Who doesn’t love offensive linemen? I thought I was part of what seems to be the masses, until I was pleasantly spammed with about 10 OL Twitter follows (shoutout @Warhogs56).
My mindset on offensive line evaluation pulled a 180 over the past week. I’ve been avoiding it since the summer, but now that I’ve gotten through the top guys at most position groups, I caved.
With what was supposed to be a quick, focused, one session study of Mississippi State’s Martinas Rankin, it then evolved into this article you’re currently reading. After watching Rankin, I watched Tyrell Crosby because I grew curious as Ben Solak of Locked on Eagles and Bleeding Green Nation cited the pair as potential targets for the Eagles in the draft. Following Crosby, I said screw it and decided to watch the entire Senior Bowl group in preparation of this article which was a snowballed idea.
To be clear, it’s never that I disrespected the way of an offensive linemen to any degree. It’s actually the position on the field where I hold the most respect, but lack the knowledge to evaluate it to my standard. I attempted to really focus this go around and get a better feel for the position. While I’m not quite where I want to be, I’ll say that I never thought I’d be this excited after watching hours of blocking.
I’m pumped up for this Senior Bowl group. There’s a lot to like both on and off the field for most of these guys. They’re an experienced group with over 350 combined starts, a lot of talent, and a lot of anger.
Martinas Rankin headlines the group we see today, as more invites are set to go out in the coming weeks. Then you have the nasty guys in Will Hernandez, Tyrell Crosby and Austin Corbett. Plus a very intriguing prospect in Chukwuma Okorafor and a certain FCS guy who I think is going to breakout.
With the end of the college football season in view (already, how?), a lot of us on #DraftTwitter are shifting our focus to All Star games such as the Senior Bowl and Shrine Game. Thus, I whipped up this preview for the offensive line group we’re going to have the pleasure of watching.
I hope you guys enjoy, and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @JonValencia_WiB if you have any critiques or just want to talk about the NFL Draft.
Top 5 Takeaways
Toughness: Oh man are we in for a show this year. If you enjoy nasty, aggressive play in the trenches, you’ll want to tune into even the Senior Bowl practices this year to watch the 1-on-1 drills.
Between Austin Corbett, Tyrell Crosby, Will Hernandez and Skyler Philips, we’re in for treat. All these guys look to finish hard on every single block. In the unlikely case that Frank Ragnow plays, he’ll put this group over the top in terms of toughness.
Experience: Now this is the Senior Bowl, so most guys have been likely to accumulate a good amount of on-field reps at their respective college program. However, while digging into these offensive line prospects, most of these guys have been four year starters in college.
Timon Parris started his first 41 consecutive games at Stony Brook, before suffering a late injury this season. Will Hernandez started every career game at left guard for the Miners. Austin Corbett started his first 36 consecutive games before an injury, but will still end his career with nearly 50 starts. Skyler Phillips was granted a medical redshirt after missing most of the 2016 season, but otherwise has started every game. Brandon Parker has started every game of his career at North Carolina A&T, which has been huge for his bid as the top offensive linemen in the FCS.
This was an easy trend to identify, and it just goes to show how valuable longevity, consistency and durability is at this position.
Off Field Standouts: During my time as an amateur NFL Draft evaluator, it’s been fairly easy to spot that offensive linemen are typically the most intelligent and clean off the field as any position group in the draft, and that theory holds true this year in Mobile.
Timon Parris was a highly regarded basketball recruit and was All Conference in the shot put and discus as a high school senior. Tyrell Crosby was a talented basketball player out of Nevada who is known for his work in the community. Will Hernandez is focused and known for his film study. Austin Corbett was named to the AFCA Good Works Team and also lettered in wrestling, track and basketball in high school.
This group of players certainly offers a lot of flavor and personality. I think they’re in line to generate a lot of buzz in late January.
FCS Fishing: Early on during the Senior Bowl invitation process, I noticed a lot of FCS guys receiving invites in the first horde. Among them are three offensive linemen: Timon Parris, Skyler Phillips and Brandon Parker.
I love getting the chance to see some of the unheralded guys going up against the best of the best. Timon Parris is the player I’m most excited to see, and you’ll read why later. Phillips is an intriguing prospect as well. He’s slightly undersized, but he plays a lot bigger than 6’1”. The most highly regarded of the trio is Brandon Parker, and I’m hoping he could improve some questions I have after watching the tape.
