2020 NFL Draft: Prototypical Patriot offensive tackles available
What do the Patriots like to see in tackles coming out of the draft? Going through their choices at that position over the last decade, it's clear they want athletes. Vertical jumps sniffing 30 inches, broad jumps up over 100 inches and short-shuttle times under 5.0 seconds are preferred. Clock a 40 time in the 5.15-second range (helped by a good 10-yard split) and a three-cone around 7.5-seconds, and you've got a shot.
Height mattered once upon a time, it seemed. Then they drafted Isaiah Wynn (6-foot-3, 313 pounds) in the first round in 2018. We'll have a few players here who don't meet typical Patriots standards or didn't test at the combine at all. Call it the Wynn Rule. But those mentioned here performed well enough in college or at the Senior Bowl to warrant consideration. Or they showed good athleticism on tape, as Yodny Cajuste — who couldn't test due to injury — did last year.
Whether the Patriots want a tackle or not remains to be seen, but with the future of the offensive line in New England in somewhat of a state of flux — Wynn has played nine games in two years; Joe Thuney is under contract for one year after signing his franchise tender; Marcus Cannon will be 32 when the season begins — finding depth there might be a worthwhile pursuit. Particularly after seeing how things looked when injuries depleted their top-end talent at the position last season.
Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
6-foot-5, 320 pounds
There's not a team in the league that wouldn't consider Wirfs a fit for their offensive line from a size and athleticism perspective. With a 4.85-second 40 (99th percentile), a 10-yard split of 1.69 seconds (98th percentile), a 36.5-inch vertical (99th percentile) and a 121-inch broad jump (99th percentile), Wirfs has an argument as the most athletic offensive lineman to ever enter the NFL. His arms are plenty long enough (34 inches) to play tackle, but if a team wanted him at guard he'd be fine there, too.
After having worked under Bill Belichick's old offensive line coach in Cleveland, Kirk Ferentz, you can bet Wirfs' technique will be pro ready. Between his starting-level experience, the coaching he received and his physical traits, he's an ideal Patriots lineman.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Tristan Wirfs
Andrew Thomas, Georgia
6-foot-5, 315 pounds
The Patriots love them some Bulldogs along the offensive line. Part of the reason is because those players see the best competition in the country. Part of the reason is because Georgia asks its linemen to do a little bit of everything. There's no getting through a four-year career without understanding how to get out of a three-point stance in Athens, as there might be in some other programs.
Thomas is the best of the UGA bunch this year — and he might be the best tackle prospect in a loaded class at the position. Athletically, he's right where he needs to be from a Patriots perspective — 30.5-inch vertical, 109-inch broad, 7.58-second three-cone drill, 5.22-second 40 — and he allowed just nine total pressures last year, per Pro Football Focus.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Andrew Thomas
Jedrick Wills, Alabama
6-foot-4, 312 pounds
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com has Wills as his highest-graded lineman in the class and compares him to nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters. PFF's Mike Renner compares Wills' game to that of Eagles tackle Lane Johnson. Not bad company.
Even among a group of "can't-miss" tackles, Wills stands out. He might need a little more refinement as a pass-protector, but his explosiveness makes him a load in the running game. He jumped 34.5 inches in the vertical (97th percentile), 113 inches in the broad (93rd) and clocked a 5.05 40-yard dash (90th). And he's a 'Bama product? Add it all up, you have an easy-to-spot Patriots "prototype."
2002 NFL Draft Highlights: Jedrick WIlls
Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
6-foot-6, 311 pounds
Punch Cleveland's name into Mockdraftable.com — a site that compares prospects from different years based on their physical and athletic-testing profiles — and you'll see a few familiar names. Thuney is one. Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is another. Falcons lineman Chris Lindstrom, who spent his college days at Boston College, is another. Ali Marpet, who'll be protecting Tom Brady in Tampa Bay next season, is another. All share uncommon athletic traits.
That Cleveland — at 6-foot-6 — performed as well as he did at the combine is remarkable. His 4.93-second 40 time (97th percentile), 4.46-second short-shuttle time (96th percentile), 30-inch vertical and 111-inch broad are all very strong. His 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench (90th percentile) indicate he has the playing strength he needs to hold up at tackle in the NFL, too. Whereas the three names mentioned above could have their names called in the draft's first 15 picks, Cleveland could very well be available at No. 23 overall.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Ezra Cleveland
Matt Peart, UConn
6-foot-7, 317 pounds
Peart's three-cone time (8.06 seconds) left a lot to be desired, but he remains a top-end athlete at the position with a 5.06-second 40 (88th percentile), a 10-yard split of 1.75 seconds (90th) and a 113-inch broad jump. Those are good numbers for anyone. Now consider he's the longest tackle in the class with 37-inch arms and as a 87-inch wingspan — his 26 bench reps (72nd percentile) are impressive given how far that weight had to move — and you have a certified freak on your hands.
