The big uglies have always played a big role in the outcome of games. With the spread and uptempo offenses being the recent trend, it places even more emphasis on athletic and versatile offensive linemen. Here is a look at some of the top linemen available for the 2016 NFL Draft.
- Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
- Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
- Jack Conklin, Michigan St.
- Taylor Decker, Ohio St.
- Jason Spriggs, Indiana
- Germain Ifedi, Texas AM
- Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
- Shon Coleman, Auburn
- Gerald Hawkins, LSU
- Joe Haeg, North Dakota St.
Laremy Tunsil of Mississippi has carried the top tackle available tag since he was a high schooler. He was the top ranked offensive tackle coming out of high school, and his play at Ole Miss has justified that ranking. He's got the length and athleticism teams love at the left tackle spot. He's a great athlete with light feet, and moves very well on the field. He can mirror defenders in pass protection with his lateral agility and even covers ground quickly when he gets into space. Tunsil also shows impressive natural strength, despite not being one of the 330lb tackle types. The power in his hands allow him to neutralize the defender and keep him at bay. While he is strong enough to hold his own and control defenders, he's not really the type of overpower and knock back. He will need to bulk up a bit and get stronger to accomplish that. There are some questions about his durability after missing time as a sophomore, including a fractured fibula that entered the season, but that's the only physical question in his game. He is the complete package. Teams will also check out the situation around him being suspended for the first half of the season this year for improper benefits, but unless they uncover new information, that appears to be a non issue. Tunsil is an elite prospect and has a chance to be the top overall pick. He's that good.
Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley is another tackle prospect that passes the eyeball test. He goes 6'6 315 and appears to have even more room for bulk on his frame. The athleticism and long arms are apparent after watching one play as well. He's got the physical tools to be a star left tackle in the NFL. He sets up quickly off the snap, plays with good balance, and has excellent mobility for the position. Stanley also plays with the typical tenacity and toughness you see in Notre Dame lineman. He's played both left and right tackle in college, and could easily play both in the NFL. Stanley isn't as consistently dominant as Tunsil but he had the potential to be a first round pick had he declared last year as a redshirt sophomore. He's a potential top ten pick, and with some added bulk, is a potential all pro tackle.
Like Stanley, Ohio State's Taylor Decker could've been a first round pick had he chosen to declare last year. He's not an elite athlete, but he's a solid one that has excellent size. He has the classic tackle frame, standing 6'8 315lbs. He uses that length to redirect defenders and keep them away from his body. Decker has good lateral mobility and shuffles his feet well in pass protection, and he could be able to man the left tackle spot in the NFL. He also has the power to drive defenders back, making him a force in the running game at left or right tackle at the next level. The biggest knock on Decker is one of the positives: his height. He' s so tall, he can get caught upright at times, leaving him susceptible to speed and quick edge rushers. Decker is a very good prospect and looks like a first rounder. He may be best suited at right tackle because of his power and trouble with speed off the edge, but he can still play on the left side. His value rises if teams view him as a left tackle, but he should be a starter for a very long time in the NFL, no matter which side he lines up on.
Michigan State's Jack Conklin has had a bit of a different path than the rest of the top prospects. He began his career as a walk on at Michigan State but he didn't let that stand in his way. He's now 6'6 325lbs and has been a mainstay on the Spartan line since his freshman season. As you can expect with a player his size, he is very strong and powerful at the point of attack. He can move defenders off the line and doesn't give up until they are on the turf. His ability in the running game make him a fit anywhere on the line but center. In pass protection, Conklin is technically sound and able to keep defenders in front of him in short areas, but will have trouble with speed and agility off the edge. He's a capable pass blocker because of his length, power, and technique, but he's not as athletically gifted as your typical left tackle. He fits best on the right side, but for the right team, he might be able to play on the left side. His steadiness overall and difference making ability as a run blocker should make him a first round pick in April.
- Cody Whitehair, Kansas St.
