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2019 NFL Draft: Taking a Closer Look At Max Scharping

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Let’s examine the second tackle the Texans selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Northern Illinois v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Before the 2019 NFL Draft, I had the following to say about Max Scharping:

A wheel of cheese that needs to be cut up and molded.

There’s more evidence of Scharping’s play out there in the world than Howard, but Scharping is interesting in the same way Howard is. He has a test tube offensive tackle body. Scharping is 6’6” and 327 pounds. At the Combine he benched 225 lbs. 27 times, which is 5-7 more reps than the majority of the tackles. He jumped and moved as quick as everyone else did.

The problem with the tape is Scharping doesn’t make enough blocks. The ball is out quickly. In the run game, he was tasked with turning the defensive end to create ‘B’ run lanes; he wasn’t asked to make reach blocks or create vertical movement. All he was against Utah and San Diego State was a big guy, a monstrous frame that was merely in the way.

That being said, there is one main concern: His hands. Scharping isn’t a puncher. He’s a grabber and shover. He loses and falls off blocks because he’s catching instead of strangling the block. It doesn’t matter how many times a player can push 225 up or how long his arms are if he doesn’t know how to utilize them. Xavier Su’a-Filo and Kolton Miller are prime examples of offensive linemen whose hands prevented them from being competent NFL players.

Scharping suffers from a similar fate. At left tackle, he snaps out of his stance and tracks the smaller end well. However, he turns to the end, doesn’t punch, and just puts his hands on the defensive end. This is a high school prom, not a pass set. NFL defensive ends will see this turn and bullrush right through it.

Scharping’s base is the other problem with his pass set. Scharping is tall and stuck leaning over to block smaller defensive linemen. The leaning stems from his base. His feet are too narrow. He brings his feet together and turns to keep the defensive end from driving baseline instead of taking an angular kick-slide and taking on the defensive end head on. Narrow bases are shredded to the bone in the NFL.

This grabbing gives defensive players the ability to pursue the play. They are never fully blocked. There’s hope and light seeping into the cave. The defender can always pop back or run left or right and escape unhindered. Here, Scharping doesn’t punch. He just extends. His quarterback flows left after being unable to find anyone open right away. The defensive end is able to break outside the pocket and soak him up for the sack.

A correct punch and grasping of the chest removes the ability to escape. The defender is stuck and glued to the tackle. From there, it’s just mirroring—slight right and left movements to keep the vehicle between the yellow lines. Without it, no defender is extinguished. No ball carrier is safe.

The lack of punch and hands don’t leap out and tear our your eyes because Scharping didn’t allow those horrendous missed blocks that are so easy to point to. Sports Info Solutions credited him with only 10 missed blocks last season. He’s an enormous body and too difficult to run through at the college level. On this block, Scharping picks up the blitzing linebacker. His pass set is pretty, his pad level is correct, and his base is shoulder width. Yet there isn’t a punch here. He catches the blitzing linebacker and allows him to come all the way into his chest. The San Diego State linebacker is engulfed. Za’Darius Smith wouldn’t be.

I need to watch more video to nail down the hand troubles. Two games isn’t enough. Yet, based on what I’ve seen, Scharping can best be described as a body, not as an offensive lineman. Hands are too integral in offensive line play, and his are too sloppy to warrant selecting him in the middle of the draft. Maybe he’ll eventual become more than this if he’s drafted by a team who can mold and develop offensive linemen, but from the limited play I’ve seen, I’d stay away. Two more games against MACtion probably won’t sway my sunken thoughts.

That was then. This is now. Since I wrote that, Scharping became a second round selection of the Houston Texans. Typically, I would have waited to see Scharping play in a season or two, decide if he’s good or bad, and say, “Yes, I was right” or “Team ‘X’ taught him how to do ________,” or “I was completely wrong” and then go back and see why. Never would I be revisiting something this early again. There’s too much life out there. The sun feels too good.

But since the Texans selected him in the second round, so I felt it would be worth my time to go back and take a look at him again.

After revisiting Scharping, I feel better about the pick than I originally did. His size is a problem for defenders. Even if he catches defenders with his body instead of his hands, his anchor should be good enough to swallow up most defenders.

In the run game, Scharping is better than I thought he was. It’s hard watching college video and seeing so many blocks that have zero resemblance to the pro game. So many of Scharping’s run blocks were backside shielding, not true backside double teams, or one-on-one blocks with zero effect on the play itself. He can block down pretty well to move the defensive tackle inside and off the guard. He can reach the defensive end. These are good things.

Scharping does have issued with vertical movement, though. He should demolish smaller defensive ends off the ball with his size. But he catches too much and needs to explode once contact is made. The red wire is snipped once the alarm clock numbers hit 0:01. Ahhh, disaster was so close.

The key for Scharping is that he absolutely has to fix his hands and pass set. He falls off run blocks way too often and again, he doesn’t create enough movement, which is partly due to his hands. There isn’t enough of an impact when he makes contact. In the pass game, this shortcoming gives defenders second and third opportunities to get after the quarterback.

Scharping turns way too often when pass protecting. Instead of an angular kick-slide, he’s turning and inviting the wrong one in, opening the door for spins and inside moves. Here he eventually turns because he delays contact for too long, even after a decent pass set. Pass blocking can be aggressive. Linemen become passive in pass protection when the hands are meek.

Scharping was fortunate to have the left guard he had next to him. That left guard was able to help him against inside moves and seal off the counters that took advantage of all the turning and opening. A proper pass set should correct these problems. Scharping has shown he has the feet to meet the defender at the point of attack, even if he doesn’t show the hands to end the pass rush right then and right there. Occasionally, he does kick-slide correctly; when he does, it looks pretty, fluid, and natural.

When he kick-slides and has the hands properly utilized, the body is too strong for the defender to recover. Scharping becomes insurmountable.

You can name any Week One offensive line combination for the Texans in 2019 and I would believe it. Matt Kalil-Senio Kelemete-Greg Mancz-Zach Fulton-Tytus Howard? Sure. Julien Davenport-Martinas Rankin-Nick Martin-Tytus Howard-Max Scharping? Let’s do it. There isn’t an unthinkable permutation.

Yet when it comes to Scharping, I assume he’ll sit and watch unless things become so disastrous that he’s forced out there like Martinas Rankin was at left tackle in 2018. Hand correction for offensive linemen is like accuracy for quarterbacks. It rarely gets better, and if it does, it’s a long-term project. Scharping’s pass set is also going to take time to correct.

From a future perspective, I like the pick more than I did on Saturday. From a 2019 perspective, I’m not expecting much.