Combine capsules: Tackles and tight ends

The offensive linemen and tight ends are the first groups to go at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. Here is a capsule look at the top ones.

The players have started arriving in Indianapolis and the cattle call has officially begun. The first group of players is going to get exposed to the media and the medical professionals today, which includes offensive tackles and tight ends.

As things currently stand, there are a lot of projections that there may be at least five offensive tackles taken in the first round, despite there not being a dominant player who is a lock to go in the top five or perhaps not even the top 10. It’s an interesting group to watch because there is a lot of elite first-round talent here, but there isn’t a player among them that doesn’t have holes in his game.

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Tight end is a different story. There may not be a first-round pick in this group, but there will be a lot of players popping in Round 2. There is a nice mix of strong downfield threats like Minnesota’s Maxx Williams, as well as players with blocking skill and emerging receiving ability.

Here’s a quick take on the players to keep an eye on at tackle and tight end that will be on a lot of team radars for Day 1 and early in Day 2.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Brandon Scherff, IowaCountry strong and works out tirelessly in weight room. His run blocking is his calling card and he has the size (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) to be an extremely good tackle and the mauling skills to be a perennial Pro Bowler at guard. He needs to improve his footwork in pass protection but is a student of the game and will likely be the first offensive linemen coming off the board.

T.J. Clemmings, PittsburghAn excellent athlete at 6-6, 315, he has many of the elite intangibles coaches look to groom. However, he played basketball in high school and is still a raw prospect as an NFL tackle. He needs to improve his footwork and technique, but in the right system he could emerge as an excellent talent.

Andrus Peat, StanfordHas an ideal left tackle frame at 6-7 with long arms. He has excellent run-blocking skills that may translate to him starting his career at right tackle, but with some improvement in his technique to better handle pass-rush specialists, he could transfer his skills to being a very good left tackle. He replaced Viking David Yankey, who has yet to show what he can do as a pro. Because of Pac-12 requirements, he won’t be around for minicamp and early OTAs.

Ereck Flowers, MiamiHe has prototype size (6-foot-6, 324) and has showed great improvement as a run blocker. He has the potential to be a dominant left tackle, but is going to require a patient position coach who drills fundamentals and improved balance to his game. He ends up on the ground too often but shows flashes of being a potential long-term starter for an NFL team.

La'el Collins, LSUAn extremely strong player who held up well in the weekly wars in the SEC, he can take defenders out of plays, especially in the run game. Is a bit heavy-footed, so some teams will project him as a right tackle or even a potentially dominant guard, but he has plenty of upside and will likely end up being a starter almost out of the gate for a team with line needs.

NFL FEATURES
TIGHT ENDS
Maxx Williams, Minnesota – Minnesota fans already know what Williams brings to the table, a tight end who can make the amazing catch deep down the field. He isn’t a great route runner, but that can be taught. He likely will be a player who gets a lot of attention late in the first round, where Dallas, Green Bay, Denver, Seattle and New England could all be looking for a complementary game-breaker at tight end.

Clive Walford, Miami – A strong dual-threat tight end who is an adept run blocker and a solid downfield receiver, few players improved their stock as much as him during Senior Bowl week. He drops too many passes, which will throw up red flags for some scouts, but he is an elite blocker with downfield skills. That’s the kind of skill set that gets you drafted. He’s not an off-the-charts athlete, but does a lot of things well and his stock is on the rise.

Nick O'Leary, Florida StateA Swiss Army knife type who loves the game and is willing to play on the line in the run game, in the slot as a standup receiver and in the backfield as a blocker/H-back. There’s a place in the league for players like him. His strength is as a run blocker. He is undersized by NFL standards, but has a lot of positives that will play to his advantage.

Jeff Heuerman, Ohio StateA big receiver with good size and blocking ability, he is an unknown commodity because he was used so sparingly in the passing game at OSU by design. In four years, he caught just 52 passes, including just 17 passes for 202 yards in the Buckeyes’ championship season. He has the skills to be a solid pro, but he will need a strong Combine showing to elevate his stock.

Tyler Kroft, RutgersA tall player (6-6) with the type of frame that can add 10-20 pounds at the next level, he is a strong blocker in the running game and has room to improve as a receiver. He lets too many passes get into his body and defenders to get on him quickly. His blocking ability will get him on the field. With improvement as a receiver, it will keep him on the field.




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