Mid-Round O-Line Prospects, 2016 Draft
The Ravens have question marks across the offensive line, except for Marshal Yanda. The best guard in football. That is until out of necessity they move Yanda out to tackle, where he becomes the best tackle in football.
Left tackle is up in the air with the team down on Eugene Monroe at the moment. But yesterday, the Ravens reported that Monroe is their left tackle. Injury history, and average play when on the field have created rumors that his spot is replaceable. Names like Laremy Tunsil, and Ronnie Stanley have popped up, linked to Ravens at pick number six in the upcoming draft. Though Tunsil is lmost likely top five, if not number one overall. At right tackle, the job is Rick Wagner’s to lose. He had a poor rookie season, a stellar sophomore campaign, and regressed some from there last year. But he’s played well enough to earn a performance escalator in his 2016 salary, a raise of nearly one million dollars. It’s Wagner’s contract year, so expect him to be extra motivated to play at a high level.
At the guard position, we mentioned Yanda. No worries there at all. Left guard had been occupied by Kelechi Osemele, who was recently signed in free agency by the Oakland Raiders. That opens the door for third year player, John Urschel out of Penn State. Urschel got some playing time in a center last year and was not good at all. Guard will suit him better. While he might have the highest IQ of any NFL player, let’s hope the spotlight on him this year is about his incredible play on the field. Not his math skills off it. He’s not faced a lot of playing time in his first two years making it tough to really asses him.
At center, Jeremy Zuttah is the guy. He is under contract for three more years at a modest cap hit of around $4.6M. Could be room for savings in the coming years, but not so much this year. Zuttah, while being a scheme fit as an athletic, lateral moving center in the zone blocking game, has a nagging injury history as well. He played in 65 straight games until a torn pectoral cut his 2015 season short. But even before that, hip, leg, foot injuries that he’s played through, have lead me to believe that Zuttah has not played at 100% health in probably two years. If healthy, Zuttah could be one of the top centers in the league. When you look at Gino Gradkowski before him, and John Urschel filling in after he went on IR, you appreciate what you have in Zuttah, and appreciate him playing through the pain.
The real trouble with the offensive line is depth. That makes the O-line a perfect target for the middle of the Ravens draft. They don’t need a guy at pick number six who is supposed to step in a start day one. But you can’t go into the season with James Hurst at the primary backup, again. Hurst graded out as the worst tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Undrafted because of injury, two years in the NFL now, and it makes you cringe for the QB when Hurst is out there. He can’t be anymore. O-Line should be a priority in the middle of the draft. Tackle first, with Monroe being up and down, and Wagner maybe on his way out of Baltimore in 2017. Then Guard, with Urschel getting his first chance to prove himself, and maybe needing some camp competition.
So here are some of the middle of the draft prospects the Ravens could look for, starting with the tackle position.
Discuss your thoughts on these potential draft targets on our message board.
John Theus – Georgia
6’6”, 313 lbs. Senior. Projected third round. Theus was first team All-SEC in 2015. He started 48 games, and appeared in all 53 games of his collegiate career. Can’t be anymore NFL ready than that. Long arms at a tick over 34”. But he seems heavy on his feet. Speed rushers can beat him, but that’s what speed rushers are supposed to do. We remember Jonathan Ogden as one of the best tackles ever. First ballot Hall of Fame. But man, Dwight Freeney in his prime gave Ogden the business. Theus doesn’t project well as a zone blocker, which means the Ravens could pass. But his versatility to play the left and right sides, physical strength, durability, could make him enticing to some teams.
Kyle Murphy – Stanford
6’6”, 305 lbs. Senior. Projected third round. Murphy has NFL in his blood, as his Brother Kevin played two seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, undrafted out of Harvard. Holidays are probably fun for Kyle. “What’s up Stanford boy. Couldn’t get into Harvard?” Probably pushes Kyle to be better than big brother. Or not. Who knows. Heisman trophy finalist Christian McCaffery, and quarterback Kevin Hogan, had great campaigns in 2015 thanks largely to the line in front of them lead by Murphy. Second team All-Pac 12 in 2014, and first team in 2015. He played along the left side with fellow first team All-Pac 12 guard, Joshua Garnett. Hogan’s blind side was a comfortable as it could be. Murphy was a right tackle as a junior, moved to left tackle as a senior where he really flourished. He’s athletic enough to play in the Ravens zone stretch scheme. But quick off the snap, sometimes too quick. Michael Oher was also “quick” off the snap. You also have to wonder if he benefitted from playing next to a really good guard in Garnett, who is forecasted as a second round pick. If drafted by the Ravens, would he need to play next to Marshal Yanda rather than John Urschel. Could Rick Wagner move to the left tackle spot in this case?
