Four names are dominating the conversation when it comes to offensive tackle prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft: Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas. However, one name from this group is a head and shoulders above the rest, and I believe he will one day find his way into Canton. This is, of course, the unbelievable talent that is right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.
I get the same feeling regarding Wills as I did when Quenton Nelson was coming out of college, albeit as a tackle, not a guard. Everything about Wills’ game is polished and highly effective, whether that be the variety of pass protection sets he can run, his impressive pre-snap reads, or his discipline when facing plays designed to catch linemen off guard like stunts. He shows consistency and finesse in areas where others in this class do not. The young stud only allowed one sack throughout the whole of 2019, while playing on Tua’s blindside.
What separates Wills from Wirfs, another 1st round lock, is his footwork. On every pass set he does, Wills’ feet stay apart while he stays low and moves quickly. Wirfs’ feet, on the other hand, come together occasionally, compromising his balance. All it takes is a bullrush move or a stiff arm to the shoulder from an NFL edge rusher and Wirfs would be on the turf, having lost his leverage. Maintaining balance across all pass sets is important to avoid falling over. Wills also shows better technique in his pass sets. He keeps his hips parallel to the oncoming edge rusher whilst his shoulders stay square to the line of scrimmage. This enables him to deal with stunts, where the edge rusher hits an interior gap (A/B) whilst an interior man hits the B/C gap, rare discipline from a college lineman.
Wills’ use of his hands is also notable. He never lets the pass rusher get close to him through his use of quick, precise, and powerful punches, which he is capable of delivering with either arm. Again, whilst using these moves he always maintains balance. Wirfs is unable to do this as effectively as he puts too much weight on his outside foot which opens up his inside.
Wills is undoubtedly the number one tackle in this class as he is the most pro-ready. However, this does not mean to say that the rest are not still quality prospects. Wirfs and Becton will be locked in the first round too. Wirfs is number two in the class for me and maybe one of the most athletic tackle prospects of all time, running an impressive 4.85 40-yard dash whilst carrying 320lbs. He is also a weight room monster with exceptional strength. All Wirfs needs to do is polish his footwork and work on his initial explosiveness and he will have the makings of a top tier NFL lineman.
Becton, on the other hand, is the most overrated prospect in this class and a bust waiting to happen. He relies on his immense weight and strength without bothering to learn how to use his hands in pass protection as well as how to gain leverage on run blocks. He fails to keep rushers away from his body because his elbows stay too bent and he does not bend his knees adequately.
Admittedly, he has been successful so far as he has been playing against a lower standard of competition while running a scheme that suits him. Louisville runs a scheme involving lots of o-line movement, meaning Becton hardly ever had to drop back into a pro-style pass set, which should be concerning if you are an NFL general manager.
The only situation Becton could succeed in is on a team where he does not need to start until later in the year or ideally in year two. Future coaching is critical for Mekhi as they must teach him the fundamentals from scratch. The feel around the draft community is that Becton is the prospect with the biggest upside, but he is incredibly raw at the same time. *If* Becton’s future team can harness his potential he could become the best tackle in this class but the chances of this happening are incredibly slim.
Becton is similar in some aspects to the fourth man on the list, Andrew Thomas; they are both good run blockers but lack proper technique when pass blocking. The Georgia man gets good leverage on his blocks and uses his body weight to his advantage on run plays. However, on pass plays he uses his hands poorly. His hand placement is too far outside, which works against bullrush but not against speedy edge rushers. To improve, he needs well-timed powerful punches thrown inside the pads.
- Jedrick Wills Jr (A+) Pro ready, will be a day 1 starter.
- Tristan Wirfs (A-) Most likely a day 1 starter, still needs to work on footwork to improve.
- Andrew Thomas (B) Possible instant starter as he can play either tackle position.
- Mekhi Becton (B-) Desperate teams may need to start him but is still a “project player” as he lacks technique.