For five of the past six drafts, the SEC has had an offensive tackle drafted in the first round. The only year they didn’t, Cam Robinson still came off the board with the 34th overall pick. It’s a factory of quality offensive line prospects, especially on the outside, where the conference appears poised to continue their tradition of Round 1 tackles in 2019.
The depth isn’t great and there are legitimate questions about every tackle on this list. It might be the hardest position to acclimate quickly to the NFL, so patience and coaching will be key for all of these players. Nevertheless, here are the five best tackles in the SEC right now.
1. Jonah Williams, Junior, Alabama
I won’t bore you with the details of offensive line lingo, but suffice to say Jonah Williams knows what he’s doing in pass protection. Do I think he’s athletic and rangy on the level of the top tackles I’ve ever scouted? No. Do I think his physical tools are off the charts? No.
But Williams is a technical wizard with good feet and an advanced understanding of a variety of pass sets. He wins from the neck up, and could be scheme-versatile in the run game. Does he have another level of physicality and nasty to his game that we haven’t seen yet? That’s something I’ll be watching for this season.
Currently, there’s no other tackle in the SEC even close to his level of play.
2. Greg Little, Junior, Ole Miss
Not many tackles can boast a frame like Little’s, as the junior carries very little bad weight and plays with the edge and confidence of an NFL veteran. There is no denying the tools, but Little isn’t yet the sum of his parts. Strikes and footwork are inconsistent in pass protection, and leverage and hand placement wane at times in the run game.
When Little is at his best, he can put together some pretty reps. But too often it goes awry, making him tough to trust 1v1 right now. This is a huge season for the former top recruit, as steady improvement could put Little into the Round 1 conversation for NFL teams.
3. Colton Jackson, RS Junior, Arkansas
I like Jackson. He plays with an edge, he’s a good athlete and his frame is one that NFL teams will covet because of how little bad weight he carries. I think the range is there for him to match speed on the outside, as he mirrors athletic edge defenders inside and out better than most tackles.
But Jackson is susceptible to power rushes and needs to either get stronger, play with better hand placement or both, as he is too consistently worked through in pass pro. The flashes in the run game are exciting, but polishing up his zone steps and pad level this season will be important for Jackson.
Unfortunately, summer back surgery means Jackson won’t be available until the season is halfway complete. Backs aren’t something to mess with, so I would guess that will be an important part of his eventual draft evaluation. Minimal 2018 tape could mean Jackson is more inclined to return to school for a fifth year as well.
4. Jawaan Taylor, Junior, Florida
I’m just going to be honest, Taylor isn’t very good. I’d use a day three pick to try him at guard, but the tape does not reveal a ton to get excited about with the Florida junior. He’s massive and a smooth mover, but lacks the explosiveness to win in 1v1 situations vs speed off the edge. Brian Burns ate him up. There’s an entire league of pass rushers like Burns waiting for him in the NFL. No bueno.
Taylor does have decent strikes and short-area mobility, which would tempt me to try him at guard. I just wish I saw more from him in the run game, as he didn’t generate movement up front on base and down blocks, and struggles to reach more athletic techniques in zone schemes.
5. Martez Ivey, Senior, Florida
Woof. Ivey moved to guard last year, and the results were ugly. Maybe as ugly as they were at tackle. I included him on this list because A) I didn’t want to watch any more bad offensive linemen and B) I think Alabama right tackle Matt Womack, who is better, is going to have to move inside to guard in the NFL.
Ivey is sliding out to left tackle for Florida, which honestly is probably the best move for him. His pad level and hand placement are just too poor to play inside, although I believe speed rushers will kill him on the edge at tackle. Efficient footwork and more tenacity are two things we’ve got to see from Ivey this season if he has a prayer of being drafted.
Also add to watch list: Drew Richmond, Tennessee. Landon Young, Kentucky. Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn. Matt Womack, Alabama.