This year’s offensive draft class seems to be overshadowed by the amount of defensive talent coming out. Names like Bosa, Allen, and Quinnen Williams are constantly being talked about, while the other side of the trenches is being all but forgotten. And for as important as it is to be able to get after the quarterback, it’s equally important to protect your own. This year’s crop of talent may not have an electrifying prospects such as Baker Mayfield or Saquon Barkley, but it’s filled with plenty of big men who can compete. Here are the top five offensive tackle prospects of the 2019 NFL Draft.
1. Jonah Williams, Alabama
Weight: 301 lbs
Arm Length: 33.63
Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams has received praise across the scouting community and is widely considered the best offensive lineman in the draft. He’s expected to go inside the top 10, yet others see him as a mid to late first round prospect, who may struggle at the next level. He is quite the technician and his form is about as sound as they come thanks to arguably the best coaching staff in all of college football. When breaking down his film, it takes quite a bit of study to find the negatives, but they do exist. Williams is not very aggressive, he often dominates his opponents, Jonah just lacks that tenacity you’d like to see from your top offensive lineman. He’s rarely the aggressor, and often absorbs the blow instead of delivering it and can easily be deemed a “body catcher”. Williams may not have the biggest upside or potential as a left tackle in the NFL but he’s someone you plug and play day one. He won’t be a liability, he won’t be imposing his will on his opponent, but what he will do is protect his quarterback and open up running lanes all day long.
Jonah Williams reminds me of a bigger, stronger Connor Williams from a year ago. His technique is so clean, from the footwork, to the knee bend, to his kick slide and redirect, you couldn’t ask from much more in terms of form from a twenty-one-year-old. Although Connor was often physically dominated, the same can’t be said for the Alabama prospect. Jonah was rarely ever pushed back and when he was, he was quick to recover and halt defenders dead in their tracks. His biggest attribute may be his football IQ and ability to recognize blitzes and stunts. Williams game tape refused to point out any instance of him blowing or missing any blocking assignments. In terms of teamwork, whether it’s a run or a pass, he does a tremendous job of assisting the left guard and peeling off the double team to handle delayed blitzes or get to the second level. Jonah Williams can easily be slotted as this year’s best open field/second level blocker of his draft class. The Bama LT is athletic and agile enough to square up with LB’s in space, sealing run lanes, and often springing open huge plays in the ground game. Between his quick feet, excellent base and balance, as well as fast reflexes and reaction time; Jonah’s ability to mirror his opponent step for step is rare for his size. This makes it extremely hard to beat Williams off of the edge, as he often stonewalls them before the have a chance to get off a pass rush move.
The left tackle is no perfect prospect though, and his flaws have some people more worried than others. Rarely does he initiate contact when pass blocking and often receives punishment instead of dishing it out. His lack of length and arm reach have drawn some red flags for those who are adamant about measurable. When he is beat, it was typically against someone who was able to control the distance with a longer reach. He’s susceptible to the bull rush when he loses the leverage battle and allows edge rushers to win the hand placement. If he can get his arms inside the chest of his opponent, he’s practically undefeated, but due to the fact he is never the aggressor, it’s difficult to consistently win the hand fight every play. All that said, Jonah should be the first lineman off of the board, and will have a solid career ahead of him. The offensive tackle just needs to be meaner and more aggressive on the field, but is that a teachable trait or something you are just born with? The sound technique Williams possesses doesn’t give the same room to grow in terms of overall potential as some of these more physically gifted offensive linemen but the talent is there and shouldn’t be overlooked by any means.
Projected Round: 1st Round (top 10)
Team Fits: Cardinals, Giants, Vikings,
NFL Comparison: Donald Penn
2. Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia
Weight: 322 lbs
Career Stats: 31
Yodny Cajuste is a stud of a left tackle. At a lean 6’5”, 322 lbs he’s everything scouts are looking for in terms of measurables and has NFL offensive line coaches salivating at the thought of molding such a physical specimen. On tape, you could easily mislabel him as undersized simply because he has such a low base and pad level, you don’t realize he’s 6’5”; not to mention, there doesn’t seem to be a lick of fat on the man. So not only is he an ultra gifted athlete but Yodny has room to get even bigger and stronger in years to come. The power, athleticism, and technique are all there, and although he tends to get careless and looks uncoordinated at times, it’s a rare sight to see him lose straight up. Typically when beaten on film, he was lunging, overstepping, or blocking with his head down, which are correctable tendencies at the next level. Cajuste is a Jack of all trades, but master of none. He’s an adequate pass blocker, a mauler in the run game, and excels in reading defenses, but isn’t necessarily dominant in any one aspect of the game.
With so much raw ability and room to grow, it’s rumored that some scouts and draft analysts have him higher on their boards than Alabama’s Jonah Williams. I may not be one of them but it’s hard to argue he doesn’t have the potential to be the better lineman when we look back in three to five years. They’re certainly two totally different players but both mirror their defender well, both have top tier technique, and both have high football IQ’s; the biggest differences in their game comes down to tenacity. Where Jonah can be labeled as soft at times, Yodny shows an aggressive style of play and isn’t afraid to deliver and initiate the blow instead of absorbing it. The West Virginia left tackle likes to engage with defensive lineman instantly off of the snap and doesn’t allow his opponent a chance to win the leverage or distance battle. His size and length pair with his low base and ability to bend at the knee, make it hard for defenders to disrupt his center of gravity. Once engaged, Cajuste’s strong grip and hand fighting skills take over and rarely does he give D-lineman a second chance to make a play. Yodny’s pass blocking starts with his quick set and active “happy” feet; he hardly ever takes a false step and is very smooth when shifting his weight in order to redirect. In the run game, #55 is a devastating down blocker who does a great job at sealing up run lanes and has often shown he’s agile enough to block multiple defenders in a single play. There’s just too many good traits to list but like all prospects, he has plenty of room to grow once in the NFL.
As much as his sound form and technique are discussed, Yodny has shown the occasional whiff and has his inconsistencies. Because of his aggressive approach and constant effort to initiate contact, he has a habit of putting his head down and missing his target. It’s a rarity but when Cajuste was beaten, it was almost always with faints and speed rush moves. Over-anticipation being the main factor; the left tackle would sometimes jump the corner to then lose to an inside move or vice versa. It’s hard to recall a time where he was physically dominated or beaten by pure speed off the edge, it tended to be due to mental mistakes or errors on his part. All these are correctable at the next level, especially if given proper coaching and scheme fit. The only other knock on his film was the lack of elite talent he faced while at West Virginia, but that’s no fault of his own. So it’s hard to downgrade great film just because it wasn’t against top tier pass rush prospects. The First Team All-Big 12 and Big 12 co-offensive lineman of the year should be a mid to late 1st round prospect depending on where Jonah goes and should step in as a day one starter at either RT or LT.
Projected Round: 1st
Team Fits: Cardinals, Bills, Texans
NFL Comparison: Kelvin Beachum
3. Jawaan Taylor, Florida
Weight: 334 lbs
The first right tackle on the list, Jawaan Taylor is a blend of pure strength, agility, and length. Hands down the most violent hands in the draft. Jawaan Taylor has an insanely powerful punch that typically derails a rushers momentum and their path to the quarterback with just one swing. The way Jawaan times his swing is something you see from seasoned NFL vets, not draft prospects. Though he will slide, set, and wait instead of engaging at the line when pass blocking, Taylor consistently uses his heavyweight like punching power to initiate contact and dictate the distance. Once the right tackle has his hands on someone, it’s typically all she wrote, making it nearly impossible for defenders to disengage. The Florida offensive lineman is athletic enough to excel when reach blocking in the ground game and powerful enough to anchor the right side in pass protection. He’s a do-all type of player and has all the attributes coaches and scouts look for in a right tackle.
Jawaan Taylor is one of those players who’s as football smart as he is physically gifted. His blitz pick up and recognition is something you notice as soon as you put the film on. The RT knows where to be, when to be there, and who’s his responsibility at all times. He does a great job of assisting his right guard when double teaming but is quick to transfer his focus onto incoming blitzers and linebackers in the second level when needed. His tape is littered with two for one combo blocks where he’ll seal the line before peeling off to attack downfield. Taylor’s capable of adjusting in space and squaring up defenders in the open field. The tackle is athletic enough to pull complete across the line, as well as lead the way on screen plays. In terms of pass protection, though his footwork is inconsistent at times, he showcases quick feet and is very light on his toes, but needs to work on pad level and fluidity in his hips.
Taylor is not one of those guy’s who’ll win with pure power or technique, he’s a blend of the two and will need to improve in both aspects once playing in the National Football League. He struggles to get movement off of the line of scrimmage and lacks explosiveness at the point of attack. Simply put, he needs to get stronger but that can be said for a majority of lineman coming out of college. He’s rarely pushed back but also rarely drives his opponent five yards off the line of scrimmage. Improving his upper body strength, as well as his smoothing out his footwork and kick slide will be crucial in order to excel when facing upper echelon of pass rushers. All in all, Jawaan Taylor will likely go within the top forty of the 2019 NFL Draft. And as long as he continues to grow, he has the potential to start year one and become a long term staple on the right side of any offensive line.
Projected Round: 1st-2nd
Team Fits: Bills, Vikings, Jaguars
NFL Comparison: Ju’Wuan James
4. Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Weight: 308 lbs
He’s mean, he’s nasty, he plays with a bad attitude, and he goes by Dalton Risner. One of the biggest “risers” to come out of the Senior Bowl, the Kansas State right tackle dominated the entire week in Mobile, Alabama. Making a name for himself both on the field and in the interview process. There is no doubt that this man loves football and is as passionate as they come. His intensity was unmatched, both in practice and during the game. He consistently stonewalled pass rushers, drive back would be tacklers, and frustrated them to the point that they were taking swings at him after the play. Risner is what you’d call an old school football player, he may not do things as pretty or as clean as you’d like, but he gets the job done by any means necessary. He’s an ultra-aggressive punisher, with a high motor, and unmatched competitiveness. His worst film came against Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat during the 2018 season, where he was beaten multiple times. Fast forward to the Senior Bowl and Dalton redeemed himself and returned the favor against Sweat in stellar fashion. He came off as a leader amongst men and was clearly the most vocal lineman on the field at all times.
Not just a few but almost all draft boards have Risner being drafted as a guard or even center. And although his skill set may be best suited for a move inside once in the NFL, he has three years of film as a right tackle and will be a top-five prospect at his position regardless if it’s as an interior lineman or tackle. His versatility will be a huge boost to his draft stock, as he’s proven he can play across the line but has clearly stated he’s more comfortable on the right side. As a tackle, he excelled against the bull rush and was hardly ever overpowered or moved backwards. Dalton anchors very well and once he plants his feet, defenders had little to no chance of regaining momentum. He’s explosive coming out of his stance as a run blocker and refuses to stop fighting for position and driving with his powerful lower body. He often mauls would be tacklers through the whistle and will not hesitate to slam someone if given an opportunity. His unconventional technique and at times sloppy footwork are shadowed by his brute strength and ability to ragdoll defensive linemen.
Dalton Risner may have more room to grow in terms of perfecting his mechanics than any guard or tackle in the top 100. He is a high floor mid-level ceiling type of player. Elite speed rushers tended to be his kryptonite throughout his collegiate career, and this was often tied to his messy footwork and false steps to the outside. An improvement in lower body mechanics including his high hips, choppy kick slide, and knee bend would do wonders for his overall game. When in position to win the leverage battle, he often turned the field into a crime scene and defenders into victims. From a mental aspect, he’s on par with anyone in the draft. He’s a student of the game and has an understanding of his responsibilities at all times. Whether it’s locating delays and stunts with his field vision or passing off rushers onto the next guy, he absorbs info, reads defenses, and delivers with lightning-quick reaction time. Arguably the most unsexy pick inside the top 50, Dalton’s value will be weighted differently amongst all 32 teams and should be all over the place in terms of each NFL draft board. Some teams will have a mid first round pick, and some teams may see him as a late second to early third rounder. It just depends on how teams view versatility and violence amongst their offensive linemen. Risner’s character and charisma could propel him as a top 25 pick but I’d expect him to be an early day two guy.
Projected Round: 1st-2nd
Team Fits: Jaguars, Jets, Texans
NFL Comparison: Jack Conklin
5. Andre Dillard, Washington State
Weight: 306 lbs
Career Stats: 42
Arm Length: 34”
Arguably the most technically sound tackle in terms of lower body and pass blocking mechanics. Andre Dillard is a solid blind side blocking prospect. The problem is Dillard severely lacks film and proof of his run blocking skill set. The Washington State pass-happy offensive system, along with a lack of elite pass rushing opponents within the Pac-12, makes it hard to dictate what kind of prospect Dillard is. If basing it strictly off of the film available, (not off of the level of competition) he’s 1A, 1B in terms of mirror ability in the draft alongside Jonah Williams. The Senior Bowl definitely helped his draft stock, as he not only played up to the level of competition but won a majority of his 1-on-1 battles in both practice and the game. He proved he can get by in run blocking schemes but has plenty of room to grow in that facet of his game. Dillard will face a lot of the same difficulties throughout the draft process as small school prospects from years past. His combine and pro day will be a huge indicator as to where he’ll be projected in the draft.
Andre’s pass set and quick feet allow him to mimic his opponents step for step. As a left tackle, it’s crucial to keep your feet moving but not false step. Dillard’s ability to control his body positioning adjacent to his opponent is the utter definition of mirroring a defensive lineman. Between his redirect and quick reaction time, the Washington State tackle makes it difficult for defenders to get around him. And at 6’5”, 306 lbs and a wingspan to match, bull rushing him is a lot easier said than done. Yet, as good as his lower body mechanics are, his upper body movement is the complete opposite. Dillard has a strong grip once he’s engaged, but lacks an accurate/strong punch. He’s a fringe (and I hate to use this term) finesse LT who’ll need to develop those long arms into weapons if he hopes to find success in the NFL. He’s not soft, but he most definitely can’t be compared to a Risner in terms of a smash-mouth playing style. Andre is comfortable with just getting his hands on someone and doesn’t look to punish defenders. He was rarely if ever asked to explode off of the line of scrimmage as a Cougar and has trouble targeting his opponents when moving forward.
In the grand scheme of things, Andre Dillard has all the tools needed to succeed but should be looked at as a developmental player who may need time before being thrown into a lineup. He will need to get stronger and more physical at the point of attack. If Dillard can kick his bad habits of inaccurate hand placement and absorbing defenders momentum instead of dictating rushers with his length, then he has a bright future in the league. Again, similar to Risner, certain teams and offenses will value his skillset more than others. Due to the high demand of O-linemen who can protect a quarterback’s blind side, Dillard could easily be the second or third tackle off the board. Expect the Washington State prospect’s draft stock to rise and fall with his performance in Indy.
Projected Round: 1st
Team Fits: Cardinals, Vikings, Texans
NFL Comparison: Russell Okung