a year or two, there is a high ceiling.
- Yasir Durant / Missouri / 6’6 – 331
Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Three year starter for Missouri who spent a season at Arizona Western Community College where he played guard and tackle. Durant took over the left tackle job four weeks into 2017 and never looked back. He is going to cause a second look based on his size alone, as he is as wide as he is long. This kind of blocker doesn’t need to be the most twitched up, fastest player on the field. He is a tough guy to get around because of how well he stays within himself, how far his blocking radius extends to, and hoe powerful his punch can be. He may not be a year one guy, as there are some lower body techniques that must be cleaned up, but Durant has a potential starter label on him at either tackle spot.
*Durant is really interesting. It is widely known that he is going to struggle athletically, he is just a really heavy mover and the bend doesn’t come natural to him. But you know what? There aren’t many tackles who had higher graded tape, he just didn’t lose much. I noticed how patient he works at Shrine week. He just sits and waits, lets the defender make his move, and then calmly and powerfully reacts. I think there is something to this kid.
- Robert Hunt / Louisiana-Lafayette / 6’5 – 323
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Burkeville, Texas. Four year starter who has started games at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle. Was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in 2018, 1st Team in 2019 despite missing games with a groin injury. Hunt projects to both tackle and guard at the next level. He was a good high school basketball player and that kind of foot-speed and quickness shows up on the gridiron with his attractive, moldable frame. He may not be ready for NFL action right away, as he has some footwork issues to clean up and lower body strength to pack on. Depending on where he is drafted, however, he has the look of an eventual starter inside or outside. It is hard to find guys with this kind of size, athletic ability, and body control capabilities. His best tape came against his toughest competition, a good sign in relation to his long term projection.
*I originally had a 3rd round grade on Hunt as a tackle, but because of a medical, had to bring him down to round 5/6 region. Good kid though and I am hoping for the best. On the field, Hunt has the feet to play outside but some question his length. Personally, I don’t see the move to guard because he plays too high and he isn’t stout enough. If he clears the medical stage, I like him as a versatile backup who may need to sit for a year and enhance his strength.
- Tyre Phillips / Mississippi State: 70
- Aaron McKinney / TCU: 69
- Terence Steele / Texas Tech: 67
- Darrin Paulo / Utah: 67
- Carter O’Donnell /Alberta: 66
- Matt Womack / Alabama: 66
- Alex Taylor / South Carolina State: 65
- Drew Richmond / USC: 64
- Jake Benzinger / Wake Forest: 63
- Brandon Bowen / Ohio State: 61
It isn’t the sexy pick. It isn’t the name you are going to see in the box score or the highlight reel. You’re rarely going to walk away from a Giants win and talk about how good the tackles played. All of that said, this team isn’t going anywhere unless this offensive line improves on the outside. It would be one thing if they already had a solid piece on the left or right side. It would be one thing if they already had an up and coming stud who was in the development stages. The Giants have neither nor are they even close.
What is the point of drafting a Saquon Barkley #2 overall if you can’t get anyone up front to keep defenders out of the backfield? Quite literally he is getting contacted by defenders before he takes his third step with the ball as much as any back in the league! Daniel Jones was selected #6 overall and I have always believed the number one task to aid the maturation of a young quarterback is building the group up front. Keep him upright. Keep him confident. Make it easier for him to hold onto the football!
Credible and respectful arguments can be made to take defense, namely Simmons or Okudah, at #4. I disagree that it is the best path. While I am fully aware the NYG defense needs work, I think the offensive line is more important and NYG is absolutely hopeless at tackle right now. Throw in the fact that I have a Pro Bowl projection on Wirfs and Wills, the decision is even easier. Only a godsend like Chase Young being available will change my mind.