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2015 NFL Draft: Jared's Gems - Replacing Russell Okung

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The case for drafting a replacement for Russell Okung, and the surprising list of candidates.

Big man down
Big man down
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Okung is not Walter Jones. A completely obvious, unfair, yet true, thing to say. We sort of knew Russell would never approach Walt’s talent, but I’m not sure many of us accounted for Okung never approaching Jones’ durability.

After missing much of training camp coming back from a foot injury/surgery, we found out recently that Okung is playing through a torn labrum/shoulder injury suffered in the Denver game. Add it to the list that also includes high-ankle sprains in both legs from 2010 (six games missed), torn pectoral muscle in 2011 (four games missed), a bone bruise in his left knee in 2012 (one game missed), and a partially torn plantar plate in his toe during the 2013 season (placed on IRDFR, missing eight games). In his first 4 seasons, Okung has yet to manage to make the whistle for a full 16 game schedule, and he’s missed a total of 19 out of 64 regular season games (30%).

Without even taking into account his (likely) declining skillset and/or his decent-sized contract that could be allocated nicely elsewhere (perhaps to other Russell’s), isn’t a guy missing 30% of your games for four years reason enough to start looking at other options??

I say "start looking at other options", but really…chances are, with the drafting of SPARQ phenom Garrett Scott and signing of coveted UDFA Garry Gilliam; PCJS have already begun looking at other options. We may have thought they were considerations for the RT job, but as we stand today…these might be guys we are indoctrinating slowly with thoughts of slotting in at LT (nod to 2nd-year utility OL Alvin Bailey as short term possibility).

It probably won’t be a terrible idea to add another body (or two) to that competition via the 2015 draft. And, as envy-inducing as the Cowboys’ OL was on Sunday with 1st rounder Tyron Smith heading the charge, I don’t know if we want to get our hopes up for a 1st round LT for the Seahawks. A) Seattle won’t be in a position to get a no-doubter OT like Smith, as they won’t be drafting as high as #9 overall (where Smith was chosen). B) There may not be any no-doubter OT in this draft.

That’s right folks…this OT class is getting shot to hell quicker than you can say "Greg Robinson". Or maybe because of Greg Robinson. And it’s not just Robinson…throw a dart at a board full of the last 4 years worth of 1st round OT and odds of hitting a bust are staggering. I’ll just give you the names, you can label the busts: Smith, Solder, Castonzo, Carpenter, Carimi, Sherrod, Kalil, Reiff, Fisher, Joeckel, Johnson, Fluker, Pugh, Robinson, Matthews, Lewan, James. Surprising, right?

Now, obviously, I don’t know how the actual NFL GM/Scouting community feel about this class of OT (inevitably some will be wrong regardless of their stance). I do know that I’ve been having guys that were the hyped names in college preseason become disinteresting to me one-by-one. I also know that draft twitter is recently starting to follow suit. First off my board was LSU’s La’el Collins…one of the names from the infamous LSU trainer’s "slacker list". Then came off FSU’s Cameron Irving…just not holding up on continued viewing (plus some Menelik Watson, and general FSU, apprehension). Then Andrus Peat…he was essentially born onto the top 5 OT list by whoever initiates those things, but my first viewing of him immediately crossed him off of mine. Brandon Scherff…he’s still on my list, but as a Guard. Spencer Drango…same story as Scherff. Ereck Flowers…Zach Whitman tells me his SPARQ will disappoint.

Then, as recently as last weekend, I started hearing cynicism on TAMU’s Cedric Ogbuehi. That one I’m not quite ready to agree with. And I’d be willing to bet that at least one of the 20-30 teams that pick in front of Seattle will also keep him on their 1st round board.

Regardless, we’ve now gone through all of nfldraftscout’s currently projected 1st round OT and found flaw with all of them. What do we do now?

We dig. There can still be a gem buried in there somewhere. And if he comes at a lower round cost, his flaws (if any) are much easier to swallow.

