Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
24 Apr 2012
by Ben Muth
I wanted to mix it up this week, so instead of breaking down a team, I'm going to talk a little bit about some of the prospects in this year's draft. Below is a list of highly-regarded offensive linemen in the order I would draft them if positional need wasn’t taken into account. You may notice that I didn’t include the two Stanford guys, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, on this list. I actually wrote them up, but when I read it back it was just too positive. Obviously, I really feel that both DeCastro and Martin will be good pros -- I had DeCastro first and Martin third -- but reading it back, I was definitely in the Jason Whitlock/Jeff George gush-zone. I’ll definitely talk about both during FO’s Cover It Live Draft Chat on Thursday night, but 250 words of (perhaps slightly biased) praise on each seemed a little much.
One reminder: Last year I thought James Carpenter would have the best rookie year of any of the offensive linemen taken, so keep that in mind before you take anything I write below as gospel.
With the exception of the Stanford guys, I have seen Kalil play more than any of the other guys in this column. He has everything you’re looking for in an offensive tackle: he’s big, fast, long, strong, and comes from a football family. He uses his hands well in both the passing and running game. Kalil also does a good job of rolling his hips through on contact to generate power and leverage. I think he’s a top-10 pick.
If I had one technical concern about Kalil's work, it would be that he bucket steps sometimes in the passing game. By that, I mean that rather than keeping his outside foot firm, he sometimes drops it back behind himself and shortens the corner for his pass rusher.
The other thing that worries me with Kalil was a lack of dominance. He played really well throughout the year, but he never really kicked the hell out of anyone. If you watched Jake Long or Joe Thomas in school, there were times when they really wore a guy out. Of course, so did Robert Gallery, and it took him a few years and a position change to be a positive contributor in the NFL. Kalil simply was never dominant in the same way. I still think he’s a top-10 guy, but it’s something to consider.
Reiff was the hardest first-round guy for me to get a read on. He obviously does a lot of things well, but there are some definite causes for concern. Reiff is a good athlete, but he's not a natural pass setter. If you watch Kalil or Martin kick step, they almost glide. Reiff takes deliberate steps. When you add that to his short arms, he'll have a hard time altering the lanes of NFL speed rushers. He also struggles to redirect in pass protection, although he has great grip strength, and that really saved him a couple times on redirects.
I love his footwork in the running game. He’s quick and gets to his landmark with minimal wasted movement. The grip strength carries over well to the running game as well. Whether he’s reaching someone or cutting them off, he just looks very fluid and natural. I’d take him in the second half of the first round and hope that his team can translate his run blocking movement into his pass set.
Zeitler plays with awesome pad level in the running game. He gets underneath guys and moves them out of the way, and also does a nice job of driving his feet when the defender tries to disengage. That allows him to get late movement and prevent guys from falling off his block to hold the back to short gains. He’s not as good as DeCastro at pulling, but he’s still solidly above-average.
Zeitler has a good initial pass set, but he can get off-balance. He uses too much facemask and not enough hands, so he could be susceptible to the arm over move. Still, that’s nitpicking. I really like Zeitler as a prospect and think he's worthy of being selected in the 20’s.
Massie certainly looks the part. He’s long, fluid, and a natural bender. He keeps a nice base in pass protection once he establishes contact, and also redirects well. He fires out low and with purpose. Massie gets good intial movement on running plays, but doesn’t run his feet when the defender tries to disengage.
Massie is accurate with his hands in the passing game, but isn’t very violent. As a result, he can get pushed around on a bull rush. He also struggles to get his hands on linebackers at the second level. I could see him as a late first-rounder. He's far from a project, and still seems to have some upside. I’m just not sure there are four teams that would take a tackle in the first round this year.
Adams moves really well for a guy of his size. He has a very natural-looking pass set, one that compares favorably to even the top guys like Martin or Kalil. Adams can redirect well. He’s incredibly light on his feet for a guy of his size, and also did a good job of putting guys on the ground when he got the chance.
I thought he played a little soft at times. He’s a big guy that plays like an undersized guy, which is great until you actually want to run behind him. Adams plays too high in the running game, and doesn’t roll his hips on contact consistently. Also, his pass set looks more effective than it actually is. He looks light on his feet, and he’s moving fast, but he would still occasionally get beat around the edge. That has to mean something.
He’s a smart player with a lot of game experience, but he’s a plodder. I think you have to move him inside to guard. That being said, I think he can play guard, and would excel in pass protection inside. Schwartz is much better moving side-to-side than he is moving backwards. He does a very nice job of sitting down on bull rushes.
I think he’s a good enough athlete to pull on the power play if he has the technique for it. Cal's offensive scheme called for a different kind of pull than he'll be using in the NFL. If he can master that technique, I think he has good upside as a guard.
Glenn is very big. He ran a fast time in the 40-yard dash. He played good for one week at the Senior Bowl. He’s strong. Those are the positives. Now for the negatives.
He plays way too high, and the only time he plays with any pad level is when he bends straight over at the waist, which is another awful habit. Why does he do that? Probably because he’s too stiff to bend his knees. In pass protection, he’s a clamper. He doesn’t punch at all, just tries to clamp your shoulders. NFL defensive ends will knock his hands away, NFL defensive tackles will get into his chest, and NFL refs will call him for holding. I do not get how this guy has risen up draft boards. Oh, and he also has the lateral movement of Jabba the Hut. I’m not even sure it technically qualifies as movement.
Glenn is coming into the NFL about 15 years too late. He would have been at home in the mid-90’s, where all you had to do was be big and know how to hold. Lincoln Kennedy, Nate Newton, and their ilk have gone extinct. Who is the best really big offensive lineman in the NFL today? I honestly can’t think of any good ones.
That’s everyone I saw that I think could get picked before Saturday. I put in some work on Ohio State center Michael Brewster and Georgia center Ben Jones as well, but I don’t think either of them is going in the first three rounds. For more analysis, please join me and the other members of the staff this Thursday and Friday in our Cover It Live chats.
As always, we close with a quote. There’s really no way to introduce this week's quote, except to say this is what a former coach of mine once said to player from Minnesota:
"Minnesota, huh? I hear the mosquitos there are so big they can butt f—k the turkeys with their feet on the ground."
I’m not sure what the coaching point was here. Don’t go to Minnesota? There’s always someone bigger and meaner than you? Those are just educated guesses, but that’s all draft analysis is too. It seemed apropos.
64 comments, Last at 02 May 2012, 8:48pm by Intropy