T-Bob: Draft preview - tackles might be most vital spot on O-line
by T-Bob Hebert,posted May 8 2014 1:13PM
In the last part of my offensive line draft preview, I’ll profile arguably the most important position in the trenches, the offensive tackles. Without a doubt, tackle is the most physically demanding position on the offensive line. I always liken tackle to a fat man’s cornerback.
The tackle must react to a world-class athlete who can do any multitude of rush moves. The tackle has to have great footwork and the ability to stay balanced while passing off twists or dealing with slants and speed rushes. They must also be strong enough to sit down and stop a bull-rush in its tracks, while not opening themselves up to a push-pull or any other bull-rush initiated move. The tackle must have the ability to read and react in a split second as even the slightest of missteps can lead to giving up a sack.
If a tackle can perform at a high level, they get paid some of the best money in the NFL, as they also are the protectors of the quarterback’s blindside. Think about how much Drew Brees means to the Saints, and then you understand the importance of having a great tackle. One interesting thing to note as well is that tackles are the most genetically exclusive group on the O-line. While centers and guards average around 6’3, tackles average out around 6’5 or 6’6 with plenty of them reaching 6’7. The top two tackles in this years draft seem to match these requirements.
Greg Robinson from Auburn is an absolute monster. Clocking a 4.92 forty yard dash at 6’5 and 330 lbs is absolutely freakish. He also jumped 28.5 inches and pumped out 32 reps of 225. Obviously, this guy passes the eyeball test, but I also love the way Robinson plays. He is an excellent run blocker and plays angry. He consistently finishes guys by putting them in the dirt at the end of plays, which beyond just being painful for the victim is also mentally detrimental.
The obvious minus in Robinson’s game is that he isn’t the most polished of pass blockers. He isn’t bad, but just needs more work, because he didn’t get a lot of it at Auburn due to their scheme putting such heavy emphasis on running the ball. I believe that because Robinson is such a physical freak, his pass blocking will improve quickly once he works with an NFL coach each and every day. Fun fact: Robinson went to Thibodaux High School!
If Robinson is number 1, then Jake Matthews is 1b. You have probably heard the last name Matthews dominate on the O-line before, as his father Bruce Matthews is an NFL Hall of Famer. Jake is a two time All-American, who weighs in at 310 pounds while standing 6’5 inches tall. Matthews also shows elite athleticism as he ran a 5.07 forty, had a 30.5 inch vert, and threw up 24 reps of 225 at the NFL combine.
Matthews’ strongest attribute is his technical ability. He has great body control and excellent hands. He immediately latches on to the D-linemen and dictates the pace. He excels in both pass and run blocking at the fundamental level. If you were to find a weakness with Matthews, it would be that he could get a bit stronger in order to deal with some of the elite bull-rushers in the NFL.
These are the top two tackles in this year’s class, but it is far from the only good tackles available. 2014 features many names that will have huge impacts on their team even if those impacts aren’t always felt like a player who will score 10+ touchdowns. It will be extremely interesting to see where each guy falls when the draft gets underway tonight! I can’t wait!