INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- With the NFL Scouting Combine in full effect in Indianapolis, we’re taking a look at prospects who could not only be a great asset to the Denver Broncos, but also a great fit into the team’s needs and scheme.
The last player we focused on was Fresno State free safety Derron Smith. Today, we’re jumping to the other side of the ball with Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings. Clemmings throws his name into the NFL hat after two highly decorated seasons on the Panthers offensive line.
Clemmings, a former high school basketball star, is an ultra-athletic offensive tackle. As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, he started six games for the Panthers as a defensive end, tallying up 20 tackles and one tackle for a loss.
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The coaches switched him to the offensive line his junior year in 2013 and it proved to be a natural fit for the 6-foot-6, 315 pound tackle. In two full seasons as a starter, Clemmings left his mark and anchored the Pitt O-line.
As a senior, he was voted team captain and was named second team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. I got a very close look at Clemmings in Mobile, AL during the practices leading up to the Senior Bowl.
As a tackle for the North Squad, Clemmings quickly set himself apart as the best. Watching him go toe-to-toe in one-on-one drills with Utah’s Nate Orchard and Kentucky’s Za’Darius Smith, two formidable pass rushers, was very intriguing.
Clemmings won those matchups more often than he lost them. The only chink in his armor that I could perceive was that he lacked quickness, at times, off the snap, making it possible for speed rushers to get around him to the quarterback. But from a technique standpoint, these are issues that can be remedied in the pros.
However, Clemmings is as talented as they come and his performance in Mobile catapulted him into the first round conversation. For the Broncos, who will be drafting at pick No. 28 in the first round, Clemmings is a real possibility and a player who could immediately impact the team.
With the likely switch to Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, the Broncos are in need of an athletic, smart right tackle. The team reportedly plans to move Louis Vasquez from right tackle, back to his natural position at right guard.
Chris Clark and last year’s third round pick, Michael Schofield, are still on the roster and will likely compete for the starting right tackle spot, but the Broncos are also reportedly looking for at least two new starters on the O-line, making it very possible that they’ll turn to the draft to fill that need.
Clemmings has a mean streak and his athleticism shows in his quick feet and his abilities to bend his knees and mirror his assignment. Once he gets his hands on a defender, he doesn’t let go, driving and redirecting them out of the play.
The Broncos could choose to look to the free agent market to fill their needs on the O-line, but the best guy is former Houston Texan Derek Newton. However, his struggles in pass protection are a vulnerability the Broncos might not want to risk with a soon-to-be 39 year-old quarterback coming off four neck surgeries.
T.J. Clemmings would fit right in to Kubiak’s system and immediately bolster the Broncos O-line, signaling a step in the right direction in building an effective zone blocking scheme. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on at the Combine this week.
However, if he performs as well as I think he will, it could propel him to the top half of the first round conversation, which could put him out of the Broncos reach, unless they wanted to trade up.