2014 NFL Draft Position Review: Offensive Tackles

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2014 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2014 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated Feb. 11, 2014. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Offensive Tackles

Offensive Tackle Class
Early-round talent: A+
Mid-round: B+
Late-round: B-
Overall grade: A

2014 prospects vs 2013
Jake Matthews > Eric Fisher
Greg Robinson > Luke Joeckel
Taylor Lewan < Lane Johnson
Zack Martin < D.J. Fluker
Antonio Richardson < Justin Pugh
Cyrus Kouandjio > Menelik Watson
Morgan Moses > Terron Armstead
James Hurst < Brennan Williams

This year’s draft class has a stronger group of tackles than the 2013 class, and that is saying something considering five went in the top-20 picks of the first round last year, including the No. 1-overall pick, No. 2-overall pick and the No. 4-overall pick. However, the 2013 draft class was weak, and those players were pushed higher as a result. The 2014 class has more talented tackle prospects, but they won’t get selected as high because of the strength of other positions. The 2014 NFL Draft could have anywhere from four to seven first-round picks at tackle.

If you were to merge the two classes, Matthews and Robinson are still the top tackle prospects. Fisher, Joeckel, Johnson and Fluker would go behind Robinson but ahead of Lewan. Pugh and Martin are practically identical twins as prospects. Richardson and Kouandjio would be rated ahead of Watson. Moses would go after Watson and ahead of Armstead. Williams meanwhile was a better prospect than his former teammate Hurst.

It will be interesting to see how these prospects perform at the NFL Scouting Combine. We’ll do a tackle update after the Combine as well.



Safest Pick: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Matthews is a very safe pick. He proved that the past four seasons as he was rock solid for Texas A&M going up against good talent in the Big XII and SEC. Matthews is a very good athlete with quick feet, good length, strength and agility. He is a well-rounded blocker and looks like a lock to turn into a good starting left tackle in the NFL. Plus, he has a great pedigree with Hall of Fame bloodlines. It would be shocking if Matthews was a bust.

Biggest Bust Potential: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Kouandjio could be a top-20 pick, which seems risky to me. There is no doubt that he is a strong run-blocker, but he gave up too many sacks during the 2013 season. His pass blocking improved over the past two years, but it is still a weakness as evidenced by Oklahoma’s Eric Striker in the Sugar Bowl.

If Kouandjio can’t turn into a good pass-blocker, he may have to move to right tackle or inside to guard.



Offensive Tackles Rankings by Attributes


Pass Protection:
NFL prototype: Joe Thomas, Browns
  1. Jake Matthews
  2. Antonio Richardson
  3. Zack Martin
  4. Greg Robinson
  5. Taylor Lewan
  6. James Hurst
  7. Morgan Moses
  8. Cyrus Kouandjio


Recap: Franchise left tackles have to be rock solid in pass protection. Most teams feature a right-handed quarterback, so the left tackle has to be trusted to shut down pass-rushers coming from the blind side. Joe Thomas is the top offensive tackle in the NFL and is the current gold standard for a franchise left tackle.

Matthews looks very similar to Thomas in terms of skill sets. Both are lights-out pass-protectors, and Matthews looks like a safe bet to be a franchise left tackle. He was dominant for four years at Texas A&M.

You might be surprised to see Richardson this high, but he was great for Tennessee. He also did very well against Jadeveon Clowney in their two matchups. Richardson was tremendous for Tyler Bray as a sophomore and followed it up with a good junior year in 2013. He did well in his rematch against Clowney and the Missouri tandem of Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Richardson’s pass-protection ability is being underrated.

Martin really elevated his pass blocking in his final season and was phenomenal at the Senior Bowl. Robinson has the athletic ability to be a superb blind-side protector. He is more raw, but with good coaching he should turn into an asset at left tackle.

Lewan also improved as a senior, but he could have some issues in the NFL with speed rushers.

Hurst’s best trait is his pass protection. He was a quality pass-blocker for North Carolina during the past few years. Hurst also held his own when matched against Jadeveon Clowney last season. Hurst did a decent job against Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu, although Attaochu did beat him for a sack. Hurst is currently dealing with an injury during the leadup to the draft.

