The Texans need an offensive tackle. The 2019 NFL Draft is just about here. The journey started a few days ago when I, as your pilot, began to wade this wagon through the ‘Top 15’ available offensive linemen of this year’s draft.
4.) Kaleb McGary (Right Tackle—Washington)
The class’s best run blocker is so good at it that even the pass blocking problems can be overlooked.
McGary is the best run blocker in this tackle class. No one can maul defenders like he can. The run blocking is so tremendous that the pass blocking issues, which I think are amendable, can be overlooked. McGary is unlike the majority of the prospects that offer nothing as a run blocker and will be selected because they are decent enough in pass protection. Disavowing McGary, and ignoring his game because of some pass block turning is a colossal mistake.
There isn’t a run block McGary can’t make. Let’s run through them all. I have a bone to pick, I have grapes to gripe, and there’s skin on my feet to peel. Washington is primarily an outside zone team. The same scheme that turns athletes into a poets, and the offensive line into rhyme structure the running back maneuvers around.
Here McGary has a play-side double with the tight end. Together they need to put hats on the defensive end and strongside linebacker. The outside zone step is a slight horizontal step, and then a deep angular step to gain ground and get to the outside shoulder. The end tries to split the double team. Worlds collide and the block shreds the end. McGary isn’t a brute with his brain in his biceps. He doesn’t trample over the impact. He correctly turns back inside and squares up the linebacker. The big punch clubs the linebacker. The back kicks it wide.
This is another ‘trey’ block. Except this time it’s an inside zone double team. Both linemen get hip to hip and try to drive the tackle off the ball to the linebacker. McGary makes correct contact on the outside half of the defender and turns him into goop. You can’t come off the ball any better than this. The destruction makes it simple for the tight end to overtake and allows McGary to quickly get to the second level. There he’s square. He delivers a great punch into the linebacker. There isn’t dipping or tripping. He shoves, sticks, and pushes the backer off the screen.
This is one of those screwed up stretchy outside zone variations where the center pulls to get to the linebacker in open space. McGary is tasked with reaching the play-side defensive end. His steps are perfect. The contact is a little high, and the end makes first contact. McGary is too strong. It doesn’t matter. He turns what could be a stagnant block into an open pathway. He grips the end and wrings him out wide. The guard and McGary create a wide path for the back to run through.
Second level blocking is a corroded chest at the bottom of the opaque sea, living unnoticed under the bellies of sea beasts, in today’s college game. McGary is one of the rare gems who can block the second level consistently. Here the Huskies are running counter towards him. His goal is to hold the tackle so the pulling guard can kick out the jams. He provides a decent pop with his shoulder and quickly gets to the second level. The linebacker is lower than him and gets into his chest. This play shows off McGary’s strength. He takes the punch and is still able to rub his hands all over the defender.
His run blocking is scheme neutral too. He can make strong double teams, quick double teams, one on one blocks, down blocks, and he can pull. So many of the pulls I watched from other offensive line prospects ended with the lineman either scratching himself and looking for something to do or weak contact that doesn’t drive the defender out of the hole. But it’s a bloodbath at Burger King when McGary gets his hands on a defender.
This pull is particularly great. A blitzing linebacker surprises McGary on this counter pull. The typical offensive lineman is woken in the middle of the night by the masked traitor, losing the block in the worst way. McGary sees the blitz in his peripheral vision like a Turnover album, ignores the goosebumps on his neck, collides with the linebacker, and slices off a large enough chunk for the back to get positive yards.
This is a counter variation where the center leads his pull. McGary allows his center to be the headlamp lighting up the post-sunset trail ahead of him. When the center fails to drive the defensive end out, he adjusts his course and gets deeper. Typically stalemates and penetration kills plays with pulls. McGary is an intelligent puller and doesn’t allow constriction to ruin his block. He curls around the center’s block while keeping his eyes on his assignment the entire time. His head is correctly on the outside shoulder. The hands could be stickier, but the wide rush pulls the linebacker back into the play.
