The NFL is always on the lookout for offensive tackle prospects with the rare athletic traits to hold up on the edge against professional pass rushers.
Traditional “Football Factories” have produced good linemen at a (relatively) high rate, but teams will scour the rest of the FBS and FCS for potential starting linemen. Maryland surprised with the number of talented prospects to enter the draft from the school in 2023. Left tackle Jaelyn Duncan will likely be the highest drafted Terrapin this year, and he’s done well to raise his profile over the course of the draft process.
The New York Giants won’t be drafting a tackle highly this year, but they can still hope Duncan goes highly and pushes other prospects down to them.
Prospect: Jaelyn Duncan (71)
Games Watched: vs. Michigan (2022), vs. Purdue (2022), vs Ohio State (2022)
Games Played: 39 (12 in 2022)
Best: Foot quickness and footwork, athleticism, pass protection, zone blocking, competitive toughness
Worst: Play strength, man-gap blocking
Projection: A starting offensive tackle for a team that uses zone blocking schemes.
(Duncan is Maryland LT number 71)
Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan is an athletic, competitive, and technically sound offensive tackle prospect.
Duncan has adequate length for the position at 6-foot 5 ⅝ inches, with 33-inch arms. He’s slightly undersized at 306 pounds, but compensates with quick feet and very good athleticism.
Duncan is a natural knee bender who easily settles into his stance and maintains good hip and pad level throughout the rep. He needs good leverage to maximize his play strength and anchor against power rushers or create movement in the run game. As mentioned above, Duncan has excellent feet and is an easy mover in all directions. He has great lateral agility and is able to match speed off of the edge, as well as work to the second level or get in space to block for screen plays.
He has quick, light feet, easily expanding the pocket on his 45-degree set or gaining depth on a jump set. Duncan is quick to his landmarks and maintains good balance throughout his pass sets. He also plays with a wide base to maintain balance while absorbing contact.
As a run blocker, Duncan is at his best in zone schemes. He’s easily able to stay in phase with his linemates and stress defensive fronts laterally. At times he’s almost too athletic on the back-side of outside zone runs, and can wind up out-running and crowding his teammates. He is also very quick to work off of double teams and to the second level. His speed and agility let him get into position and deliver accurate blocks to linebackers and defensive backs. Similarly, he is also a very capable blocker for screen plays.
Duncan is able to get under defenders pads in run blocking, and does a good job of uncoiling his hips, extending his arms, and bowing them backwards while on the move.
That said, Jaelyn Duncan will need to work to improve his play strength at the NFL level. He’s able to anchor (or re-anchor) against most edge defenders, but particularly big or strong ones will drive him into the quarterback’s lap. He lacks a natural anchor against power rushers and needs to use his footwork to disperse their power, which can cause the pocket to collapse. Likewise, Duncan didn’t show evidence of being able to create movement along the line of scrimmage when blocking downhill and probably shouldn’t be in a power running game at the NFL level.
He will also need to be more consistent with his hand placement in the NFL. Duncan’s hand usage was generally good, but there were instances where his hands would fall outside defenders’ framework, opening him up to counter moves. That was particularly apparent when he was matched up against wide 9-technique rushers and had to expand the pocket further than usual.
Overall Grade: 8.5
Jaelyn Duncan projects as a starting offensive tackle at the NFL level. He will need to land on an offense that bases its blocking scheme on athleticism and mobility, but he has the potential to be a good starting tackle.
Duncan might not have exceptional length, but he more than makes up for that with exceptional feet. He has light, quick feet and great lateral agility – so much so that he appears to float across the turf at times. He’s easily able to match up against speed on the outside, as well as redirect back inside if a blitzer threatens the B-gap.
He is a solid run blocker, so long as he’s blocking in a zone scheme. His agility and mobility allow him to stress defenses, whether he’s on the back or play-side of the run. He’s also very good at climbing to the second level and is an accurate blocker in space. Duncan can exist in a power scheme, but he’s at his best as a pulling tackle in those situations. He has great range as a puller and is also a dangerous blocker on screen plays.
Duncan absolutely needs to work on his play strength at the NFL level, and teams will need to be careful to avoid spoiling his athleticism in the pursuit of greater strength. That said, he has the ability to step in and contribute to an offense right away.