First Round Breakdown: Offensive Tackles

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If you missed Part 1 of our NFL Draft breakdown yesterday, you can read it here.

It appears that three offensive tackles could be taken before the Bengals make their selection at pick no. 21. University of Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff is generally regarded as the top offensive lineman available and is the overwhelming favorite to go to the New York Giants at pick no. 9.

The second offensive tackle expected to be taken before Cincinnati picks is Stanford offensive lineman Andrus Peat, who will probably be drafted in the top 15. Peat is a relatively hot name at the moment—he may even go in the top ten.

The third player, LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, has recently taken a large hit to his draft stock due to a recent tragedy: Collins’ pregnant ex-girlfriend was killed last Friday night, and police are seeking to talk to Collins about the paternal responsibility of the baby. Collins “is not believed to be a suspect in the shooting,” but police “want to talk to him to see if he can provide them with information.” Not only is this a sad story because a young mother was killed, but Collins’ name has been smeared in the process by news outlets who have been click-baiting headlines with misleading information. At the moment, Collins is not a suspect, and his lawyer stated that they are using a private investigator to prove that Collins had nothing to do with the crime.

Collins was one of 27 prospects expected to be in Chicago for the draft, but he has flown back to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to cooperate with authorities and to try to clear his name. Whether fair or not, there are reports that teams are taking Collins off their draft board because they don’t have enough information on the issue and the draft is hours away. In fact, four teams told Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager that “Collins is undraftable until he’s fully exonerated.” Teams are doing “furious last minute research” on the issue, and the Bengals are definitely one of these teams. Collins must talk to Baton Rouge authorities as soon as possible in order to get some form of positive news out before the first round begins at 8 p.m. If things stay the same, he may not get drafted at all tonight.

This is all relevant to Cincinnati because some believe that Collins is Cincinnati’s number one guy in this draft. Collins is a dominant run-blocker and has the versatility and traits that offensive line coach Paul Alexander usually looks for in his linemen. If Collins were to join the Bengals, he could slide in at both guard spots and play right or left tackle, making him an ideal sixth lineman for the 2015 season. With both left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith entering contract years, La’el Collins could fill one of their spots in 2016 perfectly. Thus, if Collins falls to the 21st pick, Cincinnati will be faced with a tough decision. Their front office must have clarity on Collins’ involvement or innocence within a few hours. It could certainly be a career-altering decision.

Let’s look at the rest of the offensive tackles the Bengals are considering with the 21st pick. If you read the article from yesterday covering the defensive players and receivers that Cincinnati is considering in the first round, you’ll be familiar with this chart.

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The gray rectangle shows players who are expected to be gone before the Bengals pick at no. 21, but the Bengals would definitely pick one of them if they were to somehow fall. The pink column represents players that are not fits for the Bengals scheme or positional needs. Yesterday, I analyzed half of the names in the orange rectangle, covering three defensive players and two receivers, noting why I thought Alabama safety Landon Collins is the most likely pick if the Bengals don’t choose an offensive tackle. Today, I’ll cover five offensive tackles the team likely have eyes on. This second tier of linemen all have late first/early second round grades. Each has warts, but each one will also find a happy suitor within the first 50 picks of the draft.

University of Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings (6’5, 309 pounds)
Strengths:
Clemmings has some of the longest arms and biggest hands in the draft class. He is extremely athletic, a former basketball player and defensive end. He has great balance and movement skills and looks like a tight end when asked to block in space. Clemmings has strong, violent hands and length to keep defenders away from him. He has elite change of direction skills for the position and bends his knees well. He plays with a mean streak and finishes violently when run-blocking. Has surprisingly good footwork considering his inexperience. Most of his issues are correctable.
Weaknesses: He’s only played football for about six seasons and has only been an offensive lineman for two full seasons. He struggled mightily at the Senior Bowl, especially in pass protection with inside moves. His movements are a little mechanical and predictable. Clemmings is a major boom-or-bust prospect—he needs to improve his hand placement by keeping his hands inside, and he drops his head at times. He gets caught flat-footed and leans on defenders, causing him to fall off blocks. It was recently revealed that he played with a stress fracture in his foot last season. He had no idea he was playing with it. Some reporters have confirmed it is not a big deal.
Fit: Clemmings is a perfect fit for Cincinnati because he can sit for a year. He can improve his technique mightily, and also get some time early in the season to rest his foot. He would be an ideal swing tackle to come on for goal-line sets because he is a nasty run-blocker. Clemmings is an ideal ball of clay for coach Paul Alexander to get his hands on. He has the versatility to play guard or tackle, which is another valuable asset, and is the strong favorite to be picked by Denver at pick no. 28. If the Bengals were to trade back with Baltimore (pick no 26) or Dallas (pick no. 27) and select Clemmings, they’d likely be stealing the Broncos’ man.
Likelihood: About 20%. Clemmings makes a lot of sense for the Bengals, if La’el Collins or Andrus Peat don’t fall. He has the talent to become the best offensive linemen in this class, but it might have a rocky start. Cincinnati provides the ideal learning environment for Clemmings to develop into a dominant offensive tackle.

University of Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (6’5, 307 pounds)
Strengths:
Humphries is regarded as one of the best left tackle prospects in this draft class due to his outstanding footwork. His kick-step is very fluid and he takes good angles to seal the edge in pass protection. He plays with great balance and bends his knees well, plays hard to the whistle and finishes strong. Humphries keeps his head on a swivel and recognizes stunts and blitzes well. He is a competent run blocker, but not a dominant one.
Weaknesses: Humphries leans and lunges at times. He played at about 280 pounds last season, which is extremely light for an NFL-caliber lineman. He added about 25 pounds in the offseason, but it remains to be seen if he can keep it on, and if it acts as a detriment to his footwork. He needs to improve his core strength; his playing strength left a bit to be desired at times. His hand placement needs to be improved—they tend to land high, slipping off the defender. He needs to keep his legs moving when run blocking, and he tends to stop his feet instead of driving his legs and rolling his hips. Has had injury issues, with injury-shortened seasons in two consecutive years.
Fit: Although Humphries is talented and intriguing, there’s too much risk and downside in him. Some regard him as the best pure offensive tackle prospect, but more view him as a second round prospect. His average landing spot in mock drafts is pick no. 52 (second lowest among the eight prospects mentioned in this article), which means he might even be on the board by the time the Bengals pick again in the second round. Similar to T.J. Clemmings, he could be in a good situation with Cincinnati because sitting for a year would help him to get used to playing at a heavier weight. Humphries could also improve his technical deficiencies in this time.
Likelihood: Less than 5%. The value just isn’t good enough to take D.J. Humphries in the first round. From the weight issues, to the injury issues, to the core strength and hand placement problems, Humphries simply has too many weaknesses. If the Bengals don’t take an offensive tackle in the first round. Humphries may still be on the board at pick no. 53, which would be a much better value for a decent player.

University of Oregon offensive tackle Jake Fisher (6’6, 306 pounds)
Strengths:
Fisher has some of the biggest hands in the draft class. He’s extremely versatile, having played guard, right tackle, and left tackle. As a former tight end, Fisher is very athletic. His movement and agility skills are among the best in the tackle class. Fisher has superb footwork and plays with good flexibility and bent knees. Tested extremely well in all combine and pro day movement drills.
Weaknesses: Despite his large hands, his arms are fairly short. He didn’t look as comfortable in pass protection on the left side, and he needs to improve his functional strength and bulk. His lean frame doesn’t handle bull-rushes well. Fisher was penalized for six holding penalties last year and lacks power in both the run and pass game. When defenders get by him, he tends to hook them (which is a hold). Fisher hesitates at times and doesn’t trust his technique.
Fit: Fisher doesn’t generally fit what the Bengals usually look for in their offensive tackles. He is a bit too lean and is more of a hyper athlete than a big, bookend tackle. But his versatility does suit the Bengals well. He could fill in at any spot along the line except center. Since he wouldn’t need to play right away, Fisher could improve his functional strength and refine his technique in year one.
Likelihood: About 15%. Several legitimate sources have linked Jake Fisher to the Bengals. Color commentator Dave Lapham, who usually has an excellent pulse on the Bengals draft intentions, mentioned him as a guy he likes. Peter King stated that the Bengals “love Fisher” in his last mock draft and chose him at pick no. 21. Finally, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah stated that Fisher could be the Bengals surprise pick at no. 21, and Ian Rapoport backed it. That’s a lot of rumored interest for one player. If Fisher doesn’t get selected by the Eagles at pick no. 20, he could slide all the way to the early second round. Thus, the value isn’t great on Fisher, but it wouldn’t be a terrible pick. It would be much better if the Bengals got him after a trade back.

