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B/R CFB 250: Top 12 Offensive Tackles in College Football

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterDecember 16, 2013

B/R CFB 250: Top 12 Offensive Tackles in College Football

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    AP Images

    Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of Bleacher Report's CFB 250 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through December, with National College Football Lead Writer Michael Felder ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the CFB 250 page for more rankings.

    Which offensive tackle grabbed the nation’s top spot in 2013?

    The college football landscape is littered with a myriad offensive schemes that shape offensive line play. Some teams run variations of the spread, while others opt for a more traditional pro-style attack. Some squads opt to pass more than they run, while others are primarily run-focused schemes.

    With that in mind, in putting together B/R’s CFB 250, we factored both pass protection and run-blocking into evaluating the offensive tackles from across the nation. Once the criteria were established, players were viewed through that scope and given their grades. In the case of any ties, the edge went to the player we would rather have.

    Keep in mind, these offensive tackles are being rated on their performance in college, not NFL potential. To see where these players may go in the NFL draft (whether they are eligible in 2014 or later), check out Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's projections at the end of each player's slide.

12. James Hurst, North Carolina

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    No. 68
    No. 68Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

     

    Pass Protection

    51/65

    James Hurst’s major deficiency—slow getting off the line—does not truly hurt him in the UNC offense, which is predicated on quick passes. However, when asked to block for extended periods of time, speed off the edge can certainly beat the senior. At times, he compensates by jumping quickly to the outside, surrendering the inside move and making it difficult to close down that rush lane.

    Run Blocking

    25/35

    Hurst struggles in drive blocking. That is part of the reason UNC has had issues running the football. He is capable in zone blocking, moving side to side and getting defenders to move laterally. Hurst is also adept at using the cut block to seal the backside of the play.

    Overall

    76/100

    Hurst, like North Carolina, has had a tough season, but he is still one of the better tackles in the nation. UNC’s offensive style and pace have limited what he was able to do, but he’s a good technical player when he gets into rhythm and rarely gets overextended or out of position.

    NFL Draft Projection

    Second round. Not overwhelmingly great, but he does all the little things well.

11. Matt Patchan, Boston College

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    No. 77
    No. 77Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

     

    Pass Protection

    58/65

    Limited athletically, but with good technique, Matt Patchan has worked out well at Boston College in protecting quarterback Chase Rettig. Patchan has good balance and feet, and while his punch does not knock down defenders, he does reroute rushers particularly well. He is susceptible to power rushers and double moves out of a speed-based attack.

    Run Blocking

    22/35

    Against smaller opponents, Patchan has gotten physical and mauled defenders. However, in ACC play, his game has been more about redirection than truly blowing bodies off the ball. The approach has worked well, giving Andre Williams plenty of room to run off of Patchan pushing defenders out of position.

    Overall

    80/100

    Perhaps a surprise to some, Patchan has put together a quality season since transferring from Florida. He fit into the Boston College system where, instead of being asked to physically overpower every defender, he’s using his technique to create space in the run game and protect Rettig.

    NFL Draft Projection

    Seventh round. Stout in a phone booth, but he's inconsistent in space.

10. Fou Fonoti, Michigan State

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    No. 51
    No. 51Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

     

    Pass Protection

    52/65

    Pass protection is Fou Fonoti’s biggest weakness. He tends to reach on blocks, get overextended and has a tough time getting good depth against speedy edge-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    33/35

    Here is where Fonoti excels. He is a mauler, a guy who enjoys beating up opponents and does a solid job finishing off blocks. Fonoti embodies that Michigan State attitude of wanting to KO the opponent, and the run game is where he gets to be physical.

    Overall

    85/100

    In the collegiate game, if a team is looking to run the ball behind a tackle, there is no one better than Fonoti. He roots defensive ends out of the way, smashes into linebackers and consistently outmuscles his opponents. What he lacks in pass protection, he more than makes up for in the run game.

    NFL Draft Projection

    Seventh round. Aggressive and nasty, but he's not a technician or a great athlete.

9. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

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    No. 74
    No. 74Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

     

    Pass Protection

    56/65

    When Antonio "Tiny" Richardson is engaged and can diagnose the defender across the line from him, he is one of the nation’s elite pass protectors. Unfortunately, when the picture across the line changes frequently or the defender has multiple pass-rushing moves, Richardson has problems maintaining his control of the situation. An expected speed-rusher opting for a bull rush, or vice versa, is a situation that catches Richardson off-balance and susceptible to the move.

