Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2014 Senior Offensive Tackle Rankings (Preseason)

1.      Jake Matthews  -  6’5” / 305  -  Texas A&M

A highly celebrated recruit in College Station, Matthews made an immediate impact in seven starts as a freshman, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. He replaces Luke Joeckel at left tackle in 2013 after 33 starts on the right side. Matthews is not blessed with the elite length and athleticism his former teammate possessed, but his balance and technique are unmatched in this class. While he exhibits quickness off the snap, clean footwork, and the ability to absorb contact at the point of attack, his success ultimately hinges upon his ability to engage the defender in front of him. Defenders who combine length and lateral quickness seem to give him the most trouble, outreaching him and preventing him from latching on. Matthews is not a Top 10 prospect physically, but he clearly outperforms the players listed below him here.    

2.     Taylor Lewan  -  6’7” / 310  -  Michigan

Lewan enters his final season at Michigan having started 35 games at left tackle. A superior physical prospect to Matthews in terms of length, Lewan also possesses the requisite athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL. He is an aggressive, physical run blocker who does an excellent job of using his length and power to drive defenders off the ball. He gets good initial depth and shows quick feet in his kick slide, but his ability to anchor and change directions are adversely affected by his suspect balance, leaving him susceptible to bull rushes and counter moves. Lewan is the type of finisher that offensive line coaches love, but he needs to learn to play with better overall balance and control if he is to move ahead of Matthews and become an elite left tackle prospect.   

3.     Seantrel Henderson  -  6’8” / 340  -  Miami (Fla)

If viewed purely from a physical talent standpoint, Henderson would be at the top of these rankings. A towering figure at 6-foot-8, he is blessed with movement skills rarely seen from a 340-pound athlete. He plays with a wide base, and does a good job shuffling his light feet to mirror in pass protection. His hand placement is questionable at times, and he needs to do a better job of sustaining blocks, but he is able to jolt defenders with tremendous power when he connects with his initial punch. Concerns with Henderson are centered more around his maturity and motivation than they are his talent. That said, he stands to earn a considerable amount of money in 2013 if he can demonstrate better dedication and consistency to complement his exceptional physical gifts.

4.     Morgan Moses  -  6’6” / 325  -  Virginia

Moses has totaled 31 starts during his three years at Virginia, and is set to replace the departed Oday Aboushi as the Cavaliers left tackle in his final season.  Moses is able to hide some of his athletic limitations behind sound overall technique, but he still has his share of difficulties in pass protection. He plays with good bend and balance, demonstrating the ability to absorb contact and anchor against power, but his greatest strength is his ability to move defenders in the running game. Moses could play right tackle in the NFL, but he has the physical makeup to potentially dominate at guard, where his strengths would be better emphasized without exposing his weaknesses on the edge. 

5.     Cornelius Lucas  -  6’8” / 325  -  Kansas State

Lucas earned All-Big 12 honors in his first season as a starter, during which he protected the blind side of a Kansas State offensive line that allowed just 14 sacks all year. He overwhelms defenders in the ground game, using his long arms to latch onto and steer defenders away from running lanes. He consistently demonstrates the ability to win with his length, but he must do a better job of keeping his feet moving after contact and sustaining blocks until the whistle. A bit clumsy in his kick slide, Lucas struggles with speed on the edge. If he can play with better knee bend and improve his overall footwork, Lucas has the potential to be very effective on the right side in a run-heavy offense.   

6.     JaWuan James  -  6’6” / 324  -  Tennessee

James has started each of Tennessee’s 37 games at right tackle over the course of his college career. His great size and ability to win with either power or athleticism make his NFL potential obvious when you watch him on tape. From a technical standpoint, however, he is hardly a finished product. Poor hand placement and footwork often cause him play off balance, issues that will need to be corrected if he is to succeed against experienced edge defenders at the next level. His development under new offensive line coach Don Mahoney will play a big part in determining his draft stock, because how well he responds to coaching will be telling when teams try to project his NFL ceiling.  

7.     Jack Mewhort  -  6’5” / 310  -  Ohio State

Following the 2011 season in which he split starts at right and left guard, Mewhort took over for Mike Adams as Ohio State’s starting left tackle in 2012, and became a leader on the offensive line. Mewhort plays with good leverage in the ground game, showing the ability to seal off running lanes and extend plays with blocks at the second level. With opposing defenses normally playing contain against Braxton Miller, Mewhort does not regularly face all-out pass rushes on the edge. When tested, he does a good job of using his hands to slow down rushers, but lacks great lateral agility and struggles to mirror in space. He projects best either inside at guard or at right tackle in a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL.

8.    Zack Martin  -  6’4” / 305  -  Notre Dame

When Martin announced his intentions to return to South Bend for his final season, the Fighting Irish welcomed back a team captain and a starter of 38 consecutive games at left tackle. Martin is very quick off the snap and consistently gets good hand placement, latching onto and driving defenders out of running lanes. His technique and footwork are generally sound, but his athletic limitations show up when he is asked to pull or mirror defenders in space. These are likely reasons why he is frequently covered by a blocking tight end in the Notre Dame offense. Lacking ideal height and feet for an NFL tackle, Martin will almost certainly have to kick inside to play guard at the next level, where he has the makeup to become a quality starter.      

9.     James Hurst  -  6’6” / 310  -  North Carolina

Having won the starting left tackle job as a true freshman, Hurst enters his senior season with 35 career starts on the blind side. He definitely looks the part of an NFL offensive tackle, with great height and long arms. He does a good job moving his feet and using his length to wall off defenders in the running game. He plays too high, making it difficult for him to gain sufficient leverage at the point of attack. He has a tough time in pass protection as well, gaining limited depth in his initial step and ultimately abandoning his kick slide altogether once the defender blows by him on the edge. Hurst is not an NFL left tackle, and he will have to play with better pad level and get better push in the running game if he is to secure a starting job as a guard or strong-side tackle.  

10. Wesley Johnson – 6’5” / 285  -  Vanderbilt

Johnson redshirted in 2008, adding 15 pounds to his slight frame in preparation for the physicality of the SEC. He has since started all of Vanderbilt’s 38 games. While added depth up front should allow him to focus solely on playing left tackle in 2013, Johnson has demonstrated his versatility, logging starts at four positions on the offensive line (26 at left tackle, seven at center, three at right tackle, and two at right guard) during his three seasons with the Commodores. He will need to add weight and increase his overall strength before he sees the field in the NFL, but there is definite upside to develop with his combination of length, athleticism, and impressive movement skills.

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