The Big Ten boasts some notable rushing attacks, holdovers from a simpler time in football. Yes, the spread evolution has infiltrated the conference, with powerhouses like Penn State and Ohio State spacing the field. But this is still the conference of fullback wheels and short yardage A-gap runs. Yet despite the traditional style of play, there’s a limited selection for Big Ten Offensive Tackles for the 2019 NFL Draft.
With a full season left to play, plenty can (and will) change for these Big Ten Offensive Tackles and their resumes for the next level. Some may not even enter the 2019 NFL Draft prospect pool, as several have more than one remaining year of eligibility. But as things stand entering the season, here are the five best draft eligible Big Ten Offensive Tackles.
1. David Edwards, Wisconsin
If there is to be a highly valued Offensive Tackle out of the conference this year, David Edwards will be the guy. A total mauler who blows defenders off the line of scrimmage in the run game, Edwards has the needed traits to make a dent in the point of attack on any play.
A former high school quarterback, Edwards has packed on the pounds and is thriving with his role on the line, despite still being green relative to his peers. There are some technical deficiencies in his footwork that need to be addressed. But the NFL will be drawn to the idea that Edwards has more to give as he further hones his skills, even after another season on the Badger front.
Needs to improve: Getting out of stance and into drive step in pass protection
2. Tariq Cole, Rutgers
The Scarlet Knight offense hasn’t offered much punch in recent years, but there’s only minimal blame to cast in the way of Tariq Cole in that regard. Cole has a powerful frame at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, using every bit of it to muscle defenders out of gaps. As a gap/power player, Cole will certainly warrant attention this upcoming season.
But Cole isn’t going to be a universal prospect. His range in pass protection around the outside is classified as “just enough”. Cole lacks the foot speed to get depth off of the line of scrimmage with consistency, explosive rushers will give him all that he can handle off the edge. There isn’t much Cole is going to be able to alter unless he cuts weight, so finding optimal angles in space and landing clean first strikes are areas to note in 2018.
Needs to improve: Handling speed rushers
3. Ryan Bates, Penn State
Bates missed three games in November last season on account of injury, but still logged 8 starts as the team’s left tackle. The Nittany Lions failed to showcase any consistency blocking for Saquon Barkley last year, but some of the team’s best work in pass protection came courtesy of Bates.
Bates isn’t overly powerful, but he is smooth in open spaces thanks to playing at approximately 305 pounds. That functional athleticism has been showcased on both the outside and on the interior during Bates’ run with the team, he was a 14 game starter in 2016 and split his time between Left Guard and Left Tackle.
That positional versatility will serve him well, but not as much as adding some power elements to his game would. Gates does not hold up against heavy handed defenders and needs to get himself a stronger anchor.
Needs to improve: Functional strength
4. Isaiah Prince, Ohio State
Isaiah Prince enters the 2018 season with 27 starts already under his belt. With nearly 2,000 snaps to his name since 2016, Price has been a consistent fixture for the Buckeyes and will look to put everything together this season in his final year of eligibility.
Price looks like an NFL offensive tackle. But he struggles with the finer points of the game and frankly isn’t quite at the level he should be for having so much starting experience at this level.
Prince has every needed quality: length, mobility in tight spaces, lower body power. But he’s far too loose in his hands and feet and will often get caught higher than his opposition.
Needs to improve: Sloppy feet and pad level
5. Cole Chewins, Michigan State
Chewins, a redshirt junior, enters this year with 16 consecutive starts at Left Tackle to his name. Chewins is a long, lean player who has some serious wingspan. Using that wingspan effectively is another story, though. Chewins needs to focus on finding explosive power in his game, he’s currently all finesse at first contact and as a result he’s consistently collapsed when defenders land their first punch on his chest plate.
Chewins is a developmental target who needs some physical remodeling before he’s given consideration as a priority target.
Needs to improve: Functional strength/hip drop