The 2020 NFL Draft class has some elite offensive tackle options but many overlook the depth in this class. CBS Sports caught up with Duke Manyweather -- a respected private offensive line coach currently working with Louisville's Mekhi Becton and many others -- to discuss those topics and more.
"Top to bottom, this class is really good and really deep. I really don't think there has been a class like this since 2013," Manyweather said. "You had guys like Terron Armstead that was in that 2013 draft. You had Lane Johnson. Eric Fisher, who has developed. It was pretty loaded. I think this draft could be pretty similar."
Over the past ten years, an average of 3.4 offensive tackles have been taken in the first round. The average over the last five years is lower than the prior five years. A record eight offensive tackles were taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. The most notable names from that class included Ryan Clady, Jake Long, and Duane Brown.
The 2020 draft class could challenge those figures.
"I think, at the top, you have seven or eight guys that are very good," Manyweather explained. "There are a lot of guys that you could argue are first-round type talents. I don't think we will see seven guys get taken in the first round. I do think you will see four, maybe a fifth slip in.
"You look at Andrew Thomas and Jedrick Wills, those guys, a lot of people think they lead the clubhouse in terms of the top tackles. They have really solid tape. You know what they are going to be. Then, you look at a guy like Mekhi Becton, whose tape is really good. With his physical traits, his size and everything, he has a chance to be special. Tristan Wirfs is a guy with really good tape out of Iowa but his best position might be as an All-Pro guard; kind of struggles a bit with top end range and change of direction inside in pass pro. Some of the characteristics and traits we saw with another Iowa guy, Brandon Scherff.
"Josh Jones, he had five coaches in four years at the University of Houston. I think his best football is still ahead of him. He is a guy that had a tremendous week at the Senior Bowl. He is a guy that should get first round consideration. Ezra Cleveland is in the same boat from Boise State. I know there are a lot of teams that like him and, quite frankly, they should, because everything that we see on tape for him translates and checks the box for a lot of people. You have to put him into consideration as one of those top guys, especially with the way that he performed at the combine. He is a good one. Matt Peart is kind of a next tier guy. Saahdiq Charles, Cameron Clark [are a few others]."
Manyweather went on to say that he envisions Wirfs in the mold of a Zack Martin and Quenton Nelson. Teams will give the Iowa product every chance to play on the edge because there is a pressing need for better tackle play across the NFL.
"Teams are going to give him every shot to play tackle. It's not that I don't think he can play tackle. I just see someone that could be really special as an interior O-lineman."
Becton cemented himself among the top options with a strong showing at the NFL combine. He measured in at an astonishing 6-foot-7, 364 pounds. His 35 5/8" arms might have been even more impressive. Manyweather has worked with the Virginia native since December.
"He is a nasty, really dominating finisher. When you are around him, he is really calm, cool and collected. He is the first person to rise to a challenge and is highly competitive in that regard. He wants to take people's soul and he wants to finish and he wants to be physical. He wants to drive people off the field. He does not like losing. I don't think you see that in anybody else's tape."
The hype surrounding this tackle class is real. However, it may not translate to immediate impact. There are only four current offensive tackles 26 years old or younger that have made at least one Pro Bowl appearance. On average, it has taken those four players 3.75 seasons to make their first Pro Bowl appearance. The tackles in this class will need some time as well, according to Manyweather.
"I don't think any of these guys are finished products in terms of their development for the league. Some people think that Mekhi is really raw but he is not as raw as people think. Some of the things that he does with his hands in pass protection and changing up his stance, it's really advanced. People have to say 'well, he's only in pass pro for two or three seconds.' No, he's ending the fight in two to three seconds. You don't see him getting in bad positions. You don't see him getting beat much because of what he is able to do with his arms and his size and power and lateral agility. I think his best football is still ahead of him. I think his ceiling could be a really special, Hall of Fame guy if that guy stays healthy and continues to develop. As long as that guy stays healthy, you are going to see a really, really tremendous and special player. That could be said with a couple of these guys to be honest with you."
There are always conversations this time of year about switching a left tackle to right tackle or vice versa. It sounds easy but it is not, and it should be considered in these evaluations.
"It's not easy at all. I think people make this mistake in free agency all the time. You have 40 or 50 games of a guy dominating at right guard or right tackle. Then all of a sudden you sign him and then flip him and think that he is going to have that same success. When it doesn't work out, you're scratching your head like 'what the hell happened?' It is not a gimme. It takes work, it takes time. It also depends on the capacity for development: who the coach is, are they going to harp on the fundamentals. If they are going to harp on those, then the player is going to have a good chance for success to flip sides. If they are just going to throw him into the fire saying 'hey, we drafted you high, but we are going to need you to play on the other side.' Man, you are putting him at such a disadvantage that it isn't even funny," Manyweather said.
There are athletic traits that translate to success at the offensive tackle position. The qualities of the truly special can not be measured, however.
"It is a guy that can be intrinsically motivated to do the work all the time; a guy that is not going to have that finishing mentality over and over again, a guy that is consistent. If I had to say that there are a handful of traits that you can not coach is just a consistent person with the ability to finish everything. Typically with those, you are going to have success," said Manyweather.
Manyweather has already begun scouting the potential 2021 tackle class. It is setting up well, which is a blessing for the teams that have neglected the position for so long. Oregon's Penei Sewell and Tennessee's Trey Smith would have been first-round picks this year had they been eligible and/or declared.
"The two guys right now who are physically dominant that should be the first two linemen taken are Penei Sewell and Trey Smith. Those guys, if they had come out this year, would have been first round guys," Manyweather finished.
Becton, Thomas, Wills and Wirfs are all expected to be taken no later than No. 14 overall. The Giants, Jaguars, Cardinals, Browns, Jets and Buccaneers stand out as teams in need of an upgrade at the position. The Broncos, Dolphins, Vikings, Seahawks and others could come into play for the likes of Jones and Cleveland in the latter half of the first round. Georgia's Isaiah Wilson and USC's Austin Jackson are a few others being mentioned as possible Round 1 selections.
The draft begins Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET.