Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prospect of the Day - Michael Oher

by: Chris Sullivan

Okay, okay, I've been harping on and on about how I think Oher is the best future OT in this draft. Maybe its time for me to back that bloviating up with an actual look at the man himself, rather than the "top two" tackles, and break down the actual pros and cons of taking Michael "Blindside" Oher.

The thing that jumps out most about Oher ("Oar") is that he is enormous but incredibly athletic. He ranges from 310-325 lbs and stands at about 6'4.5", considered prototypical size for a Tackle. He has very long arms and great balance, but is light on his feet. Despite his poor showing on the bench press, watching Oher in games is proof enough that he is very strong and it seems he can have his way with just about any DE out there including a strong performance in the Senior Bowl and consistently against his SEC opponents. He specializes in pass blocking, but can make a great push when blocking for the run. Based on my reading of the Blindside, it seems that in High School he played in a zone blocking system in his small school (which, mind you, won the state championship on basically two plays, both single cut runs following Oher's block; they basically ran only that play all year).

His weaknesses are few but substantial. It's said that he does not always play up to his abilities and his motor runs hot and cold. The biggest knock against Michael Oher is his intelligence. While it is clear that he gets football, learning a new system has been difficult for him in the past and that's a definite concern. He played guard his freshman year at Ole Miss and was good, but not great. Still, some doubting scouts speculate that is his ideal position; I tend to disagree based on his athleticism, but I'm also not a scout. It will require patience and physical explanation, but once he gets the basics he tends to pick up the rest. Due to his natural athleticism, he lacks technique -- footwork, leverage, hands -- which will take some attention from coaches to teach him.

Pros: Four year starter in the SEC, Athletic (he averaged 22 points in High School Basketball despite being 325 lbs), is very tough as evidenced by his life story. Cons: not a leader, lacks personality, mediocre football knowledge -- he proacts and reacts rather than analyzing his defender.

I like him, I've made that obvious lately. I think he has a lot of upside and that elite level of athleticism that differentiates the men from the boys in the NFL. He would not contribute much in 2009 though, but could likely fill in at RT or RG if an injury to Jones necessitated shuffling. I believe that there is a lot of hype around J-Smooth (Jason Smith) but he is mediocre in the run game and is also inconsistent with footwork, hands and leverage. Eugene Monroe is a bit better, but has serious durability concerns that could turn him into an offensive Marcus Tubbs. He also has issues with leverage and lacks "killer instinct" according to a number of scouts. Michael Oher was long though of as the class of this draft's tackles, and I personally believe he fell off not due to a lack of skill, size, smarts, or talent, but because people got so tired of hearing about "the next Jonathan Ogden." When a story gets old, it loses its luster. Jason Smith is new and exciting. That doesn't mean he's better, long-term.

Is he a stretch at four? If you ask most scouts today, yes he is. If you'd asked them three months ago, no. What has changed?