Prior to the 2017 college football season, as many as seven offensive tackles were strongly considered to be first round prospects. Seven months later, that figure could be reduced to possibly/maybe just two hearing their names called among the first thirty-two selections.
On the other end of the spectrum, just one offensive guard was considered a first round prospect prior to the 2017 campaign - Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. Now, scouts feel there are three elite interior blockers who will earn first round status in late April.
Examining the 2018 offensive tackle class
Currently, of the 31 offensive tackles that attended the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, generous estimates regard 17 as draft-worthy talent, with seven more looking on the fringes of Day Three or joining a team as a camp free agent. Just one of the 17 potential draftees - Oklahoma State’s Zachary Crabtree, a 6-foot-6, 318-pound starter for the Cowboys on the right side, was a Combine snub. Projections for the draft eligibles seem to indicate one, possibly two first-round talents within that group. Five appear to be taken during the draft’s Day 2 events, with four more likely to follow in Round 4. Two have attained fifth-round grades and a pair have sixth-round status, with the rest filing in during the final round.
So, who is likely to be taken first among the offensive tackles?
Cream of the crop — Connor Williams, Texas
Category Explanation...While Williams is still regarded as a first-round prospect, several teams are considering him having better value as a guard rather than at tackle. He could be the first tackle drafted, if a team desires to keep him out on an island, but if an organization regards him as a guard, he will likely fall behind Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson and Texas El-Paso’s Will Hernandez in the draft pecking order.
Note...Of the 49 offensive lineman who participated in the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, Williams led the group in the vertical jump; ranking fifth in the 40-yard dash and broad jump; placed eighth in the 20-yard shuttle and tied for 11th in the bench press.
The 2017 Season...Williams’ season was marred by injury, however, as he would only start the Longhorns’ first three games and final two regular season contests at left tackle due to a left knee injury that he suffered on September 16th vs. Southern California, where he tore his meniscus and sprained his medial and anterior collateral ligaments. Rather than opt for surgery, he elected to undergo an intense rehabilitation program.
The Longhorn later sat out the team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft, having announced that he was leaving school on November 27th. He still garnered second-team All-Big 12 Conference honors, despite only appearing in the Maryland, San Jose State, USC, West Virginia and Texas Tech contests.
Body Structure...Williams has a well-developed frame with room for additional growth. He can carry at least another 25 pounds of bulk without having the additional weight impact his foot speed. He has the less than ideal arm length, but possesses a wide wingspan and broad shoulders you look for in a left tackle. He has a developing big bubble, wide waist and hips, solid thickness in his thighs and calves and firm midsection. With his toned frame and good body fat content, he looks more like a defensive lineman, especially with his sudden explosion off the snap. He looks trim at just a shade under 300 pounds, but that can surprise a defensive lineman, as he has above average strength, and knows how to combine that power with a strong anchor and a long reach that consistently keeps his opponent off his body.
Athletic Ability...Williams has natural strength and quickness, as his 40-yard dash clocking of 5.05 was one of the best among 2018 NFL Draft eligible offensive tackles. He shows excellent balance along with outstanding acceleration when working into the second level, but does struggle a bit with lower body flexibility when suddenly having to change directions. He plays on his feet well, thanks to superb balance and body control working at the line, but you would like to see him adjust more fluidly in space to pick up blocks on the move down field. He can slide and readjust to mirror edge rushers in pass protection, but has to improve his lower body flexibility to drop his pads and anchor firmly vs. stunts and the bull rush. He plays with a strong base, keeping his feet wide and pad level low to generate enough explosion coming off the snap. There are just question on whether he has the lateral range to make adjustments in his pass set. Williams bends his knees with good flexibility and shows that he has the quickness to get out on the edge and seal off the rush (see 2017 Maryland and West Virginia; 2016 Notre Dame and Baylor games). He might be a better fit at guard at the next level, where he can utilize his initial burst (1.72 10-yard dash) and agility to pull and trap with effectiveness from the inside position. He also displays good hand usage to mirror on stunts and blitzes vs. the interior defenders, if he does slide into the guard position.
Football Sense...Williams is an intelligent athlete who is also a hard working student of the game. He tests well and shows solid field vision and instincts, along with several honors for his academic success at Texas. He has no problems learning and retaining plays and hustles until the whistle. He easily takes plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. Even though he honed his skills as a left offensive tackle, you have to be impressed with his vision and ability to acclimate to a possible move in-line. He has a good understanding for blocking schemes, works well in unison with his other blockers and tight end on combo blocks/double teams and can adjust to defensive stunts and games with ease.
