As noted on NFL.com on March 29, Mike Mayock sees six tackle prospects as standing out from the rest. I didn’t disagree on any of them:
- Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M)
- Eric Fisher (Central Michigan)
- Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)
- D.J. Fluker (Alabama)
- (tie) Menelik Watson (Florida State) & Justin Pugh (Syracuse)
The good news? There’s a lot more OTs than that who could start within a fairly short period of time. The class is also replete with quality guards (some, like Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, will go in the first round) and some nice centers (Barrett Jones could go in Round 1), so it’s a good year to rebuild for the teams that need or want to upgrade their linemen. That’s nearly all of them.
Today, we'll look at a possible RT from Virginia, a small school standout, and a Colorado player who’s smaller for OT, but has a killer work ethic, a mean streak that you can’t miss, and the best pad level of anyone I’ve seen. Enjoy the buffet!
Oday Aboushi - Virginia - 6-5, 308 lb
Aboushi mainly lined up at right tackle until partway through his junior year, before moving to left tackle for the remainder of his junior and senior seasons. He has good size and shows solid technique and fundamentals, but he seems to lack the killer instinct that you want to see at the NFL level. I like him, but I don't love him.
He's capable of the technical expertise to excel in his position. I just don't know that he has the mindset that the NFL requires. The technical problems that he shows are predictable, given his lack of killer instinct. He hesitates at the wrong times because he’s thinking, not attacking. His feet don't always move when he's punching, and he lets his defender get away from him far too often - he reaches out his hands rather than use his footwork to get a ‘fit’ into the defender.
He is however, an extremely good run blocker who gets to the second level well. He was a second-team all-ACC player, but it's a big jump from there to the NFL.
Terron Armstead - Arkansas-Pine Bluff - 6-5, 306 lb
Armstead amazed everyone with his performance at combine. He may be from a small school, but he showed physical gifts that are rare for an OT in the NFL. He's still a very raw player and will need time to develop, but if you understand that going in, he could provide a substantial return on investment.
Armstead started his draft season with a tremendous performance in the East-West Shrine game practices. He clearly showed that he could stand up to a much higher level of competition that he saw while playing for Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He earned a combine invite and he made the most of it (video). It reminded a lot of people that he’d turned down several Division 1 invites to attend the school of his choice. It didn’t change how talented he is, though. He naturally keeps his pad level low and he turns the corner with his hips down, fully in balance. He has a nice, quick kickslide, and holds his balance very well.
His combine drills and what film I could find on him are intriguing. Armstead's combine test performance included a 4.71-second 40-yard dash, 31 repetitions on the bench press, a 34.5-inch vertical jump, and a 112-inch long jump.
I was far more interested by his drill performance. Performing athletically in shorts is a long way from blowing people off the line in a game situation, but Armstead’s ease in handling tougher competition in the Shrine Game, coupled with his obvious athleticism, smooth movement, and ease in the drills has a lot of scouts going back to look at his film.
David Bakhtiari - Colorado - 6-4, 299 lb
The first thing you notice about David is that he has the most consistently low pad level of any of the offensive tackles that I've watched this past year. Although he's not as big as you would hope for a tackle, he's extremely good at getting his hands into his opponent. He’s unusually aware of when and how his opponent is going to set up a move and has a nice armbar technique for cutting off the path to the quarterback. A starter at left tackle for two seasons, he's highly skilled for a guy coming out of college.
His problems start to show up in his build. He has unusually thin arms for an offensive tackle and might have to move to the interior of the line and bulk up to become a starter. That makes him a late Day 2 or Day 3 project, but he's one who might return on that investment in spades. I particularly like his mean streak. It's a quality that you don't see in every lineman, and you should.
What compensates for his thinner arms is his reputation as a hard worker in the weight room and his natural bend. He has excellent flexibility and keeps his pad level very low. He can pull and trap well, for the teams that favor those approaches, but he’s not as talented in drive and scoop moves (run blocking) as you’d hope. He may have to move to guard in the NFL - his footspeed on the kickslide drills wasn’t that good and he struggled to mirror faster rushers off the edge. He’s also going to need time in the weight room to get the power he’ll need for the interior of the line, where his strengths are maximized.
Still - he’s a very interesting prospect if you look his film. He doesn't test well, and he has some weaknesses in his physical structure. Even so, the rest of what I saw will have me following his career. A player at his level who has that kind of pad level and technical expertise is not a common thing. I suspect that he’ll move inside, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him succeed.
As a general rule, outside of the elite of the group, at this level you’re often going to look for and get potential. Most of these players don’t just want to move to the NFL - they need to, in order to get the developmental environment that colleges can’t always offer. You look for their innate flexibility - can they squat easily with their heels flat? Do they have the necessary bend in the spine, power in the core, is their balance between muscle and loose weight good enough to mold? Is their level of skill and effort in drills when they’re gassed still strong? You compare those things to their game film and you look at how they finish plays and set up the defenders to decide if you can trust them. Undrafted free agents and late round picks often mature into excellent starting linemen, so looking at some of the lesser known options is a good way to keep your team developing.
I won’t be covering guards much this year unless they played tackle in college, so I’m going to add a shoutout here to Ohio’s OG Eric Herman. Eric will probably go in the later rounds, but Mike Mayock noted during the combine that he might be the single toughest lineman at the event. I saw him play and caught some of his drills. Other players might have better genetic physical gifts, but I don’t think that anyone has done more with them. Best of luck to him in the draft.