About the class:
In today’s NFL, right tackle is as much of a priority as left tackle because of the evolution of pass rushers. Some of the best edge players in the NFL are playing left defensive end or outside linebacker, meaning teams are no longer safe only protecting the quarterback’s blindside. If a team does not have two reliable starters on each side of the line, they are in for a world of hurt. In this class, I’ve identified three legitimate, Week 1 starting offensive tackles: Utah’s Garett Bolles, Alabama’s Cam Robinson, and Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk.
Three years from now I expect Garett Bolles to be the best tackle from this class because of his high-functioning athleticism and fast developing skills displayed through his two years in junior college (JUCO) and one season at Utah. I don’t worry about his age – he will a 25-year-old rookie – because that doesn’t seem to be an indicator for NFL failure at the position. Additionally, high-end tackles play well into their thirties. The knock on Bolles is his inexperience relative to his age. Bolles’ trip to the NFL charted a different course than most, which took him through JUCO where he was an all-American and then to Utah, where he dominated in his one season, earning all-PAC 12 honors. He seems to have an innate ability to adapt to the surrounding talent, which is likely due to how gifted he is athletically but also from a football IQ standpoint. Bolles needs to add size, but tackles with his level of short-area quickness (7.29 three cone, 4.55 shuttle) and lower body force (115-inch broad jump) don’t come along often – and just because someone is athletic doesn’t guarantee NFL success, but in Bolles’ case I look at a player who’s already very good, who is constantly getting better, and has the athletic prowess to solidify himself as a top tier player in the NFL. I feel comfortable taking Bolles between pick 10-15, and he would be a real steal for a playoff team lacking that final piece to the offensive line.
Cam Robinson entered Alabama in 2014 as a five-star recruit and the hype of a future top 5 pick. However, his career was yet another example of development not being linear. As freshmen, players are allowed more passes on their deficiencies and praised more for the things that they do well. Over the progression of their careers, the mistakes get highlighted more while the positives are taken more for granted because they become more expected. The standard for a player is linear, but often the development isn’t, and that very much applies to Robinson. The slip-ups and hiccups are available for all to see with him; you can’t hide a false start, a lunge and missed block, or a blatant holding penalty. Yet, despite his clear flaws, Robinson is nasty in the run game, hitting his first and second level blocks consistently and looking for work thereafter, especially in space. When he gets deep in his set, he’s as solid as anyone in this class at closing down defenders. Robinson should be a long-time starter at either left or right tackle, and would ideally go somewhere in the middle of Round 1.
Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk enters the NFL uniquely, having transferred through four colleges before settling in Madison, where he dominated for one season, being named all-Big Ten. In theory, having only one year of experience is a big question mark, and it doesn’t help that he’s currently recovering from hip surgery, which kept him out of testing at the NFL Combine or Wisconsin’s pro day. Ramczyk is a major projection but there’s enough there on tape to make me confident in his ability to at least be a starting right tackle, which is likely where he would end up if he lands in the late 1st round, where several possible fits are picking.
Moton & Garcia
The second tier of offensive tackle is made up of Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton and Troy’s Antonio Garcia. Moton is a Week 1-starter quality right tackle who could play inside at right guard if need be. Teams will get a nasty streak with him, which he displayed in Kalamazoo and in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Where Moton gets into trouble is when an edge defender gets to his second move, and his feet can be lumbering at times. Overall, however, his foundation is strong enough to make an impact early, and should be on the radar for teams like the Vikings, Giants and Panthers.
Antonio Garcia is the most moldable tackle in this class. Garcia, a four-year starter at Troy, is still figuring out how good he can be and still shaping his physique, which is teetering around 300 pounds, but I think he can hold 315 with proper strength, conditioning, and nutrition. When Garcia’s punch lands, defenders are done. When he gets anchored, defenders are done. His problem comes on quick bull rushers and counter moves, as highlighted in his bowl game against Ohio’s Tarrell Basham. Antonio Garcia is going to be projected at either tackle spot by many teams, and some may even see him as a long-term fit at guard. He’s the last “must-get” tackle in this class, and for that reason I expect him to go somewhere between picks 50-64, even if he’s likely not ready to be a Week 1 starter. In terms of his third year ceiling, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up as the second best tackle in this class.
Not the year for Offensive Tackles
Aside from quarterback, no position dries up as quickly as offensive tackle. There’s three players who teams should key on in round 1 – Bolles, Robinson, and Ramczyk – and then the position drops off to Moton and then Garcia. After that, I wouldn’t feel comfortable drafting anyone in this class and expecting them to start for my team early on. I don’t even see many potential development tackles in this group.