Scouting the 2013 Draft: Offensive Tackles, Part 6

Here are our previous columns on tackle prospects:

I’ve noticed that with the increasing tendencies of offenses and defenses to ‘flip-flop’ their lines, TEs and edge rushers are often on either side of the OL.

With the multiple receiver packages that have become the norm, both tackles will often face top rushers over the course of the game - think of how Denver is using Von Miller as a joker and moving him around the line.

That’s a tendency that might even up who plays LT and who plays RT to some degree. Right now, I’m going to maintain the approach of using the most talented tackles at LT, but teams may become less concerned with that in the future. The discussion of where a tackle plays affects both of the OTs we’ll  discuss today.

John Wetzel - Boston College - 6-7, 315 lb

In some ways, John Wetzel reminds me of a somewhat lesser version of Big Orlando Franklin. He’s got the same kind of heavy feet that Franklin entered the league with (and has overcome).  Wetzel doesn’t mirror as well as he needs to, and that’s in part due to a slower than average kickslide. He’s in his best element as a big, 317 lb, punishing run-blocker.  I thought he looked a little stiff, in his movements, just as Franklin did until Broncos line coach Dave Magazu got to him. A lot of that tendency can be trained out of most players, as Franklin’s example showed.

Wetzel comes from a program that has a reputation for producing good NFL offensive linemen, just as Franklin did. It was Boston College for Wetzel, the former home of Tom Nalen and Dan Koppen. Big O is from the University of Miami, which has churned out offensive linemen since Tom Kearns was drafted by the NY Giants back in 1945.

John was moved from his position at left tackle, which he played during his junior year, to right tackle as a senior. That’s often not a good sign - it’s most common for the team to have their best player handle the LT role. Franklin moved from LG to LT his senior year, which is more common. Wetzel took the opportunity to show that he’s also excellent as a guard, though. If the role you need filled is a mauling run-blocker, guard or tackle, he’s a good option, and his positional flexibility should improve his draft stock in some degree.

I caught a few of his games and he didn’t jump out at me. Overall, his slower kickslide has meant that his pass blocking needs work - he’ll struggle with speed rushers on the edge until he solves that. His hands are strong, but he needs work on using them properly.

You can see his best value as he finds his targets in the secondary. He has a good base: good hips and strong legs that anchor well. If he can learn to move his feet the way that coach Magazu taught Franklin to between 2011 and 2012, he’ll be much the same kind of RT. I’m not sure that he has Franklin’s upside, but he’s got potential.

I wouldn’t use as high a pick on him as Denver did for Franklin, simply because I saw more pass protection potential from Franklin. I’d look to a team who likes and needs a big, nasty run blocker to take Wetzel. Like Franklin, there will inevitably be a question as to whether he can grade out as an NFL tackle or whether his power and innate meanness are more suited to a guard. I don’t see his potential to handle both right side positions as a negative, so his upside will be greatly dependent on his development in pass pro.

Brennan Williams - North Carolina - 6-6, 319 lb

This little beauty from NFL.com’s summary of Williams reminded me of why I watch tape, and the limits of predraft scouting reports:

Williams is likely limited solely to right tackle because of his height, and lack of athletic ability.

I was surprised to read that, only because it’s total nonsense. Athletic ability is an issue, sure, but 6-6 is a perfectly respectable height for an offensive tackle. Ryan Clady is 6-6, for heaven’s sake. Since when was Clady limited to right tackle? How would being one or two inches taller make him a more athletic tackle?

My basic theory complaints aside, Williams is likely to be a mid- to later-round right tackle candidate, based on his film. He has the basic kickslide, arm/wingspan length, and muscle to be an effective tackle. He also has the feet to keep defenders off of the edge, but he needs to keep his kickslide a little narrower and move his feet faster to mirror and contain speed rushers off the edge. He loses his target too often when he gets to the second level.

He’s got excellent power in his hands and arms, but he tends to lock onto the outside of the numbers when he grabs, and the man with his hands inside will win in the NFL far more often than not. The pros also get called for holding with that technique, although college refs more often let it slide. Nearly every young lineman struggles with pad level, and Williams has to get that more consistently low. He has excellent flexibility, though (he’s a ‘bender’, in the parlance), so that shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

Williams has played right tackle for the last two years, although his 2012 season was cut four games short after he tore the labrum in his shoulder last October. He earned points for being able to work out at all on his pro day, and he showed by doing so that he’s not likely to be having any troubles returning for 2013. His pro day numbers were as follows:

  • 40-yard dash (5.20 seconds)
  • Vertical jump (28.5 inches)
  • Broad jump (8-foot-5)

He shouldn’t have been expected to do any lifting at this point in his recovery. Just putting in the effort to show up and test where he could speaks well for him. The torn labrum might push him a little lower in the draft, depending on the recommendations of the team physicians. If so, someone will get an excellent value.

I’ve said before that there is OT talent in every round this year, and Williams is a good example of that. The raw material is there for at least a starting role at right tackle. Later, he may develop into more than that.

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