There have been 82 tackles to measure 79.5 inches or taller at the combine (that’s 6’7.5” for those who are math-challenged). New Denver Broncos offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey is one of them. The tallest OT ever at the NFL combine was 82.4” Mike Rockwood who did not get drafted and never played in the NFL. Other tall offensive tackles like Alejandro Villanueva, were not invited to the combine. Villanueva, who recently retired from the NFL, was listed at 6’9”, which would have made him one of the tallest tackles at the NFL combine ever.
McGlinchey measured 79.9 inches at the combine. That tied him for the 50th tallest. He is the same height as former Cheif LT, Orlando Brown, but the two players are built very different. McGlinchey is tall and relatively light while Brown, who played at roughly 390 lbs in college, is not light.
If you look at the height-weight regression line for all OTs ever at the combine, you find that McGlinchey is a little under the line, while Brown is a ways above it (see below)
If we look at all 82 tall OTs, we find that most don’t make good offensive tackles in the NFL. Three guys are in this year’s draft, Blake Freeland, Dalton Wagner and Dawand Jones. More than half of them, 45, never spent a season as a starting offensive linemen (StY) (tackle or guard) for an NFL team. Six of them made the Pro-Bowl (before it became a joke) and one made All-Pro, Jonathan Ogden. Ogden is in the Hall of Fame.
The shortest OTs invited to the combine this year were Matthew Bergeron, Wanya Morris and Richard Gouriage, all measured 76.9” (6’4-7/8”)
|OT||Height (in)||Still Active||StY||GS||PB||AP|
The six who made a Pro Bowl are
- Ogden - 11x
- Jon Runyan - 1x
- Tra Thomas - 3x
- Marcus McNeil - 2x
- Orlando Brown - 4x
- Trent Brown - 1x
Two tall former Bronco tackles had long careers, Erik Pears and Jared Veldheer. Current Bronco OLC Zach Strief had a nice career as a tall guard in the NFL. He’s on the list. Two former Patriot OTs are on the list, both of whom have Super Bowl rings, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. So you can be a good offensive tackle if you are really tall, but being really tall doesn’t automatically make you a good offensive tackle.
You also have to be quick, smart, flexible and strong. The flexible part is what sinks many tall tackles in the NFL. Because of the flexibility of modern edge defenders like Micah Parsons and Von Miller, tall tackles have to be able to get low enough to block them on the edge, otherwise the defenders just go “under” the tall tackles. In other words, the tackles have to be able to bend to match the edge guys, many of whom are 40-100 lbs lighter than they are.
There were another 61 more tackles who measured 79.0-79.4 inches at the combine. If we expand this to tackles who were 79 inches or taller at the combine you find a few more elite offensive tackles: Rob Havenstein, Eric Fisher (2x PB), Taylor Lewan (3x PB), Seantrel Henderson, Taylor Decker, Anthony Castonzo, Jake Long (4x PB, 1x AP), Andrew Whitworth (4x PB, 2x AP) and Max Starks. I should also note that Hall of Famer Orlando Pace (7x PB, 3x AP) and current Viking RT Brian O’Neill (1x PB) were just under at 78.9 inches.
The era of short NFL tackles has come to an end though. If you look at the heights of the tackles who have been invited to the last five combines, only five at under 6’5”. So it would appear that you don’t get playing time at high level colleges as an OT if you are under 6’5”, probably because most tackles who get scholarships to top college programs to play OT are 6’5” or taller (or grow in college). Just look at the heights of the top HS OTs in 2023.
So how can you tell if a tall college tackle has the qualities to be a “Pro Bowl” level OT in the NFL? Or for that matter, what combine stats are useful (if any) for determining or at least potentially indicating success in the NFL of OTs?
Let’s look at the measurables for the truly elite tall tackles, the guys who have made multiple Pro Bowls. How did these seven tall tackles fare in the “Underwear Olympics”, aka the NFL combine. A blank means that said tackle did not participate in that event at the combine.
|Tackle||Height (in)||Arm (in)||Bench Press||Vert Leap (in)||Broad Jump (in)||Shuttle||3Cone|
You can see that Ogden was not only shown to be strong by the bench press, but he also fairly long arms. If you have ever tried to rep 225 on the bench, having shorter arms helps, because it means that you have to exert less force to get the bar high enough to count as a rep. Of course, having shorter arms (for an OL guy) does not help you, particularly if you want to be an elite tackle. Ogden has 34.13 inch long arms, which is good but not great for an NFL tackle. Compare that to Tra Thomas who had some of the longest arms ever at the NFL combine (36.5”). Ryan Clady (36.75”) also has crazy long arms.
