You know the drill, my people! Tuesday means it's time for another edition of Draft Class Heroes!
The most dominant offensive line in college football, broken down player-by-player, squaring off with the best defensive line in the country? Sign me up for that. In addition, the NFC is down to seven teams for six playoff spots, while the Steelers are in trouble in the AFC, largely due to today's Villain of the Week.
Draft Class Superhero of the Week: Oklahoma's Offensive Line
The Sooners offensive line being incredibly good shouldn't surprise anyone; they've been good for years now and you don't have to watch an Oklahoma game for long before you see how dominant they are. Still my mind was blown when I popped in the All-22 of their offense from a host of games this season, only to see all five starters consistently maul people all over the field.
On the left side tackle Bobby Evans and guard Ben Powers were receiving the most buzz coming into the year, and understandably so. Evans needs work in pass protection, a concern that should bump him into the mid-rounds of the draft if he declares, but he's a powerful run blocker who can hit targets on the move or displace them vertically.
Speaking of hitting targets on the move, that might be Powers' specialty. While I worry about him not having a great trait to hang his hat on, Powers is technical and smart, able to shift gears on the move to adjust to his target. He might not be physically dominant, but he makes the most of the traits he has.
Right guard Dru Samia isn't dissimilar from Powers in terms of style or usage, but he's an even better athlete with more sudden and violent hand usage. Despite being the smallest member of the offensive line, Samia consistently finds a way to create movement with technique and leverage. He can also do things in space that many linemen can't.
Right tackle Cody Ford is the most coveted of the draft-eligible foursome by the NFL, and with good reason. His massive size at 6-foot-5, 346 pounds (I don't think he's quite that heavy) belies the fact that he's one of the more athletic offensive lineman in the class. Ford's movement skills are rare, and when he reaches his set points in pass protection, he's rarely beaten. His peak might be at guard in the NFL, but given the value of a great tackle and his rare traits, I'd develop him on the outside first. Either way, he's probably a first rounder.
Of course, the harsh reality of analyzing any of these guys for the NFL is that the level of competition needs to be accounted for. Like it or not, in the Big 12 it is very rare to find competent and talented pass rushers, which made analyzing the dominance of Oklahoma's offensive line a little tricky.
In a little over two weeks, we'll get the best look at all four offensive linemen that we could possibly get at the college football level, as they take on Alabama in the first round of the College Football Playoff. Will Powers be able to hold up against Quinnen Williams 1v1? Can the smaller Samia fend off a giant in Raekwon Davis? Will Isaiah Buggs power moves give Evans issues as some Big 12 defenders did at times? Can Ford stop the speed rush of Christian Miller?
This will be the true test for Oklahoma's offensive line, widely considered the best and certainly the most talented in the country, against a defensive line that has destroyed everyone and will send five players to the NFL. There is no more anticipated matchup for me during the entire bowl season than seeing these two units square off. Should be a ton of fun.
Already deceased: Giants, Cardinals, 49ers, Bills, Colts, Jets, Browns, Bucs, Broncos, Cowboys (whoops), Lions, Jaguars, Falcons, Packers, Bengals and Raiders.
I'm going to take an 'L' on the Cowboys. Might end up taking an 'L' on Indy, but I still feel good about the Ravens chances to get that last playoff spot.
Washington is done, even at 6-7. Injuries did them in, no way they win more than one more game the rest of the season, and that's only because they play Jacksonville who has already quit.
I'm gonna stay bold and say goodnight to the Panthers too. At 6-7 they've lost five straight and still have to play the Saints twice. Real chance 9-7 makes the playoffs, but I can't see them winning three straight, two against arguably the best team in the NFL.
Can't bury anyone else in the AFC just yet. There's still a logjam of teams for a couple playoff spots there, but in the NFC the picture is clear. Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles are the obvious division winners, with Seattle grabbing one Wild Card spot. The other will come down to Philadelphia or Minnesota, in my opinion.
Villain of the Week: Mike Tomlin, Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
I've spoke the balanced truth on Tomlin for years, admiring his leadership and ability to relate and get the most out of players as a head coach, while recognizing that his schematic weaknesses and in-game situational blunders cost the team every single season. He's a solid head coach that has undoubtedly benefited from a tremendously talented team, but the last few weeks have revealed just how many holes there are in his skill set, never more evident than during Sunday's loss to the Raiders.
With 1:16 left in the game and the Steelers up 21-17, the Raiders had a first-and-goal at the Steelers 7-yard line. They ran the ball on first down, with Jalen Richard getting stood up after a gain of half-a-yard. At that point Tomlin could have called timeout and kept about 1:10 on the clock with another timeout still in his pocket.
Instead, Tomlin completely inexplicably let the clock wind to 0:30, essentially ensuring the Steelers' defeat if Oakland scored. Two straight incompletions stopped the clock and brought up a fourth-and-goal for Oakland, at which point Tomlin...took a timeout?? What? Why?
With just 25 seconds left thanks to Tomlin's first blunder, chances were extremely slip that Pittsburgh could do anything with the football at that point, but the chances are a whole heck of a lot better with two timeouts than one. Instead Tomlin wasted a timeout on a stopped clock with 25 seconds left, at a time where his team needed the ability to stop the clock more than ever.
The Raiders, of course, scored on fourth down and the Steelers still nearly tied the game on a miraculous hook-and-ladder play before a Chris Boswell missed field goal, a game they probably would have won if Tomlin had given them a fighting chance with his clock management.
We haven't even mentioned the four wasted drives with Josh Dobbs in at quarterback and the Steelers clinging to a four-point lead. Tomlin provided us with the most obvious evidence he ever has to support the long-standing theory that he doesn't take bad teams seriously enough on game day or in his preparation throughout the week. By not putting a medically-cleared Ben Roethlisberger back in the game, Tomlin put the Steelers in a horrible situation at the end of the game, a mistake that may cost them a playoff spot.
As good as Tomlin has been in many ways, nothing is going to change in Pittsburgh until he's gone. He's too set in his ways, too arrogant to seek help when he needs it and too challenged in the schematic elements of being a head coach. The Steelers may squeak into the playoffs still, but so what? The journey will end the same as it has in recent seasons, short of the ultimate goal once again.