Quick feet, correct head and hand placement, powerful pop...all of it is seen on the backside of blocks as well. This is my favorite block of McGary’s. I have a poster of it from the USGS on my wall. Washington is running outside zone away from him. The backside double has teeth to it because the tackle is lined up as a ‘3’ on the outside shoulder of the guard. McGary can attack the line of scrimmage and still get to the second level. The guard messes up and blocks the outside shoulder. McGary reacts by jamming a knife into the side of the tackle, sploosh sploosh sploosh, there’s blood in his shoes. This contact is fiber. He gets the tackle moving in a hurry. Immediately, McGary naturally comes off the block, adjusts, and cuts wide to the linebacker. There he drives the defender all the way to the first down marker.
Did you like that one? Well, here’s another one. We should do this more often.
It’s another backside double team. Except this time, the defensive tackle is a 4i on McGary’s inside shoulder. He won’t receive help from the guard, who’s forced to scream to the linebacker. McGary takes a deep first step to align his head with the play-side shoulder. He pops the correct spot. After contact is made, he runs his feet and sticks himself between the back and the tackle. He builds the wall on the backside. This is the type of block that leads to those long flowing cutback runs everyone is so romantic about.
Nobody is making all of these blocks, and no one is making one of these run blocks at the same level McGary does. According to Sports Info Solutions’s Football Rookie Handbook, running backs gained 5.3 yards an attempt, 2.1 yards before contact, and had an EPA of 16.2 when running to McGary’s gap.
All of this leads to to pass protection. As a pass blocker, McGary is tight. He has a narrow base. He’s tall. Washington chipped often to help him out. Rarely does he meet defenders head on. He turns and opens the gate like so many before him.
McGary struggles as a traditional, angular pass blocker. That being said, McGary was only credited with two blown pass blocks last season and 13 across 41 games in his three years as a starter. This is because McGary is a decimating pass blocker when he’s aggressive. On sets when he comes directly after defensive ends, he extinguishes rushes right away. Here he slides right over and covers up the defensive end.
Same here. His punch crunches the end’s jaw and forces him to hazily bounce outside.
The punch is brutal. The hands leave red welts like the eye of Jupiter. When McGary gets his hands on the rusher right away, it’s over. The problems arise whenever he’s stuck kicking and sliding far off the line of scrimmage. He hasn’t figured out how to move in this manner yet.
I think he can, though. His feet are so good in the run game, and the punch is a Trinity site detonation. And even if he never quite figures it out, chips and quick cuts can aid him. The run blocking is so good that the pass block problems can be dealt with. Even if that doesn’t work out, McGary could play guard. He’s strong, tough, has the hands, pulls well, can make power double teams, reach the tackle, and his pass set is already suited for close quarters. A team may take McGary and never feel fully comfortable with him in pass protection; he may tumble from right tackle to guard, but regardless of where the journey takes him, a team is going to have a spectacular run blocker and consistently above average starter.
3.) Jawaan Taylor (Right Tackle—Florida)
All around good offensive tackle.
Taylor had some battles last season in Florida. He put relish on the hot dog and made the most of his opportunities, taking on Montez Sweat, Josh Allen, and Brian Burns. Throughout last season, he consistently beat edge rushers who will be selected in the teens in two weeks at the latest. That is right around when Taylor will be selected as well.
The best Taylor game came against Kentucky. He was up against pure speed rusher Allen, a wildcat version of Von Miller. Allen is a spring on the line of scrimmage all bound up in the basement, waiting for his manacles to be cut so he can escape across the line of scrimmage and get revenge on the quarterback.
This is exactly how a tackle has to deal with Allen’s speed. The first step is a right foot on blue. A long stride to get ahead of the speed rush. Taylor is able to maintain control after this big leap, and naturally falls back into an ordinary kick-slide to block Allen. Not just meeting, but beating Allen to the point of attack, is an extraordinary feat. He ignores the hand flashing. Makes contact at the correct time. The punch could be better. It could be gruesome instead of good enough. Allen gets too deep to spin back to the quarterback in time.
All that speed rushing sets up the bullrush and inside moves for rushers like Allen. The tackle starts hurrying his set. He’s high and overextended. A quick change of direction and lowering can obliterate tackles. That doesn’t work against Taylor. Even against all the elite speed rushing, Taylor maintains a square and balanced kick-slide. He’s able to catch Allen head on. From there it’s an exorcism of hand fighting and anchoring. It’s unbelievable Taylor is able to stay upright here.
