Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 8: Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.

Yahoo Sports


Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

8. Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.

6-foot-4, 312 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.31 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Explosive, aggressive run blocker and emerging pass protector at right tackle who has few obvious shortcomings

The skinny: A 5-star Rivals recruit (top 25 nationally), Wills chose Alabama over Kentucky, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee. He saw the field sparingly as a true freshman in 2017, but as a sophomore in 2018, Wills took the starting right tackle job from Matt Womack, who suffered an injury in fall camp that year. Wills started all 15 games and did not allow a sack.

In 2019, Wills earned second-team AP All-America and first-team All-SEC status, starting all 13 games at right tackle.

Wills turns 21 years old in May and declared early for the 2020 NFL draft. He chose not to compete in the bench press at the NFL scouting combine and was unable to perform the 3-cone drill but performed all the other tests and stood out in the positional work.

Upside: Naturally explosive off the snap — especially in the run game. Maintains a terrific wide base and rolls his hips through contact. Power starts in his hips and surges through his hands. Best “jab puncher” in this year’s class — can shock with his quick-strike, big-load hands. Ample arm length (34 1/2 inches) and hand size (10 inches). 

Agile athlete who turned in top-shelf combine numbers in the 40-yard dash (5.05 seconds), vertical jump (34 1/2 inches) and broad jump (113 inches). Bends well and maintains body control throughout his process. Strong hands and good hand placement. Good flexibility and agility. Almost never appears to be off-balance, which is rare for a young lineman.

Efficient movement. Learns from his mistakes and rarely gets beat on the same move twice. Mirrors well in pass pro and can adjust beautifully on the fly — handles counters and redirects so quickly. Recovery isn’t out of control, either.

Very good peripheral vision. Asked to protect blind side of left-handed Tua Tagovailoa and credited with one sack allowed over two-plus seasons. Tagovailoa wasn’t a true scrambler, but he vacated the pocket, improvised frequently and held onto the ball more than 2.5 seconds on more than half his snaps the past two seasons, per PFF.

Had a nearly flawless performance against LSU — handled K’Lavon Chaisson very well and passed off the Tigers’ stunt game like it was a Wednesday practice. Watch him here hold firm against Chaisson’s long-arm move and keep him at bay with a perfect pass set:

Wills kept K'Lavon Chaisson and other LSU rushers at bay all game.
Wills kept K'Lavon Chaisson and other LSU rushers at bay all game.

Elite finisher. Dripping with nastiness. Battering ram in the run game who seeks to bury people. Underrated technician — doesn’t lose his fundamentals when summoning power.

Wills dominated Auburn’s EDGEs Marlon Davidson and Big Kat Bryant this past season. Watch here as Wills (74) just drives the 300-pound Davidson into the ground on this TD run right behind Wills’ block:

Wills just buries a 300-pound lineman here on the TD run.
Wills just buries a 300-pound lineman here on the TD run.

Pro-ready mentality. Durable — missed no time to injuries and started his final 28 games. Maintains his edge for four quarters. Kicked out to tight end occasionally in heavy formations and was effective. Battle-tested vs. SEC rushers and primed by national championship game experience.

Still young — ascending talent who won’t turn 21 until a month after the draft. Rising confidence in his own ability to dominate. Could be a 12-year starter in the NFL.

Downside: Can he play left tackle? Well, maybe, but we’ve never seen it. Has played the same position extensively since high school and might have trouble flipping footwork around initially. One team we spoke to said guard could be his best position (although most teams would try him at tackle first, we feel).

Lacks ideal height, length and mass for tackle, but it’s not anything too worrisome. Has been roughly the same size since senior year of high school. Length issues tend not to be an issue when he maintains his inside leverage, but there are times when that isn’t the case. Cut blocking doesn’t appear to be his strongest suit at this time, but not a pronounced weakness either.

Initial kick slide can be too wide — will allow rushers to cross his face back inside at times. Relies on his athletic footwork and handwork to save him, but that’s harder to do vs. NFL defenders. Gets a little upright at times and has flashes of stiffness on occasion.

Had a rough first half in the bowl game against Michigan. Here are two plays where Wills (No. 74) looked surprisingly inert. The first was a pass-rush rep where EDGE Michael Danna uses Wills’ momentum against him and throws him back:

The Michigan rusher was able to throw Wills back here.
The Michigan rusher was able to throw Wills back here.

And two plays later, Wills can’t connect on the block in space on the Michigan safety for a loss of yardage:

Wills misses on this moving target on the screen pass.
Wills misses on this moving target on the screen pass.

Penalties have been an issue — flagged 11 times past two seasons combined. False starts were the biggest issue  — four flags for that last season, including three vs. Auburn, plus four more in 2018. Also two unsportsmanlike conduct calls in two years.

Turned in a disappointing 10-yard split time (1.81 seconds) and short shuttle (4.84 seconds) and didn’t bench press or run 3-cone drill. Often lined up with a tight end on his outside hip. Alabama offensive linemen have been something of a mixed bag in the NFL in recent years.

Best-suited destination: Wills might be a more advanced run blocker than a pass protector at this point, but it’s not at all a major difference. He’s mostly excellent in both, and he has Day 1 starter written all over him. That likely will come at right tackle, but different teams could project him to the left side and work through any growing pains.

Among the teams we feel could be most interested in his services include the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings.

Did you know: Wills grew up a basketball player first, the son of a girls basketball coach (father Jedrick Sr, an assistant at Lafayette High School) and a former Eastern Kentucky basketball player (mother Sivi).

But Sivi was the one who threw her oversized son into football early on.

“I started playing football when I was 7,” Wills said at the combine. “I was bigger than everybody else so my mom kind of threw me in there. She was like, ‘You’re playing football, no matter what.’”

He also played basketball through his sophomore year at Lafayette before suffering a broken foot. That’s when his focus really changed, although Wills started getting recruiting attention as early as in the eighth grade. 

Wills was named second-team all-state in Kentucky as a junior and first-team as a senior, leading his team to consecutive 6A state title games.

They said it: “I feel like I have a really good football IQ. It’s something I take pride in. I try to keep the [missed assignments] to a minimum. I’m an athletic player and I like to dominate people.” 

— Wills at the combine, on how he describes his game

Player comp: There are shades, style-wise, of Jake Matthews and David Bakhtiari in Wills’ game, even though both of them had some left tackle experience in college.

Expected draft range: Top-10 pick.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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