2014 NFL Draft Positional Preview (Tackles)

By Nick Paulenich

Special to Pro Football Guru

Courtesy of NFL draft writer Nick Paulenich, here is the 10th in our series of positional previews for the 2014 NFL Draft. Nick’s rankings will include the Top 5 players at each position. So far, Nick has previewed the top defensive tackles, defensive ends, the inside linebackers and outside linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks available in this year’s upcoming draft. He has also taken a look at the top kicking and punting prospects. On offense, there’s a look at the top centers and guards available.

Part 10: Tackles

Overview: The offensive tackle position offers three potential top-ten picks this year. Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews look to be gone within the top five picks while Michigan’s Taylor Lewan should soon follow.

For teams missing out on the “Big Three,” there are plenty of other options. Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, who may slide over to play guard, and Virginia’s Morgan Moses are two options that should be gone on the first day.

Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio is a talented lineman who had and up-and-down 2013 season and has battled injuries. He could be a second-day gem.

Last year five tackles went in the first-round. Look for a possible repeat in 2014. The breakdown:

1. Greg Robinson, 6-5, 332 lbs., Auburn

Robinson was a Second-team All-American and First-team All-SEC member in 2013. He was a two-year starter for the Tigers. Last season, Robinson and the Auburn offensive line helped the program post a school record for rushing yards (4,596) and rushing touchdowns (48) in a single season.

Strengths: Equipped with elite athleticism, thick build and the tools to be an elite tackle. Has long arms which help in moving defenders back. Shows light feet and lateral quickness. Serves as a road grader in the running game.

Weaknesses: Can be caught lunging due to over aggressiveness. Needs to improve hand placement, which can be too high. Will need to get used to more balanced offense—college offense ran the ball a majority of the time.

Projection: Top-5 pick

2. Jake Matthews, 6-5 1/2, 308 lbs., Texas A&M

Matthews was a two-time First-team All-American (2012-13), including consensus honors his senior year. He also was a two-time First-Team All-SEC selection (2012-13). Matthews moved to the left from the right his senior year, after playing replacing 2013 first-rounder Luke Joeckel (3rd overall, Jacksonville).  His father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. 

Strengths: Works hard and plays with a mean streak. Shows equal effectiveness as both a run blocker and pass protector. Uses hands well—providing strong initial pop in both running and passing situations. Has good lateral movement.

Weaknesses: Has issues with balance from time to time. Can play too upright. Has below average arm length for left tackle.

Projection: Top-5 pick

3. Taylor Lewan, 6-7 1/8, 309 lbs., Michigan   

Lewan was a Second-team All-American his senior year and a First-team All-American following his junior season. He played 50 games at left tackle, including 48 starts.  Lewan won the Big Ten’s Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award the past two seasons. He was also a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award in 2013.

Strengths: Possesses long arms, strength and speed. Holds position on blocks. Can be physical downfield. Slides well in pass protection. Has great run-blocking ability.

Weaknesses: Has struggled against top pass rushers. Needs to improve reading and reacting to stunts and twists. Can show inconsistent balance and footwork.

Projection: Early first-round pick

4. Zack Martin, 6-4 1/4, 308 lbs., Notre Dame 

Martin, a four-year starter at left tackle, projects as guard but will start as tackle. His 52 career games are the most in school history. Martin was named Second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation in 2012. He also made the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists in each of his last three seasons in South Bend.  

Strengths: Has good balance and body control. Uses hands well. Shows good instincts and smarts. Extends arms well in pass protection. Finishes blocks well.

Weaknesses: Has average arm length.  Needs to improve core strength and leverage.

Projection: First-round pick

5. Morgan Moses, 6-6, 314 lbs., Virginia

Moses was a four-year starter who was named Second-team All-ACC by the coaches in 2013. Moses was on the preseason Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award lists. He played tackles on both sides of the line. Moses did not lift at the Combine due to a left shoulder injury.

Strengths: Has good hand placement. Shows equal effectiveness in both pass protection and run blocking. Plays with a mean streak. Can hold up against powerful defensive lineman. Played both sides of line in college.

Weaknesses: Can get knocked off balance in the passing game. Will lunge in space during run plays. Plays with a stiff lower body. Drops head and eyes in pass protection. Struggles to block speed from the edge.

Projection: Late-first to second-round pick

Others to Watch: Cameron Fleming, Stanford; Ja’Wuan James; Tennessee; Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama; Jack Mewhort, Ohio State; Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

Small-School Sleepers: Billy Turner, North Dakota State

Next up: Tight Ends

Nick Paulenich is an experienced NFL writer and researcher and the founder of The Sports Savant. You can find Nick on Twitter at @npaulenich.

