Every NFL team has to navigate a delicate balancing act when building their offensive line. The easiest way to acquire talent is to use high draft picks and sign top free agents. But doing so again and again could well lead to a roster which is unbalanced and a salary cap situation which is untenable.
The other, more difficult, route is to find and coach up under-the-radar prospects with the traits to start. That could give you solid depth in the short term and a low-cost starter in the intermediate and long terms — as well as allow the team to use premium resources to address other positions.
The New York Giants have tried both tactics in recent years with decidedly... mixed success.
The trick to pulling off the second method to building an offensive line, one employed by the Green Bay Packers to solid success with players like David Bakhtiari, is identifying those sleeper prospects. This year South Carolina guard Sadarius Hutcherson could be one such player. The red-shirt senior is an experienced lineman who has played across the offensive formation. He also has intriguing athletic traits as a former tight end, defensive end, and basketball player who has twice appeared on the preseason “Freaks” list for his strength and lower-body explosiveness.
Prospect: Sadarius Hutcherson
Games Watched: vs. Florida (2019), vs. Alabama (2019), vs. Texas A&M (2019), vs. Texas A&M (2020)
Red Flags: none
Career Starts: 29
Best: Size, power, versatility, competitive toughness
Worst: Zone blocking, play in space
Projection: A utility G/T backup with starting upside as a guard in a power blocking scheme.
South Carolina’s Sadarius Hutcherson is a thick, powerful, yet athletic guard prospect. Hutcherson has experience at both left and right guard, as well as left tackle. He is most at home at guard, where his athleticism is better than average. Hutcherson has good quickness off the snap, wasting little time getting into his pass sets or run blocks.
Hutcherson shows good athleticism in pass protection at the guard position, able to mirror most interior rushers, as well as more than enough strength to anchor against bullrushes. He generally plays with good pad level and leverage and is able to rock defenders back onto their heels when uncoiling his hips and exploding into his block. Hutcherson flashes good hand usage and generally tries to gain inside leverage.
He shows a good understanding of blocking schemes and is rarely taken by surprise by games along the offensive line. He routinely passes off stunts and twists well, not allowing himself to be occupied and creating a free rusher.
Hutcherson has excellent power as a run blocker, and is able to open holes or create movement along the line of scrimmage. He is at his best blocking downhill in power run plays, particularly in man-gap schemes. He is also a capable inside zone blocker, as well as both a down blocker and pull blocker in power run plays.
He shows good competitive toughness throughout the play, routinely sustaining his blocks and looking for work if he doesn’t initially have someone to block.
Hutcherson is a very powerful player but can be pushed around if he loses his leverage early in the snap. He can also be prone to letting his hands drift wide, which limits his ability to control defenders as well as make holding calls more likely. Hutcherson is a good athlete for the position, but he is an inaccurate blocker on the move. He struggles to pick up players when blocking in space or as a blocker on screen plays.
Overall Grade: 6.5 - A lower ceiling but high floor player who should be a reliable backup at multiple positions. Has the potential to start, but would be scheme dependent.
Hutcherson projects as a utility backup lineman early in his career, with the upside to be a starter in a system that takes advantage of his impressive power. He has experience starting at left guard, right guard, and left tackle in college, as well as some experience on the right edge as a jumbo tight end in certain packages. That versatility will certainly be enough to earn him a roster spot while he works on improving some of his limitations.
Hutcherson has starting upside in an offense which uses a power blocking scheme, with the ability to line up at either left or right guard. Guard is his natural position, where he appears much more comfortable and plays more quickly than on the outside. The guard position plays to Hutcherson’s impressive power and quickness off the snap while limiting the amount of area he must cover and doesn’t expose him to nearly as much speed in pass protection as does the tackle position.
Coaches will want to work with him on maintaining his leverage throughout the play, as well as more consistently gaining inside leverage with his hands. He has the strength and power to control most defenders at the NFL level, but he will need more consistent technique to do so. But while he needs work, the tools are there and coaches who favor run-first offenses with an emphasis on power running between the tackles will likely be big fans of Hutcherson.