Mid- and late-round prospects emerge as studs in every NFL Draft class, so which offensive line sleepers should you keep tabs on in 2019?
In the ever-changing landscape of the modern NFL, some core values have held true since the inception. One such instance is the importance to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the football. This has made the need for offensive and defensive line a vital aspect of team building, through the NFL Draft and otherwise, since the very beginning.
Specifically on the offensive line in the now pass happy NFL, players are tasked into passive positions against defensive linemen who are becoming more and more, the most athletically impressive players on the field, constantly hunting for mismatches.
This is continually highlighting the importance to create the best offensive front as possible. Like every year, the 2019 NFL Draft will be counted upon for teams to build their teams infrastructure (but more specifically for this article, the offensive line).
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The 2019 class presents a top heavy offensive line class with players like Jawaan Taylor (Florida), Jonah Williams (Alabama) and Garret Bradbury (NC State), amongst others; that also holds several interesting options as we move to Day two to Day three, and then into the Priority Free Agency period.
So who are the best offensive line bargains in the 2019 NFL Draft?
Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois
Max Scharping is a battle tested, experienced college left tackle who has faced plenty of elite edge rushers while at the collegiate level. Just in the last two seasons, he has quality reps against players like Brian Burns (Florida State), Zach Allen (Boston College), Corbin Kaufusi (BYU), Jamal Davis (Akron) and the duo of Anthony Nelson and A.J. Epenesa from the University of Iowa.
The 6-6, 327-pounder demonstrates adequate foot quickness and body control to survive on the edge transitioning to the next level, although not preferably on the left side. Despite some good reps in pass protection, Scharping shows an inability to kick slide to an appropriate depth/rate to counteract high volume speed rushers up the arc. There is also an inconsistent punch in the run game that causes Scharping to become more of a wash edge blocker than your prototypical people mover vertically.
This may make a fit in a zone blocking scheme, that values laterally movement over vertical push, the perfect one schematically for Scharping. Whether he is ever able to successfully transition to the blind side or not, Scharping’s frame, length and experience speak favorably to his transition to an eventual starting role on an NFL offensive line. Scharping presents a great value during the ladder part of day two or even early into the final day of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Projected Round: 3rd-5th
Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
When the Alabama State football team exited Jordan-Hare Stadium following a 63-9 blowout loss to the Auburn Tigers, one Hornets player left as a surprising winner amongst NFL Draft circles. Howard showed in that game the type of easy mobility and nimble feet, along with a stellar/projectable frame, to project well to a team that values athletic pass setters on the edges.
Offensive tackle Tyus Howard is a player who has since seen his draft stock continue to skyrocket during draft season. The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine confirmed the potential Howard flashed on tape, measuring in at 6-5 and 322 pounds with 34-inch arms. Howard, at that prototypical size, proceeded to post an impressive 5.05-second 40-yard dash, highlighting a big time athletic profile for an offensive linemen.
Howard stands as a player who has been mentioned frequently in the day two conversation. When you combine his athleticism, frame, tape and experience playing both right and left tackle, you have a player with Terron Armstead type upside at the left tackle position. Landing spot/coaching will be huge for Howard, and will determine how quickly he will see the field, and just how good he can be.
Despite any projection, I would bet the over on just how good Howard can be down the line.
Projected Round: 2nd-3rd
Nate Davis, IOL, Charlotte
Having played right tackle mostly during his time at the University of Charlotte, Nate Davis is now making his transition to the professional level on the interior. Boasting a stout frame with a mauling demeanor, David projects as a perfect fit at right guard who would be an asset to the running game early on in his career.
His experience at offensive tackle will also be a help in his continued progress in pass protection, as he transitions to the next level. Too often while aligned at offensive tackle, Davis lacked patience to mirror and match defensive linemen. This left him susceptible to inside counters, which almost no opportunity to reset and anchor to the inside. The move to interior should fix some of these technically woes.
With the opportunity to face more power based rushers, Davis should be afforded the opportunity quick set and stay square, also eliminating what he lacks in desired length. With proper hand placement and balance, this technique fits right in his wheelhouse.
Davis will most likely not be selected until early to mid day three but presents tremendous value as a player who could see early minutes in a power based scheme that takes advantage of the profile that he brings to the table. By year three in the right system, the 6-3, 316-pounder should be a full time starter and one of the better run blockers on his respective team.
Projected Round: 4th-5th
Oli Udoh, IOL, Elon
Another player making the transition from college right tackle to offensive guard potentially is Elon senior Oli Udoh. After a dominant showing at the East-West Shrine game, Udoh received the late call up to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he continued to flash his potential upside as a starting offensive linemen at the next level.
After starting at the right tackle position for Elon, the question that is going to be posed for NFL talent evaluators is: What position does he play? If projected to play right tackle at the next level, I get it.
He measured in at an impressive 6-5 and 323 pounds, with 35.375-inch arms. That is a prototypical build for an NFL offensive tackle. However, I am a big believer that an offensive lineman temperament and demeanor eventually lead them to their best position. When I watched Udoh on film, flashes of Kemechi Osemele quickly came to mind.
Like Udoh, Osemele spent the majority of his college career at offensive tackle. Now, Osemele stands as one of the premier interior offensive linemen in the entire league. There is potentially similar path for Udoh, who possesses all the qualities of a pro bowl left guard.
Aside from his notable size/length, he also demonstrates surprisingly quick feet and balanced base. On top of that, Udoh plays super hard and presents a motor to dominate early in the run game. Patience will be required for a player who is making the jump from FCS competition to the NFL (despite some great reps in all star games this draft season), but the end investment should potentially be well worth the wait.
Projected Round: 3rd-5th
Alex Bars, IOL, Notre Dame
While at Notre Dame, Alex Bars gained starting experience at right tackle, right guard and left guard respectively. Bars seemed to hit his stride this past season at left guard where his prototypical size and lateral mobility seemed to mesh well to the position. Bars unfortunately had his best season cut short after just five games, suffering a torn ACL in the Stanford game. This midseason exit has caused Bars to go relatively overlooked this draft season so far.
Taking the injury out of the equation, Bars was playing himself right into the day two conversation with the season he was putting together. The 6-6, 312-pound redshirt senior presents a serious day three value that, injury aside, shows potential to eventually filling a starting role along the interior.
Projectable to both guard spots, I have seen from more than one talent evaluator the idea of moving Bars into the center slot. If possible, that type of versatility adds an even deeper layer to Bars projectability.
While Bars’ shorter arms (32.75 inches) will hinder his ability to project additionally as a swing tackle, the athletic profile fits perfectly at left guard. There will be patience required while continuing to rehab from his ACL injury. Year two/three provide a big window of opportunity for Bars to pick up where he left off in 2018 before the injury.
Projected Round: 4th-6th