Moses moved to left tackle as a senior and performed well. In the long run, he could be more effective at right tackle in the NFL. As stated above, Kouandjio needs to improve his pass-protection skills, but he has the physical talent to be good.

Run Blocking:
NFL prototype: Joe Staley, 49ers
  1. Greg Robinson
  2. Taylor Lewan
  3. Cyrus Kouandjio
  4. Antonio Richardson
  5. Jake Matthews
  6. Morgan Moses
  7. Zack Martin
  8. James Hurst


Recap: Robinson is definitely the best run-blocking tackle in the 2013 NFL Draft. He is an animal in the ground game and has the ability to blast open holes. His power allows him to push defensive linemen around and move them out of their gap with ease. Robinson’s hands are extremely strong, and when he locks on, the defender is done. Robinson should be an impact run-blocker immediately in the NFL.

Over his collegiate career, Lewan was a good run-blocker for Michigan. He is strong at the point of attack and did his job to open up holes for ball-carriers.

Kouandjio’s strength is in run blocking. He does well in man, power and zone plays. Kouandjio can push around defenders and is able to get to blocks on the move.

WalterFootball.com knows scouts who have said that Richardson’s run-blocking ability is underrated. He showed improved run blocking in his final season for the Volunteers as he did a nice job of opening up holes for Rajion Neal.

Matthews was a good run-blocker for Texas A&M in all four of his seasons. The Aggies had a lot of success running behind him when he was on the right side as well.

Both Martin and Moses were reliable run-blockers in college. Martin’s technique is very developed. At the college level, Hurst had his best success as a run-blocker during his junior year, but he also had Jonathan Cooper next to him at left guard and Giovani Bernard as his tailback. Hurst isn’t overly strong, so he doesn’t project to be bulldozer as a run-blocker in the NFL.



Feet:
NFL prototype: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets
  1. Jake Matthews
  2. Greg Robinson
  3. Zack Martin
  4. Antonio Richardson
  5. Cyrus Kouandjio
  6. James Hurst
  7. Morgan Moses
  8. Taylor Lewan


Recap: This is a tough one. As rookies next fall, the best feet in the 2014 NFL Draft belong to Matthews. He is very light on his toes and is very fast at shuffling his feet to get in position to head off speed rushers. Robinson has more athletic upside in the long run, but Matthews has excellent footwork right now.

Over the long term in their NFL careers, Robinson could have the best feet. He needs more developmental time, but is fast and light on his feet. He is very fast getting depth in his drop to head off speed rushers.

Martin was very light on his feet during his senior season. He followed that up with a superb showing at the Senior Bowl. His footwork played a big part in him winning his one-on-ones against college football’s leaders in sacks during the 2013 season, Stanford’s Trent Murphy and Louisville’s Marcus Smith.

Richardson is a big tackle, but he has surprisingly nimble feet. Richardson did well taking on smaller speed rushers and quick ends with size.

Kouandjio flashes good feet at times, and other times, it seems like he’s stuck in cement while reaching at defenders. If Kouandjio lands with a good coach, those issues should be fixable.

Hurst showed nice feet in college. That allowed him to be an effective blind-side protector for Bryn Renner. Moses and Lewan don’t have bad feet, but they haven’t displayed as much agility as the players ranked above.

Quickness:
NFL prototype: Trent Williams, Redskins
  1. Greg Robinson
  2. Jake Matthews
  3. Cyrus Kouandjio
  4. Zack Martin
  5. Antonio Richardson
  6. Morgan Moses
  7. Taylor Lewan
  8. James Hurst


Recap: All of these tackles have quickness, but some are better at using it than others. Robinson is the quickest tackle in the class; Matthews is second. Each is fast to get out of his stance and can fire into the second level of the defense. Both have good speed to move laterally, too. Their quickness will be an asset in the NFL.

Just like the footwork, Kouandjio shows good quickness at times, especially in run blocking. He has to get faster at getting depth in his pass-blocking drop and reacting to rushes to the inside. Kouandjio must get more consistent for the NFL.

Richardson and Martin both move well. Martin showed surprising quickness during his senior year and at the Senior Bowl. Moses, Lewan and Hurst all have quickness. None of them are plodders, so that shouldn’t be a weakness at the next level.



