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These guys will protect the edges of the offensive line and keep the quarterbacks safe. Today I rank the top five offensive tackle prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Evan Neal- Alabama
Bio: A five star recruit of high school, Evan Neal became Alabama's starting left guard as a true freshman before moving to right tackle the following year. He was named the starting left tackle as a junior and was named a first team All-American.
Strengths: Ridiculous combination of size, strength, and length. Played against elite competition over his three years in school. Much more agile after losing 15 pounds between sophomore and junior seasons. Technically sound for the position. Can study and copy stance and movements repeatedly to each snap. Great body control and fluidity for his size. Patient and delivers accurate first punch. Proper leverage during contact and can upend smaller rushers. Hand placement and leg drive creates holes on down blocks. Access to several pass protection techniques. Quick off the snap and into slide position. Maintains balance on inside leg during pass sets. On time punches allow him to use his length to his advantage. Light feet to redirect defenders inside. Resets quickly. Good counter technique against spin moves.
Weaknesses: Weight management has been an issue in the past. Plays style lacks intensity and mean streak. Average awareness to shifting pieces. Feet need to work with hands to maintain lateral slides. Erratic effort to sustain and negate defenders as a junior. Has a habit if taking too much force from bull rushers. Base breaks down from the top of rushes. Inconsistent anchor for someone of his size. Poor recover speed. Doesn't create as much movement in the running game as you'd expect.
Pro Comparison: Tristan Wirfs
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Ikem Ekwonu- North Carolina State
Bio: A three sport star who turned down offers from Harvard and Yale, Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu chose to play at the FBS level with North Carolina State. As a true freshman, he started the final seven games at left tackle and led the team with 37 pancake blocks. He split his sophomore season between guard and tackle and was an All-ACC selection at both spots
Strengths: Excellent character traits that teams love. Skills to fit into any offensive scheme. Comes from an athletic family. Wrestling and weight lifting background are apparent in his on field play. Blasts through defenders in the run game. Generates energy from base to hands to deliver stunning punch to throw off edge rushers. Fluid with decent agility in zone sets. Burst to get backside block defensive tackles. Body control to stay in front of linebackers on the next level. Plays with a violent mean streak. Decent slide and range in pass sets. Continued hand improvement throughout his college tenure. Uses length to his advantage when timing hits. Field clearer in the open field, perfect for the screen game. Versatile and excels playing either tackle or guard.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal length some teams look for in tackles. Reckless at time and needs to keep ferocity in check. A lot of improvement needed in pass protection. Hasn't shown he can keep his hands and feet in sync. Punch timing and technique needs coached up. Carries weight on outside leg in pass sets, causing balance issues. Has to keep feet driving through first contact to limit space outside. Knee bend and leverage are just average at the point of attack. Hand placement is erratic on pass and run plays. Combo block technique is overly stiff.
Pro Comparison: Zack Martin
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: New York Jets
3. Charles Cross- Mississippi State
Bio: After redshirting his first year at Mississippi State, Charles Cross was named the Bulldogs starting left tackle the next season. In 2021, he had another strong season and was named first team All-SEC. He decided to forgo his final two season and enter the draft as a redshirt sophomore.
Strengths: Filled out, well proportioned frame. Consistent level of play no matter who the opponent is. Each pass protection snap is identical. Hand placement is textbook. Utilizes arm length in pass protection. Well timed punches in the face of rushers. Inside arm improves power and balance in sets. Strength and fluidity to keep defenders in front of him. Leads rushers around the pocket. Good skills to recover and reset. Flexible ankles to maintain a strong anchor. Powers through in run blocks with strong jab. Hands like glue to sustain blocks in the pocket or in space. Keeps legs moving to finish blocks.
Weaknesses: Average athlete and struggles to be consistent as a move blocker. Positioning on reach blocks is inconsistent. Footwork to seal the edge against linebackers is just average. Passive in pass protection. Struggles to recover against inside moves. Panics and holds, resulting in flags. Sets and punches need more variety. Base narrows against speed rushers. Power rushers create some initial issues. Has to learn to deal with twists and spin moves.
Pro Comparison: Jonah Williams
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: New York Giants
4. Trevor Penning- Northern Iowa
Bio: After seeing limited playing time his first two years at Northern Iowa, Trevor Penning became the starting left tackle in 2019. Over the next three seasons, he deiminated FCS competition and was named first team all conference.
Strengths: Old school, tenacious style of play. Big, broad and strong frame with ideal center of gravity. Added nearly 100 pounds since coming to NIU. Solid knee bend for someone his size. Consistent and precise movements in the run game. Gets to the second level with maintained balance and body control. Serviceable quickness and athleticism on sweeps. Size and strength to pancake smaller defenders. Plays like he wants to make opponents wish they never played the game. Gets good depth on pass sets. Strong strikes right into rusher's stomachs. When he gets the feel for the pro game, he'll be hard to get by.
Weaknesses: Mean streak needs to be controlled. Strength in zone plays is surprisingly average. Hands need to get stronger. Size makes him slow to adjust. Struggles moving on to second target on combos. Early turns leaves his inside open in pass protection. Could have issues maintaining outside hand punch against speedy edge rushers. Poor awareness and adjustments to spin moves. Needs to gather and learn counter moves.
Pro Comparison: Kaleb McGary
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Las Vegas Raiders
5. Daniel Faalele- Minnesota
Bio: Growing up playing rugby and basketball in Australia, Daniel Faalele drew interest from FBS schools and enrolled at IGM Academy to learn football. By 2018, he was the starting right tackle at Minnesota. He started 31 games over four years and was a first team All-Big Ten selection as a senior.
Strengths: Freakishly huge with great length and nimble feet. Thick frame with monster hands. Continued improvement is almost a given. Decent technical movements. Wide wingspan to reach defenders on run plays. Power generates from base to hands. Massive size makes him nearly impossible to move. Impressive lateral movement for a big man. Willing to improvise to get ahead of rushers. Hand strength to destroy any hope of secondary rush tries. Bull rushers would be wasting their time trying to get through him.
Weaknesses: Leverage limitations due to size. Play style is more technical than instinctive. Occasionally passive on down blocks against nose tackles. Slow getting up to the linebackers. Slides off sustaining blocks too often. Outside arc leaves inside opportunities in pass sets. Hands need to be more patient in pass protection. Slow to react and keep gaps open. Lacks speed to keep quicker rushers in his frame. Struggles to push rushers past the quarterback.
Pro Comparison: Mekhi Becton
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Cincinnati Bengals
Other Notable Prospects
Zion Johnson- Boston College
- Versatile to play anywhere on the line, inconsistent footwork
Nicholas Petit-Frere- Ohio State
- Quick hands, doesn't maximize length
Darian Kinnard- Kentucky
- Well distributed frame, slow in pass protection
Bernhard Raimann- Central Michigan
- Good leverage, slow to recognize and adjust
Max Mitchell- Louisiana
- Great athletic abilty, lighter than the ideal tackle
Braxton Jones- Southern Utah
- Nimble feet, lacks great play strength
Matt Waletzko- North Dakota
- Rare length, Poor hand placement
Andrew Stueber- Michigan
- Active and fast hands, struggle to adjust
Abraham Lucas- Washington State
- Prototype frame, Slow movements in space
Rasheed Walker- Penn State
- Strong initial punches, several mental mistakes
Thayer Munford- Ohio State
- Experience playing inside, poor body control and balance
Dare Rosenthal- Kentucky
- impressive athleticism, raw techically
Spencer Burford- Texas San Antonio
- Quick off the snap, needs to bulk up
Nick Zakelj- Fordham
- Aggressive at the line, short arms for a tackle
Obinna Eze- TCU
- Great upper body strength, struggles to sustain contact
Alec Anderson- UCLA
- Patient in pass sets, frame needs filled out
Luke Tenuta- Virginia Tech
- Light on his feet, poor length to play on the outside
Vederian Lowe- Illinois
- Sturdy lower body, lacks lateral quickness
Myron Cunningham- Arkansas
- Ideal frame, questionable technique
Ryan Van Denmark- Connecticut
- Long limbed, struggles with leverage
Jake Snyder- San Jose State
- Five years starter, short arms
Caleb Jones- Indiana
- Natural strong, weight management issues