INDIANAPOLIS – With questions surrounding Matt Kalil and pending free agent Daryl Williams, it’s unclear what the Panthers’ plan is at offensive tackle this offseason. But if part of that plan involves the draft, this is a better time to do it than the past few years that featured fewer good options.
There may not be a race to use top-10 picks at the position, but there’s plenty of chatter that as many as five tackles could go in the first round. So even if some guys go off the board before the Panthers pick at No. 16 overall, there's a nice pool if they feel like tackling – ahem – tackle.
For the most part, five names have bubbled up to the top of the class. Here’s a sampling of what each said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine:
Jonah Williams, Alabama
Because he’s considered to have short arms, some wonder if he’ll be a better fit at guard.
“I don't have to come up here and be defensive and tell everyone they're wrong. Everyone's entitled to have their opinion. If your opinion is that there's a certain benchmark that you have to pass to be a tackle, that's your opinion. I'm not going to change that and my arms aren't going to grow longer. So I think you watch the film, you make your own decisions. The decisions that matter to me are the ones these NFL teams that I've been speaking with this whole week.”
Jawaan Taylor, Florida
A hamstring injury is keeping him out of drills this week, but that shouldn’t affect his stock.
“I feel like I'm the best offensive tackle in the draft class. I never want to put no one ahead of me. I always feel like I'm the best. I feel like I have more to prove. I'm not perfect, but I feel like I'm the best one here.”
Greg Little, Mississippi
Too inconsistent for some, but can play both tackle positions.
“If (a team) comes in and says, 'Can you be our guy Day 1,' I say, 'yessir.' I love football. I love competing. I'm so competitive that my goals are to come in and be All-Pro Year 1. Or at least by Year 2. I want to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. I really want to dominate my first year and get respect from the older guys.”
Andre Dillard, Washington State
Some wonder whether he can transition from WSU’s air raid to a pro-style offense.
“Post-college, pre-Senior Bowl I worked a lot on the buzzing questions about me. ‘Can this kid even run block or get in a 3-point stance? He's never done it before.’ So I think my training leading up to the Senior Bowl was really important and helped me a lot to showcase and answer some of those questions for people.”
Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Another guy who some project as more of a guard.
“I think I need to get into whoever drafts me, let them know that I'm here for business and I'm ready for a game right now. I think I need to show them that I'm mature enough to have a starting job, or at least be No. 2 on the charts. I think that's the biggest key.”
Meanwhile, as far as measurables, here’s how all these guys stacked up: