Why the Slide?: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell
Five years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Three years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.
Under former head coach Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss Rebels put together a lot of strong recruiting classes that produced a lot of early-round NFL talent. Among those players were Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram, Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, Breeland Speaks and more. After Freeze was fired amid scandal, some of his talented recruits who interested NFL teams remained at Ole Miss. Greg Little was one of those players, and he looked like he could be a star as the replacement for Tunsil. Immediately in college football, Little showed he had a great combination of size, quickness and athleticism.
With the skill set of a franchise left tackle, Little broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and played really well while making the jump into college football's toughest conference. His sophomore and junior years were solid, but not dominant, and he remained the Rebels starter through three seasons before declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft. In the passing-driven NFL, left tackles with Little's skill set are hard to find, and that had Little being projected as a future first-round pick for a lot of his collegiate career.
In speaking to team sources, there was a combination of factors that led to Little sliding. One of those problems was concern over his consistency. Some teams felt that Little was not as consistent as he should have been in college. From the tape, some evaluators also felt they did not see enough nastiness out of Little, and that was also reflected in his pre-draft interviews, where he came across as a nice kid but not a fighter and bully as a football player. Sources at other teams said Little has everything you look for as a player, but those issues of personality and consistency suppressed their enthusiasm.
The Carolina Panthers traded up for Little in the second round, and they were an ideal landing spot for him. Fortunately for Little, he is going to one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL with Carolina's John Matsko. Matsko has worked wonders with developing offensive linemen, as Carolina has taken some second-day and mid-round offensive linemen who Matsko has turned into good pros. That group includes Trai Turner, Daryl Williams, Andrew Norwell and Taylor Moton. If Little works hard under Matsko, he could be a special player in the NFL.
On top of the coaching, the Panthers also need a starting left tackle immediately, so Little has a great opportunity to see the field quickly. Matt Kalil was let go, but the former Vikings bust never lived up to the contract that Dave Gettleman gave him with Carolina. Little could earn the starting left tackle job immediately due to the Panthers not having a true left tackle competing with him. I think Little could end up becoming a franchise left tackle under the direction of Matsko, and that would prove to be a brilliant pick for the Panthers and general manager Marty Hurney.
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