NFL draft evaluators have spoken over the past several months about the lack of a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft. But another hot topic in scouting circles has been the lack of elite talent at offensive tackle as well. In a league that always is seeking top blocking talent, the pool this year is uninspiring.
That’s not to say that it’s devoid of talent, and we have three rated as first-round players. But each come with a major concern.
Alabama’s Cam Robinson, our third-ranked tackle, could be the best of the lot but hasn’t dominated consistently the way you’d expect, can be penalty-prone and must answer questions for his arrest last summer. Just above him is Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, a one year standout with good upside after rising from the D-III ranks, but postseason hip surgery is a red flag. And then there’s the biggest gamble on greatness in Utah’s Garett Bolles, who plays with fire and terrific athleticism but turns 25 after the draft and also lacks experience and discipline.
After those three, it’s a shaky lot. In fact, we might not see a true tackle selected for quite a long span after those three go off the board. Temple’s Dion Dawkins, Troy’s Antonio Garcia and Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport all have starter-caliber traits but might not be instant coffee as blockers.
By and large, NFL teams are disappointed at the way tackles — and offensive linemen in general — are being groomed in college with the proliferation of spread offenses, two-point stances and heavy shotgun usage, which has stunted the growth for players being asked to transition to more pro-style systems in the league.
(Note: We project Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, Pitt’s Dorian Johnson and others to the interior — either guard or center — which we will preview collectively next week.)
Positional grade: C-minus
We were spoiled by the 2016 draft class, which featured four players drafted in the top half of Round 1 and delivered some impact starters right away, as well as some promising developmental tackles for down the road. This year’s class looks painfully thin, and even the top three have some real issues. We still could see an early (but brief) run at the position, but that would be more out of need and dearth, we suspect, than as a true reflection of their readiness or potential dominance. We almost called this a D-plus group but bumped it up slightly given that there are a few interesting Day 2 and 3 prospects and some OK versatility among the entire OL lot.
Shutdown Corner’s Top 10 offensive tackles for 2017
1. Garett Bolles, Utah — 6-foot-5, 297 pounds — He’s not for everyone, given his age and inexperience, but it’s hard to overlook those athletic traits and the mean streak with which he plays (Full scouting report)
2. Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin — 6-5, 310 — Fundamentally sound, gifted finesse blocker who could be a 10-year pro if he adds strength and clears medically (Full scouting report)
3. Cam Robinson, Alabama — 6-6, 322 — Has the chance to be a very good pro, with a great frame and the right temperament, but he’s not yet a disciplined performer (Full scouting report)
4. Dion Dawkins, Temple — 6-4, 314 — Could play either tackle spot, or guard, and has the profile of a quality run blocker if he’s developed properly
5. Antonio Garcia, Troy — 6-6, 303 — Solid showings in big games and at the Senior Bowl has him in the mix to be a second- or third-rounder with his nice athletic gifts
6. Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell — 6-7, 318 — Probably our favorite developmental project, Davenport has a massive wingspan and could be a Jared Veldheer-like performer in time
7. Zach Banner, USC — 6-8, 353 — Massive right tackle who could land in the Rob Havenstein range (late second round) to a team that favors mass over great athleticism
8. David Sharpe, Florida — 6-6, 343 — Another big-bodied right tackle, Sharpe lacks explosion and strength but moves relatively well for his size
9. Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt — 6-6, 304 — Continually worked over at the Senior Bowl, which hurt his stock, but he’s tough, intelligent and has enough skill to contribute in some way
10. Aviante Collins, TCU — 6-4, 295 — Terrific athlete and surprisingly strong, but physical mass limitations always could limit him against bigger defenders
Cameron Lee, Illinois State
This long-armed prospect with big hands has slowly started to simmer in draft circles and has a chance to be an mid-to-late Day 3 prospect. He’s 6-5 and 312 pounds and has played both guard and tackle, and we think he can make it on the outside in the NFL. Praised for his toughness and intelligence, Lee needs a year in an NFL weight program to get stronger (18 bench-press reps) and adapt to the level of the competition. But he has started to bubble up a bit more now than teams’ OL coaches have gotten involved in the evaluation process, as they feel he could be something of a diamond in the rough with a nice template with which to work. Keep an eye on him later on in the draft.
Jerry Ugokwe, William & Mary
The son of Nigerian immigrants, the 6-7, 321-pound Ugokwe is still relatively new to football, having picked up the sport late in high school, and he walked on with the Tribe and spent a year redshirting there in 2012. But he eventually started 42 games in college at both left and right tackle and has the profile of a player worth investing in. Ugokwe didn’t test all that well at the NFL scouting combine but has the raw tools that teams regularly seek — and you can’t teach 35 3/8-inch arms and 10 3/8-inch hands. If he can learn to play lower in his stance and with a wider base, he might be able to harness more of his natural ability and turn into a fringe NFL starter (or at worst, a swing tackle) over time.
Other 2017 NFL draft position rankings:
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