The draft season is well and truly upon us, as the Senior Bowl takes center stage down in Mobile, Alabama. NFL teams’ decision makers and scouts, accompanied by the media have flocked to get a look at draft prospects preparing for Saturday’s game under the coaching staffs of the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers.
Kyle Shanahan and his staff will provide an opportunity for their scouts to sit in meetings with players, giving them an idea of what coaches want from players as well as the way players learn. This is a big offseason for the 49ers after a slow start to this regime’s tenure for numerous reasons and it stands within reason that they can use this week to create a real advantage over their fellow NFL teams in this draft process.
Whilst the 49ers possess a very good offensive line, they do have one potential free agent in this area, Mike Person, who could command a significant pay raise elsewhere. There are question marks about his potential replacement. Furthermore, questions can and should be raised about the quality and cost of the current swing tackle cover. A succession plan for long time pro bowl calibre tackle Joe Staley who is 34 years old should be on the front offices mind – teams need two good offensive tackles to be successful. I took a look at the offensive line prospects on show down in Mobile, a mixed group of immediate starters and future starters which makes this a impressive class :
1. T Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia, 6-5, 321lbs: A sound run blocker with the ability to pull and connect with defenders on the second level. Displays power to anchor and strong hands in pass protection. He has active feet and is patient when faced with 1-on-1 matchups. Cajuste handles stunts well showing a good understanding for what defenders are trying to do. He can get beaten by speed rushers at times. Shows comfort in 2 and 3 point stance. Potential starter at both Tackle spots.
2. T Dennis Daley, South Carolina, 6-6, 324 lbs: has impressive size and strength. Tough to move when he anchors in pass protection. Daley is not overly athletic and lacks a bit of mobility when trying to pull. Struggles with agile and speed edge rushers at times. Shows good awareness to handle twists and stunts. He plays with heavy hands which can immobilize edge rushers. Not asked to run block very often but he overwhelmed defenders with his power on those rare occasions. He’ll be looking to show more of his run blocking at the Senior Bowl. Lack of mobility brings questions for a fit with the 49ers however.
3. T Andre Dillard, Washington State, 6-5, 306 lbs: can get pushed back into the Quarterback often which is probably a result of a lack of lower body strength. Whilst it doesn’t always affect his ability to anchor if he can improve in this area it would enhance his game immensely. He handles speed rushers well, mirrors their movement with ease because of his excellent feet. Displays patience with his hands when pass protecting but doesn’t always strike with power or placement. He plays with decent leverage and isn’t asked to run block consistently due to the system he plays in. Needs refinement in a few areas but a solid prospect for teams needing a immediate help at tackle spots.
4.T Tytus Howard, Alabama State, 6-6, 311 lbs: not a mauler in the run game but does an adequate job engaging defenders and getting to the next level. Howard has sufficient size to remain at tackle in the NFL but needs to play with better leverage. Anchors well in pass protection, move his feet well but can lunge forward at times which allows rushers to shed his hands and pressure the quarterback. Overall a developmental tackle prospect with significant room for growth starting at the Senior Bowl.
5. G B.J. Autry, Jacksonville State, 6-5, 340 lbs: a mammoth of a man who plays with power and nastiness in the run game. Isn’t the most agile but gets to the second level and dominates people when run blocking. Looked way better than the players he was facing consistently. He plays with heavy hands which deliver a powerful punch in pass protection. May have to improve his conditioning in the NFL where he would fit seamlessly with power running teams.
6. G Javon Patterson, Mississippi, 6-3, 314 lbs : does a nice job pulling and getting to the second level in the run game. Displays adequate awareness and ability to handle stunts and twists by defenders. Combines well with other offensive linemen on double teams to devastating effect. He plays with strong hands and moves his feet nicely to mirror rushers. Patterson endured an up and down game versus Mississippi state Defensive line particularly Jeffery Simmons a first round draft prospect whose quickness and power proved a handful on occasion.
7. G Ben Powers, Oklahoma, 6-4, 313lbs : another offensive line prospect from the Sooners’ pipeline, Powers is a physical player with long arms who dominates people in the run game. He shows the capacity to pull and get out in space where he uses his big body to seal runs. He does a good job in pass ptotection, solid anchor and has very good hand placement. Shows the intelligence to pass off rushers to fellow linemen, reset and find free rushers.
8. G Dru Samia, Oklahoma, 6-5, 303lbs: A big athletic guard prospect who plays with physicality and uses his length well. He moves people in the run game and is nimble enough to pull and get to the second level. Displays a strong anchor when pass protecting, though sometimes his feet can be too slow resulting in rushers getting by him. Patient in pass protection where he handles both speed and power with ease. Overall an exciting prospect who can start at both Guard spots with some minor refinement.
9. C Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State, 6-4, 310lbs : a prototypical interior offensive line prospect who moves well, displays the ability to pull as well as possessing fluid lower body movements which helps him seal holes for ball carriers in the run game. Has the strength and technique to handle bullrush from defenders. He uses his hands nicely to neutralize pass rushers speed. Jenkins plays angry and to the whistle at all times. Held his own against an impressive Alabama defensive line, dealing with their power, quickness and freshness provided by the depth the possess. He played Guard and Center in college which will only enhance his appeal in the eyes of NFL teams who value cross training their interior players.
10. C Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama, 6-4, 309lbs: Versatile player who can cover all three interior positions along the line. He needs to get stronger to cope with the power he’ll face on Sundays, gives up too much ground to power rushers on occasion. A good run blocker who gets to the second level with ease. His hand placement needs improvement and it shows at times when they’re easily shoved down by defenders. Not overly athletic but reliable enough to survive in the NFL.