In the 2012 draft, five of the first six offensive tackles expected to be selected will come from the underclass ranks, led by Southern California's Matt Kalil.
Kalil has good quickness and footwork in his kick slide. He shows the agility and balance to make plays into the second level and good lower body flexibility in attempts to change direction.
Kalil has excellent open-field acceleration, moving well and adjusting easily while taking angles to neutralize the linebackers. He is an above-average knee bender who can recover on the rare occasions that he waist bends. He has good quickness and movement ability to mirror edge rushers. He plays on his feet with good balance and body control, doing a nice job of adjusting and picking up defenders in space. He is a solid leverage player who can slide and sustain.
Kalil is a solid walk-off drive blocker who moves with ease getting into the second level. He plays with natural strength, but will need to increase his bulk to withstand the rigors in the trenches as an NFL player. He has the power to move the pile and drives block with leverage, but could be exceptional here with added bulk. He drives off the snap hard, as he demonstrates the leg drive and feet to stay on his blocks and sustain. He is a good in-line blocker, possessing a wide base as he runs his feet well.
The junior is good at sustaining and is developing a nice feel for blocking angles (still learning technique, but is responding quickly). He is effective when asked to wall off and screen. He brings power to his game when driving for movement and will generally finish. He has the good footwork to stay on his feet on the move and can handle the switch-off well when working in combination with his guard (see 2011 Washington, Notre Dame and Colorado games).
Kalil stays square and balanced when shuffling and sliding. Even when he gets overextended, he is quick to recover, thanks to his above-average athletic ability. He could use more bulk to anchor, but has the speed to make a run on the edge rushers. The thing that separates him from others is his drop step/kick to gain depth and width needed to anchor.
Kalil is capable of making the cut-off block and readjusting quickly to the edge rush. His quickness in his pass set lets him mirror and contain edge rushers (see 2011 UCLA and Arizona games), but he needs to keep his hands inside the frame and work to prevent edge rushers from slipping off his blocks. The consensus is he will end up in Minnesota, whether with the third (its own pick), fifth (Tampa Bay in a trade) or sixth (St. Louis in a trade) pick.
The next tackle expected to go in the first Iowa's Riley Reiff. The lineman has a well-developed frame with room for additional growth. He can carry at least another 15 pounds of bulk without having the additional weight impact his foot speed. He has the long arms, wide wingspan and broad shoulders you look for in a left tackle. He possesses a big bubble, wide waist and hips, solid thickness in his thighs and calves and firm midsection. With his toned frame and good body fat content, he looks more like a defensive lineman, especially with his sudden explosion off the snap.
Reiff comes off the snap with a hard surge and good leg drive, possessing the feet to stay on his blocks and sustain. He is a good upper-body blocker who shuffles his feet well. As a zone blocker, he has more than enough strength to move out level-one defenders. Once he gains position off the snap, he has the strength to wall off. He has a good concept for taking proper angles to cut off second level opponents and shows outstanding ability leading on long pulls.
The Hawkeye is more comfortable working in space, as he shows better explosion getting out to search and neutralize linebackers, but has the leg drive and lateral movement to be quite effective maintaining rush lane integrity. In 2011 (see Pittsburgh, Louisiana-Monroe and Minnesota). He showed very good improvement in attempts to scope, sustain and make reach blocks than in the past. He plays on his feet and battles throughout the play.
Reiff gets very good hip roll, which lets him be more physical and aggressive coming off the snap. He sets his base a little high at times when blocking in-line, but generally does a solid job of using his size to maul and take over on blocks. If he locks on to a defender, he will generally win the battle. He can drive with good initial force, but is best when accelerating to get to the second level.
In pass protection, Reiff uses his foot quickness well to shuffle his feet and slide back with ease when taking on edge rushers. He stays square and balanced while keeping his pad level low. Even when he gets over-extended, he is quick to recover. He generates a strong anchor and good field vision to recover vs. double moves. He is quick to pivot in attempts to counter the speed rush, as he shows good urgency getting to his reach point. He uses his long arms effectively in attempts to extend and lock on to the defender's jersey.
Reiff has the speed to mirror and square up with an opponent, as his strong anchor lets him maintain position when trying to neutralize the pass rush charge. He seems to be getting comfortable with edge blocking, showing the foot quickness in his kick slide to mirror, but needs to stop dropping his head some (see 2011 Penn State and Nebraska State games). With his lateral quickness, he has no problems when trying to slide and readjust.
Reiff plays with good awareness and has the flexibility along with functional lower-body strength to anchor. Few offensive tackles demonstrate the hand quickness he has. He comes out of his stance with good urgency and a solid base, opening his hips quickly to pivot and adjust to the speed rush.
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Osemele has quick, nimble feet with good balance and body control playing in the trenches (struggles playing in space). He moves well going forward off the snap and does a nice job of using his frame to pinch the defenders back inside. When he stays low in his pads, he can fire low off the snap with good explosion to gain instant advantage.
