Texas' Connor Williams tops a strong class of blind-side protectors
The 2018 NFL Draft is set for April 26-28, so you still have time to get ready with the Athlon Sports 2018 Draft Guide. With 526 players ranked and needs outlined for every NFL team, it has everything you need.
Here's a sneak peek at our top five offensive tackles in this year's NFL Draft:
1. Connor Williams
CLASS: Jr. HEIGHT: 6’5” WEIGHT: 315
STRONG POINTS: When he’s at his best, Williams is the total package at left tackle, a nimble pass protector and road-grading run blocker. He looks the part with a well-proportioned body, and he plays with natural balance. His feet are light and quick, and he can beat pass rushers to the spot before receiving them with a sturdy base. He plays with a nasty disposition in the run game, willing and able to drive offensive linemen back at the point of attack.
WEAK POINTS: Teams will need to take a close look at his medicals, as Williams suffered MCL and PCL injuries early last year. He was up and down throughout the season, presumably because of the knee. It appeared as if there were times when he was worried about his knee giving out on him when trying to deal with counter-moves or getting out in space.
SUMMARY: Provided team doctors give the thumbs-up on his knee and he returns to his 2016 level of play, Williams is the best offensive tackle to come out of the college ranks in the last two years. Scheme-diverse with a well-rounded game, he is worthy of a top-10 pick.
FINAL GRADE: 1st round
2. Mike McGlinchey
COLLEGE: Notre Dame
CLASS: R-Sr. HEIGHT: 6’7” WEIGHT: 315
STRONG POINTS: McGlinchey’s (above, right) length is what stands out most; he’s tall with a tapered upper body, looking almost like a super-sized wide receiver. He generally does not, however, allow his frame to prevent him from getting low and playing with leverage. He is a knee bender who consistently drives defenders back at the point of attack in the run game.
WEAK POINTS: The jump in level of competition is a concern for every prospect, but it’s a greater point of emphasis for McGlinchey, who was eaten alive in Notre Dame’s loss at home to Georgia last fall. Because he can struggle with pure speed when working on an island, some teams might see him as a right tackle only.
SUMMARY: He was a very good right tackle for the Irish early in his career before moving to the left side, and McGlinchey could fit on either side of the line at the next level. His run blocking is ahead of his pass protection, and that might always be the case. But he is not a sieve, and he should be at least a quality starter for a long time.
FINAL GRADE: 1st round
3. Orlando Brown
CLASS: R-Jr. HEIGHT: 6’7” WEIGHT: 340
STRONG POINTS: The son of the late, longtime Browns and Ravens offensive tackle of the same name, Brown (right) is an enormous edge blocker who consistently swallows up pass rushers. He’s nimble for a player with his monster size, able to kick-slide and set as a pass protector, and he has the long arms and overall strength to overwhelm them. He shows excellent awareness and range when it comes to recognizing and picking up blitzers. He’s even better in the run game, where he can dominate at the point of attack.
WEAK POINTS: Brown played the blind side at Oklahoma, but he might not be able to deal with speed on an island without having to resort to hit-and-miss quick sets. He has a tendency to lunge when he has to range too far, leaving him vulnerable to counter-moves.
SUMMARY: His long-term fit might be at right tackle or maybe even inside at guard, but Brown’s ability to dominate in the run game and hold his own on the edge should allow him to become a quality starter somewhere on the line.
FINAL GRADE: 1st round
4. Brian O’Neill
CLASS: R-Jr. HEIGHT: 6’6” WEIGHT: 300
STRONG POINTS: He was initially recruited as a wide receiver/defensive end, then moved to tight end before finally landing at tackle for the Panthers. After bulking up, O’Neill played both sides of the offensive line. He has maintained his athleticism, and he’s one of the best movers in this class of offensive linemen. He’s a natural knee bender who is light on his feet and plays with excellent balance, capable of surviving on an island against speed-to-power rushers. He has extremely long arms and the ability to keep defenders from getting into his frame. He also shows excellent range as a run blocker, capable of getting out and landing blocks in space.
WEAK POINTS: O’Neill’s technique comes and goes, and sloppy hand placement is most often his issue. He needs to be more consistent if he’s going to survive on the outside in the NFL.
SUMMARY: O’Neill carries a little bit of risk due to his sloppy-at-times play, but he has undeniable upside and the potential to become a starter on the blind side. Shifting to right tackle or a move inside to guard are both possibilities.
FINAL GRADE: 1st/2nd round
5. Martinas Rankin
COLLEGE: Mississippi State
CLASS: Sr. HEIGHT: 6’4” WEIGHT: 305
STRONG POINTS: A junior college transfer who was raw when he arrived at Mississippi State, Rankin developed into a legitimate NFL prospect over the past two seasons. He has the requisite length to play on the edge, and he shows the nimble feet and overall athleticism to deal with speed around the edge. He plays with good balance and does a solid job changing directions and mirroring against counter-moves.
WEAK POINTS: A little bit fringy for a left tackle, Rankin probably has just enough length. While he’s athletic, he’s not an elite mover when he kick-slides and sets. He’ll also occasionally set back on his heels and get sluggish with his feet. He tends to get too high at times, losing power, especially when trying to get a push in the run game. He could stand to be a little more of a glass eater when it comes to run blocking.
SUMMARY: He’s not guaranteed to have a future at left tackle, but that is his ceiling. Rankin has the raw tools to work with and should find his way to a long-term starting job somewhere on the offensive line.
FINAL GRADE: 2nd round
Other offensive tackles that could be drafted: Kolton Miller, UCLA; Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan; Tyrell Crosby, Oregon; Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T; Jamarco Jones, Ohio State; Desmond Harrison, West Georgia; Timon Parris, Stony Brook; Alex Cappa, Humboldt State; Joseph Noteboom, TCU; Will Richardson, NC State; Aaron Stinnie, James Madison; Cole Madison, Washington State; Zachary Crabtree, Oklahoma State