As the NFL Scouting Combine starts up this weekend in Indianapolis, there are numerous things fans need to be looking for. But for fans of the Arizona Cardinals, the ‘what to watch for’ is easy.
The offensive tackles.
From 2007 to 2009 before he suffered an injury, Willie Colon was one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL, even if that was at right tackle.
He was a fourth-round “undersized, needs to be moved inside to guard” type from small school Hofstra, but Bruce Arians and the Steelers saw something in him that said, “Let’s give him a chance at tackle.”
What that was, we won’t be able to see in Indianapolis, but what we can do is begin to fill in names to watch as they show us what general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians are looking for in players.
Offensive “tackles” to watch:
• Joel Bitonio, Nevada, 6-4, 302 lbs. – Undersized and versatile, when you watch Bitonio play you see a nasty, physicaland aggressive offensive tackle that walks the line of going too far.
Bitonio screams, “Move him inside to guard,” but his footwork, his initial punch and his tenacity all look like a guy who can play right tackle.
• Dakota Dozier, Furman, 6-4, 313 lbs. – Small school, undersized offensive tackle who showed more than reliable footwork at the Shrine Game. He’s a bulldog, and a guy that wins consistently in one-on-one situations.
While many project Dozier as a guard, his ability to set, mirror and win in pass protection when he faced the big boys, he looked like he belonged on the field with LSU, there’s a hint of, “What can he do at tackle?”
• Billy Turner, North Dakota State, 6-5, 315 lbs. – The darling of the Shrine Game, he got the call up to the Senior Bowl and was a bit “exposed” with how raw he is as a pass protector.
Has a bit of a wild man mentality when he plays the game, gets over aggressive and can lose himself too often.
When you watch Turner play, you see a guy with all the tools to be an effective tackle in the NFL, but then reality hits.
He over-extends himself, doesn’t use his hands well, despite having good length and a strong punch, and is a player that screams, “MOLD ME!”
• Ja’Wuan James, Tennessee, 6-6, 311 lbs. – Was a bit miscast as a right tackle at Tennessee, as he plays with the excellent body control, uses his size to his advantage and understands how to win with his hands consistently.
Excellent in pass pro, has no push in the run game, and gets overpowered at the second level in the run game to often.
Anchors really well, and looks like he should be moved to the left side of the line in the NFL.
Well-known guys to watch:
• Seantrel Henderson, Miami, 6-7, 331 lbs. – Maybe the most physically dominant tackle prospect in the draft, he needs A LOT of coaching, just to understand that he can’t skate by on ability.
Got into too much trouble in Coral Gables and disappointed, but he has so much talent. If the Cardinals feel like they can tame the beast, he could be one of the best right tackles in the NFL.
• James Hurst, North Carolina, 6-5, 296 lbs. – The words that come to mind: average athleticism, overachiever, hard workerand gritty.
Isn’t overly powerful and lacks the feet to be an ideal left tackle, but he’s a guy that figures out how to win consistently.
• Morgan Moses, Virginia, 6-6, 314 lbs. – Well-sized, long-limbed and looked downright dominant at left tackle at times.
Doesn’t always anchor, looks lethargic at times and does not play nearly as big as he is.
Obviously there are guys like Zack Martin, Taylor Lewan, Antonio Richardson and Cyrus Kouandjio that have been talked about, mocked and looked at up and down for the Cardinals, but these guys listed are those that could be available on day two or later and make an impact in the desert… soon.