40’s, cone drills, broad jump, and benching.
The NFL Combine is officially here with the first groups having already arrived in Indianapolis on Tuesday. Interviews and more will take place in the coming days as the remaining groups of players arrive and the drilling will kick off on Friday with the offensive lineman and special team players.
Even with the offensive line playing extremely well this season, the Panthers will likely be looking to add a few younger options for the future; particularly at left tackle to eventually replace Michael Oher. At pick number 30, Carolina will have to wait and see what comes to them and many of the top tackles will likely be off the board. However, a few could sneak to the late first and in other rounds there looks to be plenty of developmental options to turn to.
Early Round Stars:
Taylor Decker – Ohio St.
The Ohio State senior is widely considered to be one of the top offensive tackles in the 2016 draft after starting 42 consecutive games for the Buckeyes and earning All-Big Ten honors in 2015. Decker has the power, toughness and leadership that teams love out of an offensive lineman, especially at the tackle spot. He’s much better in run blocking than in pass protection and thus projects as a right tackle in the NFL; although he’s displayed the work ethic to fix any holes in his game.
He almost assuredly won’t get out of the first round and likely won’t be available into the twenties. But stranger things have happened and if another tackle prospect rises in the ranking, and with his future likely on the right side of the line, teams could shy away leaving him to fall into the late first where Carolina would be wise to snatch him up.
Shon Coleman – Auburn
Coleman has quite a story as an NFL prospect. The offensive tackle out of Auburn sat out two years while battling cancer and returned to the team to become one of the SEC’s best blockers. A high character athlete with good length and power for the position, Coleman plays with a mean streak that makes him an intriguing prospect that could be developed at both tackle positions.
He will be old for a rookie at 25, and is seen by some to be a poor-man’s Greg Robinson who has struggled to get going early in his NFL career. As such, Coleman could find himself go as early as the back half of the first round to as late as the third depending on each team’s evaluation but for the Panthers at pick 30 he could be a great fit at a good spot in the draft.
Mid Round Gem:
Kyle Murphy – Stanford
After the top tier of offensive tackle talent there a decent drop off but still a solid group of players that could develop into NFL contributors. Stanford’s Kyle Murphy is one of those players. The first team All-Pac-12 player made the switch from right tackle to left for his senior year and with his awareness of the position made a near seamless transition, greatly improving his pass protection.
Murphy has the size and feel for the tackle position and has a strong punch to go with great awareness and patience with his blocks. His foot quickness is a big issue and he has a habit of getting caught upright allowing pass rushers to bull rush him but with the smarts to play the position and the willingness to improve, Murphy could easily become a quality starter in this league and at great value in the middle rounds.
Late Round Sleeper:
Brandon Shell – South Carolina
As with any late round prospect, Shell is an extremely raw talent. Even with a productive collegiate career starting almost each game as an SEC caliber offensive tackle, there are plenty of issues with his game to go with the positives that could be built off of.
Shell is a long, tall, athletic offensive lineman who has all the physical traits to be an NFL offensive lineman. He has experience playing both tackle positions and quite the bloodline as he’s the nephew of Art Shell. However, his skill set is less than stellar as he’s slow off the snap, doesn’t use his hands and feet in sync with each other and lacks quickness to protect the edge. Shell is a project no doubt, but you can’t teach body type and that alone could make him worth a sixth or seventh round pick.