Last year the Senior Bowl hosted three FCS offensive linemen, but I’m anticipating they add at least one more player from that level. My money is on Aaron Stinnie from James Madison.
Competition: There have only been two confirmed accepted invites among edge rushers thus far, those being from Marcus Davenport and Kylie Fitts. Davenport has generated a lot of hype as of late and his 6’6”/260 frame will be on full display at the Senior Bowl. Fitts has struggled with injuries over the past couple of seasons, but racked up 7 sacks as a sophomore.
Other possible participants include Bradley Chubb, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Duke Ejiofor, among others. Chubb looks like the top edge rusher in this class and I can’t wait to see him up against the likes of Rankin and Parris. Okoronkwo has 1st round aspirations and will need a strong showing in Mobile to cement that status. Ejiofor is someone I haven’t seen as much of, but some respected draft analysts are very high on him.
As much as I like this OL group, the EDGE group will counter with a lot of talent of their own, making the battle in the trenches perhaps the most compelling storyline at the Senior Bowl this year. These guys are going to battle it out and it’s going to be tons of fun to watch.
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Austin Corbett (Nevada) – ACCEPTED
My first exposure to Austin Corbett was the 2016 matchup against Notre Dame. He was very underwhelming to start the game allowing consistent separation while playing with sloppy mechanics from his hands to his feet. Then a fire went off and Corbett took over, despite the huge gap on the scoreboard.
Once he settled into his groove, Corbett was dominating in pass protection and inside the trenches as he opened holes for the run. Named First Team All State in the shot put as a senior in Nevada, Corbett’s upper body strength was on full display against the Irish. I counted at least five pancakes as he asserted his dominance up front.
Corbett looks equally adequate blocking for both the pass and run, and offers viable athleticism as well, along with his toughness and strength. As I mentioned in my ‘Top 5 Takeaways’, Corbett is an experienced player with an impressive athletic background as he also lettered in wrestling and basketball in high school, along with football and track.
Unless he has a strong showing in Mobile, which he very well could, Corbett is likely an early Day 3 pick, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him slip into the end of the 3rd round. He fits best as a guard in a man-to-man scheme, but has also been projected at center.
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Tyrell Crosby (Oregon) – ACCEPTED
We all know about Bryce Love, but Tyrell Crosby is another ascending prospect out of the Pac 12. A standout basketball player in high school, Crosby graduated from Green Valley HS as Nevada’s 2nd all-time leading rebounder.
Crosby transitioned that athleticism onto the football field. Overall I’d say his movement skills are above average, but the flexibility he displays in his dips is among the best you’ll find down in Mobile this year. Crosby possesses a strong base and good size which eases him into his bend. He comes off the snap powerful and pounds his opponent on engagement.
What I like most about Crosby is his mean streak and physicality. He never shies away from contact and he’s always looking to finish. During high school he reportedly recorded 18 pancakes in a single game; you’ll see a fair share of those in his film as well. I’m not calling him a Taylor Lewan or Jon Runyan, but his aggressiveness is by far my favorite aspect of his game.
While I like his game, Crosby might be a guy you see slide inside at the next level to provide punch to the interior. With his athleticism, power and physicality, he would fit the part in a zone blocking scheme. I think he’s a 3rd round prospect, and he should play at the level in Mobile.
Will Hernandez getting in on 3 different blocks. pic.twitter.com/reQ2pGvCgo
— Mark Harrington (@PFF_Mark) October 15, 2017
Will Hernandez (UTEP) – PENDING
Assuming he accepts the invitation to play, Will Hernandez probably has the least to gain out of this group from playing in Mobile. He has started every game at left guard during his career in UTEP and has played at a high level going all the way back to his redshirt freshman season.
Hernandez has drawn comparisons to Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati. While it may be a lazy comp, their play styles are nearly identical. Hernandez, like Iupati, is a pure mauler on the interior. He’s a hefty load with brute strength and he’s always on the attack. While he’s polished in just about every aspect as he’s had plenty of time to master his craft at UTEP, I will say that he can get lost in space and he won’t offer much on cut blocks as he lacks sudden explosion out of his stance.
