With the NFL draft right around the corner and a new coaching staff in place, Broncos fans and analysts can finally start to imagine what these prospects would look like in orange and blue.
For the Broncos, right tackle has been a long need, quietly being just as large of a revolving door, if not more, than the quarterback position. With only one right tackle they poured a lot of resources into, Ja’Wuan James, who was a tremendous bust, it is not difficult to figure out why.
Tackle is one of the most coveted positions in the league and teams that find a good one rarely let them walk in free agency. This is why to find one, teams will most likely have to draft one, and draft one high.
Taking a look at this draft class there are a plethora of options through the first two rounds but which ones fit new head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offensive scheme the most?
Charles Cross, Mississippi State
At a lean 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Cross is an exceptional athlete and it shows throughout his game, making him one of the most highly thought of offensive linemen in this class.
Where this really stands out is in his pass protection. NFL edge rushers are some of the best athletes in the world and Cross can match up. With his fantastic first step, he can match the speed of any rusher he faces, often forcing defenders to try to run straight through him.
This athleticism can also greatly help the Broncos, as they are now switching to more of an outside zone-centric scheme that relies heavily on their offensive linemen being able to move.
While the talent is undoubtedly there, Cross is nowhere near a perfect prospect and comes with major concerns. Specifically, while his lean frame allows him to move at a high level, his power is severely lacking.
Cross is very technically sound with both his feet and hands, but simply gets pushed back far too often. Hackett’s scheme may be able to mitigate this issue but it is most definitely still a concern as both his run and pass blocking is affected by it. He’ll want to bulk up as he transitions to the next level.
Bernhard Raimann, Centeral Michigan
Originating from Australia, Raimann first attended Central Michigan as a tight end before making the switch to tackle. Listed now at 6-foot-7 and 305-pounds, Raimann had to completely transform his body from when he stepped on campus as a 230-pound tight end.
What makes Raimann so intriguing to NFL teams are all the tools he has in his toolbox. He checks all of the physical benchmarks that starting offensive tackles should clear, and in many cases exceeds them. One area in which he is lacking is that his 305-pound frame is a little light for someone of his size.
In Hackett’s scheme, Raimann can use his irregular athletic ability on the edge, moving his massive frame in areas of the field some other offensive tackles simply can not reach. This can be utilized in not just the outside zone but in other areas like the quick pass game or screens.
Raimann’s tools fit the bill but there is still plenty to work on before one can comfortably say he is ready to be an NFL starter.
It is worth noting that while his switch from tight end has been impressive, he is still very new to the position, and it shows. His strikes are very inconsistent, his power in the run game can lack, and his ability to anchor is not where it should be at this time.
Nonetheless, if given the proper time to develop in the right offensive scheme, Raimann has the necessary tools to develop into a team’s long-term tackle at the next level.
Max Mitchell, Louisiana-Lafayette
At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Mitchell is yet another lean tackle that would make sense for the Broncos’ new offensive scheme.
At this time, Mitchell’s best work comes in pass protection, where he displays great feet, athleticism, and mirroring skills to shut down opposing edge rushers. He does this while being the most experienced tackle on this list, starting in 40 games shared between both right and left tackle.
In the run game, Mitchell is plenty athletic to succeed in outside zone but does come with some flaws as well.
While he strikes technically and efficiently, a lack of strength in his lean frame is notable. Initially, Mitchell is able to hold his own but as the rep continues, he can be beaten as NFL edge rushers will be able to absorb this power and still make a play.
The lack of strength is also notable in the passing game, where his light upper and lower body can be exposed against speed to power moves made by opposing defenders. The quickest way to the quarterback is straight through the offensive linemen making his inability to anchor consistently an issue.
At the next level, Mitchell will need to get stronger to succeed but with such intriguing tools, he may be worth a selection on day two of the draft, as a guy that a team is willing to sit and develop.