Initial Quickness...Williams is aggressive blocker with surprising strength and despite being under 300 pounds, he generates an impressive power base. On contact and when he drives with his feet, he can generate movement on the double team. He generally plays under control and showed in 2016 (see Notre Dame, California, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech games) that he has made good strides in working his hips to wall off and force the chase route (lateral skills are just average). When he gets tall in his stance, he looks a bit stiff in his redirection, but when he stays low in his pads, he swings his hips and runs his feet well leading on the sweep. He is usually in position of advantage, especially when asked to seal, as he has good ability to wheel and cut off the back side. You can see on film his suddenness and snap quickness to get out and lock on to his blocking assignment, but will struggle to redirect a bit when attacking second level defenders. He keeps his head on a swivel when moving into the second level and works hard to finish, but must keep his feet churning when making plays on the move.
Lateral Movement...Williams flashes quick, active feet in his kick slide, but needs to improve his lateral agility to mirror and adjust to stunts. There are times when he will have problems when he has to redirect, and he is much more consistent when he plays at a low pad level. When he drops his weight, he has no problems adjusting to the outside blitz. He moves fluidly to challenge in one-on-one confrontations and has excellent body control playing in-line (ideal for guard), demonstrating the initial kick off the snap to surprise a slower opponent (when he drives with his legs and rolls his hips on contact, even the stronger bull rushers are contained).
Balance/Stays On Feet...Williams displays good balance and body control on the short pull. He does a decent job of adjusting in space, thanks to refining his footwork in recent years (can slide and change direction well to mirror pass rushers working in-line, but if gets up on his heels too much, it could see NFL edge rushers escape with a quick loop). He handles quickness and movement better when he keeps his pads down, as he does a nice job of playing flat-footed. When he gets too tall coming off the snap, his stance prevents him from gaining leverage vs. the bull rush. Earlier in his career, he needed to improve his overall footwork, as he did not always shuffle his feet and explode off the snap to gain movement. He plays mostly in the pro-style offense, so he won’t need much time to adjust his footwork and mechanics to the pro game. He’s a good mauler in the trenches, but I think he will provide better and quicker production in his NFL career if he performs in a zone-blocking scheme. He is quick to gain initial position and on contact, he demonstrates strength, along with the ability to adjust, sustain and finish for the running game (see 2017 Maryland and West Virginia; 2016 California, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech games).
Explosion/Pop...When he stays low in his pads and drives with his legs, Williams generates very good pop on contact, as he has learned how to play flat-footed (will get in trouble when he plays on his heels). He consistently gets proper movement coming out of his stance, but on the move, while he knows how to drop a linebacker with a crunching forearm shot, he does not seem to have the loose hips needed to suddenly redirect. When he stays square in his base and moves laterally, he has the agility to clear out rush lanes working in-line (just not as effective on long runs). He has good confidence in his overall strength (likes to attack with his hands often) but if he gets too upright in his stance, defenders with a low center of gravity can fire off the line and escape through the backside. He has a very forceful hand punch when he keeps them inside his framework and while not explosive on the move, he has developed into a quality cut blocker.
Run Blocking...Williams needs to add bulk to his linear frame to handle the more physical defensive tackles, if he is to shift inside at the pro level. He has valid foot speed to handle defensive ends when playing on an island at the NFL level, but his quickness off the snap allows him to get into a lethargic defender’s body before his opponent has a chance to react, though. He is good at reaching and scooping, especially when he sinks his weight to gain advantage and seal off. With his impressive and strong base, he does get good movement on drive blocks vs. smaller opponents. I like that he is consistently aggressive on the run and he has the ability to easily work on the combo block, thanks to his body control when making contact. He is a physical upper body blocker, best suited to play in a zone scheme, and he has that raw power needed to root out and move level-one defenders when working in-line. With that wingspan, big hands, but less than ideal arm length, he can still reach and scoop. He consistently gains advantage and seals off, along with showing he excels at getting movement on the double-team (see 2017 Maryland; 2016 Oklahoma State and Baylor games).
