Updated May 21, 2018
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
In keeping with a series looking ahead to 2019, I caught up with scouts have done advance work on the 2019 class. While the majority of NFL scouting departments are meeting in the month of April to finish their draft boards ahead of the impending NFL draft, some team scouts are on the road, traveling to college campuses to start work on the draft that is a year away. These scouts then share their player ratings with scouting services like National and Blesto. Every team in the NFL is either a member in National or Blesto, with more teams a part of National. This month, the Blesto teams, including the Bills and Steelers, will be meeting in Florida to go over 2019 NFL Draft Prospects. In continuing the series, this week's topic was the offensive tackle class.
Over the past two drafts, offensive tackle has been one of the weakest positions for NFL talent. There have been and continue to be plenty of teams in need of young tackle talent, but they have had a hard time addressing that weakness with quality draft talent. In speaking to a few advance scouts, they think that 2019 could be better for offensive tackle talent, although they don't see it being loaded with talent like the defensive line.
Sources say the top tackle prospects include Washington's Trey Adams and Ole Miss' Greg Little. Adams returned to Washington after tearing an ACL during the 2017 season. In speaking with teams, they think he still could have been a first-round pick if he had entered the 2018 NFL Draft. It sounds like Little is a prospect who could rise or fall significantly depending on how his 2018 season plays out.
"I'm holding my breath on Little. He could soar or topple, but no question he has the talent," said one NFC scout. "He's not Laremy Tunsil as a player, even though Little is two inches taller and 20 pounds bigger with great length. Little is a typical five-star kid who needs to develop the tenacity that Tunsil had. Little would be a top-five pick if he showed that."
Another tackle who sources felt had some upside was Florida right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Gators left tackle Martez Ivey received a lot of hype during his college career because he was one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school, but scouts who graded him last year in case he decided to skip his senior year had him as a very late-round pick or undrafted free agent. Taylor is the Florida tackle who excites NFL evaluators.
"Taylor at Florida is very talented with size, movement skills, and strength," said another scout. "His stock could boom with a strong season. He needs to be more consistent though."
Similarly to Ivey, Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt has received a lot of hype as a starter since his freshman season. Last year, teams were giving Hyatt mid-round grades if he entered the 2018 NFL Draft, and the advance scouts see him in the same range after watching him this spring. They said they had him as a fourth- or fifth-rounder entering his senior year.
Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams is another prospect with early-round potential. One AFC scout for National said they had Williams graded on the second day entering the 2018 season. They thought he may have to play at right tackle or guard in the NFL, but they said that Williams is very smart and reliable. With a good year, he could be a late first-round candidate. Other prospects who received some praise from evaluators included Washington State's Andre Dillard and Auburn's Prince Teno Wanagho.
As one can expect, some prospects will disappoint and others could come out of nowhere to be highly graded. The early projection is for the 2019 NFL Draft to have more offensive tackle than recent years, although it isn't seen as a class loaded with talent.