Why did the Broncos draft Vinston Painter over David Quessenberry?

With the 173rd pick in the 2013 Draft, the Broncos took Virginia Tech tackle Vinston Painter. Three picks later, the Texans took tackle David Quessenberry. Both players have positional flexibility and might play guard in the NFL. Each was converted from another position - Painter from defensive tackle, and Quessenberry from tight end.

I’ve read in a couple of articles the idea that Painter only has a single year of offensive line work to point to, but it’s not quite true. To clarify how much experience Painter has there, consider this:

Painter, who is the cousin of Virginia Tech receiver Randall Dunn, earned first-team All-Tidewater and first-team All-Eastern District honors on the offensive line as both a junior and senior at Maury High. He was also was second-team all-district as a defensive tackle. Painter actually began his Virginia Tech career at defensive tackle, as he worked there during the fall of his redshirt season (2009), before he moved to offensive tackle for spring practice.

More details can be found here on the official team site. Painter played some guard in 2010, although he didn’t start; he also got in a lot of special teams work during his sophomore and junior years. The confusion comes because he only started in his 13 games as a senior at VT, but he has film from both 2011 and 2012 available. I watched some of his 2011 performances as well as those from 2012 (by referencing his game logs and watching for him) and I could see the improvement between the two. I liked that.

Quessenberry converted from tight end to offensive left tackle during his redshirt sophomore year and stayed there as a three-year starter; he was also a captain during his senior year. When you compare the two, Quessenberry has more experience and starting time at the college level along the offensive line, while Painter had learned the basics of OL play in high school before trying out defensive tackle and then making the move back to the OL.

Taken in the same round, just three picks apart, and with similar histories, you’d expect these two players to be roughly equivalent. The questions I had were three, given the narrow range of the picks:

  1. How are these two players similar?
  2. How are they different?
  3. What would push Denver to chose Painter over Quessenberry?

A little research and a lot of film later, I feel comfortable with the answers.

Size

At the scouting combine, Quessenberry measured at 6-5 and 302 lb, while Painter was 6-4 and 306 lb. When watching them on film, Painter’s legs are clearly more powerful, while Quessenberry’s are on the thin side. Each displays a naturally wide stance.

Both have long arms - Painter's are 34 inches, while Quessenberry’s are nearly 34.5 inches. 35 inches is considered something of the Holy Grail of arm length for tackles, although plenty of good tackles have arms that are shorter than that. 34 inches or over is considered very good.

Technique

Prior to the draft, I had noted that Quessenberry had balance issues in several situations. He was rag-dolled by a 235-lb linebacker in BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, which was downright embarrassing. That problem showed up in multiple games.

Both players lunge at times, getting their shoulders too far in front of their legs before their hands have locked into the defender. I didn’t see quite the same level of concern with Painter, but he did show some of the problems Quessenberry had.

Both players need to move their feet better and use them with their hands to get their ‘fit’ on the defender.

Run/Pass

Painter didn’t perform markedly better when pass or run blocking - he was about equally effective in both.

Quessenberry is troubled by the unholy trinity of balance, size, and power issues. When he’s not out of balance, he’s got pretty good footwork - he’s had more time at the position, and it shows. Quessenberry struggles to shuffle and mirror his assignment, falling into a back pedal in his pass pro. His hands aren’t active enough. He has a good punch, but fails to lock up.

Strength

There’s a massive difference between raw strength and functional strength that comes from proper technique. In 2010, Painter, according to the Broncos website,

Excelled in the off-season program with a 465-pound bench press and 485-pound front squat.

He’s got the innate strength - now he needs the technical skills to apply that to his game, creating functional strength.

Both players could also use more good weight. I’ve read some people that don’t think that Painter can fill out more, and I’d respectfully disagree. He has low body fat for a tackle (estimates run between 10% and 16%). Having watched as much of his combine tape as possible, I saw plenty of room for muscular expansion. Many offensive linemen also decide to carry a fat layer in the stomach area to reduce the impacts to that region.

