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2019 NFL Draft: Ranking The Offensive Tackle Prospects (Part III)

It’s time for Players #7-5

NCAA Football: West Virginia vs Virginia Tech Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans need an offensive tackle. The 2019 NFL Draft is just about here. The journey started yesterday where I, as your pilot, began to wade this wagon through the ‘Top 15’ available offensive linemen of this year’s draft. Here’s Part One if you missed it. Here’s Part Two if you missed that one as well. And below are the fifteen sites to see.

7.) Yodny Cajuste (Left Tackle—West Virginia)

Cajuste rolled up to the combine weighing 312 pounds, unfurled his 34” arms, and popped 225 off his chest 32 times. When the professional bucket hat NFL man asked him to run or jump, he said, lol nah man, I ain’t doing that and left. I love rolling up to the combine tossing 32 reps and gloating on out of there.

Well, this is what I imagined at least. The real story is that Cajuste had quad surgery and is out for three months. He’s had lower leg injuries before. He missed the majority of his first two seasons at West Virginia because of knee injuries. At least he was productive during his recovery and bench pressed a lot instead of waking up one day and wondering where it all went.

Cajuste needed to do something ridiculous like this to help his draft stock. On the field he’s hulking and in tatters. He looks the part of a big bench presser. He doesn’t play with the same strength though. In pass protection his punch is fairly weak. There’s no greater disparity in film and tangibles in this year’s tackle class than Cajuste’s punch and combine performance.

This block especially hurts. Cajuste is playing NFL football here. He’s in control. The set is perfect. Then he makes contact and caresses the defensive end. Oh. Ok then. His weak punch almost allows Will Grier to get sacked as he runs across Cajuste.

The set is lovely. There’s no aggression, power, or strength when he makes contact. He’s a holder, not a striker. This can be seen again and again and again when Cajuste protects.

Here he strikes early. The defender gets wide to rush around him after he goes for it. The missed punch leaves him bent over, and the rusher turns the corner around him. NFL rushers are particular good at swatting hands away, and attacking the lulls in the offensive lineman’s punch. Cajuste needs to learn how to time his punch correctly, and use limp hand shakes as decoys. Additionally, not only is he bent over when he bites at this cowboy’s boots, but he stops his feet. He doesn’t give himself the chance to chase and recover.

This inside rush squashed West Virginia’s comeback chances. Cajuste is callused and his skin struggles to stretch. When the defender comes inside he doesn’t mirror, squeeze down, and evaporate light. He stops his feet, and wraps his hands around defender’s waist. Pelted by yellow. It’s an endzone holding penalty. A quick slide step inside and a vicious punch would have evaporated a whatever rush.

It’s not only in the pass game either. In the run game he has the same strength issues. When he throws his hips nothing happens. Usually this is a jolt on the gas pedal. He rarely creates vertical movement. Even on this run block when the pad level is fine at first, his arms are locked out, and he outweighs the defender by sixteen stone, the block stalls once he starts pumping.

Or here he climbs up to the second level, and a defensive back spears him the chest and wallops him. His body is a crumpled heap of rotten laundry in the corner of a teenage bedroom.

There’s also a general lack of feel in the run game. The Mountaineers are running outside zone left. Cajuste and the left guard have a play-side double team. Cajuste is supposed to pop the outside shoulder, turn the defensive end inside to allow the guard overtake the double team, and then roll up to the second level. The outside linebacker comes blitzing down. Cajuste panics. He hangs around the first level and provides nothing, then allows the linebacker to scream freely. If he did anything at the first level, the back would have had a cutback opportunity.

It’s not entirely horrendous though. There are momentarily gasps of perfect play. The type of play that enriches combine results, and leaves the scouting department scratching. This kick-slide is fairly square. He punches the end in the chest, extends, and the quarterback can take the boat out for the afternoon.

This quick kick-slide is fantastic. He’s on the end right away. The feet are alright. He could use another step before contact, but it’s so much better than before. The punch is there. It’s a mass grave. I can dig it.

This is a NFL pass set. If only there was more of it.

