SI 64: No. 8: Iowa OT Brandon Scherff
With the 2015 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to start getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. To that end, Doug Farrar and Chris Burke have assembled their own definitive Big Board, consisting of the players they feel deserve to be selected in the first two rounds.
As we approach the top of this year's SI 64, let's take a closer look at Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who could very well be some team's franchise left tackle in a hurry.
Bio: Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has long been revered for the level of technique he teaches his offensive linemen, though not all of those linemen have been able to overcome their relatively low physical ceilings to be great in the NFL. Scherff has a chance to buck that trend—the 2014 Outland Trophy winner started his Iowa career as a redshirt freshman guard in 2011 but kicked over to left tackle in 2012 and has remained there since. A 280-pound quarterback in high school who also led his team in blocking and tackling, Scherff may be moved around early in his career as his new team tries to decide whether he's a better tackle or guard.
Strengths: Unsurprisingly, Scherff is the most fundamentally sound offensive lineman in this draft class. Has ideal size and plays with a wide, strong base. Excellent second-level blocker who targets defenders very well in space. Weight-room monster who brings that strength to the field. Fluent in interior pulls and slide protections. Shows excellent power and leverage in two- and three-point stances, especially in run-blocking—Scherff sets the edge very well and can wall defenders out. Understands advanced blocking principles and will move off his first assignment to his second fairly seamlessly. Controlled blocker in space who keeps his head on a swivel and is very aware of his surroundings. Highly accountable player who was a four-year member of the university's Leadership Group.
Weaknesses: Lateral movement is not a strength—Scherff struggles at times to move outside and maintain his leverage, and he needs a bit more time than what is ideal to set himself for optimal leverage if he isn't running in a straight line. Though he hits second-level targets well, needs to be more persistent in maintaining those blocks—he'll occasionally veer off and allow tackles to happen. In pass protection, tends to face up and use power as opposed to being smooth with a kick-step to define an arc around the pocket. Can be beaten by edge rushers to either side when he doesn't mirror the defender, and can be vulnerable to quick outside moves to the back of the pocket. Benefitted from multiple tight end sets. Suffered a broken ankle and dislocated fibula in his sophomore season. Short arms for the position (33 3/8").
Conclusion: While I'm on board with the idea that LSU's La'el Collins, the consensus second-best tackle in this class, is a more natural NFL guard than tackle, I think Scherff is best served by staying put. No, he's not a top-caliber athlete, but he's good enough and understands enough about the position to get by in the short term and improve in the long term. Like Jake Long, Scherff is the kind of powerful, athletic player who can succeed outside over time. If his NFL team pushes him inside, a Zack Martin-style transition isn't out of the question, and Martin, a left tackle at Notre Dame, was a first-team All-Pro in his first season as the Cowboys' right guard.
Pro Comparison: Jake Long, unsigned free agent (First round, Dolphins, 2008)