Cole Toner – Harvard
6’5, 306 lbs. Senior. Projected fourth round. Stop me if you have heard this before. “The NFL is quite the jump from the Ivy league.” As if coming from a small school or facing lower talent levels means anything anymore. Matt Birk was a center from Harvard. Joe Flacco from Delaware. Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern State. Lardarius Webb from Nicholls State, and the list goes on. I think some pundits believe if you don’t play in the SEC, you aren’t ready for the NFL. I digress. Toner was first team All-Ivy league the last two seasons. He faced current Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle, Zach Hodges, each day in practice for a couple seasons. Toner responded very well to the rise in strength of competition when he attended the Senior Bowl. Light on his feet, lateral agility, vison to seek out linebackers on the second level, all makes him a great fit for a zone stretch scheme. He could room with Urschel and fight over who is smarter. Most find Toner to be a right tackle in the NFL, which if true, begs the question once again, can Rick Wagner move to the left side if Monroe misses time?
Fahn Cooper – Ole Miss
6’4”, 303 lbs. Senior (RS). Projected fourth to fifth round. Cooper started his college career at Bowling Green as a freshman before transferring to junior college, and then as a top JUCO recruit, joining the Rebels in 2014. He flies under radar with top draft picks Laremy Tunsil, Laquan Treadwell, and Robert Nkemdiche all coming from Ole Miss. Mainly a right tackle, but filled in for Tunsil on the left side, and filled in well when Tunsil missed time. While Cooper hasn’t played guard, scouts feel he has the bulk to make that transition in the NFL if need be. But his nearly 35” arms make him an intriguing tackle prospect first. He’s bulky, physical, powerful. But I don’t think athletic enough to play in a zone blocking scheme. Doesn’t move laterally that well.
Sebastian Tretola – Arkansas
6’4”, 314 lbs. Projected third round. Tretola is a powerful individual. In his two years at Arkansas after transferring from JUCO, he allowed just a half sack on his way to first team All-SEC honors. Weight and conditioning problems could arise as he lost 50 pounds once coming to Arkansas. Meaning he could balloon up to 360 lbs if he stops putting in the necessary work. That conditioning can lead to being a bit sluggish at times, and late on pulling plays. But straight up pass blocking, one on one with the opposition, he’s tough to beat. Arms are too short at 31.5” to expect him to play tackle.
Connor McGovern – Missouri
6’4”, 306 lbs. Projected third or fourth round. NFL.com calls him the strongest player in the draft. He set weight lifting records at Mizzou by squatting 690 pounds, six times. Reportedly he maxed out at 785 pounds. One offseason he tore a pectoral muscle while bench pressing 515 pounds. At the combine he did 33 reps of 225. He was a Gatorade High School Player of the Year for the state of North Dakota in 2012. While at Mizzou he played both tackle spots in addition to guard, and moves very well to complement his strengths. Arms a shade under 33” make him better suited for guard, but can play tackle in a pinch. A nice assest to have. Scouts look at him as a project, and his versatility and strength sure are positives. Could be a fit in any system with that strength and agility he possesses.
Issac Seumalo – Oregon State
6’4”, 303lbs. Projected fourth or fifth round. Seumalo was a top five guard in the nation coming out of high school. He chose Oregon State for family reasons. His brother was a defensive tackle there, his father coached the defensive line, and his sister was on the volleyball team. Once arriving he was anointed the starting center job, and eventually would play both tackle positions as injuries decimated the Beavers line. Seumalo suffered a broken foot at the end of 2013, and redshirted 2014. In 2015 he played nine games at right guard and three at left tackle. He didn’t express any setbacks after the injury, showing the same burst, balance and movement. He looked very technically sound in everything he does with good knee bend, keeps head up in blocking, quick feet. But lacks that punch off the snap, and ability to stay engaged. Defenders can shed his blocks this way.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]