NFL scouting combine: Top offensive line standouts
On-field performance will always be what we prioritize the most in evaluating draft prospects, but rightly or wrongly, the NFL combine leads to some movement in the draft stocks of prospects. The value of the combine is the NFL’s ability to put each player on an equal playing field, and it’s on the teams and player evaluators to determine the true worth of each drill.
How did the top performers in Friday’s offensive line workouts grade according to PFF this season? Let’s take a look at the top five standouts:
1. Jason Spriggs, Indiana
Living up to the hype coming into the week, Spriggs showed off his size, athleticism and strength as he ran the best 40-yard dash time among offensive linemen at 4.94 while also topping the group in the broad jump and ranking fourth with 31 bench-press reps. It was an important week for him, as he has put together strong play during the season. He finished 10th among the draft class’s offensive tackles with a pass-blocking grade of +6.6, while allowing only three sacks, three hits, and six hurries on 542 pass-block attempts in 2015.
Spriggs was the best moving tackle at the Senior Bowl last month and his performance in Indianapolis solidified what we’ve seen on tape and in person. While we like his overall potential as a player, and his size and athleticism may push him into the mid-first-round mix, but he still played more like a second-round prospect last season.
2. Joe Thuney, NC State
Two strong seasons of grading has put Thuney on our radar, even earning honorable mention honors on the PFF All American team. He ranked 18th in the nation among guards last season, and fifth among offensive tackles in 2015, smoothly transitioning to left tackle for NC State. Thuney’s 4.95 40 time ranked second only to Spriggs, and he put up an impressive 28 reps in the bench to rank 11th among the offensive line group. More important than the workout, Thuney has been productive at multiple positions and he brings value as a versatile mid-round option as a developmental guard or tackle.
3. Christian Westerman, Arizona State
Already noted as the most underrated guard in the draft, Westerman surprised many with 34 bench reps to lead the offensive linemen while running a 5.17 40 to rank 12th. He graded as one of the best pass protectors in the draft class at +8.4, giving up a sack, five hits and nine hurries on 629 attempts, and his movement skills should make him one of the better options for a zone-blocking system. In a class full of mauling, power-scheme run-blockers, Westerman sets himself apart, and he may surprise as a higher pick than most project if the right zone-blocking team values the guard.
4. Jack Conklin, Michigan State
Yet another strong on-field performer had a strong day in the workouts, as Conklin has perhaps the most impressive two-year production grade, ranking third in the nation among offensive tackles each of the last two years. He’s a power run-blocker by trade, and a great fit for a man-blocking scheme at the next level, but his 5.00 40 shows that he’s not just a plodder. That number ranked fourth among all offensive linemen.
He projects as a strong run-blocker at the next level after posting a +56.6 mark over the last two years, but with only 25 pressures surrendered on 849 pass-block attempts during that period, don’t count him out in pass protection; he is very similar to San Francisco 49ers OT Joe Staley in that regard.
5. Joe Dahl, Washington State
Our top pass-protecting tackle each of the last two seasons, Dahl’s slight size and short arms have the NFL envisioning a move inside to guard for him, but we’re hoping to see him stick outside at tackle. He’s not a force in the run game, and he was susceptible to bull rushes on the edge, so his smooth-moving skill-set fits best on the outside, even with the issues against power. He ran a solid 5.18, but it’s his 28 bench reps that perhaps indicate that his on his way to shoring up his weakness in pass protection.
While he may never be a top-notch all around tackle, Dahl projects similarly to David Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers as a potential plus pass-blocker who struggles with power in both the running and passing games.