    Run Blocking

    29/35

    If Richardson can get locked onto a defender, odds are that defender is in trouble. The problem is that Richardson has a tough time getting locked onto defenders at times. Hard inside moves in the run game are able to slip past him. Zone blocking is an issue for him, especially when asked to get to the second level. However, he’s a terror for defenders when he gets to his assignments.

    Overall

    85/100

    Tiny Richardson has the type of talent that every coach is looking for at the tackle position. A true blend of power and athleticism, the junior is still learning the position and how to handle changing threats and multiple rush moves. This season, he has shown flashes of greatness and just must work on improving his consistency and ability to get to the second level.

    NFL Draft Projection

    First round. As the man who shut down Jadeveon Clowney, Richardson has it all.

8. Kenarious Gates, Georgia

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

     

    Pass Protection

    55/65

    Kenarious Gates is one of the top pass-blockers in the collegiate game. He maintains a good base, moves his feet well and controls his balance. Unfortunately, he is limited athletically. While his technique looks decent, Gates does not have an answer against fast rushers with a solid inside move.

    Run Blocking

    30/35

    In the run game, Gates is equally as sound. Because he is such a big body, he’s able to win his one-on-one battles. His footwork allows him to get on top of defenders. When he locks up with a defender in the run game, he is able to move him out of the way to clear room for his backs.

    Overall

    85/100

    Gates is everything a coach could want out of a collegiate tackle. He rarely misses assignments and does everything the right way on the field. Although he’s limited athletically, his skill set is solid. Barring a future first-round draft pick on the roster, Gates would be the best option at the position for most teams.

    NFL Draft Projection

    Seventh round. Powerful, but he doesn't show much athletic ability or technique.

7. Andrus Peat, Stanford

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

     

    Pass Protection

    54/65

    Andrus Peat gets better every game at left tackle. He’s just a sophomore, but he understands how to control his body, has great foot quickness and quality technique. He stays within himself and stones rushing defenders.

    Run Blocking

    32/35

    Peat is quickly becoming an elite run blocker. He finishes off defenders, has the ability to reach ends in the run game and push to the second level to become a problem for linebackers. Peat maintains a low pad level for such a tall blocker (6'7''). When he locks on, he drives his legs and moves bodies at the point of attack.

    Overall

    86/100

    The skills are there for Peat, he just needs to add polish and eliminate some of the mistakes he makes against more advanced pass-rushers. In the run game, he is already near the top of the game. Stanford is set for another season with this big kid as the anchor of the left side of the line.

    NFL Draft Projection

    First round. A star left tackle waiting to happen. He destroys defenders at the point of attack.

6. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

     

    Pass Protection

    55/65

    There are moments when Cyrus Kouandjio gets too high or out of position, and those create problems for the Alabama offensive lineman. But over the course of the season, his pad level has improved, making him a solid pass protector. Kouandjio is a guy who delivers a good punch, and thanks to his athleticism, he is able to change directions to thwart double moves from rushers.

    Run Blocking

    32/35

    This is another area where Kouandjio needs to focus on his pad level, but here, the junior does get tremendous results. As Alabama has increased its emphasis on zone blocking, it has forced Kouandjio to focus on more control at the second level to block smaller, quicker defenders. The result is an engaged player who runs and blocks well and does a nice job in finishing off blockers to spring his running backs.

    Overall

    87/100

    Kouandjio is the best athlete at his position in college football. He has elite foot quickness and the ability to correct mistakes in his game that would usually result in sacks or tackles for loss with other tackles. When Kouandjio focuses on technique, he’s the best in the game. Unfortunately, there are lapses that stop him from being that elite player on every snap.

    NFL Draft Projection

    First round. A top prep player and now a top collegiate, he projects to be a top-20 player in the draft.

5. Cam Erving, Florida State

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

     

    Pass Protection

    56/65

    Cam Erving showed up big against Clemson’s Vic Beasley and proved that he can handle the speed rush off the edge. The converted defensive tackle is still figuring out how to deal with double moves and defenders who use their hands well, but he’s a physical blocker who wins most of his one-on-one battles.

    Run Blocking

    31/35

    This is where Erving shows some athleticism. He can get out and run at the second level, and when he gets to defenders, he’s bad news. He has a good power surge at the point of attack and can lock up with ends and push them off from holding the edge in the run game.

