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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Around The Draft, Tennessee OTs

I find myself behind again, for those of you book-keeping this whole
deal. I wanted to compare and contrast the pair of Tennessee OTs, and
fit them in our scheme, as they both fit the criteria (ranked roughly
25-90, fill somewhat of a need, and so on) and they come from similar
backgrounds.

Players get typecast because they go through programs, fairly or
unfairly. Tennessee OTs aren't famous for this or that, but in the past
they've tended to output tackles that scouts wanted to translate to
guard (which might show a body stiffness, slow feet, or other synonyms
for a lack of athleticism), though it doesn't always happen that way
(Chad Clifton, for example). But with the Philip Fulmer regime washed
away and the bizarreness of a one year stint with Lane Kiffin, thesea
aren't the average Tennessee tackles.

They actually don't even fit the archetypal roles.

Ja'Wuan James is the 6'6, 311 lb right tackle, Antonio Richardson the
6'6, 330 lb left tackle.

Let's start with Richardson, the more intriguing and higher rated
player. Obviously, you get size. He has a nearly shocking level of
athleticism for that size, and his strength is there when he stays under
his base (he did an impressive job against jaDaveon Clowney in 2012 on
speed, which "made" Richardson a top prospect for this year, but in '13
he struggled some on the bull-rush. He still has some things to clean
up - waist bendind for instance - and you have to hope that his
technique will improve before he understands he's not just able to get
by on physical ability anymore.

But his technique isn't a mess, it's just inconsistent at times. He
does well with his hands, he understands the game and has quick reaction
skills. His feet are fast enough, he just has to do a better job of
keeping them moving. He's an immensely talented prospect who I could
see going in the first round, but he's being projected mid-40s and 50s
because he hasn't put it together like a few others have yet. Being a
two-year starting Junior, it's tough to know exactly where he'll be, but
the projection is he could be a very powerful player.



James loses out on more than size, he's also not as strong. He's as
athletic, and that's not a slight, they're both good athletes. He has
more experience, starting three years at right tackle and is a senior.
Three year starting SEC linemen have a high success rate.

The odd thing is, he's got the look of a left tackle and experience on
the right side. Now, at 315-324, two ways I've seen him listed, he's
not small. But his 22 reps of 225 aren't what you'd love to see. It's
closer to a bare minimum than a strength like Richardson's high-end 36
reps. Bench isn't the only strength measure, but you like to see it not
be a negative. His 5" greater vertical is the only real measure of
lower body strength, and is a good sign.

On tape, he doesn't look weak by any means. He's powerful at the point
of attack head-up, outside taking on the edge rusher in the run, or at
the second level. He already shows the ability to peel off one block
and find another guy to hit, and he has a fire you have to like. He
anchors well against the bull rush. He has good technique - he has to
keep his pad level down, not uncommon for 6'6 tackles.

Comparatively, he's the guy you plug in because he's ready.
Richardson's the guy you plug in because the positives outweigh the
concerns, letting him learn on the job. Carolina could use either, or
depending on your viewpoint, both. Richardson would be a low value pick
at 28 as of mid-March, but ideal at 60 obviously. James would be ideal
at 92, but not completely out of line at 60 either. In an ideal world
of targeting these two players instead of playing your board, Carolina
would have picks around 45 and 70, and you could get these two. That's
not how it works, but I could see them picking up either player.
Carolina hasn't been shy about flipping their tackles in the past as
needed, and either could conceivably play either role.
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