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Ereck Flowers is a big dude who's a big NFL Draft prospect despite his technique

University of Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers does a lot of things well in spite of less than perfect technique. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White breaks down one of the draft's biggest blockers.

The first thing I think most people would notice about University of Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers is he is huge. I'm talking 6'6 and built like a damn refrigerator. If nobody has ever called him Lurch before, allow me to be the first.

I looked up his combine information after watching these games and wasn't surprised at all about his height. I have to admit I was a little surprised that he weighed in at 329 pounds, however. I've never worked at a carnival as one of those kiosk workers that guess people's weights, but I swear he looked much heavier than that on tape. When you are 6'6, 329 pounds could actually look rather svelte. Flowers wasn't sloppy fat, but the dude was pretty damn big, period.

Which means he may have lost some weight and gotten in a little better shape for the combine than his playing size last fall. That is encouraging and shows that he knew what he needed to do to show teams that he is committed to being a professional. However, if he did in fact lose weight headed into the combine, you still have to ask yourself why he didn't have that kind of commitment until now.

It's all mere speculation on my part, because probably the only thing more dishonest about a college football team's game day program than an offensive lineman's listed weight, is a defensive lineman's listed weight, and I also don't have any kind of inside knowledge on the subject. Either way, I would be interested in knowing if he had ever run into any weight problems while he was at Miami. If so, it would have me just a little concerned that he might blow up after getting drafted.

Understand that I'm not trying to "fat shame" Mr. Flowers. It's just that in my experience, there is a direct correlation between offensive linemen who have weight issues and guys with technique that consistently flounder. I will explain what I mean by that a little later on in this column.

Flowers is my second offensive lineman to break down. For the purposes of this breakdown, I went over to Draft Breakdown and watched Flowers play against Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia and South Carolina. Those represented the fourth, sixth, 10th, 11th and 13th games of Miami's season.

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★★★

As for what kind of player Flowers is on the field, there are positives and then there are some negatives. One question for me when I was done watching him play in all five games was, do the negatives outweigh the positives? Or is the opposite true? I also wondered if the negatives were correctable. To be honest the second question was probably the more important of the two because I see a ton of potential in Flowers. Also, some of his flaws are just flat-out weird for a guy who started every game the last two years and four in his freshman season at The U. You just don't expect a guy with that much experience to repeatedly make those kinds of technique mistakes.

For instance, one consistently weird thing Flowers did was line up as a left tackle closer to the line of scrimmage than the left guard inside of him. A left tackle is supposed to understand that he is likely going to see the fastest if not also the best pass rushing defensive end/outside linebacker from the opposition every single game. To that end, they should generally try to line up as far into the backfield without getting called for it as humanly possible.

That is especially true when you are talking about a tall guy like Flowers, who could easily lean forward and have his helmet at waist level of the center, which is all he would need to be legal. That is why an offensive line generally looks like a banana from above with the center in the middle. There is a natural curve because the tackles and guards usually line up at different depths.

Instead, he lined up more like a guard than Miami's actual left guard and it didn't matter whether it was a passing play or a running play. Hell he might have been even closer to the line of scrimmage on passing downs than on running downs. Who does that?

Obviously, that is something that can be corrected. But why wouldn't it have been corrected while he was still at Miami?

Then there's his footwork, which is pretty damn good when he run blocks, but pretty awful when he pass blocks. As I discussed with La'el Collins in his breakdown, when I project a kid to the next level, having bad footwork as a run blocker isn't that big of a deal if he has really good feet as a pass blocker. The fact that Flowers gets this equation exactly backwards isn't good.

Except ...

Even though his footwork was in fact awful, he was still pretty damned effective as a pass blocker too.

How effective?

I only had him truly getting beat twice when he had a guy one-on-one. (He did have a little trouble with pass rush games from time-to-time, but that's more about working well with the guard than anything else. Sometimes he looked great at blocking them, too).

And that was for two pressures. I saw him give up no sacks.

Having said that, those two one-on-one losses actually expose three legit technique issues that I have with Flowers.

First of all, when an offensive lineman kicks his outside leg backwards to get depth on the snap of the football, that is commonly called a "kick-step." Optimally, I would want to see a left tackle get both width and depth on their kick-step. More depth than width, actually, so that they can handle any speed rush, but not be so off-balance that they allow penetration on an inside move from the wide rusher.

For some odd reason, Flowers consistently does almost the exact opposite of this. He actually moves forward and doesn't get much width at all on his kick-step on most of the pass plays I watched. This obviously made his job a lot harder than it had to be against wide speed rushers.

Secondly, Flowers combined this with a slow reaction to the snap of the ball a few times in the games I watched, which essentially gave speed rushers a head start. A head start and he moved forward with his kick-step.

Yeah, that was a very bad combination for an offensive tackle.

Or should I say combinations, since it happened several times.

