Watching film on draft prospects is a labor of love, even if said love is our beloved Bears. I asked a friend of mine a few weeks ago which positions he least liked to watch. The answer wasn’t surprising, cornerback and safety are very difficult to watch without all-22 film, which isn’t easy to come by. But after that, offensive line is usually the answer I get. Because it is just so boring.
Well perhaps for some folks it is. Myself, I kind of like it. Call me a masochist or a glutton for punishment. For me it boils down to the fact that back in my playing days, I was an offensive and defensive lineman. I enjoy the battle within the battle. The raw strength mixed with the sheer elegance of technique is a beautiful thing to watch, the form and the function. A great lineman can affect the game as much as any position on the field, save for quarterback.
The Bears currently have a hole at left guard. Well, maybe they do. We simply don’t know if Jordan Morgan can play or whether Eric Kush can return to form or if a familiar scheme can get the most out of Hroniss Grasu. We simply don’t know. What we do know is that Kyle Long isn’t getting any younger...or cheaper. So far, Ryan Pace has drafted at least 1 offensive lineman in each of his first 3 drafts with the organization. Since the old adage is that football is won and lost in the trenches, I would expect that trend to continue.
Before we get any farther, allow me to address the two 330 lb elephants in the room. I will not be breaking down Quenton Nelson or Will Hernandez. While Nelson is a phenomenal prospect, there is a lot of great information out there on him. If you want a comprehensive breakdown of Nelson, check this out by Brett Kollman. It is really good and I agree with everything he says regarding Nelson.
As for Hernandez, well I just don’t think he’s a fit here. Don’t confuse that as meaning he isn’t a good player, trust me, he is. This offense just requires a certain skill set and Hernandez belongs in a power/ISO blocking scheme where he can maul people. The Bears will run a zone scheme that favors movement skills and athleticism over sheer power. But if you want to just watch a road grader doing his thing, definitely watch some of Hernandez’s tape! That said, we will focus again on the methodology* that was used in the previous articles.
*Methodology: Height, arm length, 40-time, bench press reps, broad jump, and 3-cone drill were all used to find the Bears “type.” This was exceedingly difficult and perhaps slightly subjective, I will admit. There were only 3 players to base this off of from Pace’s drafts. I looked back at when Hiestand was here before, but that was a long time ago and a different scheme. Since it seems that, based on a small sample size Pace already has a type, so I tried to be as objective with testing numbers as possible.
Here are the Pace-picked interior offensive lineman’s combine numbers from the past 10 years:
Clearly there isn’t a lot here. Since Grasu and Whitehair were so similar, I thought it was better to focus more on them as opposed to Morgan. To allow for Morgan’s numbers, I expanded the thresholds a little bit to get closer to where he tested at. Here are the potential draft picks (centers in grey):
In addition to the raw numbers and film study, there is one more aspect that goes into an article like this for me: value. Thanks to Josh Sunderbruch, we have this lovely confidence board to work off of. So while I might really like a player, I might feel that his value doesn’t match his confidence board position.
Now that you understand my methodology, let’s look at some prospects!
Brian Allen (C) - Michigan State
A little bit undersized but he is a nasty little guy. While Nelson was by far and away the player that put his defender on the ground the most, the runner up trophy goes to Allen. If there is one thing that I really love in an offensive lineman, it’s that they play to the very last echo of the whistle. Allen definitely fits that bill.
After making the initial block, Allen (65 - C) turns back and sees his quarterback scrambling. He zeroes in on the linebacker (41) and gives him a good pop downfield. Allen’s tape is littered with plays just like this. His head is always on a swivel looking for someone to give a shot to.
Here is another example of Allen (65 - C) blocking until the whistle. This is something that stood out in all the games I watched. The combination of nasty disposition and effort is something that I value in a center especially. I think that the center should be the “captain” of the offensive line and set the tone for the whole group, a la Olin Kruetz.
The real question is though, can he block? Here is the quintessential block for a center in the running game, the reach block. Watch Allen (65 - C) closely and see him get out and seal off his man, completely turning his shoulders in the process. If you like watching lineman, watch Allen play.
Here’s a bit of that nasty streak. Watch as he stays low, has a good, wide base, stones his man, then throws him down to the turf. Like I said above, Allen (65 - C) puts a lot of players on their backs. For a supposed undersized guy, he is really strong.
High (134 which is the early part of the 5th round. Centers are not generally drafted high. If you told me that I could get a player of Allen’s ilk with a 5th round pick, I would be very pleased)
KC McDermott (T/G) - Miami
If you are looking for this year’s Cody Whitehair, this might be the closest thing we will find in the 2018 draft. While McDermott isn’t as refined as Whitehair, there are some similarities. This past year he played left tackle and prior to that, left guard. So there is some versatility there. He is also athletic enough to play left tackle for one of the best teams in the nation, so there’s that.
