The majority of the tape I watch comes from recorded games during the college season. Often, however, I have the opportunity to attend local college games (I am from Philadelphia, for those who didn’t know). This is one of the reasons I was so high on Akwasi Owusu-Ansah last season (Indiana of Pennsylvania played at a number of local universities).
This past season, I was able to watch local teams Temple, Villanova and Lehigh quite a bit. You may notice I’m rather high on some of the products from those schools—Muhammad Wilkerson, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Ben Ijalana and William Rackley. Am I simply biased? I like to think I’m as objective as possible, but of course I realize some biases are a natural outcome of increased exposure. However, I’m not automatically high on all local products. You may recall I wasn’t thrilled with the selection of Penn State’s Sean Lee last season, for example.
My love for the prospects above may be the result of my general appreciation for small-school players. To be mentioned alongside the blue-chip guys, you know a small-school prospect had to dominate his competition. With the gap between the elite universities and the second-tier ones shrinking rapidly, I think small-school players can hold a ton of value for NFL clubs (and I think they’re beginning to agree). By the way, a study of the recent success of small-school players in the NFL might be a cool project...let me know if that interests any of you.
Nonetheless, Lehigh offensive tackle William Rackley is a player I know more closely than any other in this draft. I was actually recruited by Lehigh’s football coach out of high school, but chose to attend a different school nearby. Thus, I know the program well, giving me a chance to study Rackley quite in-depth.
Unfortunately, the videos of Rackley which are available for me to post are scarce. I have added a very short “highlight” film below, but for this particular scouting report, you’ll just have to trust me .
A pet peeve of mine is when small-school offensive tackles are automatically projected to transition to guard in the NFL. This has already happened with Villanova’s Ben Ijalana, which is a joke to me. Ijalana has the size and ability to play tackle in the NFL, and that is where he should stay.
Having said that, there may be some merit to the idea of moving Rackley to guard. He’s rather short for an offensive tackle (6’3”), and possesses arms of just 33.5 inches-average at best. If you talk to any scout or NFL GM, you’ll quickly realize the incredible importance they place on arm length among offensive linemen. They generally consider arms of 35+ inches to be outstanding, and 34+ to be good.
I do think whoever drafts Rackley should at least give him a look at tackle. He’s quite athletic for a 310-pounder, displaying great knee bend and quick hand movement. His lateral movement and slide in pass protection are superb.
Rackley’s athleticism allows him to play with tremendous leverage. He can easily get to the second level in the running game, which is something Dallas is missing right now at right tackle. It sure would be nice to be able to run a toss or counter to the right side of the field, huh?
Rackley’s mobility is complemented well by his strength. He has a very thick lower body, and his upper body strength is adequate (29 reps at the Combine).
Rackley’s largest weakness is a lack of explosiveness (he had just a 23.5 inch vertical jump). You can see this in Rackley’s game, as he doesn’t ever really appear sudden in his movements. His athleticism comes more in his technique and position than being explosive, i.e. he’s an athlete similar to a guy like Joe Thomas, not Bruce Campbell.
And of course I have to mention Rackley’s competition. Facing teams like Colgate and Lafayette makes a proper evaluation rather difficult. Further complicating matters is the fact that Lehigh runs a zone-blocking scheme that isn’t very similar to that in Dallas. Thus, Rackley will have an adjustment period (which will happen anyway if he moves to guard).
The good new is Rackley’s very intelligent (3.4 GPA), so the cerebral aspect of the transition won’t be an issue. When you speak to him, you can tell he’s a smart kid who loves football. That’s important.
It’s worth noting the Cowboys were one of the teams to interview Rackley at the Combine.
Even if most teams view Rackley as a guard at the next level, I think interest in him will be high. He had 13 interviews at the Combine alone, and his versatility makes him an attractive fit for a lot of schemes. He has zone-blocking experience, but I think his transition to an offense like that in Dallas will be made easier by his intelligence and versatile skill set.
Rackley is projected to get selected anywhere from the late-second round to the fourth. I currently have him rated No. 50 overall on my Big Board—the fourth-rated guard. Rackley could be an option for Dallas in the third round, but if he’s still available in the fourth, the decision seems like a no-brainer to me.
Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011