The NFL is a passing league, and there’s no doubt that quarterbacks and wide receivers are the stars. But without the men in the trenches, few opportunities would exist for the QBs and WRs. Aidan Curran examines one of the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft, Ronnie Stanley.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish left tackle Ronnie Stanley is seen by many as the second-best offensive tackle in this year’s draft, behind Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss. Though ranked right behind Tunsil by draft pundits, Stanley is not close to Tunsil in terms of skill, and represents a different style of play.
Tale of the Tape
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- Footwork: For such a hulking player, Stanley displays surprisingly light feet, enabling him to move well with defenders and mirror them. [jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyVideo1.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyStill1.jpg”]On this play from 2015, Stanley is lined up against the Ohio Buckeye Camren Williams. The left tackle’s kick step at the snap is great, and he mirrors Williams well, while using his hands to stop Williams from gaining any ground. Notre Dame asked a lot of Stanley with their blocking scheme in terms of different block types requiring precise footwork, and this added experience will help adjust to the NFL more quickly.
- Technique: While Stanley’s feet allow him to handle speed rushers pretty well, Stanley plays too tall and does not show a natural bend in his stance. [jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyVideo2.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyStill2.jpg”]Stanley loses his matchup with the blitzing linebacker when he fails to maintain leverage, allowing the running back to be tackled in the backfield. This contributed to his occasional struggles versus bull rushes, when his lack of bend and leverage allowed his opponents to drive him back and disrupt the play. Stanley also needs to work on his pre-snap stance. When pass-blocking, he sits back in his stance and is more upright, compared to run plays, where he plays closer to the line of scrimmage with his hand in the dirt in a three-point stance. Against the Clemson Tigers in 2015, Stanley tips off the play type before the ball is snapped by setting up in a two-point stance. [jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyVideo3.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyStill3.jpg”]In the NFL, defenses will pick up on this tendency and use it to diagnose what kind of play the offense is running. Stanley will need to fix this by the time he plays in his first NFL game.
- Hand Placement: Stanley’s hand placement is solid, but his initial punch lacks power, and his hands are not as active as a player like Tunsil. For such a large player, you would like to see more power generated from his punch to disrupt pass rushers. Against Shaq Lawson in the Clemson game, Stanley struggled all game long, particularly against Lawson’s spin move. [jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyVideo4.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyStill4.jpg”]As the game went on, Lawson used the spin move more and more as he saw Stanley having trouble blocking it. On this play, Stanley’s punch is too late, as Lawson gets into Stanley’s body and uses the spin move and Stanley’s tall stance to drive him back into the quarterback.
- Functional Strength: Stanley relies more on his quickness than his strength to win matchups. With improved technique, his natural strength will be a greater asset, but he currently lacks the proper technique to fully utilize his strength and is more of a finesse-type player.
- Mobility: Stanley looked rather stiff on film when asked to block linebackers at the second level, or execute pull blocks. His lack of flexibility led to issues with executing second-level blocks and it was easy for linebackers to get around him to make the tackle, like on this play against the Texas Longhorns in 2015. [jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyVideo5.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/StaleyStill5.jpg”]At the snap, Stanley executes a combo block with the left guard on the Texas defensive tackle, and then moves to the second level to block the linebacker. However, the linebacker is too quick for Stanley, and easily disengages from Stanley before the left tackle can finish the block and allow the running back further room.
- Play Style: Stanley did not display an aggressive style of play like Tunsil did, and seemed more concerned with directing defenders away from the play rather than dominating them and winning his matchups. He rarely finishes blocks all the way up to the whistle, lending credence to the opinion of him playing a more finesse style of play at the tackle position.
- Run-Blocking: Stanley is an average run blocker. Like his pass protection, Stanley would benefit from improved technique. Currently, Stanley relies on positioning to block his defender, and showed the ability to execute seal blocks on the edge. Ideally, as he improves his strength, he will be able to consistently drive run defenders back and open up bigger holes in the defensive line.
Ronnie Stanley’s potential is enough to get him drafted in the first round even though he is not a finished product. NFL front office executives will drool over his combination of size and quickness, and with good coaching, he can work on his technique and play strength in order to succeed in the NFL. There will be a period of adjustment for Stanley in his rookie season as he faces pass rushers who can win with both speed and strength, but as he continues to learn and develop, Stanley will develop into an above-average NFL offensive tackle.