If you need a real right tackle, Bobby Massie is worth a serious look. (Getty Images)
With the 2011 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Right up to the draft, we'll be taking a closer look at the 50 players who may be the biggest NFL difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue this year's series with Mississippi offensive tackle Bobby Massie. Once thought to be Andre Smith's replacement at Alabama, Massie eventually ditched his conditioning problems from high school and went to Ole Miss instead. From the start, Massie proved to be an outstanding run blocker; in his freshman year, he was the key blocker when Dexter McCluster set a school record with 282 yards against Tennessee. In 2011, the 2-10 Rebels ranked 114th in the nation in total offense, but Massie wasn't responsible for that downturn -- according to NFLDraftScout.com, he was credited with the key block on all 12 of the team's touchdown runs. Massie was also credited with 102 knockdown blocks in 2011, which placed him tops in the SEC.
Massie started his last 29 collegiate games at right tackle. In that time, he was the main blocker for 14 individual 100-yard rushing performances, and two games of 200 yards or more. There's no question that the underrated Massie has what it takes to be a dominant drive and run blocker at any level -- but does he possess the total skill set common to the NFL's best blockers? After watching Massie play against the NCAA's best defenses, I came away more impressed than I expected to be.
Pros: Massie is an excellent overall power-blocker -- in pass protection, he does a good job of extending his arms, hand-striking oncoming defenders, and keeping them at bay even when they try to slip around him. Slants inside when run-blocking and seals the edge on outside runs; will also consistently push ends and linebackers back when blocking straight-on. Plays with a wide base and keeps his feet moving; this allows him to handle stunting defenders. On zone plays, keeps his head on a swivel and sets himself up well to chip for the most part. Consistently peels off double-teams to take a second defender inside when asked to. Very good at pulling inside and taking interior defenders out of the play -- Massie is very tough to deal with once he gets a full head of steam. Nice lateral mobility and agility when facing quicker edge rushers; Massie doesn't get stuck in the ground and he can pop out and attack with his hands at any time.
Has played well out of two- and three-point stances, so there won't be the initial transition issues suffered by other recent college tackles (Jason Smith and Russell Okung are two). Stronger out of three-point, but that's pretty common. Good enough at the point of attack to head off one defender and turn inside or outside to deal with a blitz -- he has great potential as a multi-defender blocker per play, and that's a very valuable skill. Massie doesn't stop with the first block. Will pinch inside to read and take out A-gap and B-gap blitzes.
Cons: Massie needs refinement in his backpedal and total footwork in pass-blocking -- he fans out pretty well, but could be smoother and he will get bulled back when attacked by pass-rushers straight on after they've gained the strength advantage. Doesn't always re-set his position -- once he's beaten, he tends to stay beaten.
More relentless speed rushers will occasionally beat him halfway back and beyond and get to the passer. Occasionally tries to push a rusher out of the circle when he should keep position; this is where he loses the edge. Will need to work on read recognition if he's in a pure zone system; he gets a little lost at times when he doesn't have someone right on him and he needs to hit one quick block and read an area.
Not adept at second-level blocking if it's his primary read; not an elite downfield blocker. Slightly mechanical backpedal in pass pro could leave him vulnerable to inside moves from elite NFL pass-rushers -- there are certain things Massie does with brute strength at the NCAA level that will require more and better technique on the pros. Doesn't always read the action correctly on combo blocks; he'll need to get the hang of movement with other blockers with precision and timing.
Conclusion: Ole Miss played Alabama and LSU in 2011 and got completely destroyed by a combined score of 104-10, but what those two games should afford NFL teams the opportunity to do when it comes to Bobby Massie is to see him deal with the NCAA's two best defenses from a talent perspective, and come out on top far more often than not. The question of value comes up when addressing the right tackle position, but with NFL defenses become more and more versatile and multiple, both tackle positions are now extremely important at the NFL level.
I'm not sure that Massie has what it takes to be a professional left tackle, even in a run-first team -- he's not a Tyron Smith, who projects as a left tackle for the Dallas Cowboys and will shift there sooner than later. Then again, he's not like Alabama's James Carpenter, who was a sure right tackle (and possible guard) for the Seattle Seahawks after playing on the left side for Nick Saban. Rather, Massie is an ideal right tackle with Pro Bowl potential, and as soon as he deals with some of the finishing work required of a player who played mostly in man-on-man blocking schemes, he's got the potential to be one of the best right-side blockers of any stripe.
Pro Comparison: Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens
More Shutdown 50:
#34: Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson | #35: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama | #36: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse | #37: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech | #38: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall | #39: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State | #40 : Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers | #41: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina | #42: Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska | #43: Jared Crick, DE/DT, Nebraska| #44: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina | #45: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State| #46: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia| #47: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami| #48: Shea McClellin, OLB/DE, Boise State| #49: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU | #50: Jonathan Massaqoui, OLB/DE, Troy