Let’s start with the most recent tape with McDermott (52) at left tackle. It is pretty obvious watching him in pass protection that he would make a better guard than tackle. He just doesn’t quite have the feet for it. So when I started watching him, I was projecting him inside.
You don’t see tackles get to the second level a lot but I was really glad to see a few examples of McDermott (52 - LT) doing that. He looks like he is plenty athletic enough to get on the move from the guard spot.
As I was searching for tape, I found one from 2016, where he was playing left guard. This made his evaluation much easier as I no longer had to project, I could see his guard skills. McDermott (52 - LG) was really good against a very strong FSU front. He consistently overpowered his opponent and recognized switches. I really like his pass pro sets inside.
While not necessarily as physical as Allen, McDermott (52 - LG) certainly has plenty of juice to finish blocks. It is also nice to see him get out to the second level and square up a much quicker linebacker. Combination blocks and traps (pulls) are 2 of the staples in this offense. Getting to the second level is an absolute necessity.
Moderate (150+ which is the latter part of the 5th round or later. I am a little bit surprised that McDermott isn’t getting a little more love. Although if there was ever a crap shoot position in the draft, it’s interior offensive line)
Colby Gossett (G) - Appalachian State
This screams Pace pick to me. Small school, checks all the boxes, very athletic, Gossett pretty much has it all. Gossett seems to have the perfect skill set for this offense. He is a really smooth athlete. Unfortunately, there is only 1 game of his I could find. But Miami is a big step up in competition for Appalachian State, and this same front-7 gave Notre Dame all they could handle. Seems like a fair evaluation.
Here you can see Gossett (70 - RG) using technique on a down block to open up the cutback lane for his running back. This is definitely a player in the tactician mold more so than than a bruiser type. He will likely need to add a little strength at the NFL level.
I mentioned combination blocks earlier, this is a great example of one. Gossett (70 - RG) first gets a good punch on the nose tackle, then moves over to the outside linebacker that is coming to crash down inside. The play doesn’t do much but Gossett does his job.
While I never like to see my offensive lineman on the ground, unless his assignment is underneath him, but Gossett (70 - RG) simply gets the job done here. This is almost bordering on a penalty, but he does a nice job of getting in the correct position in front of the linebacker before cutting him.
Again, this is a really tough Miami defensive front that they faced and Gossett (70 - RG) stood his ground all game long. I would be curious to see what the tape looked like against similar competition. The fact that he was stonewalling future NFL players is a pretty good sign though.
Moderate (150+ which is the latter part of the 5th round or later. It doesn’t surprise me in the least bit that Gossett wasn’t listed on here. He is a late round pick and perhaps a guy that needs a redshirt year in the NFL before getting a chance to play. He has all the tools though)
Wyatt Teller (G) - Virginia Tech
Hoo-boy did I save the best for last. Watching Teller play football is just plain fun. If you like watching Hernandez play because of the physicality, then you have got to see Teller. He has all of that mean, nasty, physical play but with the athleticism and technique to play in this offense.
Teller (53 - LG) is an absolute animal. He plays until the whistle is done echoing in the last row of the upper deck, not dirty mind you, but he will anger defenders I’m sure. In the first clip, you see the pass protection, scramble, and Teller follows the play and still gets his man. In the second clip, he simply drives his man inside and then throws him to the ground. I love the power here.
This is how I want to see an offensive lineman finish a block in pass pro! Once his quarterback takes off, Teller (57 - LG) shifts to run blocking mode and drives the defensive tackle past the play.
I did mention that Teller (57 - LG) was athletic though. Watch how he gets out on the edge on this pull. Boston College has this play pretty well defended, but Teller absolutely does his job here.
This is probably the favorite play I have seen while watching offensive lineman. This is another pull to the offensive left side, Teller (57 - LG) pulls around the edge and absolutely annihilates some poor guy. This kind of mean mixed with athlete is just what you like to see from an offensive lineman.
Moderate to High (95 which is the bottom of the 3rd round or later. If Teller slips to the first pick of the 4th round, I would be absolutely ecstatic! It would be really great value to get him in the 4th since I view him as a year 1 starter)
There are a few positions that are quite deep in this years draft, interior offensive lineman are one of those positions. There are likely a few players that are viewed as potential tackles that will shift inside as well. While this doesn’t appear to be the biggest need for the Bears, there is a lot of value in taking some of these players later in the draft. Allen or Teller would not be a bad consolation prize if the Bears missed out on Nelson.
With only 7 draft picks this year, and no 3rd rounder, the Bears are going to have some choices to make. Should they reach a little bit to fill needs or enjoy the fruits that this draft has, which includes interior offensive lineman?