Being Ted Thompson: Offensive Line Tendencies

Justis reports on Offenisve Line Tendencies from deep inside Ted Thompson's brain.

The Green Bay Packers have a type on the offensive line. In 2006, Mike McCarthy's first year as a head coach with the Packers, the team drafted three offensive linemen. Two of them were players who played on the interior line in college. In the last 10 draft classes, after selecting 15 different offensive linemen, the team has just selected just two interior offensive linemen since then: Corey Linsley (fifth round, 2014) and Caleb Sclauderaff (sixth round, 2011).

 

Here's a list of characters you're going to need to know:

•                     2010 first-round pick Bryan Bulaga

•                     2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod

•                     2016 second-round pick Jason Spriggs

•                     2007 fourth-round pick Allen Barbre

•                     2008 fourth-round pick Josh Sitton

•                     2009 fourth-round pick T.J. Lang

•                     2013 fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari

•                     2013 fourth-round pick J.C. Tretter

•                     2008 fifth-round pick Breno Giacomini

•                     2009 fifth-round pick Jamon Meredith

•                     2010 fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse

•                     2014 fifth-round pick Corey Linsley

•                     2011 sixth-round pick Caleb Schlauderaff

•                     2016 sixth-round pick Kyle Murphy

•                     2012 seventh-round pick Andrew Datko

 

That is an impressive list of names. Relative to their draft position, in a decade of drafting well over a dozen linemen, the only “bust” on this list is Sherrod, who had a career-altering injury in his rookie season. The Packers have one of the two best pairings of tackles in the NFL. Sitton, Lang and Tretter, all fourth-round picks like their 25-year-old starting left tackle Bakhtiari, left Green Bay in the past calender year. Their combined average salaries on their current contracts is north of $22 million. That speaks to 1) the talent the Packers are able to acquire on the offensive line and 2) the confidence that they have in replacing them.

What helps Green Bay hit on these offensive linemen at such a high rate? They seem to have strict guidelines, on top of drafting almost exclusively offensive tackles, based on the style of athlete who they draft.

Before the selection of Linsley, the Packers didn't draft a lineman under 6'3.5” in over a decade. Green Bay played Newhouse (a quarter inch short of 6'4”) at tackle, so you can assume that their offensive linemen don't necessarily have to be large, but they aren't small, even inside, other than Linsley.

Of their 15 linemen, 13 of them tested in the three-cone. Of those 13, 12 of them ran a 7.71-second time or better, a number in the 61st percentile of tackles according to Mock Draftable.

Of their 15 linemen, 13 of them tested in the short shuttle. Of those 13, 11 of them ran a 4.75-second time or better, a number in the 50th percentile of tackles according to Mock Draftable.

Who were the outliers? Meredith and Schlauderaff, the guard who bucks about every trend possible. Side note: The sixth-round pick was traded to the New York Jets during final cuts of his rookie season. Players who aren't the “Thompson type” don't tend to last long in Green Bay.

 

Every positional group has some level of outliers, though. We want to find players who the Packers select most often, not every player on their board. This is a time-saving and batting average exercise. Eddie Lacy and DeShawn Wynn were the massive “big backs” drops who fell into Green Bay's laps well after projections had them. The same story goes for Randall Cobb as the short receiver outlier. The tackle who dropped to Green Bay to the point where they overlooked their trends was Meredith, who on NFL Draft Scout was a projected second-round pick, but was drafted 162nd overall by the team. http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=61457&draftyear=2009&genpos=ot

 

Here are the numbers for offensive linemen, not just tackles, who were over 6'3.5”, ran a short shuttle of 4.75 seconds or better and recorded a three-cone time of 7.71 seconds or better since 2007:

•                     first round: 29 of 63 linemen qualified (46.0 percent)

•                     second round: 13 of 46 linemen qualified (28.3 percent)

•                     third round: 10 of 56 linemen qualified (17.9 percent)

•                     fourth round: 14 of 62 linemen qualified (22.6 percent)

 

The Packers target players whose bodies are twice as likely to be found in the first round than the third and fourth rounds, despite the fact that they've made their living as an offense by drafting those same types of bodies in the mid-rounds. Almost all of the high-end left tackles in the league have this athletic background, no matter which round they were drafted in.

Since 2007, these “Thompson Linemen” made up of 66 draft picks in the first four rounds. The Packers drafted seven of them. Lang never recorded a three-cone time, but his 4.42-second shuttle time ranked 8th out of 227 linemen in this study, with everyone who had a better score recording at least a 7.71-second three-cone time. You can assume Lang would run a solid three-cone time, but that is up to you.

If you don't count Lang, the 31 other NFL franchises drafted 1.90 “Thompson Linemen” in this data set per team, with the Packers nearly outpacing the rest of league by four times the rate. That seems significant, especially with the consistency in which Green Bay drafts linemen, especially at the top of the draft.

With that in mind, this is how I would construct a board, based on NFL Draft Scout's grades, for this upcoming draft class.

 

 

As always, the yellow names are those in progress, players we need pro day results from. The blue names are the players who have already checked the boxes of being a Packers pick. The left column is made up of prospects with tackle backgrounds, as Green Bay isn't afraid of playing projected interior line converts outside, while the right column is players who were interior linemen in college. In most drafts, I would say those players should likely be ignored, considering the fact that the Packers haven't drafted one of those in the top-150 in a decade, but after losing Sitton, Lang and Tretter, with the contracts of Linsley and former undrafted guard Lane Taylor coming to an end, this would be the year for the team to look at plug and play interior players.

