Every NFL team is always looking for starters along the offensive line, and at the offensive tackle position in particular.
While that often leads to prospects with the requisite tools and traits being drafted highly, teams are also constantly scouring the depth chart for potential value picks. Stanford tackle Walker Little isn’t exactly an unknown small-school stand-out. Playing for one of the biggest schools in the country, Little certainly had plenty of national exposure and he was considered a top tackle prospect.
However, he’s fallen below the radar after a knee injury in week 1 cost him his 2019 season, and his decision to op out of the 2020 season kept him off the field this past year. Could two years away from the football field, and the accompanying opportunity for other players to shine, force Little down draft boards?
If so, he has the traits to be the kind of steal teams love to find.
Prospect: Walker Little
Games Watched: vs. USC (2018), vs. Oregon (2018), vs. Notre Dame (2018)
Red Flags: Knee (2019)
Games Played: 22 (1 in 2019, 2020 op-out)
Best: Length, athleticism, pass protection, competitive toughness
Worst: Run blocking, consistency
Projection: Developmental offensive tackle with starting potential in a zone blocking scheme
Walker Little is a long, athletic, and competitive offensive tackle prospect from Stanford University.
Little became a starter as a freshman, playing the left tackle position for 21 games in his first two seasons. He combines good athleticism for the position with a prototypical frame, with good length, balanced thickness in his upper and lower body, and easy movement skills. Little shows solid lower-body flexibility, settling easily into his stance during the pre-snap phase and maintaining his leverage after the snap.
Little is a reliable pass protector with quick feet and enough lateral quickness to mirror speed off the edge. He does a good job sitting into his stance when pass blocking, keeping good knee bend and hip level to maintain leverage. Little has a compact kick-slide which allows him to maintain balance while smoothly hitting his landmarks against speed rushers. In addition to being able to react to speed, he also has enough play strength to anchor against power. Little does a good job of staying in front of pass rushers and ushering outside rush attempts around the pocket.
Little shows good competitive toughness in his blocks, looking to maintain his blocks through the whistle. He also flashes a mean streak, trying to finish his blocks with the defender on the ground.
He does a good job of using his athleticism as a pulling blocker, as well as showing good speed to work to the second level. Little’s agility and quickness let him be a relatively accurate blocker in space, rarely missing on linebackers or defensive backs.
Little is a frustratingly inconsistent run blocker. While he flashes upside — particularly in zone blocking schemes — he has a tendency to let his knees straighten when run blocking. That can either cause his hips to rise and compromise his leverage or force him to bend at the waist and lunge at defenders (and usually wind up on the ground). Little can also be careless with his hands. He gets them up quickly, but can occasionally be late in throwing his punch or let his hands wander outside the defenders’ framework, which could lead to holding calls in the NFL.
Teams will also want to work on Little’s awareness, as he can apparently lose track of defenders on delayed rushes.
Walker Little projects as a developmental tackle at the NFL level, with the potential to start in a zone blocking scheme if he is able to realize his upside.
Little has all the physical and athletic traits needed to compete for a starting job at the NFL level, but he still hasn’t played since the first game of the 2019 season. That gap in time between his most recent tape and the draft could well give pause to teams in a very uncertain environment.
If Little lands in a situation where he can have the time to develop and a coaching staff able to develop him, he has intriguing potential. He has the kind of frame teams look for in a starting offensive tackle and the movement skills to handle NFL speed as a pass protector. He will need to continue to work on his run blocking, particularly for a team which makes heavy use of man-gap blocking schemes. However, his pass protection is largely solid and he has the traits to carry that play to the NFL level. Given that pass protection is generally more important to modern offenses than run blocking, that should be a positive for his draft stock.
Teams might be cautious regarding a player who has missed most of two consecutive seasons, but the potential is there for Little to be a draft day steal in the right situation.