Pass Blocking...Williams is quick in his pass set, thanks to working hard in improving his footwork. Even when he over-sets, he has the agility to recover along the line and in the backfield, despite some hip stiffness. He plays with good knee bend and uses his wing span effectively to cover vs. edge rushers. He shows good movement aspects in his pass protection when he bends his knees properly (no longer shows must waist bending action). He can reach and seal with suddenness, thanks to his quick first step. It is rare to see him beaten vs. edge rushers (the few times that defenders had success with penetrations vs. him, it came on stunts and twists). When he seals a five-tech, he flashes the ability to cut off the back side. You have to be impressed with his pass set technique as he keeps his pads lower to generate more explosion coming off the snap. He sets with good quickness and has that strong base needed to anchor (see 2017 Maryland and West Virginia games), showing good hand usage and arm extension, along with the ability and effort to slide and mirror. He has proven that when he maintains balance, he has no problem handling counter moves.
Pulling/Trapping...Williams is effective at reaching and scooping on run blocks. He pulls with good explosion and improved his ability to land in space, but does not always adjust effectively on the move to hit oncoming targets, thanks to a bit of hip stiffness. Still, it is rare to see him struggle to generate straight-line movement (not used much on sweeps, but has recorded 10 second level blocks in his last 13 games). With his quick feet, he does show urgency getting out in front and is developing a good feel for angling. With his foot speed, he can do the job when needed to locate and land in space. He pulls with above average body control and keeps his head on a swivel, as this intelligent player has the ability to adjust on the move (just needs to open his hips better and not cross his feet running long distances).
Adjust on Linebacker Downfield...Williams is still learning angle technique, but can he has valid speed to ride into the second level in a hurry to neutralize linebackers. His hip stiffness is evident when he has to redirect suddenly on the move, though. He does a nice job of fitting up or cutting while staying in control (earlier in his career, he would over-extend or lunge at times). When he maintains good pad level, he is capable of walling off and forcing the chase route of a defender. He stays on his feet better working in-line than when on the move or in the second level, but has improved his overall footwork, as it is rare to see his feet tend to die when having to suddenly get into the second level (still must improve his angle concept). When he makes initial contact with a second level defender, he will throw his hands into his man and has no problems trying to cut block. I like his awareness and effort to adjusting to oncoming defenders, but when on the move blocking down field, his hip stiffness is recognized.
Use of Hands/Punch...Williams has developed above average power in his punch. He is become a savvy player with each passing starting assignment, evident by his ability of knowing how to grab in attempts to lock out and control without being spotted by the game officials. While he has developed a strong hand punch, he is also very quick to recoil, especially when using his hands to challenge stunts. He is equally effective using his hands to control the defender and executing his punch to put his man on the ground. He also has been very conscious of keeping his hands inside his framework, as he is quick to separate when a defender gets into his chest. He has the strong hand punch to shock and jolt and when he gets his hands inside his frame, but on the rare times when he gets narrow in his base and pushed back by a physical surge, he tries to compensate by trying to out-finesse, as his hand placement skills will then get outside his framework.
Reactions/Awareness...Williams is still learning the “tricks of the trade,” as he was a tight end until his senior year in high school. Still, he does show awareness to locate threats. He is a student of the game and very alert to action around him, as he instantly recognizes stunts, twists and games. He has enough functional speed to get out in front on traps and when taking on twists and games, he consistently recognizes them quick enough to get into position to challenge. He has the nimble feet and agility needed to slide and adjust on the move, but has to open his hips quicker. He keeps good balance and body control retreating to protect the pocket and has enough reach to latch on and neutralize edge rushers, even though his arms are more guard-sized that that of normal left tackles.
Compares To...Jake Matthews-Atlanta Falcons...Like Matthews, Williams is more of a chess player taking on “checker playing” defensive ends. He is a consistent technician with an explosive punch and is blessed with quick, active hands. He sets with a good base, showing balance, body control and hand placement in pass protection. He also has the upper body power needed to drives defenders off the ball, but lacks explosive hip snap, even though he can take good angles to the second level.
Blue-chipped prospect -- Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Category Explanation...There is no question that McGlichey is a fine athlete, but it is quite puzzling that he received postseason honors. Even the Notre Dame staff admit that he is much better suited for the right side of the line. No knock on the player, but if you look at his performances this year - very inconsistent - might he be labeled a “wing man” who fed off the production generated by the best lineman in this draft - Quenton Nelson. For this, and other reasons stated below, our staff feels that McGlinchey is one of this draft’s boom-or-bust types.