I find PFF stats to serve as a useful tool in my evaluations, however I wouldn’t advise going overboard with them. They had a lot of great things to say about Hernandez’s 2016 campaign. He was named their best pass protector while finishing as their top rated guard with a 94.3 grade. Overall Hernandez’s grades were high from top to bottom, especially pass blocking efficiency (99.8) and RB success (94.5). PFF also reports that he allowed just one pressure on 380 pass block snaps.
Checking all the boxes, Hernandez looks like a slam dunk 2nd round prospect and the type of player who can play over a decade. His awaited confirmation leaves even more toughness and nastiness that could be on display at the Senior Bowl.
— Kevin Brown (@nfldraftnik) November 17, 2017
Chukwuma Okorafor (Western Michigan) – ACCEPTED
I first caught wind of Chukwuma Okorafor shortly after the 2017 NFL Draft as my good Twitter friend Justen Gammel was quick to throw out his name as one to watch this year. Okorafor has a strong chance of being drafted higher than former teammate Taylor Moton, who was a late 2nd round pick this past April.
“Chukes” could be the most intriguing offensive linemen in Mobile this year. He’s only 20 years old and will likely be the biggest guy down there at 6’5”/330. A Nigeria native, he was always a prideful soccer player until his family moved to the United States in 2010. He got the late jump playing football, but actually started off at kicker, until transitioning to the offensive line.
As you would expect, Okorafor is a bit raw, but he’s progressed over the past two years. He brings a thick, built body up front with the tools necessary to succeed at the next level. He’s not going to overpower anyone or bring the flashy physicality, but he’s light on his feet for such a big dude with sound sets in pass protection. I’d like to see him utilize his hands more. He tends to rely on his base to support his anchor and at times his body positioning can be a bit off kilter.
Regardless of how Chukes plays in Mobile, I think he’s a lock on Day 2. With his youth, age wise and generally as a football player, plus his athleticism and size, he’s going to attract teams. He’s an extremely smart guy who aspires to become a CEO one day. If he can workout some kinks, he’s a starting caliber linemen.
Week 12 Black College Football Player of the Year Spotlight: @ncatsuaggies senior OL Brandon Parker graded out at 87 percent and accounted for four pancake blocks as the Aggies amassed 358 total yards of offense and ended a three-game losing streak to rival @NCCU. pic.twitter.com/wBjyZTkL2r
— BlackCollegeFootball (@BCFHOF) November 22, 2017
Brandon Parker (North Carolina A&T) – ACCEPTED
One trait that often goes overlooked with offensive linemen is longevity and consistency to stay on the field. Brandon Parker is every bit of that. For North Carolina A&T, Parker has started every single game of his career since his redshirt freshman season. He’s been the staple on an offense which has produced Tarik Cohen, and I think wide receiver Elijah Bell has a chance of being drafted as well within the next couple years.
Widely considered the top FCS offensive line prospect, I just didn’t see it with Parker. Granted, I was limited to one game (2016 Playoffs @ Richmond), but in that limited exposure I didn’t see the makings of an NFL linemen. At 6’6”, you’d expect Parker to tower over guys and bully them around, especially at the FCS level. However, he doesn’t play to his size and you’re not going to find him on a mean streak or looking for extra work following his assignment.
Parker looks a bit top heavy on tape and certainly should add about 10 pounds or so to round out his frame. He can be a bit aggressive at times and caught leaning out of his stance. Parker struggles to hold blocks which could be attributed to his upper body strength. He doesn’t look like a natural mover in space either.
I hope Parker goes down to Mobile and shows up for the scouts, but I think he’ll be overshadowed by other top linemen such as Crosby, Parris and Rankin. I surely respect the career he pulled out at North Carolina A&T, not many players can say they started every single game of their college career.
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Timon Parris (Stony Brook) – ACCEPTED
Alright guys, never have I come away more excited after watching an offensive line prospect. I’m going to say it now, Timon Parris is a top 5 offensive tackle in this draft class and well worth a 2nd round selection. Bear with me, I haven’t seen any buzz regarding Parris before he accepted his Senior Bowl invitation. I’m definitely going out on a limb here, but I’ll put my money on Timon Parris as one of the biggest overall risers during this year’s Senior Bowl week.
Prior to suffering a fractured fibula a few weeks back, Parris had started 41 consecutive games for Stony Brook. He has a strong chance of becoming the first NFL draft pick in program history. Parris was also a coveted basketball recruit and he’s known for his work ethic. The background is squeaky clean.
