Career Recap: When Jim Harbaugh was named the head coach, Stanford began to field a physical football team that runs a pro-style system and produces some quality players for the NFL. Head coach David Shaw jas maintained the tradition set by Harbaugh, and year after year, the Cardinal has a tough offensive line leading a power rushing attack.
In that time, Stanford has produced some left tackles for the NFL, including Jonathan Martin and Andrus Peat, but Little might become the best prospect of that group. The Houston, Texas product Little was impressive as a freshman starter at left tackle for Stanford in 2017. He did an effective job in run blocking and helped Bryce Love to a huge season. Little was solid as a sophomore and showed an improved ability to protect the passer, doing a respectable job in keeping pressure off of quarterback K.J. Costello.
Little's junior year ended before it started as he was injured in the fourth quarter of the 2019 season opener, which ended his year. Little could have still been an early-rounder in the 2020 NFL Draft despite the knee injury, but he decided to return to the Cardinal for 2020.
2020 Season Outlook: Little will not see a murder's row of pass rushers as a senior, but there will be some good opponents who will test him. Walker will see some quality edge rushers when Stanford goes to Notre Dame, as Darlin Hayes and Ogundeji Adetokunbo are NFL prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft. In early November, Little will go to Washington for a matchup with edge rusher Joe Tryon. Going against Tryon looks like Little's toughest test of the season.
Skill-Set Summary: There is a lot to like about Little, who could be a franchise left tackle for the NFL. In the passing-driven professional ranks, finding a quality left tackle is a challenge for a lot of franchises, so Little should have a lot of teams interested in adding him to their rosters.
In pass protection, Little is tough for edge rushers to beat. He has good length and strength, and is able to bend at the knee. Little sets up well to take on rushers, and once he gets a hold of defenders, they are in trouble. His length and strength allows him to sustain blocks to the whistle, and he is very difficult for rushers to shed. Little's long arms and strong upper body also give him an edge in recoverability, so even when he is slightly out of position, he can compensate by getting enough of the rushers to give his quarterback time to throw. Generally, Little is very dependable to not allow pressure. He has good hand placement and is intelligent to recognize how defenses are attacking the edge. Little also flashes some nastiness as a pass blocker, as it is not uncommon to see him grab a rusher in the chest and throw them to the ground with ferocity. Little sets a physical presence and is a real battler who makes it a long day for edge rushers to match up against.
Little is also a plus run blocker for a left tackle. He is a fighter who some nastiness to him. Little is definitely not a finesse left tackle who shies away from getting violent with defenders. He can get into the chest of defensive linemen and get a push on them at times. Other times, he uses his length to turn and manipulate defenders to keep them out of the play. On the edge and to the second level, Little shows some quickness to get into the defense, and when he gets a hold of linebackers, he will punish them into the turf or ride them around field. Little has the ability to play in a power-man or a zone-blocking scheme.
In the ground game, Little could stand to improve his ability to stay on his feet. Too often, he stumbles and falls to a knee at the second level or while trying to push a defender. When linemen loose their feet, that just about takes them out of the play and also can create some pileups that lead to injuries for them or teammates.
Little has to stay healthy in 2020 to rehab his draft stock for the NFL. It would be good to see him take on some ultra-fast edge rushers to challenge his foot quickness in order to see if he has the ability to cut off the edge when taking on a rusher with elite speed. Little has quality feet, but his typewriter skills to head off edge rushers are not like some other recent athletes who have been first-round left tackles. Players like Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley or Andre Dillard showed better speed and quicker feet. A more suitable comparison to Little might be the Detroit Lions' Taylor Decker. If Little shows improvement in this regard as a senior, it could really help NFL teams to look past the injury. If Little gets another serious injury, that could destroy his draft stock, similar to Washington's Trey Adams. Adams was once considered a top prospect, but injuries caused him to go undrafted. Even if Little stays steady with his 2018 performance, there should be some NFL teams that are eyeing Little as a their potential starting left tackle.
2021 NFL Draft Expectations: Little has first-round potential for the 2021 NFL Draft, but he has to stay healthy and at least return to his 2018 form.