Finally, and this was my biggest gripe about Flowers overall -- he plays too high, like, all of the time. It was actually remarkable to me to see him consistently come off high as a run blocker, and still consistently knock defensive linemen off the ball. Hell, I watched and graded tackles last year who were much better overall technique-wise, but I never saw an offensive tackle the last two seasons seal the edge on wide runs as many times as Flowers did in those five games.

And he did it while consistently coming off the ball as high as a Georgia pine tree relative to guys like Greg Robinson or Zack Martin.

Some of that can be explained by Flowers' performance on the bench press at the combine. He threw 225 pounds up 37 times, and its safe to say that his weight room strength definitely transferred onto the field.

As impressive as Flowers was sealing off the edge on wide running plays, he may have been even more impressive on the plays where he had to sift up and get a block on a linebacker. It was the fact that he was able to get to the second level and consistently get on and stay on blocks whether it be a linebacker or a safety ...

... or sometimes even both ...

... that got me to thinking about an alternate plan for Flowers. But I will talk about that later.

For now, my problem with Flowers' tape is that while him playing high was not an impediment to Flowers being kinda dominant as a run blocker, he actually got run over by a much smaller player in Nebraska's Randy Gregory on a pass blocking situation because he was simply too damn high.

Actually, it happened twice, but one of those times the guard came and cleaned Gregory off of Flowers. Flowers owes his left guard at least a Big Mac with fries for that play because it was about to get ugly.

So here we have a guy who has a bad kick step, was late off the ball in several games, who also had at least two false start penalties also in the five games I watched and he consistently played higher than I would have liked to have seen.

You know what, though? You might be surprised by this, but I like him.

I like him because 6'6, 320-pound dudes who are athletic enough to only give up two pressures in five games, two of which featured projected NFL draft picks Randy Gregory and Mario Edwards Jr, do not grow on trees.

I like him because, when he gets an opportunity to finish his opponent off on a block, he always tries to take advantage of it.

I like him because he has just enough of a nasty streak to give an offensive line some attitude.

That includes double-teaming a guy all the way off the TV screen.

I like him because he showed in those five games that he can kick ass whether in tight quarters or out in space.

Here's the deal. Most of what I didn't like about Flowers is readily correctable. My biggest concern other than his weight is his pad level. While Flowers is no doubt a big, strong man -- who was about to play pretty good football in spite of poor pad level against other college players -- he is about to enter a world where damn near everybody is big and strong and powerful. There will be definitely be more than one opponent in five games, who tests him under his chin on bull rushes no matter how big and strong he becomes, because of his poor pad level.

That is especially true of those elite pass rushers on the next level who know how to turn speed into power.

They will keep getting getting off the ball like a bat out of hell until Flowers finally starts bailing out to catch up to them, and then BAM! they'll run slap over his ass with a power rush. You might even hear someone faintly scream "Tiiiiiimmmmbeeeerrrrr" in the background when it happens.

Can Flowers learn to play lower?

Absolutely!

But it usually isn't an easy thing to do for big guys, so there are no guarantees. The weight issue also factors in here. In general, it's been my experience that the more overweight an offensive linemen is, the worse his pad level is. It just gets harder and harder for them to bend at the knees rather than at the waist as they balloon up, and it never ends well unless they find a way to lose some weight and keep it off.

That's why its so important to find out if Flowers had any major weight issues while at Miami. If his weight was stable or at least under control the majority of the time, I'd feel better as a decision maker betting on his ability to correct his poor pad level problem. I don't think I would have a problem picking him in the first round if that were the case.

If he did have weight issues, however, he might fall out of the first round altogether for me. Just a little too risky for my blood. I've seen too many guys kill their careers with a fork to act like its not a legitimate concern.

Since I don't have access to that kind of information, I will just have to hedge my bets like this: Without weight issues, Flowers is a guy with bottom-of the-first-round talent. A guy who still isn't a sure thing because of technique issues, but who could be really good if he corrects those issues. He is also a guy that just might be able to slide inside to guard if tackle doesn't work out.

*ducks*

Look, I know that there aren't many 6'6 guards around, and hey, if pad level issues keep Flowers from working out as a left tackle, then even thinking about him at guard could give you pause. However, remember when I mentioned how well he did in those five games, getting up on the second level to block linebackers and safeties on running plays? Well guards do that kind of thing a lot.

It's not easy to find a guard of any size who can consistently get on linebackers and safeties, and stay on those blocks. I wouldn't say Flowers would make the transition as well as, say, Martin did last season. However, I can see that being a viable plan B if a team isn't comfortable throwing him out there at tackle the first few years ... or ever.

Because I can see that potential in him to play well at guard, I would feel comfortable picking him in the second half of the first round of the draft if he hasn't had weight issues. Probably closer to the bottom, but if you are picking 20th and you need a left tackle, you might have to go ahead and take him there instead of waiting because ... you're picking 20th, duh.

Again, all bets are off with any weight issues. Second round at best in that case. Probably lower, because all teams will have the same info and nothing scares teams away from an offensive lineman more, than a dude with weight issues. Which means he could fall even further if nobody is willing to bet on him.

It is what it is.