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The top 10 offensive tackle prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft class

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The Panthers drafted Greg Little and Dennis Daley last year, but will that stop them from taking an offensive tackle in this year’s draft?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive tackle class in this year’s upcoming draft doesn’t have the overall depth of the wide receivers, but there are four premier talents who can elevate an entire offensive line unit. The prospects will be graded interchangeably depending on the evaluator, but there’s also plenty of rumors that a couple more prospects could join the “big four” in the first round.

1. Tristan Wirfs

Wirfs is not only exciting due to his tremendous athleticism, but he plays at such a high level despite being 21. The former Iowa Hawkeye has some of the best feet in this class. He plays with a strong base, climbs effectively to the second level, and his hand placement is consistently in the right place.

There has been plenty of discussion about transitioning Wirfs to guard. That certainty sounds intriguing, but with the lack of offensive tackle talents currently in the NFL, Wirfs should be afforded an opportunity to develop as a tackle.

Projection: Round 1 pick

2. Jedrick Wills

There really isn’t a big gap between Wills and Wirfs. Wills is an equally clean prospect who excels in the run game. He controls defenders and routinely moves them backwards creating holes. More importantly, Wills is a strong pass protector. He mirrors edge rushers so well due to his quick feet. He possess equally violent hands to shut down any counters by the defender.

Wills was a right tackle for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but given his development in one year there’s no reason to think he can’t be a future left tackle.

Projection: Round 1 pick

3. Mekhi Becton

What is there to say about Becton that isn’t already said? He’s a bully. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching an offensive tackle’s film more than his. The brute force of when he makes contact drives defenders off balance. Given his massive frame, he’s also a tremendous athlete. He has light feet, which allows him to mirror edge rushers.

There’s not a long track record of guys his size succeeding, but betting on Becton is the right move. The rare combo of size and athleticism coupled with his ability to dominate in the run game gives him a chance to be a special player.

Projection: Round 1 pick

4. Andrew Thomas

There’s really not much Thomas doesn’t do well. He just doesn’t have the elite traits as the other three, but that’s not a knock. Thomas is as consistent as they come in pass protection, which is why he will go high. He plays with a strong base, which allows him to sink his knees after getting pushed and anchor.

Thomas started every game for the Georgia Bulldogs during his three years in Athens. Whoever gets him, will likely have their future left tackle for years to come.

Projection: Round 1 pick

5. Josh Jones

Josh Jones popped on my radar during the Senior Bowl. He was a reliable pass protector for the Houston Cougars. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the highest graded offensive tackle in the Group of Five this past season. He has quick hands, which allow him to establish hand placement early in his drop. Jones has a very smooth kick slide, which helps him gain proper depth to protect the edge.

The encouraging part of his development has been his work as a run blocker. He demonstrated the ability to understand angles, climb to the second level, and seal the backside of runs.

Projection: Round 1 pick

6. Ezra Cleveland

Cleveland tested as the best athlete in this class at the Combine. He’s not just a workout warrior either. He plays with good balance and body control, but also displays agile feet. As a run blocker, he works to the second level effortlessly to find his targets.

Projection: Round 2 pick

7. Isaiah Wilson

There’s been recent chatter about Wilson potentially going ahead of his teammate Andrew Thomas. I vehemently oppose that notion, but Wilson is an impressive prospect. His footwork is a work in progress, especially as he attempts to gain depth to prevent the edge from being exposed. However, he has strong grip control to once he gets his hands on the pass rusher.

He’s an equally effective run blocker as he looks to maul his opponents.

Projection: Round 2 pick

8. Lucas Niang

Niang battled injuries in 2019, which is why his kick slide looked ineffective at times. It looked like he was shuffling backwards at times. With that said, Niang is still possesses excellent length which he understands how to use in pass protection. He is ideally suited for a zone scheme. Niang moves well laterally, but also understands body angles to seal the backside of runs.

Projection: Round 2/3 pick

9. Matt Peart

Peart is another prospect who offers potential in a zone scheme. He is an average pass protector at this stage, but he does have the length which can be harnessed to his benefit.

Projection: Round 3 pick

10. Austin Jackson

I am lower on Jackson than the consensus, but he is one of the youngest prospects in this class. He consistently showed issues with his punch timing and placement, which won’t serve him well in pass protection.

His age and athleticism give him a chance to work through these issues, but I’d be wary of spending a high pick on a project in this class.

Projection: Round 3 pick

Do you think the Carolina Panthers should take an offensive tackle at No. 7 overall? If so, which one? Do you think they should wait and draft one of the lower prospects in the second or third round, or should they pass on the position completely?