University of Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (6’6, 329 pounds)
Strengths:
Certainly the largest of the prospects in this article. Flowers has long arms and a huge frame, which he uses to engulf smaller defenders. Flowers is a dominant player as a run-blocker. He uses his size and strength to lock on to defenders and really move them. He is a nasty finisher and is highly competitive.
Weaknesses: Flowers’ pass protection needs a complete overhaul. His kick-step is very poor because he doesn’t gain enough depth or width. He’s generally late off the snap as well. These two things combine to give him trouble with speed rushers on the outside. Flowers doesn’t have a good punch at all. Instead, he grabs the outside of defenders shoulders and hugs them (also known as a crab grabber). It wasn’t called as much as it should have been in college due to his size differential, but he will rack up the holding penalties in the NFL. He also tends to duck his head a lot. Flowers is top-heavy and tends to lean too much. His sloppy footwork and terrible hand placement will take a long time to correct.
Fit: Flowers’ size generally lines up with what the Bengals look for in their offensive tackles. Again, he would have time to fix his technical issues because he wouldn’t have to play right away. However, Flowers issues aren’t easily correctable and will probably stay with him for a long time. He did play both left tackle and right tackle at Miami, so he would provide the versatility that the Bengals look for in their offensive linemen.
Likelihood: About 10%. Flowers fits with the size measurables that the Bengals like in their offensive tackles and the value lines up well with the 21st pick, but he would be an extremely frustrating pick, because his issues are so entrenched in his style of play. He gets by on size alone and needs a complete technique overhaul as a pass protector. The St. Louis Rams have been rumored to really like Flowers. Hopefully they take him off the board before Cincinnati has a chance to consider him.

Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (6’5, 306 pounds)
Strengths:
Ogbuehi has the longest arms in the entire draft class at a freakish 35 ⅞ inches. He is an outstanding athlete with great quickness and footwork and uses these gifts to mirror defenders extremely well in pass protection. Ogbuehi moves well in the open field and can locate blocks at the second level easily. He keeps his head on a swivel and recognizes stunting defenders well. He also has experience at guard and both tackle spots.
Weaknesses: Ogbuehi is often knocked for his lack of strength and ability to anchor. He’s relatively lean and gets pushed around a bit. His poor technique makes his anchor appear worse than it is. Ogbuehi needs to play with a wider base, more flexibility, and better hand placement. Fixing the timing of his punch (which is usually late) and improving his hand placement would go a long way in taking advantage of his extremely lanky arms. He needs to make major improvements to his core strength and power. Played much better at right tackle in 2013 than at left tackle in 2014. Suffered an ACL tear in the 2014 bowl game that will hinder the evaluation process and may keep him off the field until September.
Fit: His long arms and light feet are important to the Bengals, but he comes with many technical issues and injury concerns. As is the case with every prospect in this article, the Bengals don’t need him to play right away, so Ogbuehi could use his first year to get healthy, improve his core strength, and improve his technique. Also, his versatility to play at multiple spots fits what the Bengals like.
Likelihood: About 15%. The percentage is much smaller in the first round, but Ogbuehi could be taken by the Bengals in the second or third round. The Bengals have reported interest in Ogbuehi from three different sources—Dave Lapham, Ian Rapoport, and Peter King. Ogbuehi comes with the most warts of all of the linemen in this draft, so taking him at pick no. 21 is downright foolish. His median draft position is 86th, and the Bengals just so happen to have the 85th pick (third round). If the team uses their first two picks on other positions and Ogbuehi is still there at pick no. 85, he’d probably be the pick.

Brennen Warner is a contributor to the Cincinnati Magazine Bengals Blog and SB Nation’s Cincy Jungle. You can follow him on Twitter at @BrennenWarner.

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