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https://twitter.com/npaulenich2014 NFL Draft Positional Preview (Tackles)

By Nick Paulenich

Special to Pro Football Guru

Courtesy of NFL draft writer Nick Paulenich, here is the 10th in our series of positional previews for the 2014 NFL Draft. Nick’s rankings will include the Top 5 players at each position. So far, Nick has previewed the top defensive tackles, defensive ends, the inside linebackers and outside linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks available in this year’s upcoming draft. He has also taken a look at the top kicking and punting prospects. On offense, there’s a look at the top centers and guards available.

Part 10: Tackles

Overview: The offensive tackle position offers three potential top-ten picks this year. Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews look to be gone within the top five picks while Michigan’s Taylor Lewan should soon follow.

For teams missing out on the “Big Three,” there are plenty of other options. Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, who may slide over to play guard, and Virginia’s Morgan Moses are two options that should be gone on the first day.

Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio is a talented lineman who had and up-and-down 2013 season and has battled injuries. He could be a second-day gem.

Last year five tackles went in the first-round. Look for a possible repeat in 2014. The breakdown:

1. Greg Robinson, 6-5, 332 lbs., Auburn

Robinson was a Second-team All-American and First-team All-SEC member in 2013. He was a two-year starter for the Tigers. Last season, Robinson and the Auburn offensive line helped the program post a school record for rushing yards (4,596) and rushing touchdowns (48) in a single season.

Strengths: Equipped with elite athleticism, thick build and the tools to be an elite tackle. Has long arms which help in moving defenders back. Shows light feet and lateral quickness. Serves as a road grader in the running game.

Weaknesses: Can be caught lunging due to over aggressiveness. Needs to improve hand placement, which can be too high. Will need to get used to more balanced offense—college offense ran the ball a majority of the time.

Projection: Top-5 pick

2. Jake Matthews, 6-5 1/2, 308 lbs., Texas A&M

Matthews was a two-time First-team All-American (2012-13), including consensus honors his senior year. He also was a two-time First-Team All-SEC selection (2012-13). Matthews moved to the left from the right his senior year, after playing replacing 2013 first-rounder Luke Joeckel (3rd overall, Jacksonville).  His father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. 

Strengths: Works hard and plays with a mean streak. Shows equal effectiveness as both a run blocker and pass protector. Uses hands well—providing strong initial pop in both running and passing situations. Has good lateral movement.

Weaknesses: Has issues with balance from time to time. Can play too upright. Has below average arm length for left tackle.

Projection: Top-5 pick

3. Taylor Lewan, 6-7 1/8, 309 lbs., Michigan   

Lewan was a Second-team All-American his senior year and a First-team All-American following his junior season. He played 50 games at left tackle, including 48 starts.  Lewan won the Big Ten’s Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award the past two seasons. He was also a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award in 2013.

Strengths: Possesses long arms, strength and speed. Holds position on blocks. Can be physical downfield. Slides well in pass protection. Has great run-blocking ability.

Weaknesses: Has struggled against top pass rushers. Needs to improve reading and reacting to stunts and twists. Can show inconsistent balance and footwork.

Projection: Early first-round pick

4. Zack Martin, 6-4 1/4, 308 lbs., Notre Dame 

Martin, a four-year starter at left tackle, projects as guard but will start as tackle. His 52 career games are the most in school history. Martin was named Second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation in 2012. He also made the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists in each of his last three seasons in South Bend.  

Strengths: Has good balance and body control. Uses hands well. Shows good instincts and smarts. Extends arms well in pass protection. Finishes blocks well.

Weaknesses: Has average arm length.  Needs to improve core strength and leverage.

Projection: First-round pick

5. Morgan Moses, 6-6, 314 lbs., Virginia

Moses was a four-year starter who was named Second-team All-ACC by the coaches in 2013. Moses was on the preseason Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award lists. He played tackles on both sides of the line. Moses did not lift at the Combine due to a left shoulder injury.

Strengths: Has good hand placement. Shows equal effectiveness in both pass protection and run blocking. Plays with a mean streak. Can hold up against powerful defensive lineman. Played both sides of line in college.

Weaknesses: Can get knocked off balance in the passing game. Will lunge in space during run plays. Plays with a stiff lower body. Drops head and eyes in pass protection. Struggles to block speed from the edge.

Projection: Late-first to second-round pick

Others to Watch: Cameron Fleming, Stanford; Ja’Wuan James; Tennessee; Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama; Jack Mewhort, Ohio State; Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

Small-School Sleepers: Billy Turner, North Dakota State

Next up: Tight Ends

Nick Paulenich is an experienced NFL writer and researcher and the founder of The Sports Savant. You can find Nick on Twitter at @npaulenich.