    Overall

    87/100

    A reliable protector for Jameis Winston, Erving is also a big part of the Florida State running game. He’s still learning, but has enough skills and know-how to be a major problem for defenders.

    NFL Draft Projection

    First round. A hidden gem, he's smooth, fluid and comes with a big upside.

4. Morgan Moses, Virginia

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

     

    Pass Protection

    58/65

    Morgan Moses’ team has had a tough season, despite the left tackle's best efforts in pass protection. Whether he was against Oregon's Tony Washington or North Carolina's Kareem Martin, Moses demonstrated solid body control, good balance and the ability to protect both inside and outside.

    Run Blocking

    29/35

    For a mammoth human being (6'6'', 335 pounds), Moses moves well. His athleticism allows him to get to the second level, lock up on linebackers and often put them in the dirt to finish off the block. His long arms and big frame make him tough to avoid for defenders looking to get penetration against the run.

    Overall

    87/100

    Moses is a good player on a bad team, but his skills are real. His size makes it tough for defenders to get past him, and with his skill set, he handles different rushing styles quite well. Moses is a player who works to finish the block once he puts his big paws on a defender. 

    NFL Draft Projection

    Third round. A huge man who shows up in the run game, but he's an average pass protector.

3. Taylor Lewan, Michigan

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

     

    Pass Protection

    60/65

    Blocking against the pass is Taylor Lewan’s big selling point in 2013. While Michigan has had issues on the offensive line, Lewan has shown an ability to be the rock on the left side, setting his edge in protection and standing strong. He has good feet, maintains his base, uses his hands well and is a monster in pass blocking. He’s a guy who is physical and aggressive in protecting his quarterback.

    Run Blocking

    29/35

    Lewan is a capable run blocker. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the offense needs more than one or two linemen who can get push and control the line of scrimmage. Lewan is capable in zone blocking. He can control his man and work to the second level, plus he’s athletic enough to get on top of smaller, quicker linebackers and speed ends.

    Overall

    89/100

    Part of Lewan’s perceived struggles this season stem from a quarterback who is skittish in the pocket and constantly shifting protection angles. Add in a shuffling offensive line next to him, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Yet through it all, Lewan has been a hard-nosed ballplayer who handles his assignments well.

    NFL Draft Projection

    First round. Very powerful and technical, but he doesn't always finish plays.

2. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

     

    Pass Protection

    59/65

    Having replaced Mike Adams at left tackle, Jack Mewhort is still learning the position, but he is excelling. Although he has a good first step and his initial engagements are fine, his issues come when he must adjust to a second move or a changing picture in front of him. Stunts or a defender with more than one approach to pass rush can beat Mewhort on the second action.

    Run Blocking

    31/35

    This is where Mewhort excels. He is a mean mauler who pushes to abuse the man in front of him and then looks for more trouble at the second level. Mewhort fires out with a good base, stays low and fights to get push when he’s in an aggressive run-blocking mode.

    Overall

    90/100

    The senior is still a developing pass-blocker, but protecting a guy like Braxton Miller, who moves the pocket and changes angles during a play, makes it tougher to grow than blocking for a straight dropback passer. That said, Mewhort continues to thrive in run blocking and getting to the second level. He is having a great season for the Buckeyes.

    NFL Draft Projection

    Third round. Good power and punch, but he lacks the footwork of a left tackle.

1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

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    Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

     

    Pass Protection

    62/65

    Jake Matthews is the cream of the crop in pass protection this season. Most teams experience a step back when losing an elite tackle like Luke Joeckel, yet Texas A&M saw no drop-off as Matthews moved into the vacated spot. The senior is an elite-level pass protector. He has a great kick-slide off the line, tremendous punch and body control that allows him to handle the games and stunts of defensive linemen, as well as adjust to handle blitzers after the snap.

    Run Blocking

    33/35

    If the consensus No. 1 tackle in college football can be underrated, he certainly is in this category. Matthews shows a zeal for getting off the ball and not only taking care of defensive ends, but also of reaching the second level and getting to linebackers. He tracks defenders well and is able to get a block on moving targets.

    Overall

    95/100

    Matthews is the best tackle in college football, and it isn't close. He has pass-blocking skills that make him a reliable tackle for quarterbacks. In playing with Johnny Manziel, a scrambler at the quarterback position, Matthews has shown an ability to change blocks on the go and adjust to changing angles. Combine that with a physical run presence, and that is Matthews.

    NFL Draft Projection

    First round. A blue-chip, elite tackle prospect. He's capable of being the best.

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