The Green Bay Packers enter this draft with, at least, a long-term need at offensive tackle, with left tackle David Bakhtiari scheduled to be a free agent next offseason and right tackle Bryan Bulaga not getting any cheaper or less expensive.
Here are the top five offensive tackles in this year’s draft, with the final three potentially falling within Green Bay’s range at No. 27. Thus, we put most of our focus on those three. The raw stats are from STATS and RealFootball.com, though the comparisons were compiled by Packer Report.
LAREMY TUNSIL, Mississippi
Position rank: 1.
Height: 6-foot-5. Weight: 310. 40: DNP. Vertical: DNP. Bench: 34.
Notes: Tunsil gave up two sacks in 28 games, according to the Rebels’ coaches. As a freshman, he was second-team all-SEC — making him one of only two players in program history to earn all-conference accolades as a true freshman. As a sophomore, he was first-team all-SEC, a second-team All-American and the winner of the Kent Hull Trophy as the top lineman in the state of Mississippi. As a junior this past season, Tunsil served a seven-game suspension due to impermissible benefits. The Rebels went 4-1 upon his return, averaging almost 100 rushing and total yards more with him in the lineup. In those five games, Tunsil allowed no sacks or quarterback knockdowns and was flagged only once for holding.
Scouting: There’s a reason why Tunsil could be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He’s considered one of the top offensive line prospects of the last decade. “It was poetry in motion as far as a left tackle,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Tunsil’s Combine workout. “Great feet. I think his movement skills are even better than I thought they were and I thought they were exceptional.” Based on longtime NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas’ grading, Tunsil was by far the best blocker in this draft class. Thomas likens Tunsil’s “ability to those displayed by former Seattle Seahawks great, Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones, who is regarded as one of the most athletic blockers in the history of the game.”
Personally: There are off-the-field questions, starting with recruiting. Tunsil was a star in one of the biggest recruiting shockers in memory, with Ole Miss — not exactly a powerhouse — landing four five-star recruits. Then came the suspension for improper benefits. “Who cares?” a scout said. “We’re not recruiting anyone and he’s going to get eight digits of permissible benefits.”
RONNIE STANLEY, Notre Dame
Position rank: 2.
Height: 6-foot-5 3/4. Weight: 312. 40: 5.20. Vertical: 28.5. Bench: 24.
Notes: Stanley was a consensus first-team All-American at left tackle as a junior in 2015. He helped power a prolific offense that had a 1,000-yard rusher, a 750-yard rusher and averaged 471.5 yards per game. He allowed two sacks, three knockdowns and nine total pressures. He wasn’t as good in the run game, having allowed 15 run disruptions. His five false starts were tied for the second-most in the tackle class. When you add sacks, total pressures, run disruptions and penalties, Stanley wound up with 34 negative plays. That tied for the third-most of our elite five tackles. Stanley started all 13 games at left tackle in 2014 and all 13 games at right tackle in 2013.
Scouting: He figures to be a top-10 pick, though he will need time to get bigger and stronger to reach his potential. Said Mayock: “I've seen an awful lot of Ronnie Stanley. He was a great high school basketball player in Las Vegas. He's got basketball feet. He's a prototype left tackle. I think he's closer to Tunsil than a lot of people do. They're very similar, great feet, long arms, both are pass protectors first, which is what you want in this pass-first league.” He is quick off the ball, which helps mitigate some of the strength issues, and good on the move. with his athleticism and 35 5/8-inch arms, he should be a top-notch blind-side protector.
Personally: Stanley is half Tongan and was named the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year. He has a tribal tattoo that stretches from his left biceps to his chest. Part of it is a dove, which is on his grandma’s tombstone. Just don’t call it a pigeon.
JASON SPRIGGS, Indiana
Position rank: 3.
Height: 6-foot-5 5/8. Weight: 301. 40: 4.94. Vertical: 31.5. Bench: 31.
Notes: Spriggs started 46 games at left tackle during his career. As a senior, he earned some All-American honors and was second-team all-Big Ten. Statistically, he wasn’t nearly as good as the other top offensive tackles, having allowed 4.5 sacks, eight knockdowns and a whopping 25 run disruptions — the most among the draftable offensive tackles. His 41.5 negative plays were the most of our elite five tackles and, in fact, more than most of the tackles in this draft. On the plus side, he was the only offensive tackle to not be flagged for holding and he was nabbed twice for false starts. The Hoosiers gained 6.5 yards per carry to the left side — a considerable difference compared to 5.8 yards to the right and 3.8 up the middle. Indiana converted 92 percent of the time on third-and-short runs to the left. Regardless, he played on a bad team and his athleticism is off-the-charts good. General managers love upside and he is loaded with it. Spriggs was an honorable mention on the all-conference team as a freshman, sophomore and junior. With athleticism developed playing tight end, basketball and lacrosse in high school, the Hoosiers’ coaching staff saw his long-term potential on the offensive line. He started at left tackle right away, even though he was just 268 pounds. “I really just focused on fundamentals and playing as hard as you can through the whistle. It opens up a lot of doors,” he said. He’s got 34-inch arms.