Zone-Blocking Scheme:
NFL prototype: Duane Brown, Texans
  1. Jake Matthews
  2. Greg Robinson
  3. Zack Martin
  4. Cyrus Kouandjio
  5. James Hurst
  6. Antonio Richardson
  7. Taylor Lewan
  8. Morgan Moses


Recap: All of these tackle prospects could execute in a zone-blocking system. They all have enough athletic ability and the speed to play it. Matthews and Robinson are the best fits because they are fast while being extremely mobile. Each one has shown the ability to block on the move in their read-option offenses.

Martin and Kouandjio both played in offenses that featured a lot of zone blocking in 2013. Both are well versed in it and can execute it well. Hurst also did zone blocking at North Carolina. He would actually fit that system better in the NFL than a man-blocking system.

Lewan and Moses could both operate in a zone scheme. If Moses is drafted into one, he might want to trim down 10-20 pounds from the mid-320s to get quicker and more mobile.

Man Scheme:
NFL prototype: Joe Thomas, Browns
  1. Greg Robinson
  2. Taylor Lewan
  3. Cyrus Kouandjio
  4. Antonio Richardson
  5. Jake Matthews
  6. Morgan Moses
  7. Zack Martin
  8. James Hurst


Recap: The top three of Robinson, Lewan and Kouandjio could all be good fits in a man-blocking scheme. All of them can bully defensive linemen with strength. Each can get movement at the point of attack. Lewan showed it the past three years. Robinson has the power to push around defenders and Kouandjio flashed it.

If either Lewan or Kouandjio is drafted into a man scheme, pad level and knee bend will be critical for them. Lewan is so tall that he’s need to make sure he stays low to get leverage. Kouandjio needs to get more consistent in the same regard.

Richardson, Matthews and Moses are all pretty equal in this category. Matthews played with more power and ferocity when he was at right tackle in his first three seasons. As with Luke Joeckel last year, the Aggies’ system didn’t really call for their blockers to display much of a mean streak or physical nature.

Martin told WalterFootball.com at the Senior Bowl that he doesn’t have a lot of experience in a man-blocking system and he was learning it from the Atlanta Falcons staff. Martin is a smart player and hard worker, so he should be able to get it in time. If Martin iss drafted into that system, it would be ideal if he could add some strength to pack a bigger punch, but his body could be maxed out.

Ditto for Hurst. He’ll need more power if drafted into a man scheme.

Guard Potential:
NFL prototype: Ryan Clady, Broncos
  1. Jake Matthews
  2. Greg Robinson
  3. Zack Martin
  4. Cyrus Kouandjio
  5. Antonio Richardson
  6. Morgan Moses
  7. Taylor Lewan
  8. James Hurst


Recap: Some teams like to move college tackles inside to guard. Other roster considerations also cause some tackles to start their careers on the inside.

The top-four tackles are all good at pulling. They all have mobility and hit blocks on the move. Depending on the teams that draft them, if they were forced into starting their careers at guard, they could pull effectively from the inside.

The bottom four can pull, too. Richardson has some movement skills. Lewan, Hurst and Moses can also move to hit blocks.

Lewan and Hurst could be too tall to move to the inside. All of the others could play guard, while Moses could end up being a great fit at guard given his body type.

Downfield:
NFL prototype: Joe Staley, 49ers
  1. Jake Matthews
  2. Greg Robinson
  3. Zack Martin
  4. Cyrus Kouandjio
  5. Antonio Richardson
  6. Taylor Lewan
  7. Morgan Moses
  8. James Hurst


Recap: Matthews was great for Texas A&M on screen passes, end arounds and slip screens. He fired downfield to hit blocks on linebackers and defensive backs. The Aggies had a lot of variety in their offensive plays over the past three years, and Matthews showed that he is a factor as a blocker downfield.

Robinson and Martin were also good at getting out of the tackle box to hit blocks. Each of them should be better than most NFL left tackles at hitting blocks downfield, especially Robinson. They both are athletic, but Robinson looks like he could be a freak athlete for an offensive lineman.

Kouandjio, Richardson and Lewan will have the ability to get downfield to hit blocks. They all are quick tackles who move well in space. Moses and Hurst can get the job done there as well, but in his career, Virginia ran behind Moses more in a downhill approach, especially when he was at right tackle.




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