NFL Draft: What Happened to the Sure Thing Offensive Tackle?
What happened to the sure thing offensive tackle prospect? The offensive tackle position use to be considered the safest position to draft in the first round. It now has one of the highest bust rates among all the other positions. Today we are going to look at some of the possible reasons as to why that is happening.
SPREAD OFFENSES IN COLLEGE
The popularity of the spread offense is one of the downfalls of offensive tackle play. Starting from before the high school level and then going into college, most offensive tackles will never block from a three-point stance. They will almost always play in an offense that never goes under center. This type of offense is usually simple to learn, with few line calls, and easier verbiage to pick up. This is probably why it is so popular at the high school level. The problem is, when these players get to the NFL evaluation phase, it is almost all projection. Projections without proof tend to get you in trouble.
The biggest recent examples of this are Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M (2013, 2nd overall, Jaguars) and Greg Robinson of Auburn (2014, 2nd overall, Rams). Meanwhile, in the 2016 draft, you get two players from a more traditional offense like Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame (6th overall, Ravens) and Jack Conklin of Michigan State (8th overall, Titans), who have had a quicker level of success. There has been some success with a spread conversion. The Eagles have had tremendous success with their 2013, 4th overall pick, Lane Johnson of Oklahoma.
The collective bargaining agreement signed between the NFL and the NFLPA in 2011, has also played a part in this. There is less practice time in the offseason. There is less hitting in practice. Also, there is no doubt in my mind that this stunts potential growth, especially for the tackles that you have to make projections on. It takes a long time to erase years of muscle memory.
As little as ten years ago, if a player flamed out at left tackle, you could move him to the right side and everything would be hunky dory. You can’t really do that anymore. NFL defensive coordinators got wise to this. Now, you have pass rushers coming at you from all sides. Take the Houston Texans for example. When everyone is healthy, you may be able to neutralize J.J. Watt with your premier left tackle, but if your right tackle is shaky, good luck blocking Jadeveon Clowney.
WHAT IS 2018 GOING TO BRING US?
I have seen at least eight different players mocked into the first round at different points during this process. There is a balance of who I would consider your more traditional tackles and who may take some projecting.
Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Kolton Miller, UCLA
Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Connor Williams, Texas
Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
Brian O’ Neill, Pittsburgh
This draft class is very light at the top for offensive tackle prospects. Because of the position thirst teams have right now, you could see more drafted in the first round than there should be. I like the overall depth of the position, with several late round developmental prospects, but I will only have one player (McGlinchey) that carries a first round grade.