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2018 NFL Scouting Combine: Offensive Line Notes

2018 NFL Scouting Combine
The Notre Dame combo of Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson took two different paths in my opinion at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

The first day of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. Congratulations! You just found the best damn scouting notes you will find in the upcoming NFL Draft. Over the next few days, I will break down each and every position of the 300 plus players that will compete at the combine. First, I will first start with the offensive lineman.

My draft track record speaks for itself the past two years. Laremy Tunsil was my top offensive lineman in 2016 but was passed over for dumb reasons. It turned out that he is truly a stud and I was right. Last year I really hit the ball out of the park. Dion Dawkins was clearly the best interior offensive lineman this year with Buffalo. Cam Robinson was also taken in the 2nd round like Dawkins and was by far the best tackle of the class and anchors the Jaguars offensive line.

Movement skills are what I care about the most with this group. Can you pull, slide or shuffle your feet at an elite level? A lot of times with offensive lineman, you don’t really have to watch much college tape to see who stands out. Having said that, which offensive lineman stood out for better or worse at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine?

2018 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.

Finding A Left Tackle?

Every offensive line needs a franchise left tackle. The problem is that finding one in this draft class seems almost impossible. The elite left tackles that everyone anticipated don’t really exist. I was down on Mike McGlinchey more than most after he got dominated when Notre Dame played Georgia. He’s Matt Ryan’s cousin so it’s not a surprise that he isn’t a dynamic athlete. He is smooth and has great size at 6-foot-8 but he really didn’t look great in the drills. He did not run the 40 and left the drills early with a leg issue of some sort. It would be hard for me to pull the trigger on him in the first round. His combine didn’t help his case either.

Connor Williams was the other pure left tackle according to most experts but Williams comes in as more of a mystery than McGlinchey. Williams looked good early in the season according to my notes but suffered a knee injury that kept him out. Now at the combine, the measurable process didn’t do him any favors when he recorded a 33-inch arm length. Now the question is whether he can play guard cause of the short arms. Williams did run a pretty good time at 5.05 but he isn’t a dynamic athlete either. At 6-foot-5, 295, Williams is undersized as well. You can see in the clip below, his slide is technically sound but physical limitations worry me.

These next two players have found a way to become my favorites in a hurry and aren’t getting much love for whatever reason. The first is Tyrell Crosby of Oregon. I think this guy gets a bad rap because he played at Oregon but he is the best pass blocking left tackle I have seen thus far. Don’t forget, he also blocked for Royce Freeman who is now the Pac 12 All-Time leader in rushing yards. Crosby balled out at the Senior Bowl where he was clearly the best tackle prospect there.

Crosby did himself a huge favor at the combine. His 6-foot-5, 309, with 35 1/4 inch arms is exactly what you’re looking for in a prospect. Crosby only did 17 bench press reps which are a concern but he was by far the cleanest form that I saw. No one has a cleaner kick slide than Crosby and just epitomizes what a left tackle should be. It’s no surprise that he thrived in the pass protection drills but his hand fighting is what takes him to the next level. The technique is flawless and I see it hard for Crosby not to succeed at the next level.

The other left tackle I really like Is Chukwuma Okorafor of Western Michigan. When you look for a pure left tackle, the ones that succeed can handle both the speed and power pass rushers. Okorafor is athletic enough to handle the speed rushers. That part is obvious. His arm length of 34.5 inches which is above average helps just rushers at bay as well. I loved what I saw from Chuks during the drills. He has a wide powerful base and really has some great knee bend. Watch Okorafor during this mirror drill. Eye levels are up the whole time, his arms are in position, and the knee bend and movement skills are phenomenal.

The Western Michigan product clearly has talent. I know this by the common sense factor. Taylor Moton from the 2017 Draft was a right tackle for Western Michigan because Okorafor was the superior talent. Moton has also turned heads during his time with the Panthers and has a big future ahead of himself. For whatever reason, Okorafor hasn’t gotten the love from the scouting community but this guy feels like a pretty safe pick.

Are We Sure He Isn’t A Tight End?

Part of what makes the combine so great is we get to see some verification of what we saw from college. There’s a group of tackles that flat out cannot block but will obviously test well because of pure athleticism. Nothing was more evident of that than watching Brian O’Neill at the Combine. We saw O’Neill get his tail kicked at the Senior Bowl and literally couldn’t block anyone. Now teams will fall in love with his numbers. A 1.70 – 10-yard split and 4.8 – 40-yard dash time is flat out ridiculous. The problem is when you consider that he was a wide receiver in high school, those numbers shouldn’t be much of a surprise. O’Neill was the right tackle when Adam Bisnowaty was there in 2017 and he was the worst draft prospect I saw last year. Remember when teams fell in love with T.J. Clemmings, another former athletic Pitt tackle? Avoid, Avoid Avoid!

The other is UCLA’s, Kolton Miller. His numbers from the combine were off the charts and were at the top of the board in the vert and broad jump. His 1.67 – 10-yard split might be even more impressive. The problem is he can’t block anyone either. If you don’t believe me, go watch his tape from opening night against Texas A&M. The problem I had with watching Miller is that he is a waist bender. Guys that can’t bend their knees and bend at the hips instead don’t make it in the NFL. It may just be a thing where 6-foot-9 is almost too tall if that’s even possible.

