Differentiating the Top Four OTs in the 2020 NFL Draft
I’ve finished my deep watch of the big-4 OTs and can see the appeal to all of them. While some have some areas of concern, they all win in different ways and have traits that make them the 1st-round talents they are. Here’s who I preferred for specific traits and how I differentiate the top of the 2020 OT class.
Highest Floor: Andrew Thomas
Thomas has his name under ‘Consistency’ in the dictionary. Be it as the blindside protector or mauler in the run game, Georgia has continuously had one of the top OLs in football and it starts with him. In my opinion the best ‘plug-and-play’ option of the big four, he brings nuance in pass protection with his hands and length, but also the tenacity you want to open lanes for RBs. While Wirfs, Wills, and Becton all seemingly have the higher ceiling with levels of athleticism Thomas doesn’t quite have, he does seem to be the safest bet week one of 2020.
Highest Ceiling: Mekhi Becton
This was pretty obvious right? While I see some troubles with Becton reaching said ceiling, people his size don’t move that well. That movement doesn’t always show up on tape, especially laterally, but he’s a genuine brick wall with some wheels. A lack of upper body technique and reliance on that size only adds to the appeal, as every OL coach in the league thinks they can fix him up and get a top 10 tackle by years two or three. While I have my concerns, they aren’t wrong, that upside is definitely there.
Most Versatile: Take your pick, probably not Wills
This isn’t really a knock on Wills, but he’s most likely a lifer on the right side and has a pass set so smooth I don’t want him to move from tackle. Tristian Wirfs has some upside to go and played a little LT, but translates best to a guard out of the big four. Mehki Becton has the most experience at both sides of the line, switching between the spots frequently IN-GAME before moving to the left side full-time. Andrew Thomas has plenty of experience on both sides of the line as well and has the strength to play at guard, but would just be a tad oversized for it. Outside of Wills who I consider a pure RT, the other three have some room to move around.
Best Hands: Tristan Wirfs
Everyone loves Wirfs athleticism/size/strength blend. I loved his hand usage. This is how he produced for Iowa as his feet still need some work. Advanced hand usage by way of placement and grip gave defenders an extremely difficult time getting by or getting free once his hands were in place (which was often). His timing could still use some work but by all means is still very solid. This is a pro-ready trait that makes him a bit more safer than the ‘upside’ pick he’s been painted as.
Best Footwork: Jedrick Wills
ELITE. I was blown away by Will’s pass set and overall footwork. This very well might be my top trait out of any of the big-4 prospects and ultimately why he’s my OT1. He doesn’t boast the absurd size/speed blend of Becton, the raw strength of Thomas, or the hand usage of Wirfs. But he blows them all away in lower-body mechanics with lateral movement ability so natural that he was in the right place at the right time all of the time. It only took a few reps into his tape to notice how smooth, efficient, and effective his footwork is, and is a major calling card to the next level.
Best Processor: Wirfs
This one is pretty close for everyone outside Becton. The OL powerhouse that is Iowa served Wirfs well in this regard as he was able to pick up the slack of the rest of the lineman rather well and could be found making more than one block a play a couple times per game. Rarely confused by stunts or twists, and decisive against the blitz. Thomas and Wills were both pretty sound in this area as well, but Wirfs just went slightly beyond them.
Best in Pass Pro: Wills
His pass set just makes this so easy. Wirfs and Thomas could struggle with their own sets occasionally while Becton isn’t sound whatsoever in this regard. Wills was just so calm and consistent, with good functional strength and solid area awareness, it was very rare to see him make a mistake in pass protection. Bonus as a blindside protector his whole career with Tua’s left-handedness.
Best Anchor: Thomas (HM: Becton)
This one is close between the top two. For as low as I am on Becton, you often see defenders opting to go around him because going through him is pretty much impossible. Thomas however, has better length and similar strength in a much more technically sound package. Because he isn’t so tall he has much better leverage and pad level to really sit down and stonewall a bull rush.
Best in-line Run Blocker: Becton (HM: Thomas)
Again it’s really close between these two, but finally that raw athleticism shows up for Becton. This is a place I believe he can contribute right away, taking out the guy directly in front of him and opening a lane. His burst off of the line is pretty good and he hardly needs his length to simply body a defender out of the way. When there isn’t space to close there’s little chance a defender can properly 2-gap him. Thomas has the brute strength and length as well to move people and did it at a higher level. However, for once this seems like a trait that can translate rather quickly for Becton in the NFL.
Best Dynamic Run Blocker: Wills
Once again this isn’t too close. Wirfs demonstrated some impressive reach blocks, but Wills did them at an uncanny level. Reach blocks are difficult, so to see Wills make them in such commonplace was incredible to see. But that’s not all, he was also super smooth as a puller, and by far the most effective at 2nd level blocking. For Wirfs and Becton’s ability to move their balance isn’t great, that’s the advantage Wills has that makes him super effective at locating and taking out defenders on the move. The others can be shaken, Wills can not be. (All four are pretty solid at getting to the LBs off of combo blocks).
1. Jedrick Wills
Easy #1 for me. For all the talk about upside I believe people are overrating athleticism for lineman. Wills has similar upside to Wirfs as his hand usage can continue to get better and currently doesn’t have the raw strength the rest do. Thankfully for Wills that may be the easiest thing to add in an NFL weight room. His footwork is so top notch and his worse traits are middling at worst. Alabama OL are pretty safe bets and I don’t need a flashy athlete for the position. Give me Wills atop the board.
2a. Andrew Thomas
It’s really really close for me between these two, but once again I see too much upside betting on athletic OL. Andrew Thomas has a lot of the tools that makes Becton so appealing, just in a more technically sound frame and against higher competition. For being a full two-inches shorter and 50 less pounds, Thomas still has an arm length advantage on him. That brute strength and length combo to me makes for an easy pick here. He isn’t the athlete and doesn’t quite have the upside, but is the best plug-and-play tackle option in my eyes.
2b. Tristian Wirfs
Don’t take this as Wirfs hate at all because I still think he’s a great prospect. OT1 is a bit rich to me but a lot of that hype is warranted. I’m a bit higher on Wills and Thomas than most, and slightly lower on Wirfs, but this is a stacked OT class and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Wirfs athleticism didn’t quite show up on tape as much as I would have liked. His balance was a bit harder to carry downfield and his pass set left him open a bit too often. It’s not the easiest area to develop but it can be done. Even if that doesn’t work you have the makings of an elite guard, but he’s more than worth giving a chance at tackle. His hand usage and mental processing making for a rather sure bet.
4. Mekhi Becton
I’m not very high on Becton, it seems his stock is almost entirely upside betting. Outside of being a strong inline blocker I don’t see much else to like outside of that upside. A clear step behind in mental processing, and a lack of traditional pass set reps while still struggling against ACC pass rushers. Don’t be enamoured by his highlight tape, there’s plenty of concern here. He CAN become a solid player, but it’s going to take development and not likely to happen quickly.