Watched a little more tape on a couple of guys from Bowl season, and wrote this up for the blog today on the class:
1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M - Matthews is a lock at the top of the first round. He's as good of a tackle prospect to come out as any in the last few seasons, and I personally like him more than any of the three tackles that went in the top 5 last year. Matthews started at RT his first couple of seasons at A&M, switching over to the left side this season with the departure of Luke Joeckel. He has a tremendous combination of strength, athleticism, quick feet, toughness and smarts. He's built to be an upper-echelon NFL LT for years to come. Unfortunately for Miami, sitting at pick #19 is about 15 picks away from being able to acquire him.
2. Greg Robinson, Auburn - Robinson is a very interesting prospect. Playing in Gus Malzahn's offense at Auburn, Robinson rarely has to pass protect in traditional sets. When Robinson is 1 on 1 with opposing rushers, he does get beat with speed more than you would like. That, however, has a lot more to do with being raw in his technique than it is talent. Robinson doesn't really know what he's doing with his hands, doesn't know how to slide his feet and doesn't have a great feel for speed rushers on the outside. This will come with experience though. He has the athleticism and length to deal with speed well once he learns the nuances of the position. The strength of his game is his run blocking though. He has tremendous power for just a redshirt sophomore and limited football experience. Malzahn often rides him downhill at DT's in his offense, something that he won't do in the NFL nearly as much, however whether it's working inline, getting to the 2nd level, pulling around the corner, fighting with DE's 1 on 1, Robinson moves people in the run game as well as anybody. While he may not be ready to start at LT his rookie season, with good coaching, you're looking at a dominant player at the next level in a few years. Unfortunately for Miami, as with Matthews, 19 in the first round is too late to grab him.
3. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama - Kouandjio draws as varied opinions as any prospect in the country. Some feel he has top 10 talent (as I do), others feel he isn't worthy of a first, or even 2nd round selection. People assume that playing for Alabama equates to being NFL ready and sharp in your technique. That's not necessarily the case, especially on the offensive side of the football. Kouandjio is still raw in a lot of areas, especially in pass protection. Watching his sophomore film last summer, I was convinced I was watching a future top 5 pick. Unfortunately I didn't see the development I would like to have seen this season. With that said, I'm still comfortable saying I would take him in the first round and expect him to start Day 1. He, like Robinson, can struggle with speed around the edge. Again though, with good coaching I think a lot of these issues go away, as he has the athleticism, length, strength and feet to become a fine pass protector on the left side. Kouandjio gets out of his stance as quickly as any tackle in this class, has really good power and tenacity in his run blocking, impressive athleticism to compliment it with great feet. I think he has all the makings, physically, of a longterm starter at Left Tackle.
4. Taylor Lewan, Michigan - Lewan has seen his "stock" drop quite a bit over the last few months. Coming into the season, the debate was "Matthews vs Lewan" for the top spot. At this point, not only has the debate ended, but many believe Lewan isn't a first round pick at the end of the day. Lewan had some on and off the field issues this season that could hurt his draft stock; he was caught on camera shoving a Michigan St. player's head into the ground after the play, and was accused of assault against an Ohio St. fan the night after their game, allegedly punching them. NFL teams will do their due diligence with these red flags, so let's focus with the tangible, on the field product.
Lewan displays strong hands in pass protection and a nice kick slide. He has above average athleticism and handles speed well around the edge, although seems to have only average length. He does a nice job keeping his hands inside and fights well. Lewan needs to keep his head up and block with more composure and better fundamentals consistently, as he's too often over aggressive and loses hand and feet placement. He has impressive power downhill in the run game and a really nasty demeanor, finishing blocks with a mean streak (something this offensive line needs badly). He does a nice job getting to the 2nd level, locating linebackers well and showing nimble feet. I think Lewan is a better fit in a man scheme than a zone blocking scheme like Miami wants to run, but is a player who should make a solid starter at offensive tackle (possibly on the right side) at the next level.
5. Zack Martin, Notre Dame - A lot of people view Martin as a guard in the NFL, not a tackle. I understand the talk of him moving to guard, but don't agree with it (contingent on a pending measurement I'll mention here). I think Martin has what it takes to make a successful starting tackle, especially if it's in a zone scheme. He's athletic with really nice feet and is a technician at the position, playing with consistent technique and fundamentals. Martin uses this to open up run lanes, despite not having as much power as others at his position. He's tough, plays smart and is athletic enough to make a good fit at either guard or tackle in a zone scheme. He has a nice kick slide and his feet allow him to handle rushers well. I question how well he can handle NFL caliber speed from the left side because of his length though. If his arms measure in short at the combine, I might re-evaluate my position on him, but I like him as a right tackle, at least.
6. Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt - One of the most under rated prospects in this class, Johnson is viewed by most as a mid round pick. I think Johnson is a perfect fit for a zone scheme at left tackle, and can start day 1. Before getting into the tape, I want to share a couple of stats on Johnson; he started 51 straight games for Vanderbilt, and committed his first holding penalty on the 45th start. That's tremendous on so many levels. It tells me that he's durable (something that is ever-more important in today's game), mature, and plays with consistently great technique.
Johnson's tape confirms it. He has great feet and really nice athleticism. He can pull around the line well, gets to the 2nd level quickly and moves down the line of scrimmage well. He blocks with great hands and feet, keeping his head up, transitioning and adjusting well in his sets to the defender. Johnson needs to get stronger, but is on his way to having an NFL-ready body; he came out of High School at just 235 pounds, working his way up to a playing weight of 300. He's smart, playing this past season while getting his MBA, and is tremendous in his combination and cut blocking. He also has a great feel for leveraging his defender in the run game, opening up holes using great composure and smarts in his blocking. For these reasons I think he'll make a great fit in a zone scheme and, if teams give Johnson the same draft grade that a lot of media is, could prove to be a steal in the coming draft.
7. Billy Turner, NDSU - Turner is a tough prospect to get a good evaluation on. The only top level competition he faced this season was against Kansas State, where he showed flashes of being a dominant player. He's a really good athlete, has nice power, good length, and plays really hard. There are times where his kick slide is extremely impressive as he has the ability to get out of his stance quickly and shuffle his feet with tremendous quickness. That said, his game needs developing and the Sr. Bowl will be a great barometer of exactly where he is at. Turner could end up being a top 25 pick, or he could end up in the 3rd round. For what it's worth, I like him more than I liked a very similar prospect last season, Terron Armstead.
8. Jack Mewhort, Ohio St. - Jack was one of my best "finds" last summer. Mewhort came into the season viewed as a mid-lower round prospect, but has seen his stock rise all the way to 2nd round prospect, by most. My main concern coming into the season was whether he could handle top speed or not. He finally got a chance to prove it against Vic Beasley in the Orange Bowl, and my fears were realized. While Mewhort does have enough athleticism and length to play tackle at the next level, I don't think he's a starter on the left side. Mewhort plays with good hands and feet, has good power in the run game, gets to the 2nd level well and plays with a tough personality. I think Mewhort is probably a better fit on the right side, but is a Day 1 starter and a solid 2nd round option, in my opinion.
9. Morgan Moses, Virginia - Morgan was one of the most improved players from his Jr. to Sr. year, in my opinion. He's not an optimal fit in a zone scheme as his feet probably aren't quick enough to get off defenders and locate others as well as the scheme demands, but he can be dominant in the run game downhill. Moses has really impressive length and has nice athleticism for his size. Again though, his feet are that of a big man and they can get heavy at times. He has the ability to move speed rushers past the pocket and improved in that department a lot this season. He's a big man that plays big at the position, and is probably a better fit on the right side in a man scheme.