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Combine Primer - Offensive Tackles
QBs have dominated the column inches over the last few weeks and now the NFL scouting combine has snuck up on me.
We should get some clarity on the Jets QB situation this week as GMs are set to meet with the media on Tuesday. We’ll be covering what Joe Douglas and Packers GM Brian Gutekunst say in our Wednesday newsletter, so make sure you get yourself subscribed.
Prospects started arriving in Indianapolis yesterday. Over the next few days, they will be registering, having medical exams, meeting with teams and the media as well as having a meeting with the NFLPA.
The offensive linemen are actually one of the last groups to register, and won’t work out until Sunday and Monday, but that’s the position group we’re focusing on today.
🔥 Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett was talking to Fox recently about how he studies the younger players in the league. He named Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase and then the third name on the list was our very own Garrett Wilson. "Garrett Wilson's game is really savvy," he said. "I think he's really elusive — when you watch the way that he gets off the line, you watch the way that he catches the ball. He's able to catch the ball, make a move, and he's able to take it to the house at any time.
📈 According to a report by Jeremy Fowler over the weekend, the Jets and Saints may have competition when it comes to Derek Carr. Three unnamed teams have shown interest in signing for the former Vegas man, although it wasn’t revealed who those teams are. This may be agent talk to try and pump up those contract offers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers and Bucs have at least registered their interest.
👺 Football Outsiders released their aggressiveness index this weekend which measures how aggressive head coaches are through the season. Nick Sirianni led the way but Robert Saleh came dead last, being the most conservative coach in football. The Jets had 12 opportunities on 4th & 1 last season, and the Jets went for it on just 3 occasions. Mark that down to the QB play or Saleh’s belief in his defense, but we may start having to take some chances to pump those win numbers up.
😎 If you were dreaming of pairing star safety Jordan Poyer with Reed and Sauce, you’re likely to be disappointed. The free agent said on his podcast said “I would love to go to a state that doesn’t take half my money… It would be nice to see the sun, maybe, every week or so.” Tyreek Hill chose the Dolphins over the Jets due to the state tax rules which meant he paid nothing in state income tax in Florida. New Jersey has a marginal income tax of 10.75 percent for individuals making more than $5 million per year
🏔️ New WR coach Zach Azzanni posted a farewell message to Denver on his Twitter account and finished with: “Thank you Denver for everything! But it’s time for the Azzanni family to start a new adventure and we couldn’t be more excited. New York, here we come”
1️⃣0️⃣1️⃣ PFF released their top 101 players of the 2022 season and the Jets had three players make the list. Sauce Gardner came in at #18 on the list, Quinnen Williams was just behind at #27 and Garrett Wilson came in at #76. I’m sure that Breece Hall will be added to that list if he stays healthy in 2023.
How valuable is the scouting combine for evaluating offensive tackles?
That seems to be a question that gets asked every single year considering it’s a position of so many nuances.
Obviously, there are some key elements to the combine for any position group. Getting to interview with teams, having your measurements confirmed, and going through the complete medical process. The on-field drills may not be vital to the offensive linemen, but they can be used to back up what you see on tape, and they can sometimes force you to revisit what you thought you knew about a prospect.
I’ve been using the Gil Brandt base chart for years now as a minimum base target for drill results. It’s not a hard and fast rule as some prospects underperform and go on to have good careers and some people blow up the combine and fail miserably at the next level. It’s not designed to be perfect, but it is a good base level for evaluation.
Brian Burke of ESPN took a look at which drills were good indicators for future success, the higher the number, the darker the shade, the better indicator it is. So for offensive tackles, we’re looking at the weight, the 40, and the broad jump.
So with that being said, what should we all be looking for in terms of offensive tackle performance and what significance does it have?
40-Yard Dash - 5.30 seconds
Significance - Speed over Distance
Does it matter: It does matter but not really for the long speed. In the study cited above that tried to outline how indicative test scores were for future success, the 40-yard dash came up as one of the best for offensive tackles, but in that study, the 40-yard dash was not broken down into splits, so in my opinion that came out as important not because of the overall time but because of the next two times on this list. Saying that, if you’re an offensive lineman, you really want to be below that 5.30 benchmark listed above.
10-Yard Split - 1.80 seconds
Significance - Initial Burst
Does it matter: The 10 yards split is significantly more important for offensive linemen than the 40-yard dash. I’ll take a tackle who explodes out of his stance and slows down after 25 yards over a guy who’s slow off the line and gains speed at 20-30 yards. I want a lineman who’s explosive and quick off the line, especially at left tackle as they face some of the premier speed rushers in the NFL. When tackles block out in space, they often do so within 10 yards of the line as well. If you can be around that 1.80 mark for the 10-yard split as an offensive tackle, that will satisfy the scout’s requirements.
20-Yard Split - 3.00 seconds
Significance - Maintain Burst
Does it matter: If you’re looking at the 40-yard dash as a complete drill and then breaking it down to rank the aspects from most important to least important, you’d start with the 10 split, then the 20 split, and then the 40 time. So yes it does matter as it shows how well you can maintain that initial quickness and explosiveness which can help your team when being asked to block down the field, but it doesn’t matter as much as the initial quickness you show off the snap.