I’ll start with a longshot: Notre Dame LT Ronnie Stanley. As much as the underclassmen get pushed en masse into the top 15 conversation by others, I actually only found two that I would add and draft now in the 1st: Auburn sophomore Shon Coleman, and Ronnie Stanley. I found Stanley simply by watching the newest videos (like I generally do) on draftbreakdown.com. He really might be the most well-rounded of the tackles we’ll talk about today.

His size is ideal: 6’6"/315. On my very first time watching Stanley this week I loved his balance. He doesn’t get bent back by DL punch, nor does he lunge forward after them. Great footwork. Run-blocking. Pass-blocking. It all checks out for me. And that tape is from a game against a top 5 Stanford defense.

In 2013, when Stanley was playing RT with Zack Martin at LT, Notre Dame finished 2nd in the country in sacks allowed with 0.62 sack/gm, or 8 allowed in 13 games. In 2014, they’re only allowing 1.50 sack/gm, Notre Dame is undefeated and in good shape to make the playoffs, and yet nobody is talking about Ronnie Stanley. The only reason for this is that he is a Junior (draftscout lists him as a redshirt Sophomore, and the #2 rated OT for 2017, but Notre Dame’s website says Junior). Likely, Ronnie would need a 1st round projection from the draft advisory board for him to declare.

It’s pretty interesting, as I was researching this piece, I was checking the national standings on team sacks and team TFL allowed...most of those names that I earlier pointed out were getting shot to hell by draft media recently; well their teams weren’t the standouts in these statistics.

Sacks Allowed (Team):

Ogbuehi/A&M-27th

Peat/Stanford-77th

Scherff/Iowa-40th

Drango/Baylor-22nd

Flowers/Miami-63rd

Collins/LSU-74th

TFL Allowed (Team):

Ogbuehi/A&M-19th

Peat/Stanford-22nd

Scherff/Iowa-58th

Drango/Baylor-1st

Flowers/Miami-31st

Collins/LSU-49th

(To be fair: the TFL is probably the more relevant stat, as sacks can be minimized by run-heavy offenses.)

Then I compared those numbers to the same stats for the OT that I’ve found and liked this year (many of whom I’ve already written on) – to my not-surprise, my preferred guys, almost to a man, show up in the top 20 of one, or both, categories. We’ll get to those rankings as we reveal each player.

The OT I’ve written about in prior Gems include: Sean Hickey, Tyrus Thompson, Chaz Green, Ian Silberman, and TJ Clemmings.

Hickey, of Syracuse, is listed at 6'5"/300 and was featured September 26th (here http://www.fieldgulls.com/2014/9/26/6848875/college-football-preview-ones-two-watch), but with a 2013 video. Here is a fresher look:

Hickey/Syracuse rank 58th in TFL/gm and 5th in sack/gm.

Tyrus Thompson, of Oklahoma, is listed at 6'5"/336 and was discussed on September 9th (here: http://www.fieldgulls.com/2014/9/9/6125645/jareds-gems-week-2) . This guy is a monster. My question remains on if he can stick at LT, but Oklahoma has allowed the 9th-best sack/gm rate, to go with 15th in TFL/gm. Here is a newer video featuring TT:

Chaz Green, of Florida, is listed at 6'5"/300 and was in the September 16th edition of Gems (here: http://www.fieldgulls.com/2014/9/16/6175675/nfl-draft-2015-jareds-gems-september-16). I don’t have new video of him, but you can see the previously-shown clip by following that link. Green/Florida are 69th in the country in TFL/gm, but a very respectable 16th in sack/gm.

Ian Silberman, of BC, is listed at 6'5"/293 and was written of in my September 23rd piece (here: http://www.fieldgulls.com/2014/9/23/6832377/nfl-draft-2015-scouting-reports). Similar to Florida (Silberman’s former school); Boston College ranks 63rd in TFL/gm and exactly tied with the Gators for 16th in sack/gm.

TJ Clemmings, of Pittsburgh, is listed at 6'5"/305 and was also in the September 26th college preview (here: http://www.fieldgulls.com/2014/9/26/6848875/college-football-preview-ones-two-watch). Pittsburgh ranks 8th in TFL/gm and 58th in sack/gm. Clemmings is still a huge asterisk to me as the guy who reminds me the most of Tyron Smith. Worth remembering that Smith had only been a RT at USC before the Cowboys picked him early.

