A Scout’s Take on the Top Offensive Tackles in the 2016 NFL Draft

Jack Conklin

Jack Conklin of Michigan State

One of the areas that the Green Bay Packers will take a very close look at in the 2016 NFL draft is the offensive tackle position.

The Packers clearly need to get some quality depth at the position. The team found that out the hard way during the 2015 season. Both right tackle Bryan Bulaga and left tackle David Bakhtiari missed some time due to injuries and the results were not pretty in their absence.

Bulaga missed four full games and parts of another. Bakhtiari missed two full games and parts of another.

The Packers tried Don Barclay at each of those positions in 2015, as he had experience a starter (18 games) at right tackle with the Packers in the past. But even as a starter, it was obvious the Barclay had issues with edge rushers.

To add to that dilemma, Barclay was also coming off an ACL tear in 2014. As an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia in 2012, where he had played left tackle, the Packers saw that his lack of foot speed made him a much better candidate for playing guard. That’s where the Packers initially played him until injuries forced the team into putting Barclay at right tackle.

Barclay is a tenacious run-blocker and he plays until the whistle. Those attributes helped him to make the team in 2012.

But in 2015, in starts at both right and left tackle, Barclay gave up nine sacks in just five starts.

The Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals was certainly the Waterloo moment for the Packers at the offensive tackle position. Bakhtiari couldn’t start due to an ankle injury, so Barclay started at left tackle.

Bulaga started at right tackle, but he injured his ankle during the game and was replaced by Josh Walker and then later by JC Tretter.

The results of those moves became a debacle. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns). The backup to Rodgers, Scott Tolzien, was also sacked.

Don Barclay

To shed even more light regarding the tackle position, Bulaga has now missed 38 games due to injury in his six-year career. Bakhtiari played on a bad knee almost all of the 2015 season, plus had an ankle injury late in the year.

It’s more than obvious that the Packers must draft at least one offensive tackle in the upcoming draft, and that particular one should be selected fairly early in the draft.

The Packers desperately need a swing tackle who can come in at a moment’s notice to effectively replace either Bulaga or Bakhtiari.

In the 2016 draft, there are four offensive tackles who look to be sure first round selections.

Those players are Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss, Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, Taylor Decker of Ohio State and Jack Conklin of Michigan State.

I asked NFL scout Chris Landry about those players, as well as Jason Spriggs of Indiana, when I talked with him on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show earlier this week.

Landry agreed about the status of those players, as well as one other player.

“Tunsil’s really good,” Landry said. “Stanley of Notre Dame is really good. Taylor Decker of Ohio State is really good. Jack Conklin of Michigan State I like a lot. Jason Spriggs of Indiana is really good.

Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M is someone I like a lot in sort of a second-round value. I’ll be coming up with my offensive linemen [board] in the next couple of days on the web site.

“Those are the guys that I think are the best. Tunsil, Stanley, Decker and Conklin are in my opinion first-round graded players. Spriggs possibly could be, but I’ve got him more as top of the second at this point.”

Since our conversation, Landry has posted his initial offensive tackle draft board on his fine site.

Both Tunsil and Stanley look to be drafted very early in the draft. Tunsil (7.0) could very well be the No. 1 pick in the draft as a matter of fact, while Stanley (6.9) looks to be a top 10 pick.

The Packers would have an opportunity to perhaps select someone like Decker or Conklin with the 27th pick of the first round, as Landry has them rated each with a 6.5 grade, which means a mid-to-late first round value.

Landry gave Spriggs a 6.4 grade, which he also gave to Shon Coleman of Auburn. That means an early second round value.

Here are the critical factors that Landry looks at when evaluating offensive tackles as he states on his board:

To play OT in the NFL, you have to have outstanding balance, being able to slide and mirror defenders without going to the ground. The ability to recover is essential to play OT as well. Awareness and Toughness are also essential to play the position.