Bench Press - 24 reps
Significance -Upper Body Strength
Does it matter: Instinct would indicate that this is a key metric for any offensive lineman. For players who handle some of the strongest pass-rushers in the game, having the upper body strength to maintain blocks is vital. When Orlando Brown Jr fell below 20 reps, a lot was made of it but here we are a few years later and Orlando is a 4x Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion. I’d still prefer any lineman to hit at least 20 reps, but if they have play strength then you can handle them falling below the 24.
Vertical Jump - 30 inches
Broad Jump - 8 feet, 6 inches
Significance - Explosiveness. Lower Body Strength
Does it matter: In short it matters because lower body strength, and explosiveness in the legs are key for offensive linemen when getting out in the run game. You want to see that lower body strength and 30 inches will showcase your ability to generate power in an instant. It’s not the most important metric, but scouts pay attention.
Short Shuttle - 4.65 seconds
3-Cone - 7.85 seconds
Significance - Flexibility, Burst & Balance, Agility, Lateral Quickness
Does it matter: Absolutely, and I’d argue that it matters more for the Jets than some teams in the league. Both the short shuttle and the 3-code test change of direction and your ability to move laterally. If you’re running a lot of outside zones and you ask your linemen to get out and pull/lead block, then you’re going to want a tackle who has the agility to do that.
I was taking a look at the mean averages for offensive tackles in the combine, and this is how your standard tackle will shape up:
Arm Length: 34.1
Hand Size: 10.0
40-Yard Dash: 5.20
10-Yard Split: 1.79
20-Yard Split: 2.98
Bench Press: 24.4
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.75
Remember those are the means, and if you want to be one of the best you need to be above average. But when you’re watching the combine, keep these stats in mind for the offensive tackles.
In terms of the schedule, here’s how it breaks down for the offensive tackles. Just so you have an idea of how the combine looks as a complete event, rather than just the bits that get broadcast on NFL Network. You can’t ever say I don’t try and include all the key information:
Wednesday March 1st: Registration, Orientation, Team Interviews
Thursday March 2nd: Pre-Exam, NFLPA Meeting, Team Interviews
Friday March 3rd: General Medical, Studies, Broadcast Interviews
Saturday March 4th: Orthopedic Exams, Media & Team Interviews
Sunday March 5th: Measurements, On-Field Workouts
Monday March 6th: Bench Press & Departure
Hundreds of players will descend on Indianapolis but only 22 offensive tackles have been invited. For reference 24 offensive tackles were drafted last year and significantly more were added as UDFA’s after the draft. So while the cream of the crop tends to receive the invites, some tackles who will likely become household names won’t be in attendance. I’ve included all the players invited below and in brackets, I’ve put their projections in terms of draft stock:
Asim Richards, North Carolina (4th Round)
Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion (3rd Round)
Peter Skoronski, Northwestern (Top 15)
Tyler Steen, Alabama (3rd Round)
Dalton Wagner, Arkansas (7th Round)
Carter Warren, Pittsburgh (4th Round)
Darnell Wright, Tennessee (2nd Round)
Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse (2nd Round)
Earl Bostick Jr., Kansas (7th Round)
Braeden Daniels, Utah (4th Round)
Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland (3rd Round)
Blake Freeland, BYU (5th Round)
Connor Galvin, Baylor (6th Round)
Richard Gouraige, Florida (5th Round)
Anton Harrison, Oklahoma (2nd Round)
Ryan Hayes, Michigan (4th Round)
Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State (Top 15)
Broderick Jones, Georgia (1st Round)
Dawand Jones, Ohio State (1st Round)
Jaxson Kirkland, Washington (4th Round)
Wanya Morris, Oklahoma (4th Round)
John Ojukwu, Boise State (5th Round)
Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Oregon (5th Round)
Name: Jaxson Kirkland
Position: Offensive Tackle
Team: Washington Huskies
Projection: 4th Round
2022 Stats: 0 sacks, 9 pressures, 99.0 pass-blocking efficiency, 73.2 run-block grade
Height/Weight: 6’7, 322lbs
Strengths: Offers the kind of versatility that a lot of NFL franchises will covet. Has played left tackle, left guard, and right guard in college and projects both outside and inside. Technically he’s a refined pass blocker with a good mirror, enough foot speed, and plays with good awareness. His length allows him to latch on and keep players out of his frame and he’s continued to improve his leverage throughout college. Obvious that he understands blocking angles and uses them to his advantage. Good on the move, and showcases good balance for a 6’7 tackle.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t always play with a solid anchor, and the lower half isn’t as strong as you’d want it to be. Two-hand striker who may be easy to read at the NFL level, needs to learn to use his hands independently. Not a road grader in the run game and again I come back to the lack of power in the lower half. Although his leverage has improved, he still struggles to win the low game consistently.
Final View: I think with some work Kirkland can become a decent NFL swing tackle. I don’t think his power translates inside at the next level but his balance and mirror technique make him a nice option at tackle. He’ll need to improve his hands and his leverage to stick, but I can see him becoming a good backup in a year or two with good practice reps.
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