Ah, offensive tackles. The dancing bears. The hog mollies. The -- and let's be honest here -- the day on which everyone closes out of their screen recorder and leans back, because clips of 5.00 second 40-yard-dashes just don't do the same retweet numbers.
But if you know what you're looking for, the offensive line day of the NFL Combine can be really beneficial. You want to see how all of these big bodies carry their size, and where their frames are broad and narrow; where they could they further develop mass; where they could cut bad weight. You want to see them move at their size -- watch the mirror footwork drill -- and maintain good body control in the agility drills, which betray natural athletic ability.
And you want to see them jump.
Jumping is the biggest test for offensive linemen, and especially tackles, who need that lower body explosiveness to fire into their kick-slide and gain depth against speed rushers. The numbers will never be as high as the wide receivers and running backs, sure -- but the strong testers will still make themselves known and see their stock rise accordingly. Here's who I'm looking at next week
Jonah Williams, Alabama
Huge day for Jonah, as we all know -- at least, if you've been around the draft. There's been plenty of bickering about whether or not Williams is actually an NFL tackle, as he's a bit of a smaller-framed bookend who likely lacks the ideal length that teams look for in their OT prospects.
So what is the ideal arm length for offensive tackles? Colloquially, the number you hear thrown around is 34 inches. It's worth noting: that's an ideal number. While some old-fashioned teams in the league may really use that as a cut-off point, most teams are looking for guys at that length, but will drop underneath it in the event they think they have a great talent at their hands.
But the question is: how far does that slack extend? Williams is going to come into the Combine around Connor Williams' length: 33 inches, maybe a touch longer. His sub-34" measurement will immediately resurrect the conversation, as (some) teams will be undoubtedly approaching him as a guard prospect moving forward.
Now, teams who think he's still a tackle will likely have him ranked higher than teams who view him as a guard do, so we should still expect Williams to get drafted as a tackle early in the first round: he has tremendous tape, and there are multiple tackle-needy teams in the Top-10. But his arm length measurement is the single most important moment for this OT class's Combine.
Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Remember Orlando Brown? If you don't let this maybe jog your memory:
That, folks, is not great!
Brown came into the Combine with a lot of bad weight and did not seem mentally focused or prepared. A confirmed behemoth, he moved like you'd expect a mountain to -- and it accordingly dropped his stock into the third round.
Now, Brown was never going to have a high percentile 20-yard shuttle or 40-yard dash at 345 pounds, but the concerning aspect of his performance wasn't so much the poor testing as it was the lack of preparedness. If you know you're going to come out and lay that bad of an egg, don't test.
New year, new Oklahoma monstrosity: this year it's Ford, listed by the school as a modest 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds. Seems small when compared to Ford, and yeah -- 6-foot-4 is actually on the small side for offensive tackles. But 330 is an 85th percentile measurement, and at his 6-foot-4 size, that means Ford is a dense human being.
On film, Ford is a much better mover than Brown, and he definitely hits the length numbers we were worried about with Jonah Williams. But he will have to show that he can carry 330 pounds comfortably on a 6-foot-4 frame, moving with grace and body control in the drills and showing explosiveness in his jumps and 10-yard split.
Ford and Florida's Jawaan Taylor are the only true big boys at the top of this offensive tackle class. I expect Taylor to test just fine, but I'll be double-checking to make sure Ford puts out a strong performance and proves he has the athletic ability to play tackle at the NFL level.
Andre Dillard, Washington State
You'll find a few in the draft community who are really high on Dillard -- and we know teams like him a fair bit, because the big media that speaks for the teams are high on him as well. So I suppose we'll withstand further first-round hype after he has a great week in Indy.
And he will, plainly speaking: Dillard is a super-smooth mover with great balance and the ideal frame, so he'll win on the move and test real nice in the agilities. I don't think his explosiveness will be out of this world, but it won't glare as a liability on his spider chart. Size wise, he's going to come in over 300 pounds, at or above 34" in arm length, and about 6-foot-5. He's gonna check all the boxes.
And then he's gonna run a really good 40-yard dash time, and we're all going to act like that matters a great deal, when it really has little to no impact on his on-field play. Good 40 times for offensive linemen typically just illustrate that they are well-coordinated athlete who aren't carrying much bad weight; those are characteristics you can easily identify without a forty. NFL success for OTs isn't so much a product of good 40-yard dash times, as it is a by-product of the athletic ability that helps OTs be successful.
The biggest issue with Dillard's projection won't be solved, answered, or even brushed during the Combine: his physicality. Dillard prefers to sit back on his heels and take a passive approach to pass protection, even when he was given sets outside of the deep vertical sets characteristic of Washington State's offense. Dillard was rarely challenged with true speed rushers without 2-gap responsibilities, or faced with NFL-caliber size and athletic ability -- and the structure of the Air Raid offense protected him from having to sustain long-term one-on-one blocks.
Dillard isn't bad at all, but there are holes on his film that are hard to ignore. A strong day at the Combine is absolutely imperative for him to deliver on the first-round hype that he's been getting during this Draft cycle -- without great testing across the board, that athletic ability you're banking on in his eval becomes a shakier notion.