Allen tries to go with an inside move instead of a bullrush this time. Taylor pops off his anchor, slides inside wide, and drives Allen’s inside move out of there. By the time Allen can spin back, the quarterback has already changed his name, relocated, grown a mustache, remarried, and fathered new brats.
This is another quick pass set, but this time it’s against Burns. Taylor is able to zap him deep and past the quarterback, taking him out of the play entirely.
Taylor’s punch can be a record scratch. Taylor does a great job punching and resetting his feet back underneath him. This one is a guillotine to an edge rush. He knocks the wind out of the end.
His ability to mirror is worthy of admiration as well. It’s always hilarious to see defensive ends try to spin inside of him. Because of how square he is and the technique he plays with, spins don’t create the intended effect. Usually it leaves an open back that’s easy to lurch onto and toss aside.
In the run game, Taylor’s best strength is his ability to move in space. He blocks the second level really well. This is a dramatic version of the typical second level climb. The Gators had success running quick screen passes to the wide receiver with Allen leading the way and bowling for defensive backs. This block is a Road Rash 3D pipe across the face.
This same skill is utilized in the box too. Taylor climbs, engages, and sticks well.
Taylor isn’t a great run blocker. He struggles to create vertical movement on his own. He isn’t a barbarian. He’s good enough at it, though. When he has a competent guard next to him, Taylor correctly gets hip to hip, moves the first level, and takes out the second. He’s just not going to create movement like this on his own or make the run blockers around him better. He accentuates. He doesn’t create in the run game.
Taylor is a starting right tackle in Week One of the 2019 regular season. He’s everything a team desires when they are selecting in the teens of the NFL Draft. The Florida man would be drafted sooner, but he doesn’t have the absurd athleticism required to be selected in the top five, and his run blocking isn’t dominant enough. Someone will take him in the first round, and they will be smitten when they learn they found their starting right tackle.
2.) Andre Dillard (Left Tackle—Washington State)
Pure and perfect pass blocker. Who knows if he can run block?
Dillard is to pass blocking as McGary is to run blocking. That’s all the SAT prep you’ll ever need. Dillard is the best pass protector in this draft class. When you close your eyes and imagine a left tackle, Dillard is it. Repeatable pass set, quick feet, long arms, athletic frame, sub 5.0 40-yd dash, correct hand placement. He’s it.
In pass protection, Dillard does more than meet edge rushers at the point of attack. He beats them. He’s filing his nails, blowing the shards off his cubicles, and then making contact. Here the defensive end elongates his rush to try to delay contact as much as possible. There’s no seam to stretch apart. No path to rush through. He attempts to bend around the edge nine yards into the backfield. Dillard is a gust of wind blowing crinkly wildflowers to their resting place.
The foundation of Dillard’s game though is his quick feet. Dillard skipped rolling over and crawling; he plopped out moving in this manner. Sure, the wide splits helps goad the rusher past the quarterback and makes life easier for the way Dillard plays, but the feet are everything. They will carry and work in any scheme.
Dillard can recover and deal with any edge rusher. It’s hilarious to see him react late to the snap and still lock down the rush. The punch here is nice, too. This view gives a nice perspective on his mirror. He’s low and sits well. Dillard looks the same in a shimmel as he does in full pads.
The assumption is always the same: A mobile offensive tackle’s weakness will be his strength or the inability to sit against a bull rush. But Dillard can’t be maligned by cliches. Power rushes don’t bother him all that much. The pass set is too clean. It’s the same every time. He’s square, low, and he pops when he punches.
The end rolls wide to create more space for take-off and comes right at Dillard. The tackle’s hand placement is better than the end’s. His hands are on his chest, while the end is grasping shoulder pads. Dillard is the one in control when they come together. From there Dillard strangles the rush, squeezes out the life, and makes the blood vessels burst, pouring crimson over ivory. The quarterback attempts to climb the pocket and comes into the path of the end.
