INDIANAPOLIS — It has been a while since there has been such a deep and talented class of offensive linemen entering the NFL and the need in the league has never been greater.
Given the vast technical differences in what college blockers are asked to do compared to the pros, offensive linemen are acclimating slowly to the next level. Once perceived as “safe picks,” offensive linemen are not quite as “plug-and-play” as they once were.
The 2020 group offers plenty of hope to find impact starters for the numerous teams searching to fortify their front five. Let’s examine which three helped themselves the most at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.
Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
The top four offensive tackles in this year’s class are well established as some order of Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs. The race for OT5 is wide open and Ezra Cleveland made a strong case with how his performance at the combine went.
After measuring 6-feet-6-inches and 311 pounds with over 33-inch arms, Cleveland put up 30 bench press reps of 225 pounds to get the show started. On Friday, Cleveland’s on-field work revealed his exciting athletic profile with a 4.93-second 40-yard dash, a 30-inch vertical leap, a broad jump of 9 feet 3 inches and a 7.26-second 3-cone drill.
Cleveland was a 40-game starter for Boise State and an All-Mountain West pick in 2018 but was slowed a bit early last season due to a foot injury. Cleveland is fully healthy and showcased an impressive physical skill set, creating quite the buzz around his draft stock.
Matt Hennessy, Temple
Just hours before the offensive linemen took to the field Friday, I asked a current NFL offensive line coach which player they were most excited to see and the coach quickly replied, “the dude from Temple.”
Matt Hennessy, the dude from Temple, did not disappoint.
Hennessy’s mobility shines on tape and his work on the field backed it up. After running the 40-yard dash in 5.18 seconds, Hennessy leaped 30 inches in the vertical leap and 110 inches in the broad jump. His most impressive times came in the agility drills where he registered a 7.45-second 3-cone and 4.60-second short shuttle.
Hennessy showcased fluid movement skills and it’s exciting to forecast him to an NFL offensive line given his mobility to get out in space and ability to connect with moving targets. His three seasons of starting experience give him a chance to claim a role early in his career and it would be no surprise for his name to be called on Day 2.
Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Tristan Wirfs insane athletic ability wasn’t new information, but his historically great performance makes him a must inclusion in any analysis about combine winners.
Measuring at 6-feet-5-inches and 320 pounds with 34-inch arms, Wirfs’ 36.5-inch vertical jump was the best in combine history among offensive linemen while his 10-foot-1 broad jump tied the record. He clocked the fastest 40-yard dash (4.85) and recorded an impressive 7.65-second 3-cone drill.
Wirfs was poetry in motion while performing drills on the field and showed mobility that doesn’t make sense for his frame. While the top of the class is loaded with offensive tackles worthy of a high selection, none can claim the size and athletic profile combination that Wirfs can.
A blocker with the rare physical skill set that Wirfs possess inspires plenty of optimism regarding his versatility in terms of scheme fits and what he can do in space. Those movement skills are a wonderful asset in the screen game and diversifying the run schemes his offense can employ.