Blocking statistics..Based on review of game film by our scouting department...SGP-season grade percentage...GM-games played...PLAYS-amount of snaps played in (pass/run)...KB-key blocks (pancake/ knock-downs)...TDB-touchdown resulting blocks... DWF-downfield blocks...PEN-number of penalties...QBH- quarterback hits...PRS-pressures allowed... SKA-sacks allowed...High Grade Game-best graded game for season.
|STATS||GM||SGP||PLAYS||KB||TDB||DWF||PEN||QBH||PRS||SKA||High Grade Game|
|STATS||GM||SGP||PLAYS||KB||TDB||DWF||PEN||QBH||PRS||SKA||High Grade Game|
Body Structure...McGlinchey has a developing frame with room for additional bulk. He has broad shoulders, wide chest, good arm length and size, minimal softness around the midsection, good bubble, thick thighs and flat calves. His tall frame that makes him look leaner than he actually is, but has good overall muscle definition in his upper body (needs more muscle tone in his lower frame, though).
Athletic Ability...McGlinchey’s frame continues to develop bulk, but despite good strength numbers at the Combine (24 reps in the 225-pound bench press), it does not translate well to the field. He has a lot of similarities to the Titans’ Michael Roos with his outstanding size and wingspan. For a player his size, he plays with a good base, is light on his feet, but needs to stay lower in his pads, as defenders have had success pushing him back into the pocket when he gets too high in his stance (see 2017 Georgia, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Miami, Fla. games games). Even though he does not play with raw power, he can be explosive coming off the snap, but sometimes negates his anchor because he will stand too tall and appear erect in his stance. He has good lateral agility working in-line and runs with a normal stride getting out in front on drive blocks, making him a much better fit on the right side, where he won’t be exposed or isolated vs. the power charge as often. McGlinchey has good sized frame that continues to develop. He has improved his foot speed, but lacks ideal strength, even though he shows athletic feet and good balance on the move. His lack of ideal power on the field may not make him suited for left tackle in the pros, but his quickness and pass blocking technique are good enough for right tackle.
Football Sense... McGlinchey is a bright student who is completing work on his second degree. He has quickly grasped the art of playing football and improved greatly in recognizing stunts and twists as a senior. He has the athletic ability to adjust to defensive movement, but there were several games where he was too hesitant picking up games and blitzes in 2017 (NC State’s Bradley Chubb tagged him for eight tackles, a sack and three stops for loss, North Carolina’s Malik Carney posted six stops, a sack and 2.5 TFLs; Georgia’s David Bellamy had six tackles, a sack, a caused fumble and two pressures; Miami Hurricanes Joe Jackson tallied five tackles, a sack, 1.5 stops for loss and a pressure).
Initial Quickness ...McGlinchey has good quickness off the snap and the ability to adjust, accelerate and finish. He gets a good jump off the ball and keeps his pads down (is inconsistent when facing a powerful level-one type), despite his tall frame. He is quick to get into position and has the nimble feet to finish all of his blocks. He shows field smarts and good explosion coming off the ball in the passing game, but can be shocked and rocked back on his heels vs. a strong bull rush when he gets too tall in his stance. He is much more effective in attempts to gain advantage when he stays low in his pads. He needs to work on his footwork, as at times, he will skip a step coming out of his stance, causing some balance issues on the move. Off the snap, he shows the ability to mirror the defender, but you would like to see better hip snap working into the second level. He can gain advantage on the defender with his footwork and long arms, but he does not have a strong anchor to maintain position vs. multiple defenders (see 2017 Georgia, North Carolina State and Miami, Fla. games).
Lateral Movement...McGlinchey is light on his feet for a player his size and could see a quicker path to a starting job if he shifted inside to guard or play right tackle while his body continues to mature. He has functional (not great) lateral movement skills and the feet to move on pulls and get up field. He must learn how to play at a low pad level (loses leverage when he gets too tall). Even though he has improved his balance, he needs to work on his technique when attempting to redirect (gathers before changing direction).
Balance/Stays On Feet...McGlinchey shows an inconsistent anchor and balance in his base when he gets upright in his stance, doing a much better job when he keeps his pads down. He can locate, reach and adjust on linebackers working into the second level (made seven down field blocks in 2017), but when he gets tall or fails to open his hips, he will get over-extended. He generally plays on his feet, but when he over extends or lunges, he is usually seen on the ground. He is developing good field savvy, as he does the job by using his size to sustain blocks vs. smaller defenders, but overall lower body strength issues are noticeable on the left side. He might be better suited covered on the right side, where he can better utilize his feet in order to get out in front on pulls and traps.
Explosion/Pop...McGlinchey is capable of jolting and shocking defenders with his hand punch, but has to do it with more consistency. He has good natural strength and the ability to knock defenders off the ball coming out of his stance with arms extended, but will get outside his framework trying to defeat counter moves when too tall in his stance. When he stays low in his pads, he creates movement and uses his body mass to lean into and get underneath the defender to sustain. There are times where he will grab defenders rather than catch in attempts to steer the pass rusher wide. He just needs to show that he has the ability to generate better pop and explosion than he did as a left tackle the last two years.
Run Blocking...When McGlinchey plays with a good center and base, he can generate valid foot movement to stay off the ground and get out in front on traps and pulls. He is never going to be considered as a mauler who will use his size to take over blocks, but when he stays low in his pads, he can lock on and grind out getting off the snap. He comes off the snap with his back flat, but needs to do a better job of rolling his hips (his hips are not loose and he just lacks technique). With his lower body strength issues, he needs to develop better confidence that his hand punch can dominate and drive the defender off the line of scrimmage. There are too times where he will revert to grabbing in attempts to steer the defender (see 2017 Georgia, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Miami, Fla. games). He may overextend more than you would want and just loses some balance to recover when he gets too erect coming off the line of scrimmage.
Pass Blocking...McGlinchey was more effective as a drive blocker than in pass protection (some feel his run block success was due to combining with Quenton Nelson). When he bends at the waist instead of his knees, he loses leverage vs. a physical pass rush and can be walked back into the pocket (NC State’s Bradley Chubb greatly exposed McGlinchey’s deficiency). He takes false steps at times, resulting in a loss of balance when trying to make the reach block. He uses his wingspan well to lock on and wash out the smaller edge rushers and when he plays with consistent footwork, he does a nice job of shuffling his feet to counter the spin moves. He can play with above average technique and good feet, but will get caught moving backwards, as he does not generate strong anchor ability. He has a high pass set, with decent slide ability, but because he lacks a good anchor, he will get pushed back. In the past, he would struggle against the speed rush, but has developed better kick slide ability to get to the edge quicker.
Pulling/Trapping ...One other reason to consider him a better fit at right tackle or guard is that McGlinchey pulls with good quickness and body control. He is prone to lunging or leaving his feet, at times, but when he maintains good pad level, he will generally play with a stronger base. He can pivot to adjust to the speed rush, but you would like to see him maintain balance on the move. He has functional straight-line movement working in space and keeps his head on a swivel, doing a nice job of redirecting to a moving target.
Adjust on Linebacker Downfield...Because of his size and nimble feet, McGlinchey has the ability to generate enough sustained quickness to get up to the second level and make contact, but his balance needs improvement, as he sometimes crosses his feet and gets too tall to recover in the second level. He can wheel and cut off defenders in the short area and takes good angles when working in the second level, but he struggles to sustain on linebackers when he does not keep his feet in front of him.
Use of Hands/Punch...McGlinchey can generate a quick punch with either hand, but there are times where he will tend to grab rather than lock on and steer. He does not obviously punch as much as he should and is still learning the proper techniques of grabbing and getting underneath the defender, but once he uses his large mitts to latch on (10-inch width), he can win those battles. He can lock out with his long arms and does a good job of getting his hands into the chest of the rushers, but despite his upper body power, does not shock and jolt with his initial punch with consistency.
Reactions/Awareness...McGlinchey is a good student and shows alertness on the field, keeping his head on a swivel to search out other defenders to hit after making the initial block. He has good instincts and vision to adjust to games when he stays low in his pads and can maintain position at the point of attack. With his adequate lateral change of direction agility, he must be conscious of not crossing his feet when running long distances. When he overextends, he is not light on his feet enough to regain balance. He is better when reading and reacting to the action in front of him, but has to anchor better vs. the power rush. His foot agility allows him to slide, adjust and maintain position on his man in the short area, but he is not the most fluid runner working in space, as he gets too inconsistent with his flexibility, body control and sink ability getting into the second level.
Compares To...Mike Rosenthal-ex-Minnesota Vikings...McGlinchey has a lot of similarities to the former Notre Dame tackle, as both were/are better off playing right tackle or guard - lacking the lower body power to handle the power rush on the left side, as he seems to lack the requisite lateral movement and recovery speed. His pad level is too high on most plays and he will lose the leverage battle and get pushed into the quarterback by stronger defensive ends unless he bends his knees and uses his hands effectively. Still, he does have the prototypical height and length for the tackle position, along with upside, if he could gain another 15-20 pounds of muscle. He is inconsistent in this area, but has the athletic ability to catches and lock onto pass rushers using his size and long arms, but can get ripped off initially when he fails to use his length and footwork to prevent speed rushers from getting his outside shoulder.