On the field, Parris is my kind of offensive tackle. Pass protection comes natural and his lateral slide is reminiscent of a figure skater gracing the ice–both portraying their craft as an art form. Parris holds a compact frame which allows him to get low to the ground with his excellent flexibility providing even more depth. While he is smooth fundamentally, Parris also plays with toughness. He’s quick off the snap and is always looking for contact as he utilizes heavy, violent hands.
As I said earlier, I’m banking on Parris ending the week in Mobile as a top overall riser as he skyrockets into the top 50 of some boards. He is coming off injury, but he’s expected to suit up. Parris takes pride in being able to play through the “aches and pains” as he stated on Newsday.com. When Parris blows up, remember, you heard it here first.
— Madison Guernsey (@MGuernsey_ISJ) April 11, 2017
Skyler Phillips (Idaho State) – ACCEPTED
When you hear offensive linemen referred to as the “buffet boys”, Skyler Phillips is a name who may come to mind in a few years down the road as he’s given me that vibe. Phillips is a big, chunky lineman with a thickened body. He’s tough as nails and physical for a guy that’s only 6’1” battling in the trenches.
Size will limit Phillips to the interior at the next level, but he will go to battle. Phillips’ size gives him the advantage in the leverage war, and he uses his hands well with some violence mixed in. He is sound in pass sets with space consuming footwork. Overall, Phillips is a better pass blocker.
You’ll see him a little too aggressive at times where he’ll get caught with a lean or just overshoot his man completely. His movement skills in space are no better than average as you’ll see him on the ground a decent bit, mainly blocking for the run. However, he displayed bendy lateral agility and decisive angles on pull blocks early against Colorado last season.
Philips may be tasked with the toughest test and most to prove at the Senior Bowl between his size and level of competition. I expect him to hold up quite well and cement his case as an early Day 3 pick.
Frank Ragnow ain't havin' none of that pic.twitter.com/OchLDjuvfK
— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValencia_WiB) September 23, 2017
Frank Ragnow (Arkansas) – INACTIVE
On October 21st, Frank Ragnow suffered a season-ending high-ankle sprain. While it’s quite possible he could be at 100% by late January, it’s unlikely that he will play and risk further injury. However, Ragnow will be in Mobile that week to conduct interviews with teams, along with other off screen procedures.
Even if he were to suit up, Ragnow likely doesn’t have much to gain. He’s already proven himself at Arkansas as he’s served as the heart and soul on a prestigious offensive line. Ragnow doesn’t look to block, he looks to finish. He’s perhaps the most aggressive finisher in this draft class and the epitome of how an offensive linemen is supposed to play the game.
Ragnow is a plug and play at center who can serve as the anchor of your offensive line for the next decade. Whether he actually sees the field or not, he’s a likely top 40 prospect for me.
Mississippi State OLT Martinas Rankin (#55) has the athletic ability to stay at that spot in the NFL. Does a nice job dancing with the defender on pass protection here. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/HRGGdpjKKW
— Kevin Brown (@nfldraftnik) November 17, 2017
Martinas Rankin (Mississippi State) – PENDING
The first offensive linemen I studied all year, and it sure was an exciting evaluation. I’ll be the first to admit that offensive line isn’t my strongest area when it comes to scouting, but it’s hard to miss it with Martinas Rankins.
Rankin has improved tremendously since last season. The talent was always there, but in his senior year he has tightened up the screws and put it all together. Rankin is as clean technically and polished as you’ll probably find in this year’s draft. He consistently gains leverage and combines that with advanced hand usage and a hard engagement off the snap.
Along with the overall blocking traits, Rankins is athletic and flexible in his stance when picking up defenders. The Mississippi State offense requires Rankins to move around in space a good bit, and he showcases nimble movement skills.
If I’m nit picking, I’d say Rankins doesn’t play with the “looking for work” mentality, although he can be physical and finish strong. I think he enters the week in Mobile as the linemen there, but Parris could certainly shake things up. Right now Rankins looks like a top 20 player on my board.
Sign Them Up:
- Mason Cole (Michigan)
- Kolton Miller (UCLA)
- Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh)
- Billy Price (Ohio State)
- Braden Smith (Auburn)