Ranking the best offensive tackles in the 2016 NFL draft
Our positional rankings shift focus to the offensive line this week. First up are the tackles. Laremy Tunsil is the consensus top dog and is in play for the first overall pick in the draft. The talent runs deep though as there are multiple day one starters in this class. Let’s take a look:
Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
As clean as it gets in the draft class. Even though Tunsil only played 421 snaps a year ago, he faced one of the toughest slates of edge rushers of any tackle in the draft class. The Ole Miss left tackle faced the likes of Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Lawson, and Arden Key only to come away with a positive pass blocking grade in every single matchup. Tunsil checks almost every single box you’d want from a starting tackle.
Jack Conklin, Michigan State
The smoothness and polish of Laremy Tunsil are not present in Conklin’s game, but the raw physical traits of an NFL tackle are there in spades. Conklin’s play strength is already at an elite NFL level. No one else in the class had as many dominant one-on-one blocks at the line of scrimmage as Conklin. His biggest question mark is pass protection where he rarely had to kick slide and almost always shuffled out. His base was extremely inconsistent and it led to him giving ground in the pocket more than you’d like, but he was still getting the job done as well as anyone in that area allowing 13 pressures on 416 pass blocking snaps for the season. If an NFL team can clean up his feet, he’ll be a pro bowl level tackle in the NFL.
Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
No one in the class looks more natural in their pass sets than Stanley. He has a fluidity in his game that coaches simply can’t teach. That translated to one of the top pass blocking grades in the country each of the past two seasons. He didn’t quite face the slate of rushers that Tunsil did, but he only had one negatively graded game in pass protection for the season and finished with the fourth highest pass blocking efficiency against power-5 competition in the class. Stanley’s main concerns are in the run game, where his strength pales in comparison to the two men above him on this list. The Irish left tackle was still technically sound in that regard, rarely losing cleanly, but he can be walked into the backfield at times and they only get stronger in the NFL.
Jason Spriggs, Indiana
One of the most athletic tackles in this draft class, Spriggs has the production to back it up. He has some issues with ducking his head to match his punch in pass protection, but no tackle had a better week in pass protection at the Senior Bowl where Spriggs won 60 percent of his reps. His mirroring ability is top notch and he’ll be a starter sooner rather than later.
Joe Thuney, N.C. State
Thuney has some obvious flaws in his game, including a pronounced forward lean in both the pass and run games, but that didn’t stop him from being the fourth-highest graded tackle in the Power-5 last year. Thuney transitioned from guard to tackle a year ago and some have said his best position is on the interior. This is very possible, but from what I saw in matchups against Clemson (Shaq Lawson) and Louisville (Devonte Fields) where he only gave up two total pressures between them, I’d give Thuney a chance outside.
Taylor Decker, Ohio State
Over the last two years only Jack Conklin has a higher run blocking grade among tackles in the draft class. Decker is an absolute brute who is one of most dangerous weapons on double teams in the country. The main thing pushing him down PFF’s draft board are his issues in pass protection. His 96.8 pass blocking efficiency was 20th in the draft class as his low hands in pass protection were consistently a problem. He can start right away with his run blocking prowess, but pass pro might take a few years to catch up.
Kyle Murphy, Stanford
Murphy has most of the tools you look for in a tackle outside of one glaring flaw: his play strength. Murphy’s pass blocking efficiency against the bull rush was lower than the FBS average a year ago. On the other hand, Murphy almost never lost to the outside. He has a fantastic get off and is among the most agile tackles in this class. If he can get stronger, Murphy will be a starting tackle in the league.
Shon Coleman, Auburn
Coleman, like almost every tackle coming out of Auburn, has limited experience taking pass sets. What he lacks in pass pro though he makes up for in the run game. Coleman is easily one of the most polished run blockers in this class, understanding attack angles like seasoned pro already. He has great power throughout his frame and could step into any scheme and contribute to their ground game.
Joe Dahl, Washington State
One of the most experienced pass protectors in the country over the last two seasons, Dahl is also one of the most efficient. The left tackle had 1,382 pass blocking snaps over the past two seasons (Ronnie Stanley didn’t miss a game and took 871 for comparison) and finished in the top 25 for pass blocking efficiency nationwide both years (13th in 2015). Dahl is undersized though with strength concerns to boot. Some see him as a guard at the next level, but his power issues were only exacerbated while playing there at the Senior Bowl. Dahl’s change of direction ability is top notch and has enough tools to be a competent pass protector in the NFL.
Joe Haeg, North Dakota State
We didn’t do all FCS games this year, but with the importance of Haeg’s quarterback Carson Wentz, we graded most of North Dakota State’s. In the seven games that Haeg protected Wentz, he yielded only four total pressures. In Haeg’s limited time at the Senior Bowl he was the highest graded tackle in the team drills albeit in only 13 snaps. There was a consistent issue with Haeg though and it was his power. Most of his pressures came via the bull rush and his movement wasn’t terribly impressive even against low-level competition.
Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
Clark has the ideal build for a left tackle and at the weigh in at the Senior Bowl no one could match his NFL proportionalities. Unfortunately he has glaring issues with his change of direction ability on the field. Clark was utterly exposed by Arden Key’s counter moves in their bowl game allowing eight pressures. Then at the Senior Bowl his 44 percent win rate was among the lowest of tackles there. He’s the definition of a draft and develop tackle.
Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
Ifedi and Clark are very similar in many respects. Both have all the physical traits you could want, yet both got completely exposed at times. Ifedi’s footwork is terribly sloppy and any defensive end with any sort of agility gave him fits. In his worst game against lowly Nevada he yielded four hurries and a sack Ifedi has a lot to improve on, but he’s a ways away.
Brandon Shell, South Carolina
Shell’s evaluations may have been a little more glowing had he not faced Myles Garrett and Charles Harris. Those two players ate his lunch and exposed some flaws that will continue to get exposed at the next level. Shell’s hands widen too often in pass protection and defenders routinely get the first punch. He’s also far too quick to open his hips and let pass rushers get the edge on him. The good news is outside of those two games he was one of the cleanest pass protectors in the country.
John Theus, Georgia
We’ve done our best to dispel the right tackle only myth here at PFF, but Theus’ best position in the NFL looks to be right tackle. Not because of any inherent difference in value between the position, but because he was simply better there. Theus had a -5.0 grade at left tackle the first nine weeks of the season and then posted a +2.9 grade over the rest of the season at right tackle. While playing right tackle at the Senior Bowl he had the second best win rate in one-on-ones and the second highest grade in team drills. He has some bad habits and glaring flaws that make him a late rounder at best. Namely his penchant for ducking his head into every single block he makes in both run and pass.
Jerald Hawkins, LSU
Another late round project with an NFL body. Hawkins has a stiffness in him that is worrisome though. His length makes up for it at times, but seeing Hawkins react to players on the move can be scary. Hawkins had a negative overall grade against power-5 competition.