It doesn't matter who you talk to in the NFL Draft community. From Mile High Huddle's own Draft analysts to the the scouts and draftniks around the league, the consensus is that the 2017 offensive line class is shallow — and top heavy.
One prospect at the top who put some pressure on the Tower of Dancing Bears is Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles. Before the NFL Combine, Bolles was considered by most draftniks to be a late-first to second round prospect.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Although I've been pounding the table for Bolles as an option for the Denver Broncos at pick 20 in the first round, not everybody saw it that way. However, after Bolles blew up the Combine this week, many are coming around on Bolles and to some, he's become the top offensive tackle in the class.
Bolles' athleticism is off the charts. He ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at the Combine. For a 6-foot-5, 297-pound tackle, that's impressive.
Bolles also posted a broad-jump of 9-foot-7. He was the top performer at the NFL combine in four different O-line categories; 40-yard dash, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
It has catapulted him into the No. 1 tackle spot for many around the league. It seems Bolles' biggest competition is Alabama's Cam Robinson, but questions abound about Robinson's motor.
It also bears mentioning that despite Alabama's reputation for consistently cranking out pro-ready prospects, they've developed a guarded reputation around the league with their O-linemen. Too many early-round Alabama linemen have disappointed in the NFL.
That casts something of a pall on Robinson, but I'd still be shocked if he didn't hear his named called on day one of the NFL Draft. Where Robinson has Bolles beat is age. Robinson was a four-year starter at Alabama and is just 21 years old, while Bolles has just one year of starting experience in Division I football, and will be 25 when the 2017 season kicks off.
Bolles' age is a major drawback for teams considering taking him in the first round, as impressive of a talent as he is. Teams expect their first round pick to play out two contracts with the club, in a perfect world. Bolles would already be 30 when his first contract expires, assuming he were a first round pick — including a fifth-year option.
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But there's a reason Bolles is hitting the NFL at almost 25 years old. He had a turbulent childhood and bounced around Utah, before eventually getting fostered by the Freemans — a Latter Day Saint family who helped put him on the right track.
Bolles served a two-year LDS mission, another reason for his relative late age, which he credits for teaching him structure and discipline — two aspects that have helped him excel on the football field.
"My mission was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Bolles said from the NFL Combine this past week. "I became the man I am today because I've learned. I grew up. I came home matured. I became the man I am. I know what it takes. The hard work. To wake up and follow a schedule and that's exactly what you've got to do in this business."
Bolles' path to the NFL shares many of the same traits of Michael Oher's story, which was dramatized in The Blind Side. Still, Bolles finished his one year at Utah with first-team All-Pac 12 honors, and his tape is impressive.
Garett Bolles plays with a mean streak and great intensity. It seems he is able to channel his anger on the grid-iron.
"When I'm on the field, I want to put people in the dirt," Bolles said. "And that's what I'm here for. As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty prick that you can be. And whoever's in front of me, I'm going to drive them and put them in the dirt."
But don't let that fool you. Bolles is a changed man. He knows how to "turn the switch". He recently got married and has a young son.
"I'm a changed man," Bolles said. "I know exactly what I want and where I'm going."
Bolles might have the highest ceiling among this year's tackle class, but some worry about his core strength and believe that his floor is lower than most of his fellow 2017 classmates. His athleticism, motor and spiritual epiphany, in my mind, mitigate those concerns.
This kid is ready to work and I shudder to think what a year or two of working with NFL O-line and strength and conditioning coaches would do for him. The Denver Broncos need help at tackle. GM John Elway wants to fill Denver's roster holes through free agency but if Garett Bolles is sitting there at pick 20 in the first round, I have a hard time seeing Denver passing him up.
However, a lot depends on Denver's big board and where they have Bolles ranked. The Broncos met with Bolles in Indianapolis. There is interest there.
Although the expectation is that the Broncos will move toward a predominantly power-blocking scheme under Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy, we know that the Broncos will also utilize zone principles.
There isn't a better zone tackle in this class than Garett Bolles. And I believe he has the requisite nastiness to learn and and excel in the power scheme, and build his core strength at the pro level. Despite his age, I simply don't believe Bolles is done growing. Not necessarily in height, but in power. Bolles didn't lift at the Combine, due to a pectoral strain but he fully plans on dropping as many reps as he can on the bench at his Pro Day.
After playing at high elevation in Salt Lake City, and having served his LDS mission in Colorado, Bolles has experience performing in the thin air of the Rockies.
If history has taught us anything about Elway's Broncos, it's that they love big men who have experience playing at altitude.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.