While not explosive, he is rarely late off the line and is quick to make contact and impact the defender. With those long arms and strong hands, he is good in attempts to gain advantage on a defender when he flashes suddenness coming off the ball. With a good get-off and proper hand technique, it should put him in the right place to make the block most of the time.
One reason I like Osemele better on an island at tackle is that I feel he is better served blocking along the line, as he does not have the burst or the balance to get out and make plays in space (gets narrow and crosses his feet). However, he is a good position blocker with nimble feet (needs to improve his retreat shuffle though) moving along the line. He demonstrates the functional hip snap needed to generate movement, but he needs to do a better job of keeping his feet and staying on the defender when working in the second level.
As a drive blocker, he uses his body to root out the defender and when his pad level is down, he can move the pile and drive block with leverage (could be exceptional here with added weight). Osemele has a good get-off coming out of his stance and his quick feet will put him in position to make the in-line block. One reason teams think he might be a better fit at guard earlier in his career is that he shows good body control rolling his hips and drives with his legs to flash a line surge.
The problem is, I just don't see Osemele play with a guard-like approach when pulling in-line, but he does know how to attack the shoulders of a defender. He is not consistent, but when he rolls his hips, he has success in gaining movement. In 2011, his improved leg drive saw him do a nice job of caving the defensive lineman (see Texas Tech and Kansas games).
One of my favorite lunch-pail type of players might have a body that looks like a beer-league softball player rather than a muscular offensive tackle, but Jeff Allen of Illinois has the ability to get the job done as a run blocker. Allen has a soft frame with good upper-body length in his arms and good width in his chest, but needs to add muscle tone and at least another 20 pounds of bulk. He has adequate thigh and calf thickness, but shows a good bubble. His body does not look like he pushes it much in the weight room, as he has just average muscle development.
Allen shows good initial quickness to engage and reach his pass set point. He plays on his feet with good balance, but needs to show better lower-body flexibility when trying to redirect. He has mobility to stay with his man, but you would like to see him finish better and show more aggression. He gets into his blocks quickly, thanks to above-average knee bend and his natural foot quickness. He can be sudden out of his stance and quickly fits into his blocks. Even when he is late off the snap, he shows good adjustment skills on the move (good leading on outside sweeps).
Allen has good initial quickness to slide, drop back and anchor in one-on-one battles with edge rushers (struggles vs. the bull rush). He shows a good thrust to get into space and is a decent position blocker when he gets in front of his opponent. When he uses his hands properly, he can turn and drive off a defender on running plays. He is able to gain position quickly off the snap and use his body to wall when leading on outside runs.
Due to a lack of bulk and ideal strength, he is not used much blocking in-line, but is comfortable making adjustments in space. He uses his body well to turn and drive out a defender, but would be much better if he had the strong hand punch and placement to control.
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Massie shows good agility coming out of his stance and the low pad level with good hip snap to change direction fluidly when redirecting in pass protection. Because of his foot speed, he shows good ability to play in space. He plays with good knee bend and flexibility for a player his height. He is a solid leverage player with the ability to play with a wide base. He demonstrates a good initial burst off the snap, along with the sustained speed to consistently get into the second level.
The Ole Miss blocker is a quick-twitch type with the body control to recover when he loses balance, showing fluidness in his lateral moves. He is best served playing on the move, as he does not have the ideal brute power you look for from a left tackle working in-line. Since the end of 2010, Massie has shown marked improvement taking on edge rushers and protecting the pocket. He keeps his head on a swivel (used to put his head down, at times) and displays the initial quickness and hand technique work in his pass set to get under and lock on to a defender's jersey.
Massie has an adequate base for pass protection, unless he gets too high in his stance. He might not have the strongest anchor you will find in a left tackle, but has the recovery quickness and slide agility to stay in front of the edge rushers. The thing I like is his ability to sink his hips, slide and shuffle his feet and recoil his hands quick enough to generate another punch.
It is rare to see him overextend or get too aggressive, as he plays with a good tempo and vision. As a senior, he was quick with his pass set (see Southeastern Louisiana, Vanderbilt, Alabama-Birmingham and Mississippi State games). When he comes out of his stance, he sets with a good base, demonstrating the quick feet to adjust in space.
While most scouts would not call a major-college talent a sleeper, I feel that more than a handful of my fellow talent evaluators have not really appreciated what Florida State's Zebrie Sanders truly brings to the table. He is a long-limbed athlete with wide hips, big bubble, thick thighs and calves, broad shoulders and adequate muscle definition.
Sanders shows good agility and balance for a player his size. He has good foot speed and quickness getting out of his stance and runs with a normal stride, showing a strong concept for angling when working into the second level. He demonstrates the body control to make hits on the move, and on contact, he delivers the strength and hand punch to shock and jolt his opponent.
The Seminole displays fluid change-of direction agility, doing a nice job of using his long arms effectively to pinch the defensive line back inside. He has the straight-line speed to surprise a lethargic defender and has become a power-oriented blocker who has developed an aggressive nature. He is smooth and sudden coming out of his stance and has above-average lateral range. He maintains balance on the move and is efficient when having to redirect and recover working in-line.