I should also mention that Orlando Brown was reportedly out-of-shape at the combine and that is why he tested so poorly. That is also why he fell to the third round instead being a first round pick like most of the other six tackles above (McNeill was a second round pick).
Of course, bench press is not a great measure of playing tackle since how many reps you can put up at 225 is a measure of endurance and absolute arm strength, hand strength or hand quickness, all three of which are critical to being an elite NFL tackle. How much force does your punch deliver? How fast are you at delivering your punch and how good are you at “hand fighting”? None of these things are measured at the combine, but they are “measured” in the all-star game practices where you get to see tackles go one-on-one with elite edge and IDL guys.
Let’s turn to vertical leap and broad jump. These two measure lower body explosiveness, LEG POWER. Vertical leap measures absolute explosiveness while broad measures explosiveness and flexibility. Note that McNeil and Brown did poorly in the broad while the others were fairly comparable.
Foot quickness is a critical attribute to playing elite tackle in the NFL (Lane Johnson says hi!) and the short shuttle and the 3-cone drill both measure the ability of the player to turn at speed (3-cone) and to stop, turn and get back up to speed. Note that Eric Fisher and Taylor Lewan absolutely crushed these two drills (which weren’t even done by OTs back in the early days of the combine when Ogden and Thomas were invited). Of course, being able to move quickly without pads on, doesn’t mean you will be able to move quickly with pads on. Both McNeil and Whitworth had very poor short shuttle and 3-cone performances. No drill at the combine truly measures how quick a tackle’s first step is. You can tease that out from the short shuttle and the 10-yard split on the 40, but neither is a true measure of how quickly the signal from the brain reaches the feet at the snap.
Of course, no combine drill measures brain quickness (how quickly you can react to a stunt, twist or blitzing OLB) or hand quickness. If you can get your hand(s) to the chest of the defender before they get their hand(s) to yours or if you can knock their hands away and reset yours as an offensive linemen, you generally win (unless you have been pushed off-balance).
This is where watching how college tackles fare in “all-star” games like the senior bowl, where they face NFL-level talent on the DL, is crucial. There will always be “combine warriors” who get overdrafted because they are great with no pads on, but it’s hard to hide in one-on-ones during practice.
So what does this all mean for the 2023 Broncos? Garett Bolles didn’t do the bench, but he tested as having good quickness from the shuttle and 3-cone. Bolles was in the 96th percentile for all tackle in terms of broad jump and the 95th percentile for 3-cone. McGlinchey was not exceptional in any drill and he did not do the shuttle or the 3-cone as he felt that they could only hurt his draft position.
|Tackle||Height (in)||Arm (in)||Bench Press||Vert Leap (in)||Broad Jump (in)||Shuttle||3Cone|
Of course you can find examples of great OTs who had a poor performance in one or more of the drills at combine, just like you can find examples of guys who played little (if at all in the NFL) who had great performances in most of the combine drills.
While the Broncos don’t have many picks in this draft, I would like us to take a developmental tackle on day three (Tackle Bros - Holla!). In terms of the tall tackles in this year’s draft, Freeland and Jones are most likely day two guys, although Jones could go day one. Freeland is a freakish athlete with short arms for his height and one of the best vertical leaps (37.0”) ever for an OT at the combine. That leaves Dalton Wagner if we want to draft and develop a “tall tackle” (who, if nothing else, would be able to see eye-to-eye with his OLC).
Wagner is projected to be a late day three pick, or a “priority” undrafted guy, but his measurables are good compared to the rest of the tackles in this draft class.
Most of the draft projection sites that I have looked at expect five or six tackles to be taken in the first round. Despite having fewer than normal picks this year, the Broncos desperately need to draft a developmental tackle. We haven’t drafted someone who has played tackle in the NFL since we took Bolles in 2017. I guess it’s good that Sean Payton likes to use day three picks on the OL. During his time as head coach of the Saints, they drafted eleven offensive lineman on day three and most of those were offensive tackles. Four of them went on to be long-term starters in the NFL: Jahri Evans, Jermon Bushrod, Carl Nicks and our OLC, Zach Strief.
With only five picks in the 2023 draft (as of right now), how many do you want to Broncos to use on offensive tackles?
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