The draft is almost here and the excitement is slowly building to a crescendo. If you have not done so already check out my last article on why the Green Bay Packers should prioritize drafting offensive lineman for the draft. One part I did not exactly specify is where they should focus building on the line. Lane Taylor and David Bakhtari are the veterans who solidify the left side of the line. Center is also well taken up with Corey Linsley, which even though he struggled last year, is still on an expensive contract and worth the long-term investment. The right side is still uncertain. Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, and Justin McCray are all vying for the right guard and right tackle positions but none of them have proven to be elite and they all have struggled with injuries. Perhaps between the three of them they could compete for one of the positions, probably the right guard position, and that leaves the right tackle as the priority position to draft. So let’s look at some of the best right tackle prospects this year.
Kolton Miller, UCLA
Miller is an intriguing prospect at right tackle because of his exceptionally large frame. He stands in at 6’9” and weighs around 310 pounds. That makes him a lot taller and a little thinner than some of the other lineman in the draft and his bench press (24) reflected this lower level of strength. However, his athleticism outside of the bench is what makes him such a tantalizing prospect. He covers a lot of ground quickly and can get to the second level of the defense rapidly on run plays. Despite this, he does lack the initial explosion off the line that would make him an excellent left tackle. For this reason, he is better suited to play the right tackle in the NFL, which works perfectly for Green Bay. He lacks some of the aggression needed to be a Pro Bowl run blocker, but he is smart and knows how to make his assignments whether they are zone runs or gap schemes. Ultimately his length and horizontal fluidity will make up for a lot of the mistakes he will make in the NFL.
Right now scouts are torn on him, some putting him late in the first round or early in the second. If he continues to drop down the boards and makes it to the second round, the front office might do itself well to pull the trigger and move up a few spots to grab Miller. He’s an athletic presence up front and his potential for growth in the NFL seems quite large. Getting him would be a huge boon for the Packers to help them sure up the right side of the offense for years to come.
Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh
Another fascinating player, O’Neill did not even come to college as a lineman. He played wide receiver in high school, then redshirted a year as tight end in college, before finally switching to right tackle his first two years playing. Then this last year, he moved over to left tackle and had himself a solid year. He was also a basketball player in high school and even has been used at Pitt as a running back, where he scored two touchdowns. Cleary he is not prototypical in basically any way as an offensive lineman except for his size at 6’7” and almost 300 pounds.
The Packers have selected players in the past that deviated from the traditional route to positions. One of the more recent examples is Quinten Rollins who played four straight seasons of college basketball at Miami University, before playing a single season of college football. The Packers then took a risk and used their second round draft pick in the 2015 Draft to select him. Unfortunately, that risk has not really payed off as Rollins has stagnated since being drafted and is currently fighting for a reserve role in the secondary.
Yet O’Neill is different because he has three years of college football under his belt and because he was not making the switch from basketball to football in college. What’s attractive about O’Neill is his athleticism. As someone that has a background a wide receiver, O’Neill is incredibly good in block schemes that attack the secondary of the defense. He’s mobile, quick and has good footwork. His biggest weakness is his lack of strength, as he is still trying to put on weight from his original transition to the line. Plus, he lacks a little bit of polish on his fundamental blocking. However, a good weight training program in the NFL could likely fix the issue of strength.
Picking O’Neill would be a bit of risk, but I think it could easily pay off if his athleticism can mold with high level blocking skills. In a couple of years, he could be a dominant force on the right side of the line.
Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
After finding two prospects that are a traditional build for the tackle position, let’s look at someone that is a nontraditional build for the position. At only 6’2”, Wynn projects as likely a guard or even a center in the NFL. That does not mean he cannot play as a tackle. There have been notable undersized tackles in the NFL such as Kelvin Beachum. Not to mention Green Bay’s own Justin McCray who has played on both ends of the line despite being only an inch taller than Wynn.
Wynn is an ideal run blocker that attacks with aggression and power. This team could use some help in the run game, which has traditionally suffered in the Rodgers era and being at right tackle would make him the most important run blocker on the team. That does not mean he is a slouch on pass protection either, as he plays the pass rush with clean technique and excellent footwork and a nice touch of athleticism. He would be a clear first round pick at tackle if he was just a bit taller, but rules are meant to be broken. If he was drafted he might be able to fill in at right tackle, but at worst would be an excellent addition to right guard.