In an effort to avoid reaching for a need in the secondary, the Oakland Raiders could add former Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin at No. 14.
Though a majority of the Oakland Raiders’ needs reside on the defensive side of the ball, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie could walk away with a steal in the 2016 NFL draft if former Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin falls to the Silver and Black at No. 14.
After the Raiders brought in Kelechi Osemele and re-signed Donald Penn earlier this offseason, many analysts and fans alike have written off offensive tackle as a first-round option, but the Raiders’ coaching staff has reportedly kept their minds open to solidifying their offensive line in this year’s draft.
“A coaching source in Oakland said the Raiders would love Elliott to fall to them, but a realistic option is a big defensive tackle or left tackle of the future, per the same source,” via Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller.
At 6’6”, 308 pounds, Conklin has the ideal size to develop into Penn’s successor at left tackle, while his violent style of play and adept run blocking ability should allow him to take over at right tackle in his rookie year.
Conklin, a three-year starter at Michigan State, is a tough, bully-type offensive tackle that places an emphasis on putting defensive linemen on their backs. Unlike some of the finesse offensive tackles projected to go in the top 10 (i.e. Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley), Conklin prides himself in his ability to push defenders off the line of scrimmage and drive them into the ground. Though he will need to more effectively use the lower half of his body at the next level, Conklin’s play strength is relatively unmatched in comparison to the other top offensive tackles in this year’s class.
“Conklin, to me, is as consistent and reliable as any left tackle out there in terms of the way he performed on the field,” ESPN Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, via ESPN.com. “I mean, he was outstanding.”
“He’s got that defensive line mentality, Kiper said. “He’ll finish blocks. He’ll move you off the line as a defender. He’s not just a pass blocker. He’ll assist the running game.”
Against top draft prospect DeForest Buckner, Conklin showed the NFL a glimpse of both his willingness to play to the echo of the whistle.
In pass protection, Conklin has previously struggled against some of the NCAA’s better speed rushers at times, but he can stun opposing edge-rushers when he can effectively kick back into his drop. In addition to his elite footwork, Conklin will often shock opposing bull-rushers with his initial punch, as he makes an effort to create the contact rather than catching his oncoming defender. Also, he rarely allows opposing edge-rushers to rip by him with their hands after the two are engaged.
Conklin will have to make an effort to lower his pad level and better use his feet once he enters the NFL, but if there’s one guy that can perfect his flaws in the league, it’s Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice. Given the strides Oakland’s offensive line made in 2015, ProFootbllFocus.com reported that Tice was the second best offensive line coach in the league last year behind Chris Morgan of the Atlanta Falcons.
Because of Austin Howard’s improvement towards the tail end of last season, Conklin would have to compete with both Howard and former second-round pick Menelik Watson for the starting right tackle spot, but the competition would hopefully lead to better play regardless of who came out on top.