All of the same stipulations in place last week when I listed the top ten guard / center prospects apply to this week’s discussion of offensive tackles. Yes, the Redskins have Trent Williams, but offensive line is a position most agree Washington needs to shore up. Moreover, injuries along the line are so frequent that it’s never a bad idea to add depth.
As I pointed out a week ago, the best overall line prospects usually wind up getting funneled to tackle. NFL guards and centers are often excellent college tackles who are somehow slightly “defective,” whether that means being “only” 6’3″ or having arms that are “too short.”
So, most of the best prospects wind up here. That’s bad news for the Redskins, as I point out every week, because they don’t have a first-round pick. Still, there are a bunch of top-tier players at tackle, and Washington might be able to snag someone from the lower part of this list.
These are the top ten tackle prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft:
1. Greg Robinson (Auburn):
Robinson is a prototype of the modern NFL offensive lineman—he’s 6’5″, 332 pounds, but has sub-5 speed. The only real knock on Robinson is that his college system was a little simplistic compared to what he’ll need to do in the NFL, but, really, who cares? He’s close to a sure-fire prospect. What stings is that he could be as high as the #2 selection in the draft . . . a pick that belongs to the Rams via the RGIII trade.
2. Jake Matthews (Texas A&M):
Standing 6’5″ and a “lean” 308, Matthews doesn’t have the athleticism that Robinson does, but that doesn’t mean Matthews isn’t a great athlete in his own right. A superb run-blocker, Matthews also projects as a top 10 overall pick in this year’s draft. In other words, the Redskins have absolutely no shot at him, barring an incredibly unlikely trade.
3. Taylor Lewan (Michigan):
Lewan has an even bigger frame than Robinson or Matthews at 6’7″, and complements that with agile footwork that belies his roots as a defensive lineman. He’s yet another lock to be a first-round selection. Translation: Washington won’t get near him.
4. Zack Martin (Notre Dame):
The fact that someone as talented as Zack Martin is rated by most as the fourth-best tackle prospect in the draft speaks to the outstanding crop this year. Martin had a great Senior Bowl week, upping his stock even further. While not quite as big as those ahead of him (6’4″, 308 lbs.), he’s physical and quick, and may wind up as a guard in the NFL. Either way, he’s another guaranteed first-round pick.
5. Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama):
Kouandjio is a specimen at 6’7″, 322 pounds. He has more “traditional” straight-line speed at 5.59, but he’s also quick off the ball. He’s not as polished as the top four, but he’s seen as a player who checks all the right boxes physically and has that elusive upside that will make teams look hard at him in the late first round (although he may slip to the second).
6. Morgan Moses (Virginia):
Moses was one of the lone bright spots for a woefully bad UVA offense this past year. He’s 6’6″, 314 pounds with something close to an ideal physical type for success at the next level, but also has good, quick footwork. Moses might be someone the Redskins would consider in the second round (if they want to go OL first), with the added bonus of him being a local guy (Meadowbrook High in Richmond / University of Virginia).
7. Antonio Richardson (Tennessee):
As big as most of the rest of these prospects (6’6″, 336 lbs.), Richardson put up an impressive 36 reps at the combine bench-press test. A lot of the negatives on Richardson come from a poor performance head-to-head against Jadeveon Clowney this past season. However, Clowney is so dominant, I’m not sure how much of an indictment that is of Richardson. He should go sometime in the second round.
8. Jack Mewhort (Ohio State):
Mewhort has started at four different offensive line positions (everything but center) while at Ohio State. In addition to his flexibility, Mewhort has good strength. On the other hand, scouts indicate that he plays “high,” which is a problem at any level, but will make life particularly difficult a the NFL level. He’s still very worthy of a second-round pick.
9. Billy Turner (North Dakota State):
Turner was a two-time All-American at the FCS level for the North Dakota State football dynasty, also winning three straight national championships. Scouts like his temperament, but say he needs to improve a few flaws in his technique. Turner may go in the second round, but could also fall to the third. If that happens, the Redskins and several other teams may want to grab him.
10. Joel Bitonio (Nevada):
Although he was a very good left tackle in college, Bitonio’s size (6’4″, 302 lbs.) may shift him to guard eventually. He’s athletic and has nice balance. He should wind up getting picked in the third round.
In all, 12 or 13 tackles may be selected in the first four rounds alone. There are some elite talents at the top of this list, but Washington probably doesn’t have a shot at any of them due to the lack of a first-round selection. The Redskins may be better off going for a wide receiver or defensive player early on, then getting a “value” pick in a later round to help build up their offensive line roster. Having said that, I’m sure Washington would be ecstatic to snag any of the names on this list.