Developmental Tackles

There’s a solid group of tackles that you can get in the mid-to-late portion of the draft that are worth taking a look at. Alex Cappa, Geron Christian, Jamil Demby, Des Harrison, Jamarco Jones, Brandon Parker, Greg Senat, and Rod Taylor. Notes on Cappa, Demby, and Parker can be found in my Senior Bowl notes for a more accurate portrayal. In Demby’s case this is what you want for a developmental guy. Look at him compared to Nick Gates. The latter is something you don’t want.

Christian of Louisville was a real standout. 6-foot-5, 300, 35-inch arms works for me. His 5.33 was lower than expected but his short area movement skills really stood out. Christian is extremely raw but he moved well. You can see in the clip below that his kick slide is excellent and has a great first step. I think if you develop him properly. Christian can become a productive player. Just not right away.

Des Harrison of Western Georgia also caught some eyeballs. The problem is he has major off the field issues. Harrison, however, proved that he was by far the best athletic specimen of the offensive lineman. Harrison is undersized at 6-foot-6, 290 and needs to add weight but he honestly could be a tight end. He was unable to practice at the Senior Bowl but depending on how his interviews went, Harrison is on the rise.

Jarmarco Jones has the traits but he’s just so inconsistent with his footwork that I’m not sure what to think. Jones is not a twitchy athlete by any means and his footwork was all over the place. His kick slide was solid but inconsistency will be his downfall and very slow 5.5 – 40 time puts him on the wrong side of this list.

Taylor and Senat also became intriguing prospects. Check out some of their highlights below.

WOW…That Was Ugly

I loved what I saw from Orlando Brown during the year at Oklahoma. He was probably the only tackle to completely stonewall that Ohio State defensive line all year. At 6-foot-8, 345, we knew that big Zeus wasn’t going to test well. It turns out that he tested even worse than people could even anticipate. First, Brown put up an anemic 14 reps at 225. His 35-inch arms are part of the reason why he’s successful but apparently, there isn’t much strength to go with them. I mean this couldn’t have been a worse day for him. He may have found his way into the fourth round.

His 40-yard dash time of 5.85 is historically bad. Take a peek at the bad company Brown just joined.

Then again, this is exactly who his dad was. The late great Orlando Brown, Super Bowl Champion with the Ravens. His feet were also terrible but he was a house and no one could get by home. For a run-centric offense with Jammal Lewis, Brown was a perfect left tackle. That’s what the Oklahoma product needs to be.

The on fieldwork was just awful. You could even see the coaches screaming at him for loafing the drills. This could have been the worst workout of any player in the history of the combine. The question is now how much do you trust his tape to translate the NFL? For a team to take a chance in the fourth round is something that makes sense. Any higher doesn’t at this point.

The Mauling Guards

Two guards clearly separated themselves from the pack at the combine. The first is Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame. His game tape is beyond unbelievable and really helped Mike McGlinchey become a better player in my mind. Nelson could have been a first-round pick a year ago but even found a way to increase his stock to a top 5 pick. Nelson isn’t a perfect prospect but there are so many qualities to love.

The first is his nastiness. During the combine, you could just tell by his demeanor he constantly wants to hit someone. Nelson cares and wants to bulldoze people. That’s so important for this position and protecting a quarterback isn’t valued enough. His hands are powerful and his 35 bench press reps tell the story about how powerful this guy is. Another is the awareness Nelson has. The Notre Damer proved he is a smart player and pulls and even leaves his assignment to find the trailing pass rusher. The 330-pound guard doesn’t have elite athletic traits but his footwork is still way above average for his size. Nelson is a fantastic player and seems to have little bust potential.

The other was Will Hernandez, the guard for UTEP. This is another 330-pound mauler but his footwork was outstanding. Hernandez was a stalwart at the Senior Bowl and stood out again. Hernandez comes in the similar mold as Nelson but may come at a third of the price. His 37 bench press reps are flat out ridiculous but fits his persona as a heavy-handed bulldozer. The UTEP guard is short and powerful but we needed to see if he was more than just a guy who has to work in a phone booth. He is much more. This drill answered all the questions check out that movement!

There’s another guard creeping up into the conversation as well. Austin Corbett is beyond impressive from Nevada. Remember when Joel Bitonio came out of the draft from Nevada and became a stud? Corbett probably is the next man up with that story line. That second round range feels right too. He really thrived in the drills and has great footwork. Check out his kick slide, guards aren’t supposed to move like that.

Taylor Hearn, Sean Welsh, Wyatt Teller, and Colby Gossett are on my list as mid-round prospects.

An Elite Center?

Look, centers are hard to find. Do we get one or two a year? Frank Ragnow of Arkansas is one of the best but didn’t work out. James Daniels of Iowa was flat out unreal. He didn’t run the 40 and came in a little banged up but wow was this workout crazy. Check out this mirror drill from James Daniels. I swear you could make a video of this because it’s perfect.

The handwork, the side to side movement, and knee bend is perfect. Could you justify a first round pick on a perfect center? In recent years this has proved to be a wise strategy with Ryan Kelly and Travis Frederick. Daniels college tape is impressive and Big 10 offensive lineman from Iowa always come in technically sound.

Mason Cole of Michigan was my other center to keep an eye on as a later round pick. Cole showed great balance and started at Michigan since he has been a freshman.

*Shelton Coleman is a left-handed center? How do team’s function with that?

*Billy Price, the guard/center from Ohio State, suffered a torn pec in the bench press and was unable to participate in the on-field workout. Price is considered one of the best interior offensive lineman in the class.

*Isaiah Wynn of Georgia was also unable to workout. He is one of my top-rated guards and you can find more coverage of him during his time at the Senior Bowl.

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