The Day Two 22: The offensive line
The most intriguing offensive linemen likely to be available on Day Two of the draft
It’s time for Part II of the Day Two 22. If you missed Part I, laying out the parameters and the offensive skill positions, you can find that here.
Here is the team so far:
QB – Henden Hooker, Tennessee
RB – Jahymr Gibbs, Alabama
WR – Rashee Rice, SMU
WR – AT Perry, Wake Forest
TE – Sam LaPorta, Iowa
TE – Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
Onto the line.
OT – Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion
Saldiveri is an intelligent tackle who’s yet to put his impressive physical traits to proper use. At 6-6, 312lb Saldiveri represents a bundle of tools ready to be shaped into a potential NFL starter within the next three years — whether that’s at guard or tackle remains to be seen.
Saldriveri played on the right side at Old Dominion. He got by largely on his natural athletic ability. His quick get-off allowed him to beat up on sub-par rushers. But there are technical deficiencies littered throughout his tape – issues that would often undercut his own innate athleticism.
Saldiveri’s footwork is, to be kind, a work in progress. He plays with antsy feet, bordering on anxious. He isn’t slick. There’s a pitter-patter, always-keep-em-moving feel to his game. Playing with light, fast feet is a must in the league. But playing with so much pace that you’re rarely able to gather your balance is a non-starter. That middle ground is what separates college players from the pros.
Saldiveri’s feet are always taking flight. If his left isn’t in the air, it’s because his right has already taken to the sky. That left him vulnerable versus speed-to-power rushers, even against smaller edge defenders:
Those ricocheting feet cost him. Too often, Saldiveri would end up extended out over his feet. He couldn’t find balance. He was unable to rock back and drop anchor, absorbing and thud from a power-rush.
The key is to kick out, to keep your feet moving, and then to root them to the ground at the moment of impact. Timing is essential. Power comes from the ground up. Saldiveri was too often caught in college mid-flight:
There’s a sea-sawing action to his feet, bobbing from one to the other. Taking on a pass-rusher with just one foot screwed to the ground, then hoping to Lord the other will land in a spot that affords some kind of balance, is a recipe for problems against in-out rushers.
It all undergirds this notion that he lacks play strength. That’s true. Saldiveri doesn’t womp linemen off the ball, and he struggles to brace against contact even against slender rushers. His base can be too flimsy. He has tiny arms, by the standards of pro prospects – in the 18th percentile, per Mockdraftable. If he doesn’t win with his get-off and footwork, he cannot bail himself out with go-go gadget arms.
And that’s before you get to the main knock on his game: Can he redirect? Can he kick one way then sink his hips, shuffle and slide back the other? If you struggle versus power and quick-twitch, in-out moves, you cannot survive at the next level. One is always exposing you to the other.
That inability to consistently redirect has plenty of prognosticators viewing Saldiveri more as a guard prospect than a tackle. That’s fair. That might be the case. A guard has less room to cover than a tackle. There are two-way goes, but they’re not as pronounced.
But that same issue stems from a general lack of balance in his footwork and stance. And that stuff is correctable with time, reps and coaching. Just look at Jawaan Taylor, who struggled mightily early in his career with balance. Taylor was a natural, torqued-up mauler, which is why he was the 35th overall pick rather than a late Day Two prospect. It took him three years to refine his lower body mechanics and to correct his footwork. Correct the feet, and the hip, ass, hands and pad-level will follow. Taylor put in the effort to re-work his base. He found balance; he became better in pass pro; and he was rewarded handsomely by the Chiefs this offseason.
The looseness of his footwork is what’s created problems for Saldiveri redirecting. His instincts are correct. His feel for what a rusher is about to do and where they’re going are on-point, but his lower body mechanics scupper the best intentions of his football mind.
That’s not an unusual trait for young linemen – particularly in the modern game where there is less practice time. And it’s fairly typical for linemen with a distinct physical advantage. Not having the ideal footwork and timing is fine at the lower levels when you can toss someone into the stands with one paw. In the pros, though, you will be exposed – immediately and often.
But it can be corrected – and the rest of your game can flow with it. The upside is there with Saldiveri. When he’s able to get to a settled base, the natural strength, the ability to anchor pops off the screen:
He’s intelligent – always alive to stunts and twists. Here he is playing at guard (#64). Look at the ground he covers:
Again, the base is not ideal. He plays a tick too wide. His arms are flapping. He is too upright on contact. Virginia’s interior rusher is able to drive inside, but Saldiveri is able to time up the exchange. He spies the linebacker flowing around, passes off the interior rusher and is able to scamper over to the edge to pick up the perimeter rusher, pushing outside of his tackle.
Where there is chaos in pass protection, Saldiveri is a picture of patience in the run game:
I’m pretty sure that constitutes pornography for most o-line coaches. One arm, as they like to say, is longer than two. To strike with both mitts together, a lineman has to get close and in-line with his target. If a lineman has the ability to move one way while pressing off a defender the other, they’re able to score two-for-one blocks. That’s the kind of one-hand-to-double that makes the idea of moving Saldiveri inside interesting.
As double-and-climb prospects go, Saldiveri is right there. There isn’t the oomph you see at the top of the board. But so much of working double-teams is about timing and technique and discipline. You don’t need to blast a descending linebacker to Mars – that’s just added fun. It’s about the sequencing of the climb and peel-off. You don’t want to go too early or wait too late. The goal is to open up daylight – and Saldiveri does just that. He knows, intuitively, the right time to flee the double – whether it’s climbing up or taking out a descending linebacker.
As the competition improved, Saldiveri played better.
Saldiveri is something — perhaps a starting guard; perhaps a work-in-progress tackle.
G – Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
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