- Josh Garnett, Stanford
- Spencer Drango, Baylor
- Christian Westerman, Arizona St.
- Willie Beavers, Western Michigan
- Landon Turner, North Carolina
- Rees Odhiambo, Boise St.
- Vadal Alexander, LSU
- Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
- Joe Thuney, North Carolina St.
Jason Spriggs of Indiana has parlayed his impressive physical gifts into a starting role as a true freshman for the Hoosiers. He's well built at 6'6 301lbs, but its his movement skills that stand out. He is a very good natural athlete and shows impressive agility and mobility. He is very comfortable sliding laterally or getting out in space and blocking on the second level. He's got the frame, growth potential and feet to play left tackle at the next level. While he is tough and will battle to the whistle, there are some questions about his ability to get movement in the running game. He isn't asked to push defenders back often and when he has, he flashes only average strength. Added bulk and increased strength will be important in his development. Spriggs is an impressive athlete that is on the rise. He looks like he could provide excellent upside and value on day two of the draft, if he makes it there.
Cody Whitehair of Kansas State is versatile lineman, capable of playing numerous spots up front. He has played both right and left tackle, as well as right guard during his career, but he may project best inside at guard. He's a bit short for a tackle, standing 6'4 300lbs. He isn't the type of player that will jump out at you initially, because his physical tools aren't obvious. When you see enough of him, you realize how talented he is. Whitehair is always in the right spot, can always pick up the right defender, and is rarely caught off balance. With his experience as a tackle, he sets up quick and is strong enough to get the initial punch on the defender. He can sit down in his stance and keep his man in front of him. As a run blocker, he fires off the ball and while not overpowering at the point of attack, does a good job of controlling his man and sealing his block. His polish and awareness make him a standout guard prospect, but could allow him to play some center, along with the possibility of playing some right tackle. Whitehair's lack of ideal athleticism and length limit his ability as a left tackle prospect, but it's possible he could play any of the other four spots up front. He's definitely one of the draft's top guards and will be a solid second day selection.
- Ryan Kelly, Alabama
- Nick Martin, Notre Dame
- Max Tuerk, USC
- Isaac Seumalo, Oregon St.
- Graham Glasgow, Michigan
Auburn's Shon Coleman is a great story of perseverance, overcoming leukemia before excelling on the field. All the tools are evident: size, agility, and power. He's 6'6 315, shows quick feet, and has the ability to knock defenders off the line of scrimmage. He really thrives as a run blocker, pushing defenders around with his long arms and natural strength. There are some flaws in his game though. Coleman's battle with cancer before seeing the field will make him a 25 year old rookie. For an older prospect, he's also still a work in progress. He is inconsistent with his technique in pass protection. He needs to refine his footwork and balance to remain on the left side. His ability as a run blocker should allow him to play right tackle immediately and as he refines his game, may have the ability to play on the left side. Coleman looks like a second day talent that could play immediately and provide a boost to his teams ground game.
Baylor's Spencer Drango will enter the NFL as experienced a college player as can be. He has started 46 games in his career and it shows. The intelligence, strength, and polish he shows will make him a contributor early on in his NFL career. Drango is not a great athlete, but he is always in position to make his block. He quickly sets up in his stance in pass protection and shows enough balance to control his man. Drango shows a lot of power both in his hands and ability to control guys as a pass blocker but also in his ability to move defenders at the line of scrimmage. He's tough, physical, and will not be outworked. Drango may not have enough athleticism or lateral agility to play left tackle, but he could play any other spot up front. He's got the strength and ability in the running game to play guard or right tackle, and his experience has given him tremendous awareness on the field and could allow him to play center. He isn't going to blow you away in workouts, but Drango's versatility will help find a role in the NFL.
Others to watch: T/G Germain Ifedi(Texas AM), G Josh Garnett(Stanford), T Le'Raven Clark(Texas Tech), T/G/C Max Tuerk(USC), C Ryan Kelly(Alabama), and G Rees Odhiambo(Boise St).
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