Sanders has made a remarkable improvement in attempts to push the defense inside, as the result has been the team generating success bouncing outside with its running game. Ever since he moved to left tackle for the final eight games, he has become much more aggressive with his hand punch as a senior (see Oklahoma, Clemson, Wake Forest and Duke games) and has done a much better job of working the combo block, thanks to improved body control.
Sanders gains position well when he keeps his pads down, doing a nice job of walling off and widening the rush lanes. He has better agility shuffling and moving his feet to sustain as a senior than in previous seasons. His balance and body control really stand out on film now, as he seems to be taking better angles to screen and gain good movement upon contact. He also shows the ability to be an adequate cut and reach blocker when he plays with alertness and does not narrow his base (in the past, he would sometimes get hesitant, making him look slow to engage).
It's not that I dislike Stanford's Jonathan Martin, it's just that I HATE finesse-type blockers. I also hate it when a player feels he has earned the right to dictate when and where he will work out for scouts. We all have our jobs to do and there had been quite a bit toe-tapping waiting for him to amp it up and show more on game films.
Martin is aggressive but is not a powerful blocker. On contact and when he drives with his feet, he can generate movement on the double team. He generally plays under control and showed in 2011 that he has made good strides in working his hips to wall off and force the chase route. When he gets tall in his stance, he looks a too stiff in his redirection, but when he stays low in his pads, he swings his hips and runs his feet well leading on the sweep. He is usually in position of advantage, especially when asked to seal, as he has good ability to wheel and cut off the back side.
Martin flashes quick, active feet in his kick slide, as he has the lateral agility to mirror and adjust to stunts, but you would like to see him redirect at a lower pad level. He displays good balance and body control on the move, but would be even better adjusting in space when he refines his footwork (can slide and change direction well to mirror pass rushers, but gets up on his heels too much, which lets bull rushers walk him back).
Martin handles quickness and movement better when he keeps his pads down, but he needs to stay lower in his pads and play flat-footed (gets up on his heels too much) more often. When he gets tall, his stance prevents him from gaining leverage vs. the bull rush and he needs to improve his overall footwork, as he does not always shuffle his feet and explode off the snap to gain movement.
There might not be a more overrated draft prospect in this group than Ohio State's Mike Adams, and teams are starting to shy away from the Buckeye, especially after his drug test failure at the Combine. Back in 2009, he was arrested for being in possession of drug paraphernalia. While I don't want to make light of those issues, the reason I think he is drastically overrated is the fact that this kid has more "quit" in his game than the French Army in battle. ("I give up" should be France's motto.)
Adams is a raw talent with the frame to simply engulf the smaller defenders, especially when he keeps his hands inside the frame. He has to develop quicker feet coming off the ball, as he struggles to get out in front on pulls and traps. He probably would be much quicker if he would stay lower in his pads, as obvious hip stiffness forces him to stay too high in his stance and struggle in attempts to keep his pad level low. He moves adequately for his size, but lacks the quick feet to recover if he gets beat off the snap.
Adams is stiff in his movements, especially in his legs, and is much more so a waist bender than one with good knee bend. Late in his senior year, he showed an obvious lack of aggression and lacked good change-of -direction agility due to his tight hips. He shows just adequate feet in his kick slide, but uses his long arms well to hold off defensive ends on the edge.
The senior just lacks the foot speed to play on an island at left tackle, but with his ability to quickly recoil and reset his hands after initially locking on to the opponent, I could see him earn a starting job quicker at right tackle at the next level. He will struggle vs. the speed rush, as he lacks the balance to mirror defenders coming off the edge. Because of his problems vs. the speed rush, he has to learn to compensate by dropping his pads and using his size to wall off (will struggle to readjust to quick counter moves, though).
While there is no true standout to capture scouts' attention coming out of the lower-level ranks, South Dakota's Tom Compton could be the first offensive tackle from those ranks drafted, more likely in the fifth round.
Compton possesses good thickness throughout his waist and hips, along with a solid midsection, big bubble, good uppe- body muscle development and high-cut, thick thighs and calves. He possesses good arm length and a big wingspan, along with the above-average hand length that allows him to lock on and ride a defender away from the ball. He also shows solid muscle development throughout his shoulders and chest, looking the part of a classic mauler, as he is big, stout and not the type that has a jiggly midsection.
Compton proved to be the total package at left offensive tackle as a senior, but the thing that really impressed was his quickness and balance as a lead blocker out of the backfield, as he showed his above-average quickness and playing speed into the second level (see 2011 Southern Utah and North Dakota games). He has more than enough athletic ability to pull and get in front of the ball-carrier on outside runs. He has the feet to adjust to blocks on the move and can easily slide to adjust to the edge rushers. When he plays tall, he will struggle to anchor, but he has good balance and change-of-direction agility to recover.
In 2011, he had great success finishing his blocks, thanks to his strength and athletic agility to readjust and recover when he gets out of position. He has shown marked improvement this season when it comes to rolling his hips and driving his legs on a consistent basis. When he is down near the goal-line, more often than not, the tailback will trail Compton, knowing his blocker flashes a great line surge to get movement.
Dave-Te Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.