The Governors Academy product played two years at left tackle and two years at right tackle, giving him the kind of positional versatility the Patriots covet. Plus, he played under Randy Edsall, who's coached a number of former Patriots during his days at both UConn and Maryland. During the Senior Bowl, Peart was reportedly among the players Belichick spent time watching closely.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Matt Peart
Austin Jackson, USC
6-foot-5, 322 pounds
Dante Scarnecchia used to describe his ideal linemen as "smart, tough and athletic enough." Jackson easily fits the athletic portion of that equation despite a relatively slow three-cone time (7.95 seconds). His 40 time (5.07 seconds), vertical (31 inches) and broad (115 inches) are all ideal. A young prospect (won't turn 21 until May), Jackson offers all kinds of upside for a coaching staff that believes it can drill into him the technique necessary to thrive as a pro.
Back in July, Jackson served as a bone marrow donor for his sister who has Diamond Blackfan Anemia, which prevents bone marrow from producing red blood cells. He was back at practice the next month, but he's said he couldn't squat with weight on his back until the fourth game of the 2019 season.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Austin Jackson
Mekhi Becton, Louisville
6-foot-7, 364 pounds
The "those guys don't grow on trees" types are the players we typically identify on the defensive line as Patriots prototypes. But Becton undoubtedly fits that description as an otherworldly combination of size and movement skills on the offensive side of the ball.
His 5.1-second 40 time at his weight was defying-the-laws-of-physics stuff. That was his drop-the-mic moment at the combine as he didn't participate in any other tests, but it's safe to say he's the kind of specimen who'll fit in at the next level. Just a hunch.
2020 Draft Highlights: Mekhi Becton
Josh Jones, Houston
6-foot-5, 319 pounds
We're eight (!) prospects into this list and still residing in potential-first-rounder territory. That just speaks to how unusually deep and talented this class of tackles is. Jones has all the length, strength and athleticism to be able to succeed at the next level. He's not one of the upper-tier athletes at the position this year, but his 5.27-second 40 (56th percentile) and 28.5-inch vertical (56th) are right around where the Patriots have drafted before.
Considered a raw prospect — he was a four-year starter but had several different offensive line coaches during his time with the Cougars — he still dominated during the Senior Bowl's week of practices, coming away with the highest PFF grade among tackles in the 1-on-1 pass protection drills. We had Jones fall to the Patriots in our most recent mock draft.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Josh Jones
Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
6-foot-6, 350 pounds
The other Bulldog on this list is a mauler. Only one tackle at this year's combine — the next tackle on this list — was heavier. As you might expect, his 40 and three-cone times weren't outstanding. And he has just two seasons of college action (he redshirted in 2017) under his belt.
But his background in Kirby Smart's program, his length (36-inch arms) and his explosiveness (110-inch broad jump) make his rare frame worth a mid-round gamble.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Isaiah Wilson
Lucas Niang, TCU
6-foot-6, 315 pounds
A New England high schooler out of New Canaan High in Connecticut, Niang had no issue making a name for himself on the college football scene in Texas. His length (34-inch arms, 10.5-inch hands) and athleticism out on the edge helped him become a three-year starter for the Horned Frogs.
He underwent hip surgery after seven games last season, rendering him unable to test at the combine. While we don't have those numbers available from Indy, you can watch his tape against Ohio State's Chase Young and Nick Bosa in 2018 and see a smart player who can move. Bringing him to New England would have a similar feel to what the Patriots did with Cajuste last spring.
Ben Bartch, St. John's (Minn.)
6-foot-6, 309 pounds
The Patriots aren't afraid to draft small-school types. Antonio Garcia from Troy was the last tackle they took from a non-Power Five conference. But would they really ever go the Division III route? They could if they think Bartch is an NFL-caliber athlete.
And given how he performed at the Senior Bowl, he is. He won six of his nine one-on-one pass-protection reps at left tackle during practices in Mobile, Ala, per PFF. That was more left tackle wins than anyone else and the highest winning percentage of anyone with more than six reps at that spot. Bartch didn't test at the combine, but he's a converted tight end — his weight-gaining shake recipe went viral during the combine — and has retained plenty of agility.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Ben Bartch
Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
6-foot-5, 308 pounds
First of all: Yes, he is a prince. Seriously. From Delta State, Nigeria, he's the son of Prince Phillip U.D. and Princess Onome Wanogho. He came to the states to pursue basketball but ended up with 19 college offers to play football.
He ended up at Auburn and was a staple on their line over the last three seasons. He's played both right and left tackle, he's long enough (34-inch arms), and he's allowed fewer than 20 pressures in each of the last three years, per PFF, despite being still relatively new to the sport. He didn't test at the combine due to injury, but he's another who looks "athletic enough" to play in New England. Maybe with a year to develop behind the scenes, the Patriots could unlock Wanogho's potential.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Prince Tega Wanogho
Charlie Heck, UNC
6-foot-8, 311 pounds
At his size, Heck has a little bit of a Nate Solder look to him. Solder was a few pounds heavier coming out of the draft. Heck's hands measured slightly larger and his impressive broad jump (112 inches) was slightly better. Solder was a better mover, though, with a sub-5.0 40 time and a remarkable 4.34-second short shuttle, which was more than a full half-second better than Heck's (4.86).
Still, Heck posted a solid 5.16-second 40 and a 28-inch vertical. His only real worrisome number was his 8.02-second three-cone drill. He could use a little more power. He might have trouble mirroring more slippery pass-rushers. But on Day 3? His length and athletic traits might make him worth a shot.