Now on to the new names! In these cases I went the opposite route: I took the team leaders in TFL/gm and sack/gm and THEN looked at their LT’s. The results weren’t too shabby.

The 9th-ranked team in TFL and 2nd in sacks is Georgia Southern. If you’re at all well-versed in either Fantasy Football or SPARQ; you may recognize the name Georgia Southern as the alma mater for Jerick McKinnon. That may also mean you recognize the team as a triple-option offense. This makes evaluating their LT’s pass-blocking nearly impossible. But take a look at his run-blocking. This is Garrett Frye (6’5"/290 and a good SPARQ expected- via Whitman):

Frye is currently ranked #711 overall by draftscout, and should certainly remain an UDFA due to the unknown of his pass-blocking skills.

The team that is ranked #5 in the country in both TFL and sacks-allowed per game is, believe it or not, Duke, and their LT is a Senior by the name of Takoby Cofield (6'4"/305). Like a few of the new names on this list, Cofield didn’t have an edit available, so we just improvise by going through their QB:

We find Cofield bending and lunging a bit too much, but his footwork is decent. Currently the 438th overall prospect.

Ranking 3rd in the country in TFL/gm and 16th in sack/gm (but 1st overall in 2013) are the Rockets of Toledo. If TJ Clemmings is to Tyron Smith, then Toledo LT Josh Hendershot is to Zack Martin. At least that was my initial reaction. Hendershot is listed at 6’4"/295 (Martin was measured 6’4"/308) and he is just as sound as can be.

With the exception of one play where Hendershot gets beaten badly by a pretty nice swim move by the DE, the rest of the tape is great. My only hesitation is that the comp to Martin will continue when we find out Hendershot’s arm length. And that will likely mean a future at OG. Toledo currently ranks 10th in the country in YPC rushing. In draftscout’s catalogue of about 1000 college prospects; Hendershot is not ranked. Sleeper du jour.

(As a quick aside and departure from the OT conversation, go watch that Toledo tape again for the actual focus of the clip: WR Alonzo Russell. I noticed him last year while watching David Fluellen tape. How is this kid not a bigger deal?? 6’4"/205, hands look huge, and he catches amazing contested passes. Only a Junior, but a Junior at a skill position isn’t a crazy early-declare. Especially at 6’4". 33 catches, 490 yards, 14.85ypc, and 6 TD’s in 2014.)

Two more names that I’m interested in, but haven’t watched: Eric Lefeld of Cincinnati and Jack Rummels of Northern Iowa. Rummels seems to be something of a freak strongman, competitive weight-lifter type, and Lefeld/Cincinnati are 2nd in the country in TFL/gm.

Finally, I’m still pretty interested in Oregon’s Jake Fisher. He recently came back from missing a few games with injury and he still looks good. Whitman tells me his 40 time looks rough, and Fisher hasn’t really contributed enough to Oregon’s TFL/sacks allowed stats, so all I’m going on with him is his tape (Editorial note: this video appears to have been blocked by Pac12network at draftbreakdown).

Fisher has a projection of #81 overall, putting him available in the late-2nd round.

Here are the current projections of everyone discussed today:

81-Jake Fisher

88-TJ Clemmings (pretty sure he was lower than this when I first wrote about him in September)

111-Sean Hickey

150-Tyrus Thompson

203-Eric Lefeld

318-Chaz Green

438-Takoby Cofield

484-Jack Rummells

511-Ian Silberman

711-Garrett Frye

NA- Josh Hendershot

*Ronnie Stanley-#2 OT in 2017

As of right now, I’m probably buying Clemmings in the 2nd, coming back for Green in the 7th, and then trying to get Rummells or Silberman as an UDFA. Both Green and Silberman have college experience at OG, and Rummells looks like he could play OG, so that gives some added flexibility for depth OL roles, depending on who returns from this year.