Legs and Hips:

Both players are adept at keeping their pad level low, which kept them from being pushed off the LOS. A difference of four pounds may not seem like a lot when you’re working with 300-plus-pound players, but you also have to look at where the player is carrying that size. Painter’s powerful legs and lower body strength are a big advantage.

Quessenberry’s legs are thin - it’s just part of who he is, genetically; he’s top-heavy and susceptible to cut blocks. He’s had ankle injuries in each of the last two years, so his thin legs do affect him.

Painter’s legs are stronger, and so is his ability to anchor. He did have a kneecap dislocated during his first major spring scrimmage - he also missed the last eight games of that season.

Stray Factors

Quessenberry obviously has more game experience. He had a good Senior Bowl week and was moved around during the practices, performing well inside.

Painter, on the other hand, had worked at guard as well as tackle and special teams. He had an excellent combine, including a 4.95-second 40, to Quessenberry’s 5.08. Painter had 32 reps on the bench; Quessenberry was limited to 25. Painter also had a 30.5-inch vertical; Quessenberry’s was 29.5.

Painter takes the combine drills over Quessenberry - his numbers there put him in the top five among linemen in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump.

Scheme

The real test was each player’s projected role. Quessenberry makes sense for the Texans - he’s light on his feet and should be able to eventually excel in the Alex Gibbs-based zone blocking scheme that Houston employes.

Footwork and hand technique are the keystones to that system, and he’ll have to work on both. You don’t have to be lighter in weight to play it well, but it gives Houston a way to effectively use players that wouldn’t be as desirable in a different scheme. I’d expect that they can develop him enough for their needs if he sticks long enough.

Painter is needed as a swing tackle. Chris Clark, for all the work he’s done, is not a swing tackle - he’s an extra in-line TE. He hasn’t shown the talent to step up as an OT for any length of time. When there was an injury at tackle, the Broncos were in trouble. Denver no longer employs the ZB system as it was once used by the Broncos, and the player choices show it. John Fox has always preferred some size on the lines.

Virginia Tech used a no-huddle-heavy offense last season, so Painter has experience in that system. He isn’t ready for a move to left OT (where he’d be more likely to be playing on an island), but I believe that he can handle Clark’s assignments and any ST work now, and he should be an acceptable backup RT in the fairly near future.

Both players might be a year or two out from being ready to play regularly in the NFL.

I believe that Orlando Franklin’s performance during his senior year at Miami showed that he had the skills for left tackle, and his improvement under coach Dave Magazu has been nothing short of impressive. In an emergency, he should be able to flip to the left side, with Painter stepping up at right tackle.

Quessenberry hasn’t the level of natural power that I’ve seen from Painter - Painter’s mistakes and problems are generally issues of technique. Both players could use some help understanding getting to and working in the second level.

If Vinston does end up starting during his rookie year due to injuries, he should be expected to have a learning curve in actual games - he’s still learning. He’ll have some rough games if he doesn’t get a full development year, but he’s unlikely to be a disaster with a year’s hard work in him. From all I’ve seen, Clark would be disastrous in the same circumstance. That’s huge in terms of which one you keep active (or at all).

There's also Clark's $1.323M salary, which more than triples the $405K minimum salary that Painter will receive.

Upside

Which player has the most upside? For the Broncos, it’s Painter. He’s stronger, a bit faster, and for a guy with that little actual game experience, he played some impressive stretches last season in particular: he graded out over 80% in every game.

That’s the kind of thing that you look to develop further. Quessenberry is always going to be athletic and will be a little lighter, thinner in the legs, and a little less powerful. His upside is probably more limited, but his scheme fit should maximize his potential.

Conclusion

As the addition of Louis Vasquez shows, Denver is looking to create a team that has a lot of beef on their lines. Painter fits that - he’s not huge, but he’s big enough (he’s already a little bigger than Zane Beadles) and can get much stronger over time. While he’s still working on developing starting tackle abilities, his special teams work and basic blocking skills should help the Broncos immediately.

Who you choose is usually based on what role you want that player for, and from that standpoint, I think Denver made a good choice. Painter is going to need to work hard, but he suits the kind of developmental player with upside that the Broncos were looking for.

Best of luck to him.

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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