Here are some of my notes on these prospects:

•                     To me, Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, Utah's Garett Bolles, Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp and Western Michigan's Taylor Moton are the only players ready to be starting tackles in 2017, but Will Holden of Vanderbilt is my favorite sleeper of the class. He struggled a bit against Missouri pass-rusher Charles Harris, but Holden did well in both Shrine Game practices (per media members in St. Pete) and his lone Senior Bowl practice (per my own eyes.) Many think that he, along with Lamp and Temple's Dion Dawkins, have to kick inside, but I think he could be a starting tackle, even if it's a right tackle, in 2018. Dawkins on the other hand is very similar to Newhouse as a bookend. If he's more physical inside than Newhouse was, he can be a solid guard.

•                     Bucknell's Julien Davenport and UCLA's Conor McDermott struggled at the Senior Bowl when going head-to-head with capable pass-rushers. They are both project tackles, while Corey Levin of Tennessee-Chattanooga is more than likely a guard or center convert at the next level.

•                     Indiana's Dan Feeney is right up there with Lamp as the best guard in the class, though I believe Lamp should get a shot at tackle before kicking inside. He has a history of concussion issues that may influence when he's drafted, though. At the Senior Bowl, he held his own as a center.

•                     San Diego State's Nico Siragusa is an interesting watch because his team was so run-heavy. Pulling doesn't seem natural to him on the field, which is why his testing was a bit surprising to me. On the other hand, Chase Roullier of Wyoming may be my favorite interior offensive lineman in the class. Roullier was used almost as a feature offensive lineman in Wyoming's very multiple offense. They had him doing all sorts of kicks, pulls, sweeps and pulls. NFL Draft Scout has him listed as a borderline free agent. I bet he makes a surprising “rise up boards” in a few weeks.

Previous installments of this series:

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Comments (8)

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JerseyAl's picture

March 29, 2017 at 03:39 pm

I like Holden as a convert to guard for the Packers. Talked about that in my OL rankings for the CHTV Draft Guide...

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bjwpack's picture

March 29, 2017 at 05:23 pm

Biggest question with Holden is his height. At 6'7 3/8" he would be the tallest lineman Thompson has ever drafted. Haven't had a starting guard over 6'5" since McCarthy got here.

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JerseyAl's picture

March 29, 2017 at 05:34 pm

Very true. I actually think this is the year he drafts a true guard. Hell, he let a couple of all pro guards go and signed a real free agent. Anything could happen!

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The TKstinator's picture

March 29, 2017 at 05:56 pm

Left tackles are usually each team's best lineman, yes? So it stands to reason that the NFL would want to pick from that group and then adjust, either from LT to RT or inside to guard. (Also, seems like centers are maybe a little bit their own breed.) Additionally, I'd argue that due to the high degree of teamwork involved in O-line play, that a good, experienced, cohesive o-line would outperform an all-star group of linemen thrown together with insufficient time to jell. Or gel. (Or develop teamwork.)

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MITM's picture

March 29, 2017 at 06:16 pm

Packers signed Guard Justin McCray who played for the Titans and the Orlando Predators of the Arena League.

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Handsback's picture

March 29, 2017 at 06:38 pm

TT is very much a creature of habit. That is why I like Justis articles. TT likes to draft OTs and make them OGs. He has made exceptions, but on the average...he takes guys who have played that tackle position. He also doesn't draft them high. So if I follow the chart, Holden, Roullier, or Magnuson could be wearing Green Bay jerseys next season. Roullier because he plays all three line positions and has been linked to a Green Bay draft pick already. I think the 6th round for Roullier.

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Turophile's picture

March 30, 2017 at 05:56 am

Two guys I would very much like the Packers to draft do not fit the parameters.

Utah guard Isaac Asiata has been projected anywhere from the 3rd to the 7th round. To me he is a good pickup in round four and an outstanding one after that. He doesn't meet the height or cone 'requirement', but like when the Packers took Tauscher, all those years ago, sometimes you have to know when to step outside the box.

Ohio State's Pat Elflein is a great center, who could put on a few pounds and hold up at guard comfortably - he also has the coveted wrestling background. When you do a draft simulator, he often drops to round three and even four (like another center, Pocic, also a fine player). Either of them could be very attractive as players who can man up at any inside position. Good leader as well, and the Packers have lost some of that recently.

Jersey Al mentioned Holden. If you look at the NFL.com evaluation, it seems his kick-slide is what lets him down at tackle, but he has power.

Justis mentioned Siragusa (no relation), who is another guy with quite a wide opinion on where he goes, some say round 3, some say 5.

Roullier does look like an interesting guy. His future probably depends on how well he learns to win hand fights, as his arms are short. ProFootball Focus had him graded very high indeed, in both run and pass.

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Big_Mel_75's picture

March 30, 2017 at 09:32 am

But what about arm length? All you hear on draft day is about the dudes arm's length and that will make him a pro-bowler... I remember everyone saying that Bulaga was going to have to play guard cause of his T-rex arms.. lol I never thought much of arm length. O-lineman don't bench the guy across from him. Quick feet, and thick thighs to drive opponent from the hole. Great article and always thought that drafting left tackles in college is smartest move as your best lineman plays left usually. I also think getting a pure center ie Travis Fredricks, Corey Lindsey, are smart too.

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