1. ATHLETIC ABILITY— QUICKNESS— initial quickness, movement off ball, quick after start, adjust to movement, quick in pass set, quickness in hands, quick feet to slide and mirror. AGILITY— ability to pull and move down the line, ability to get to 2nd level & downfield, ability to turn his body, adjust on move & make contact on moving target, degree of fluidity in movements. BALANCE—– ability to recover, COD, and overall body coordination, ability to stay on feet.
2. STRENGTH/EXPLOSION—STRENGTH—ability to overpower opponents (upper & lower), ability to sustain, play with good leverage and base. EXPLOSION— ability to pop into a defender with initial contact, ability to flow thru and drive after initial contact, anchor to sustain in pass protection.
3. PLAYING SPEED— speed of player in pads on the field, START—- acceleration & burst off los (line of scrimmage), quickness after start, pulling speed, downfield speed. COD— ability to re-direct body. STRIDE/FLUIDITY— length of stride—type of runner (long/short, smooth/loose
4. COMPETITIVENESS— CLUTCH— win at all costs, wants to be best, plays with confidence and aggressiveness, man in charge WORK ETHIC— works at being best. PRODUCTION— grades well on film, handles assignments and get man.
5. TOUGHNESS—must enjoy getting after people and finishing their blocks.
6. SIZE— minimum requirements, type of build, play to his size, grade body frame, growth
potential.
7. MENTAL/AWARENESS— has to be able to recognize and handle multiple defensive front.s

OT POSITION SPECIFICS:
8. (1) SUSTAIN/RUN BLOCKING— ability to handle 1 on 1 blocking.—explosion, pop & strength., gets hi body into correct blocking position, turn his body into his opponent, gets to 2nd level, sustains and prevents opponents from getting penetration, quick footed to block down and get out on his man, maintain balance, adjust to movement, UOH—quickness of hands into defender, strength of hands, hand position, ability to pull—initial move, speed down the los, contact & adjust to movement, ability to execute pulls, trap and down block.
9. (2) PASS BLOCKING— quickness in pass set, first contact, strength/base to sustain vs power rushes, foot quickness & balance to slide and mirror vs speed athletic pass rushers. UOH-quickness, pop and positioning. Ability to recover and re-direct.
10. (3) INITIAL QUICKNESS— movement off ball, quickness after start
11. (4) PULLING/TRAP— initial move, contact, follow through and finish, timing & follow through on trap.
12. (5) UOH/ HAND QUICKNESS— quickness of hands into opponent initially, quickness to move and relocate hands,
13. (6) ARM LENGTH— allows you to lock out and keep defenders at bay—allows you to get away with ideal athleticism if you can prevent defenders from getting into his pads.
14. (7) SECOND POSITION— unless you are an elite LT, you must be able to play multiple positions on the offensive line.
15. (8) FOOT QUICKNESS—SHUFFLE & SLIDE— some can slide but must be able to re-direct and stay front of a defender.
16. (9) KNEE BEND- allows you to remain balanced and stay frontal.
17. (10) DOWNFIELD BLOCKING—effort, angle and adjustment on move.

Bottom line, because of the obvious lack of depth the Packers have at offensive tackle, not to mention how important the health of  No. 12 is to the team, I would almost definitely take either Decker or Conklin if they were still on the board with pick No. 27 in the first round.

Taylor Decker

Taylor Decker of Ohio State

If both were off the board at that point, I would look at other scenarios like I did in my initial mock draft for the Packers from a couple week’s back.

That being said, the grading of these players in not complete. As Landry indicates on his board, there will be some movement which will take place up until the draft, based on more film work study along with mental, psychological and physical testing of each prospect.

That scenario may have someone like Spriggs get his grade bumped up to a first round value.

The next step is the NFL Scouting Combine next week for all the players to try and improve their draft stock. Not only with the work that they will do on the field and in the weight room, but also in the interview process with the various teams.

I’ll definitely be watching the combine and keeping a close eye on the offensive tackle group.

Odds are pretty strong that at least one of those players will be a Green Bay Packer in 2016.

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