This post covers my preliminary rankings of the top offensive tackles entering the 2017 NFL Draft. For analysis of the respective rankings of certain prospects, see the corresponding footnotes (+).
1. Cam Robinson (Alabama) | 6’5 320 (++)
2. Ryan Ramcyzk (Wisconsin) | 6’5 315 (+++)
3. Garrett Bolles (Utah) | 6’5 300 (++++)
4. Antonio Garcia (Troy) | 6’6 300 (++++)
5. David Sharpe (Florida) | 6’5 350 (+++++)
6. Zach Banner (USC) | 6’8 360
7. Roderick Johnson (Florida St) | 6’6 310 (++++++)
8. Avery Gennesy (Texas A&M) | 6’5 315
9. Dan Skipper (Arkansas) | 6’9 320
10. Storm Norton (Toledo) | 6’8 310
(+) In stark contrast to other positional groups among the 2017 draft class, the group of prospects populating the OT draft class is one of the weakest groups in recent memory.
(++) Robinson is arguably the best overall prospect in this class. Robinson’s starting experience, size, athleticism, and technique strongly suggest that he is capable of quickly becoming an excellent RT at the next level. However, his play against top edge rushers (see, for example, games against Garrett and Barnett) also suggest his chances of developing into a quality LT in the NFL are fairy good. All in all, it’s not hard to picture a OT-needy team coveting Robinson in the top half of the first round (say, for example, Carolina at pick 7), but the depth of first-round talents at other positions could push Robinson down to teams selecting in the mid to late first round.
(+++) Ramcyzk’s recent injury clouds his draft stock. Prior to the injury, there was a strong argument to be made that he was/is the top LT prospect in this draft class. More information will be available on his injury once the Combine occurs, but I’m inclined to believe Ramcyzk (a Junior entrant) would not have declared if his injury prognosis was bad enough to keep teams from considering him in the first round. As it stands, he is my clear #2 OT prospect and may end up #1 in the end.
(++++) Beyond Robinson and Ramcyzk, the remaining OT prospects are either talent deficient or come with notable redflag(s). Right now, Bolles and Garcia are the prospects most likely to end up being selected in the second round. Bolles demonstrates good size, athleticism and technique to go along with a nasty competitive demeanor. That package of attributes normally lands in the first two rounds of the draft, but Bolles’ age (will be 25 his rookie season) will cause teams to question his upside (development) potential in relation to other prospects… Garcia is arguably the most athletic LT prospect in this class. However, more assessment needs to be done on his technique, consistency and toughness/competitiveness before I’m able to say, with any degree of certainty, that he’s a late first/early second round prospect. Still, in a weak class, he’s the most intriguing, high upside prospect.
(+++++) Admittedly, I’ve watched very little of Sharpe’s play–but I was intrigued about his potential based on what I’ve seen to date. At 6’5 350, he demonstrated impressive athleticism manning the LT spot all season for Florida. More work is needed, but he immediately flashed apparent potential to become a quality starting RT prospect at the next level. This is more than I can say for many of the other “top” prospects.
(++++++) For me, Roderick Johnson comes off as the classic LT prospect that draft pundits and teams overrate and overdraft, year in and year out. Johnson is 6’7 315, has substantial starting experience and the apparent athleticism to suggest potential to become a dependable LT at the next level. But in watching Johnson’s games more closely, I saw an LT prospect with shaky balance, strength and agility that was made to look foolish on several occasions by some of the better defensive edge prospects in this class and future classes. Principally, he has a slow, mechanical drop step that is exposed by edge rushers with good first-step quickness. Johnson is competitive and will try hard to compensate, but that compensation leads to imbalance that an advanced edge rusher can expose through counter moves. These deficiencies in functional athleticism (despite an impressive athletic build overall) are unlikely to be eradicated by coaching. Moreover, Johnson does not possess the build or strength to play other OL positions in the event he can’t hack it at LT. Accordingly, he’s the type of left tackle or bust prospect that teams should be weary of spending a high draft pick on.