Career Recap: Ever since Jim Harbaugh was named the head coach, Stanford has fielded a physical football team that runs a pro-style system and produces some quality players for the NFL. Head coach David Shaw maintained the new tradition set by Harbaugh, and year after year, the Cardinal has a tough offensive line leading a power rushing attack.
In that time, Stanford has produced some left tackles for the NFL, including Jonathan Martin and Andrus Peat, but Little might become the best prospect of that group. The Houston, Texas product Little was impressive as a freshman starter at left tackle for Stanford in 2017. He did an effective job in run blocking and helped Bryce Love to a huge season. Little was solid as a sophomore and showed an improved ability to protect the passer, doing a respectable job in keeping pressure off of quarterback K.J. Costello.
2019 Season Outlook: Little is going to see some good defenses during his 2019 season and also some future NFL edge rushers. In Week 1, he will take on Northwestern's Joe Gaziano, who has totaled 16.5 sacks over the past two seasons. A week later, it doesn't get much easier as USC's Christian Rector will be a challenge for Little. After that it gets easier for Little, but in mid-October ,he will see a NFL prospect in UCLA's Keisean Lucier-South. At the end of the season, Little will see some NFL prospects taking on Notre Dame with edge defenders Khalid Kareem and Daelin Hayes.
Skill-Set Summary: There is a lot to like about Little, and he could be a franchise left tackle for the NFL. In the passing-driven professional ranks, finding a quality left tackle is a challenge for a lot of franchises, so Little should have a lot of teams interested in adding him to their roster.
In pass protection, Little is tough to beat for edge rushers. He has good length and strength and is able to bend at the knee. Little sets up well to take on rushers, and once he gets a hold of defenders, they are in trouble. His length and strength allow him to sustain blocks to the whistle, and he is very difficult for rushers to shed. His long arms and strong upper body also give him an edge in recoverability. Even when he is slightly out of position, he can compensate by getting enough of the rushers to give his quarterback time to throw. Generally, Little is very dependable to not allow pressure. He has good hand placement and is intelligent to recognize how defenses are attacking the edge. Little also flashes some nastiness as a pass blocker, as it is not uncommon to see him grab a rusher in the chest and throw them to the ground with ferocity. Little sets a physical presence and is a real battler who makes it a long day for edge rushers to match up against.
On the ground, Little is a plus run blocker for a left tackle. He is a fighter who has some nastiness to him. He definitely is not a finesse left tackle who shies away from getting violent with defenders. Little can get into the chest of defensive linemen and get a push on them at times. Other times, he uses his length to turn and manipulate defenders to keep them out of the play. On the edge and to the second level, Little shows some quickness to get into the defense, and when he gets a hold of linebackers, he will punish them into the turf or ride them around field. Little has the ability to play in a power man- or zone-blocking scheme.
Still, Little could stand to improve his ability to stay on his feet while playing the run. Too often, he stumbles and falls to a knee at the second level or while trying to push a defender. When linemen lose their feet, that just about takes them out of the play and also can create some pileups that lead to injuries for them or teammates.
In 2019, this evaluator would like to see Little take on some ultra-fast edge rushers to challenge his foot quickness and put on display if he has the ability to cut off the edge when taking on a rusher with elite speed. Little has quality feet, but his typewriter skills to head off edge rushers are not like some other recent athletes who have been first-round left tackles. Players like Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley and Andre Dillard showed better speed and with quicker feet. A more suiting comparison to Little might be the Detroit Lions' Taylor Decker. Perhaps Little shows improvement in this regard during 2019, and if he does, it could really help him to be a consensus franchise left tackle prospect.
Even if he stays steady with his 2018 performance, there should be some NFL teams that are eyeing Little as a their potential starting left tackle.
2020 NFL Draft Expectations: Little has first-round potential for the 2020 NFL Draft, and if he continues to make strides he could go early. A down year would probably make him a second-day candidate and leave some teams projecting him to right tackle.