INDIANAPOLIS — Offensive linemen come in all shapes and sizes. Some of those shapes and sizes happen to matter more than others.
One of them is arm length, and nobody was in the spotlight more than Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams. Forget starting 44 games at left or right tackle for Alabama or being an All-American. What Kyler Murray was to height, Williams was to arm length coming into the NFL Scouting Combine.
Williams’ arms came at 33 5/8 inches, a little short of the 34-inch mark some have said is critical for playing left tackle in the NFL. Yet, Williams came prepared to answer his critics.
“I think that’s a small portion of what it takes to be a tackle at the next level,” Williams said of arm length on Thursday. “I think if you look at a lot of the really successful tackles over the past 10 years — Joe Thomas, Joe Staley, Jake Matthews, Jason Peters, La’el Collins, Riley Reiff, Ryan Ramczyk — just a couple guys off the top of my head that have shorter arms than me, I don’t think that’s necessarily a huge deal.”
Then Williams proceeded to throw down a monster dunk just for good measure.
Williams to a reporter: “If your arms were a little longer, you’d be able to reach the keyboard better. But you don’t need that to be a great writer.”— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 28, 2019
Williams came into the combine as the draft’s top offensive lineman. He leaves with the same distinction, arm length be damned.
The big draft risers among offensive linemen are both centers
Few offensive linemen have had as good of a week at the combine as North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury. It’s true, the on-field drills for offensive linemen are overrated. But there’s never anything wrong with putting up good numbers to reaffirm your draft status.
Bradbury broke the five-second mark in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.92 seconds, getting up to 34 reps on the bench press and displaying a good 31-inch vertical leap. Bradbury was already the draft’s top center and was rising following a good week at the Senior Bowl in January. But how high could he go?
Garrett Bradbury may have just punched a ticket to first round with a sub-5 40 st 306 lbs. I had him at 4.97. Had 34 bench reps yesterday. Plug and play at center for a decade. #NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/YMewjwWjuH— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 1, 2019
A first-round center wouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Last year two centers — Frank Ragnow to Detroit and Billy Price to Cincinnati — were taken in the first round. The Colts used the 18th pick of the 2016 first round on Ryan Kelly.
Bradbury’s journey is just a little different. He was a high school tight end and only moved to the offensive line at NC State as a sophomore. He didn’t play center until his junior year, but quickly found a home at the position. Now he could hear his name called on the first day of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Another center helping himself plenty in Indianapolis is Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy. It was somewhat of a surprise to see him go pro early as a junior, but he was a graduate and like Bradbury received a Senior Bowl invite. Also like Bradbury, he broke under five seconds in the 40.
There are a few teams to keep in mind for both. The most obvious one is the Carolina Panthers, where Ryan Kalil is retiring after a stellar career. Arizona, Buffalo, and Minnesota could also be looking at players like Bradbury and McCoy early in the draft.
It’s no surprise who had the single most impressive workout
If awards were given out at the combine, the gold for offensive linemen would go to Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Coming into the combine, everyone knew that Dillard was athletic based on how he played. At Lucas Oil Stadium, he quantified it.
He had the fourth-fastest 40 time for offensive linemen (4.96 seconds) and the fastest 20-yard shuttle (4.4 seconds). He also registered a broad jump of 9’10. That’s the second-best such jump for a lineman since 2006. And he did it all at 6’5 and 315 pounds.
Do these numbers simply confirm what we already know about Dillard? Sort of. He still has work to do in the technical aspects of the game. But that should be expected for someone who didn’t start football until the eighth grade, and admitted his first few years at the sport were pretty rough. He also knows exactly where improvement has to come.
“I’m pretty critical of myself, so one area for improvement is definitely continuing to improve on the run game,’’ Dillard said. “I showcased a bit of that ability at the Senior Bowl, and I just plan to continue that.”
For now, Dillard is considered to be the best pure pass-blocking left tackle in the draft. He was a top-20 pick coming into the week. Now his stock is only going upward.
Remember the name of Dalton Risner
Offensive linemen maybe shouldn’t be charming. Kansas State’s Dalton Risner is charming as hell.
Risner is the classic tale. He grew up in the small Colorado town of Wiggins. They don’t have any stoplights there and just a single gas station. As a football prospect, Risner was completely off the map for college programs.
To get the attention of schools, Risner and his father went from football camp to football camp beginning when he was in eighth grade. Slowly, college coaches started to learn about the vicious blocker. By the time he was almost finished with high school, coaches were well-aware of Risner.
“Not against anyone here, but I don’t think I was necessarily destined to be here,” Risner said on Thursday. “I take a lot of pride in where I come from.”
That’s not the only aw-shucks thing about Risner, a likely NFL right tackle who could get taken in the first 50 picks of the draft. Like many prospects, the media peppered him with questions about the teams he met in Indianapolis. The combine interview process is a whirlwind for players, and it can be hard to remember which teams they’ve met. Risner not only remembered every single one, but he knew the offensive line coach of each team.
Like all those college coaches, the NFL coaches will now start remembering Risner’s name too.