As the celebration in Atlanta following the College Football Playoff began to die down, you could begin to faintly hear another noise strengthening in the distance.
A slow and steady “chug…chug…chug” is all of a sudden the “CHUGGA, CHUGGA, CHUGGA, WOOOO WOOOOOOOO” of a runaway train. The word “Dallas” can be seen on the front in large, neon lights. At first the scene is quite overwhelming. Its loud, erratic, and unpredictable. But then you realize, you’ve been waiting months for this moment. You begin to welcome it with open arms and embrace it. You’re ready. You’ve been ready. And it’s time to hop on board.
Welcome to Draft Season, everybody. We are officially full steam ahead to AT&T Stadium, with a few other stops along the way.
Our first stop: Mobile, Alabama.
This will be one of a series of posts in which I preview each position along the offensive line and give you a brief synopsis of the players invited, while giving my two cents about each one as a prospect up to this point. Up first are the guys out on the edge, the offensive tackles. This group boasts some serious talent, while also including a healthy dose of raw talent from the FCS and Division II levels. The Senior Bowl will go a long way for each of these prospects as they take on the best of the best from around the country.
Due to the large number of invitees, I decided to split the position into two posts. Here are the first handful of tackles you will see down in Mobile:
Chukwuma Okorafor – Left Tackle – Western Michigan
Last year, even when all eyes were on his teammate Taylor Moton, those who were willing to look hard enough saw the potential of the player on the other side of the line. From the eye-test, Chukwuma Okorafor has all the makings of a franchise left tackle. At 6’6 and 330 lbs., he is a monster of a man with sky-high potential. As a three-year starter, Okorafor has the desired experience while also spending time at both tackle spots during his career at WMU. Okorafor exhibits polished footwork and the quick-twitch muscle needed to mirror speedy edge rushers. However, I would like to see Okorafor make his initial punch in pass protection a bit more consistent. If he does, then we will be cooking with gas.
Tyrell Crosby – Left Tackle – Oregon
At 6’5 320 lbs., Tyrell Crosby is one thick baby. As an offensive lineman for one of the fastest offenses in the country, it was hard to get a grasp of Crosby’s full utility belt of talents. The “lethal simplicity” of Taggert’s offense made it difficult to grade Crosby, as they weren’t asked to do a whole lot. On pass plays, the ball would be out of the quarterback’s hand before he had too much engaging. In the run game, their plays would hit so fast Crosby didn’t always need to play to the whistle.
Simplicity aside, Crosby is a brute who loves to inflict pain on his opponents through his heavy hands and raw strength. Crosby takes short, choppy steps in his pass set that leave him with a fairly narrow base, yet somehow never seems to find himself caught off-balance. My body comparison would be Jason Peters of the Eagles, as he has shorter arms and a is a tad thick (round) in the middle. On the downside, Crosby leaves much to be desired when asked to pull, as he fails to pick up a full head of steam.
Cole Madison – Right Tackle – Washington State
One of only two right tackles invited to the Senior Bowl, Cole Madison plays for one of the most pass-happy teams in the country. But his skill-set is the exact opposite of what I’d expect from a Wazzu offensive lineman. He has a weak anchor in pass protection while mostly looking lost when work isn’t given to him from the get-go. Madison gives up way too much ground without giving much of a fight and doesn’t seem to want to hit anybody if he doesn’t have to. He has a tendency to lean too far forward and duck his head on initial punch, which allowed a sack versus rival Washington. On the flip side, he looks a lot more comfortable in the run game. A quick snap off the line helps him beat outside techniques to the spot in outside zone. Right tackle is definitely his natural position, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him kick inside to a guard spot.
— BrownsDailyMockDraft (@BrownsMockDraft) January 9, 2018
Brian O’Neill – Left Tackle – Pittsburgh
Brian O’Neill has the frame that you want in a tackle (tall, long arms, etc.), but he could stand to put on another 10-15 pounds. He covers ground very quickly with his long strides and gets to the second level in a hurry. He does his best work when he is pulled into space, but struggles at times in pass protection. O’Neill almost never lands the initial strike inside shoulder pads of the defender. He allows himself to be forklifted by smaller rushers, which can be remedied by bending his knees more. O’Neill never attempts to re-set his hands or fight for inside position when initial strike lands outside and spends too much time looking behind him for my liking. An offensive lineman should never turn back towards the quarterback. If he is struggling with no-name defensive lineman in the ACC, I can’t imagine how he could ever handle the premiere linemen in the NFL. A chance at the Senior Bowl will be huge for him.
Brandon Parker – Left Tackle – North Carolina A&T
North Carolina A&T tackle Brandon Parker is similar to Stony Brook’s Timon Parris, in that both very much look the part, but both are very inconsistent from play-to-play. Some plays make you believe he has what it takes to make it at the next level. Others make you scratch your head and remember why he didn’t play for a Division I program. Parker plays with an edge, which is a great trait no matter the level of competition. He’s not the most graceful when moving laterally and took a tumble during the HBCU game which made me say “Come on, be an athlete.” His level of competition will constantly be in question unless he has a good showing at the Senior Bowl. Just needs to put it all together to take that next step.
Desmond Harrison – Left Tackle – West Georgia
Desmond Harrison is one of two Division II prospects invited to the Senior Bowl, joining Humboldt State’s Alex Cappa. Harrison transferred to the University of Texas after after playing a two years at Contra Costa College. He played a reserve role in 2013 at UT after being the No.1 JUCO OT in the country. Sadly, Harrison never played a down for Charlie Strong, as he was suspended for the entire 2014 season. He had been out of football for three years until he signed with West Georgia prior to the 2017 season.
A big cat sitting at 6’6 315 lbs., Harrison loves to bring the pain. He’s obviously talented enough to have once played at Texas, and he brought that big-time Division I talent to the DII level, having his way with the competition. He has one goal at for each rep and that’s to put his man in the dirt. Harrison is aggressive in pass protection with a strong anchor step. He fights to keep his hands inside to maintain winning leverage. Harrison has a great opportunity to make a statement in Mobile after the unorthodox playing career he has had up to this point.