What makes Cajuste so intriguing is that he’s physically strong. He just doesn’t play strong. Maybe there’s some transcendent meditation, or some pinching and poking, or bootcamp he can go to that will morph him into a seething, dry wall smashing, line of scrimmage wasteland creating monster. His major weakness is a confliction with his body, which even then, is an occasional positive on professional level blocks. Everything else is here, the feet, pad level, foot speed, and talent. It all doesn’t fully coalesce often enough for it to be authentic.

6.) Greg Little (Left Tackle—Ole Miss)

What do you value? What do you want? Do you want someone who can more than hold his own in pass protection? Do you want a ferocious run blocker who will need chips and protection against top pass rushers? Or are you looking for a combination of both, a player who is a positive blocker in both aspects of an offense?

Depending on what you want will determine how you feel about Little. I prefer players who can do both, run and pass block, unless they are spectacular enough at either that you can work with and deal the rest. If a team needs a pass protecting offensive tackle who will consistently wall off edge rushers, than Little is a fine option. Little isn’t an incredible enough pass blocker though to entirely make up for his lack of run blocking ability. He can do one thing really well.

Down blocks are the only competent run block Little can make well. He can slam down on the defensive tackle so the pulling blocker will be able to run across freely. When he was pulling he was a mess. Rarely could he find the second level on any block, and even when he did, he’d slide down slimy. On one v. one blocks he struggled to engage the block correctly. Poor head and hand placement would derail him.

Occasional run blocks aren’t why a team will take Little. He’ll be selected in the first (!) or second round because of his pass blocking. This is an awesome pass block. I particularly enjoy his base. It’s wide, and quick, and is in rhythm with his punch. The extension and mirror are nice. I like how he fights with the pursuing defender, the way he uses his hands to stay on the block, and the release to protect himself from a holding call.

Little doesn’t have 1990s Big Dog strength though. He has enough strength, but he isn’t bulging enough to dominate pass protection. This looks nit-picky at first. Little engages the lineman at the stem of the rush, and he gets the defender off his chest. But the rusher isn’t fully off of him. Little can’t lock him out. The hands couldn’t be better. He just can’t fully make it.

Here he aggressively comes after the inside gap rushing defensive tackle. Little overruns his mark, and plants his feet. There isn’t a quick recovery. A stronger offensive tackle could use his cartoonish upper body to splatter the opened chest and suture the rush. Little doesn’t have it. The tackle windmills his punch away and scurries to his burrow. The good news is Little doesn’t give up. He turns on his right foot and slides inside. When the tackle tries to make a break on the quarterback Little is there to dig him out and outside the pocket. It makes up for the punch, but it’s required because of a previous error.

Little is an above average pass protector and net negative in the run game. The pass protection isn’t great enough to make up for the run game struggles. Even if it never does, Little is a good enough pass blocker to be a competent professional offensive lineman. This is an alright find in the second round, but isn’t worth a first round selection.

5.) Cody Ford (Right Tackle—Oklahoma)

Take everything said about Little and extrapolate it to Ford. He’s a plus pass blocker, but usually wins by width and strength, and can hold his own in pass protection. Ford can’t block the second level, and struggles at run blocking. The difference is Ford plays right tackle, and even though he isn’t a great run blocker, he’s good enough at it, and there’s the potential for it to be a positive in his game. His biggest issue was coming into the block correctly. Head placement would be wrong. His hands would be in the incorrect spot. When he did come into the block in good position he could engage, create movement, time and space.

As mentioned with Bobby Evans, Oklahoma always kept its guard and tackles in a two point stance. It’s difficult to move the line of scrimmage from this higher vantage point. Ford did complete enough run blocks to give feelings that there maybe something more here.

The steps are great, same with the pad level and hands. He devours the tackle, and drives him when he tries to shed and pursue. This is more run blocking than Little exemplified in college, and because of that, Ford is bumped ahead of him.

Ford should be a starting right tackle in the pros. He has the frame you can add strength to. The pass blocking is there. The run blocking should get better. It’s what a typical second round pick looks like.