Scouting: There’s no doubt he has the physical tools to play left tackle, unlike his Big Ten brethren listed below, who may or may not be up to the task on the blind side. “I thought the Spriggs kid from Indiana was outstanding, both in the measurables and his field workout,” Mayock said at the Combine. “He’s got some things he’s got to clean up from a technique perspective, but I could channel a bunch of offensive line coaches around the league going, ‘I want to work with that guy.’” If he were to be selected by Green Bay, offensive line coach James Campen would have a year to get Spriggs ready to play either of the tackle spots. Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko put it well in his draft preview: “Spriggs can build off of long-term starting experience at the college level coupled with still untapped potential based on his movement upside.” Added Rob Rang, who covers the Seahawks for Scout.com and with Dane Brugler are the lead analysts for NFL Draft Scout: “Scouts looking for tackles to play in a zone blocking scheme will certainly want to check out Spriggs, a former tight end who has maintained his athleticism while getting bigger and stronger to start the past four years at left tackle for the Hoosiers. Quick and agile, Spriggs is very effective blocking on the move and has the length and balance to mirror in pass protection. He's not particularly stout, however, and may struggle acclimating to the power he'll face in the NFL.”
A scout agreed with that assessment. He doesn’t play to his weight-room strength, the scout said, “but there is nothing wrong with him that can’t be fixed by a year of training and coaching. Coaches want their tackles to be smart, tough and athletic. He’s all of the above.” Spriggs had a big week at the Senior Bowl to solidify his standing as a legit first-rounder. Noted Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage at SeniorBowl.com: “He has a tall frame with long arms and more girth in his lower than upper body. Despite his level of playing experience, he still has some developmental traits as a prospect who can add weight and continue to improve his skill-set at the position. Aligns as the left tackle in both two-and three-point stances. The Hoosiers run their version of the spread with an emphasis on lateral movement and zone blocking. Jason does a dependable job of maintaining his base and balance when contacting his on-the-line assignment, while keeping his eyes upfield to the second level. He has very good initial and lateral quickness and, for the most part, keeps his hands on the inside of his opponent in the run game. At this time, he is more of a latch-on and run-his-feet style of blocker as opposed to exploding with his hands and hips into a defender. In pass pro, he gets out of his stance easily and can slide to the outside. He can improve the timing and accuracy of his punch and overall footwork to keep himself in better position to negate the inside rush vulnerability that has shown up (on tape).”
Personally: Indiana’s not exactly an offensive tackle factory: The most appearances by a Hoosiers tackle in the NFL are 146 games — recorded by Bob Skoronski, a fifth-round pick by the Packers in 1956.
TAYLOR DECKER, Ohio State
Position rank: 4.
Height: 6-foot-7. Weight: 310. 40: 5.23. Vertical: 29. Bench: 20.
Notes: As a senior, Decker was selected the Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Year — the first Buckeyes blocker to win the award since LeCharles Bentley in 2001 and the first offensive tackle since Orlando Pace in 1995 and 1996. He gave up all of one sack and two knockdowns. Other than Tunsil, who missed most of the season, that combined total of three was the best in the offensive tackle class. Plus, he was flagged just once for holding and once for a false start. His 27 negative plays ranked second among our elite five tackles. Most of those were run disruptions, though that total of 20 is a bit skewed because Ohio State ran the ball so often. On running plays to the left, Ohio State averaged a whopping 7.4 yards per carry. Almost three-quarters of the third-down runs his direction gained a first down or touchdown. Decker broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore at right tackle before going to the left side for his final two seasons. That’s meant plenty of one-on-one matchups with Joey Bosa, who will be one of the top picks of this draft.
Scouting: A scout was concerned that Decker wouldn’t be stout enough (immediately, at least) or long enough (33 3/4-inch arms) to start right away, especially at left tackle. “You always give a guy chance to play left tackle but I like him better on the right,” a scout said. “He did go up against Bosa, though, so it’s not like he’s going to be overwhelmed.” Said another scout when asked about Decker vs. Michigan State’s Jack Conklin: “Do you need someone to play today? Then I’d take Conklin. But the Packers don’t need someone to play today. Maybe they’d like Decker if they had their choice at 27.” Here are segments of the run- and pass-blocking segments of Thomas’ scouting report. First, run blocking: “Decker has that quick first step, above-average body control, exceptional balance and good leg drive to walk his assignment off the snap. He is quick and agile enough to generate solid second-level blocks and works hard to maintain the rushing crease. He shows ease-of-movement when redirecting and keeps his weight down and hips loose to flow with the play. He knows how to use his size to wall off and has the foot balance to sustain. You can see on film that Decker comes off the snap with a hard charge, using his leg drive and foot balance to stay on his blocks. He has the lower-body strength and explosion to consistently drive and create rush lanes, but he can also gain position and use his body to wall off. He is quick to gain position after the snap and takes very good angles to cut off on the second level.”
Of course, tackles make their money in pass protection. In four games against ranked opponents, Decker didn’t allow a pressure and wasn’t beaten badly on a single snap. “Decker shows good foot quickness in his kick slide. He has above-average knee bend and hip flexibility in his retreat and shows good patience waiting for the defender to attack rather than overextend and get knocked off balance. He has a strong hand punch to shock and jolt his opponent, but needs to do it with more consistency. When he gets his hands into his opponent, he has more than enough strength to sustain. With his lateral quickness, body control and balance, Decker can easily readjust and mirror. You see on film that he can shuffle his feet, slide laterally stay square with good balance and, even on those rare occasions that he overextends.” At 6-foot-7, Decker is tall. Is he too tall? “I’d say one con is it’s harder to get low,” Decker said at the Combine. “Football is a game of leverage and you have to bend more to get lower and have some more flexibility. It’s not something I’ve struggled with mightily. At the same time, generally you’re going to have longer limbs so you can have more leverage to keep guys from your chest and your body. It can be a good thing or badly but I don’t think it’s something that’s served me badly in my career.”
Personally: Decker spent two years interning at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In Summer 2014, he worked alongside renowned zoologist Jack Hanna, the zoo’s emeritus director. He loves the big cats — dating to his childhood favorite movie, “The Lion King” — but his most serious incident was getting his fingers trapped inside an armadillo’s armor plating.
JACK CONKLIN, Michigan State
Position rank: 5.
Height: 6-foot-5 3/4. Weight: 308. 40: 5.00. Vertical: 30. Bench: 25.
Notes: Conklin went from walk-on to near-certain first-round draft pick. He started 38 of his 39 career games with the Spartans — 35 at left tackle and three at right tackle. This past season, he became the Spartans’ first offensive lineman since Flozell Adams in 1997 to be named a first-team All-American. Conklin gave up two sacks and four knockdowns, along with 21 run disruptions. He was flagged twice for holding and once for a false start. He had 34 negative plays, tied with Stanley but seven more than Decker. The Spartans averaged 4.5 yards per carry to the left — not all that much better than up the middle (3.8) or to the right (4.3). On third-and-short, 73 percent of carries to the left side resulted in a first down or touchdown. Conklin was second-team all-Big Ten in 2014 and a Freshman All-American in 2013.
Scouting: Conklin is more than just a package of strength, athleticism and length (35-inch arms). “He’s a nasty finisher and might have the best fundamentals in the draft,” a scout said. “When he latches on, he’s taking guys for a ride.” However, the scout thought that Conklin might be pretty close to a finished product. While Spriggs’ athletic ability gives him an obvious upside and Decker could pack on another 20 pounds of muscle while not losing his agility, the scout thought that Conklin might be close to maxed out physically as well as fundamentally. So, while Conklin might be the better player today, how about a year or two from now? “I think he’d be at his best at right tackle but I thought the same about Bakhtiari,” the scout said. “With (Aaron) Rodgers, you can get by with some things.” Conklin did, however, perform extremely well in the 20-yard shuttle at the Combine — much better than Decker, in fact, and not much behind Spriggs, so he has that change-of-direction agility.
Galko compared Conklin to Eugene Monroe. “A high-level leader of the Michigan State, he'll enter the NFL as one of the most impactful locker room presences early in his NFL career,” Galko said. “The former walk-on's biggest weakness in comparison to other top offensive linemen in the class is his lack of top-end athleticism. Conklin relies on a strong upper half and refined hand and footwork technique rather than lateral athleticism. However, Conklin isn't a ‘poor’ athlete by any means, and displays poise when working on the perimeter and understanding his kick slide limitations. Conklin plays with refined hand positioning, getting inside and generating push before his legs begin to do the work. His hand strength allows him to finish as a run blocker, finishing to the ground and maximizing his initial hand position and intensity. Conklin is especially refined and powerful as a second-level run blocker, getting his hands in ideal position. Conklin's kick slide (in the pass game) will be a minor concern for teams, but he's adequate enough to handle NFL pass-rushers for now.” Conklin said he had talked to numerous teams about moving to right tackle. Speaking before his Combine workout, Conklin thought he’d prove to teams that he was capable of staying on the left side. “I think it just comes with athleticism. I think a lot of teams will see that with the running. A lot of teams don’t know. I think after they watch my times and see how I perform, they’ll be surprised. Hopefully, that helps them think this guy can play left tackle, too.”
In five games against ranked teams last season (Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Alabama), Conklin gave up only one pressure and was beaten badly on just one snap. “Like I’ve told you in the past, the biggest athletic mismatch on the field is my edge rusher against your tackle,” a scout said. “Athletically, my edge rusher against Conklin is a mismatch. Not a big mismatch but it’s still a mismatch. But the guy just wins. I don’t see why that would change in the NFL.”
Personally: Conklin and his father left no stone unturned and no angle not explored in hopes of getting a Division I scholarship offer during his final year at Plainwell (Mich.) High School. Conklin was an avid water skier. So was then-Illinois coach Ron Zook. So, in addition to the usual highlight tape, Conklin sent along a video of him slalom skiing. Surely, that would catch Zook’s attention. It didn’t. Conklin finally caught the attention of Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. Conklin walked on at Michigan State, redshirting in 2012 before starting for the next three seasons.