In the non-stop news cycle that is the National Football League, the NFL Combine is a topic of intense scrutiny that really doesn’t amount to much. A worthy candidate for the “Most Hyped with Least Actual Content” award, the seven-day event in Indianapolis, Indiana only builds anticipation for a distant event to come. A major landmark in the long offseason for the NFL’s newest crop of talent, their performance at the NFL Combine can determine and affect their draft stock and position weeks later.
The Texans are in the market for any and all blockers who can do a better job than what they currently have (which is not much at all). A complete overhaul of the offensive line has been due for several years, and the reaping shall begin this offseason. Although the Texans drafted two offensive linemen last year in Julie’n Davenport and Kyle Fuller, they may not have the upside and talent to maintain starting roles. Fortunately for them, the Texans do not have a first or second round pick. Unless the Texans trade up in the draft, there may not be young talent who could be expected to immediately start considering their draft position.
For this deeper crop of offensive tackle prospects, landing with the Texans would seem like a quality destination. Potentially. Not all the best offensive tackle talent decided to show up to the NFL combine, but there are definitely several players that will be in the Texans’ wheelhouse when it comes their turn to pick.
Tryell Crosby, 6’5, 325 LBS, Oregon
An ideal specimen for right tackle, Crosby is a tough sledding bruiser with impressive strength. He may not have the foot speed and length to move over to left tackle, but his aggressive size and tenacity at the point of attach are NFL-ready. Injuries have slowed him down throughout his college career, so any team wary of an injured past should stay away. He moves people off the line well with strong churning legs. In pass protection he takes too short of steps, which may be as much a product of the system at Oregon than his own inflexibility. His tape against a quality Arizona team demonstrates his toughness and power.
As the tape shows, sometimes his decision making against complex defenses is slow as he gets lost in the crowd, but rest assured, once he gets his paws on a defender they are not going anywhere. His 40 time at the combine is going to be a bit slow, but he will light up the board during the weight lifting segment of the workout. To improve his stock, he will need to destroy the three-cone drill to demonstrate his quickness and change of direction speed. His draft stock is all over the board. NFL.com has him as a 2-3 round pick. Bleacher Report has him down as the 30th overall selection. The boys over at WalterFootball.com have him falling to the 5th round. I see him as a late second-round talent who is a potential Week One starter next season.
Alex Cappa. 6’7, 305 LBS, Humboldt St.
If you know where Humboldt State University is or if they even had a football program, you are a lunatic. He was the Great Northwest Athletic Conferences’ Offensive Lineman of the Year All...Four...Years... Hey, kudos to him, but I think Von Miller is a different animal than what he faced in the GNAC. According to the Baltimore Ravens’ website and coverage from the Senior Bowl, Cappa has the ‘Nastiest tape ever’ . What I like about this prospect is his patience to land the first blow. He rarely over extends when punching and it works because he has long arms paired with quick feet. He can get lazy with just bullying weaker and smaller opponents, so I am interested to see how he holds up against NFL-level pass rushers.
In an offense that utilizes the run, he has the speed to attack the second level and sprint out into space. His tape does not show a great ability to anchor down against quality pass rush, but that technique can be taught to a man on this size. I believe he has the rare talent, athleticism, and tenacity to make the leap from DII offensive lineman to NFL starter. I have him pegged as a quality 4th round prospect simply because the tape is too good to be true.
Orlando Brown Jr. 6’8, 306 LBS, Oklahoma
First off and as always - Hook’em Horns. To make it even, I was able to watch him first hand obliterate Texas LB Malik Jefferson on several occasions in the Red River Rivalry. He has some amazing genetics for an offensive lineman. His father, Orlando Brown, aka “zeus” played in NFL from 1993-2005 and was an elite OT during his career. Brown Jr. is a commander of the offensive line. Probably the most NFL-ready offensive lineman in the draft, Brown Jr. has all the tools to be a team’s left tackle for the next decade.
He pushes defensive lineman like they are debris and opens enormous holes for his running backs. He does drop his chest and head early, which causes him to lose track and positioning on faster rushers. As well, his first step off the line of scrimmage is more reactionary in nature. Those weaknesses can be taken care of and are nit-picking at best. He was an excellent tackle at Oklahoma and checks all the boxes for his skill set. He’s a great example of how to develop a tackle’s skills on the college level that both fit the spread offense system while preparing him for the NFL. Take Brown Jr. off your draft boards Texans’ fans because he will be long gone before we can touch him.
Geron Christian, 6’6, 318 LBS, Louisville
Versatility and size are a plus, but watching his film against NC State in 2016 shows a passive and measured pace of play. He lunges at defenders instead of attacking the block which can be detrimental in the next level when the hits are much harder. Blocking for a unique talent like Lamar Jackson must be fun, and it helped to show his different tools at Louisville.
With great hips and a low center of gravity, Christian is a superb pass blocker with precision hand placement. When run blocking, he does not approach the second level with as much grit as I would prefer, but he would be suitable more on the left side of the line making run blocking less of an issue. If he is available in the third round, I would be interested in how the Texans would make their decision since his play style is similar to Julie’n Davenport. Right now Mel Kiper Jr. has him going 30th overall to the Vikings. I think that is a bit high for him. I am interested to see what the Combine reveals in his game that his film does not. If he weighs in a little bit less, that would be a positive move perhaps. As a consistent three-year starter for the Cardinals, he’s a high-floor option for any NFL team.
David Bright, 6’5, 299 LBS, Stanford
Stanford consistently churns out offensive tackles for the NFL. Bright is the most likely of the bunch to move into guard during his career since he is the smallest of these prospects. He blocked for RB Christian McCaffrey and Brice Love during college, which definitely can make anyone’s highlight tape look that much better. He smoothly shuffles his feet and demonstrates excellent knee bend when engaging with blockers. A pure form blocker, he can, and has, lined up at offensive guard in college and can do so in the pros.
In the game film provided, he does not throw his hands fast or keeps defenders away from his chest. This could allow higher level defensive lineman to control his body and occupy greater space. He fits the bill for the Texans in that he played multiple positions in college, demonstrates a high level of technical skills, and comes from a similar system. He does not have the upside and raw athleticism to elicit an early draft pick, but his power and intelligence will get him drafted and keep him in the league.