A player that will have to move from his natural position at the college level to a new position at the NFL level will always make scouts and GMs nervous. However, when it comes to offensive linemen, there is a pretty strong history of it working out well.
New York Giants guards Justin Pugh and John Greco were both offensive tackles in college, but don’t quite have the frames to live on the edge in the NFL. Likewise, Zack Martin went from being a left tackle at Notre Dame with a questionable kick-slide to an All-Pro guard, as did Joel Bitonio for the Cleveland Browns. The Green Bay Packers have had several successes selecting left tackles who didn’t quite have the frame for the NFL and transitioning them inside to guard.
That mold of player, former tackles who don’t quite have the length to play on the edge, tend to have excellent feet and quickness for guards, and are able to use leverage and angles to maximize their power and move very well as pullers or at the second level.
The 2018 NFL Draft brings another excellent candidate for that type of player in Nevada’s Austin Corbett.
- Good feet. Footwork isn’t always clean, but he never labors to move, and appears to move well at the second level.
- Natural knee bender. Doesn’t have an issue sinking his hips to improve leverage or uncoiling to generate power.
- Very good core strength. Able to generate torque to get defenders on the ground when he gains half-man leverage.
- Does well when faced with stunts and twists. Easily passes off defenders and picks up loopers.
- Durable player. Has started 48 of 49 possible games
- High work ethic. Former walk-on, turned four-year starter at left tackle.
- Leader on the team, voted team captain.
- Played in a spread-option offense that combined Air Raid and triple-option principles. Could face a sharp learning curve in the NFL.
- Inconsistent hand usage.
- Struggles when faced with wide alignment defenders (particularly rushers from the 9-technique)
- Will have to transition inside to guard or center at the next level.
What they’re saying
Analysis: I liked Corbett coming into the season, and my affection for his skills moved up several ticks after the week of Senior Bowl practice. He played multiple positions throughout the week -- center, guard and right tackle -- and dominated most of the opponents he faced. He’s not an agile or nimble blocker but is a strong, methodical player who could slide into the second round of the draft.
Corbett is going to be a bit of a project in the NFL. First, he will have to transition inside to guard (or possilby center) from the tackle position and get used to the more frenetic pace on the interior of the offensive line, then he will have to learn how to play out of a 3-point stance in an NFL blocking scheme.
From there, whatever team drafts him will have to clean up his technique issues, most notably his hands. Corbett’s hand usage is inconsistent. On some snaps his hands will be really good, shooting out, jolting defenders in their chest plates, latching on and controlling them. On other snaps, his hands will be wild and wind up outside defenders’ frameworks and he will either have to fight to establish inside position or be beaten. And then on still other plays, his hands are downright late and the defender initiates contact, and Corbett usually loses the rep.
But with all that said, Corbett could well be a diamond in the rough.
The easy comparison to make is another former Nevada offensive tackle turned NFL guard, who was, in fact, Corbett’s predecessor as Nevada’s left tackle, Joel Bitonio.
Bitonio was considered too small to be an offensive tackle in the NFL, so he was moved inside for the Cleveland Browns. Comparing Corbett to Bitonio is a bit of a tall ask, but it might also be an apt comparison. Bitonio has thrived since moving inside and the gritty, hard working Corbett could do the same.
The Giants have questions inside at left guard, Corbett’s most likely spot, and if they believe that he can make the adjustment fast enough, he very well could be an option on the second day of the draft.
For all the adjustments he will have to make, the foundation is there for a good starting offensive lineman. How good is up to Corbett and the team that drafts him.