Like McGary, Dillard can also pass-set aggressively. He can attack the end at the line of scrimmage and slather him. It’s not all turning the speed rush deep and past the quarterback. So many of Dillard’s pass blocks look like summer short drills. This is that middle school mirror drill where each pimpled blob puts their hands behind their back and copy each other in kick-sliding, zig-zag movement. Dillard steps inside to punch the end who swims wide. Immediately he slides in front of him and hops along to impede the defender.
Now, Dillard can’t run block. Well, it’s not because he can’t; it’s because nobody knows if he can. It’s because Washington State didn’t run the ball. Even an Apple Cup blizzard wouldn’t prevent Mike Leach from horizontally stretching and slinging the ball around the field. Dillard may be able to run block. What happens after all this comes to an end? There isn’t a correct answer. Just assumptions.
I saw one instance of Dillard driving the snow plow. The movement and feet carry to the run game. Dillard spoonfeeds the inside slanting defensive end to the guard. It’s a nice reaction. Usually stunts are diabolical for newborn offensive linemen, but it’s no problem for Dillard. From there he carries up to the second level and turns the linebacker inside out to create an easy rushing touchdown.
If a team needs or desires a left tackle purely for pass protection purposes and can live with whatever run blocking, Dillard is a slam-dunk, no qualms first round pick. The man just knows how to pass protect. But if teams need all-around play, someone who can dominate both the pass and run game, they should look elsewhere or trust their coaches can mold Dillard into the a capable run blocker. If this happens, Dillard is the next Pro Bowl left tackle.
1.) Jonah Williams (Left Tackle—Alabama)
The best all around tackle in this year’s class, and he can probably play on both the left and right side.
Here we are. Jonah Williams is my OT1. He can run and pass block, a mythologcal creature in today’s amateur landscape. He plays with perfect technique. Sure, there’s some finicky things he needs to correct. He lunges too much and can get dragged down by the occasional rip or get tripped up by the occasional inside move. The tree is done growing and he has limited length. He’s better at blocking head up on power or inside zone plays than on angular outside zone rushes. These are just smudges on a stained glass cathedral.
Williams has a perfect base. His first two steps are outlandish. The hand placement is excellent. The pad level can’t be better. If he dropped any lower, it would work against him. This kick-slide, punch, and extension is everything. He looks like he caught a bird mid-flight.
This pass set is subtly great. The defensive end is late off the snap. Williams takes one step, taps off of it, and is sick of waiting for the end. He doesn’t give him the ability to create momentum. Williams bounces off the tapping foot and goes after the end. He locks him out. He follows the rip and catches the defender again when he spins back inside.
This rare behind view footage gives a clearer picture of Williams’ base, kick-slide, and hand placement.
As a run blocker, Williams is at his best when he’s making vertical blocks and powerful hip to hip double teams. The cutting off, the walling, and the zone stepping aren’t what he excels at. He is adequate when asked to make these blocks, but a coach wants Williams running big ‘trey’ blocks like this. The slide step is perfect. Even without a real punch from the tight end, Williams is able to flip this pancake to Flavortown.
He’s great at the second level as well. We are all sympathetic to any linebacker having to deal with him. The punch here is a wallop. It knocks the linebacker backwards. The integral part of the block is Williams’ ability to stick on it. He keeps his hands on the defender and continues driving. A shove and chase would shorten this run by eight yards. Punch and grab, my chubby, violent children. Punch and grab.
Williams moves well in space, too. A team that loves to pull or run screen passes will have no problem starting Williams in Week One. This power running play has Williams getting outside the box to the short side of the field and bullying a safety. Appreciate the foot speed once he recognizes his block. It will make you feel better.
As of right now, Williams is the best tackle around. He’s gotten everything out of his 6’4”/302 pound frame in Alabama. At the same time, that’s the problem with Jonah. There isn’t much room for growth here. It’s not going to get better than the Blue Album. This is the pinnacle.
The team that drafts Williams will have a very good starting tackle year in and year out. That consistency, competency, and durability is something teams are dying for in a world gone mad, a world where Trent Brown and Nate Solder are paid $17 million a year or whatever crazy amount to anchor a line. Williams doesn’t have All-Pro potential. He’s just going to be really good for a really long time.