With the draft well in the rear view mirror at this point, some of the narratives heading into the draft can be examined with less emotion. One that I really want to talk about is the Jack Conklin is Jeremiah Poutasi all over again, which is just very wrong.
I went back and watched every game I could find on both Jack Conklin and Jeremiah Poutasi in their final year’s in college at Draftbreakdown.com and here are the differences I could find. (NOTE: For Poutasi it also helps to search “vs Utah” to see even more here)
Jeremiah Poutasi was not terrible in pass protection as a college left tackle. However, he was far from the stalwart that Jack Conklin was.
Completely ignoring stats, there is a fundamental issue that Poutasi faced that was exposed at the NFL level. When Poutasi gets into his pass set, he has a habit of protecting from the outside-in.
What I mean by this, is when Poutasi kickslides he oversets because he is desperately trying to force his pass rusher to come back inside. This is because he has long arms and is physical, but also because he doesn’t have the speed or technique to deal with speed rushers without turning his hips out of position (which is bad).
On the other hand, Conklin protects inside-out making sure that the defensive lineman never has a chance to cross his face for easy penetration. He can do this because he feet are fast enough and he always does a good job keeping his butt facing the quarterback. While he doesn’t have a picture-perfect kickslide it does exactly what it is supposed to do by keeping the defensive end in front of him, without getting his feet tangled up or his hips in a bad position.
Poutasi does a decent job using his hands at the college level, but he uses his hands to feel contact rather than to punish the opposing defender.
Clearly by the way I am talking, Jack Conklin doesn’t suffer from this issue. Conklin does an excellent job punching and punishing defenders, which really pays dividends at the end of the game where some defenders just completely lose their fight.
This article is about why Jack Conklin isn’t the next Jeremiah Poutasi, and one thing you have to look at is competition. Here is a short list of premier defenders that Jack Conklin has gone against:
-Jarran Reed (AL) 2nd round pick in 2016
-A’Shawn Robinson (AL) 2nd round pick in 2016
-Jonathan Allen (AL) likely top-10 pick in 2017
-Carl Nassib (PSU) the nation’s leader in sacks
-Austin Johnson (PSU)
-Joey Bosa (OSU) third pick in the 2016 NFL Draft
-Tyquan Lewis (OSU)
-Yannick Ngakoue (Maryland) 3rd round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft
And that is just who he faced in his last five games in college!
That is a staggering amount of talent for a player to go against, and that is just the defensive linemen and edge players. That doesn’t including linebackers and defensive back who tested him as a blitzer or in the run game.
This is the big one that must have caught Jon Robinson’s eye. When Jeremiah Pouatsi was in college, he constantly would look back and check to see where his quarterback was. I know he had a rushing quarterback and wanted to help him out if he was in trouble, but if you are an offensive tackle you have to pay attention to your job and trust that you will be able to feel where he is going based on where the defense moves.
Jack Conklin never gives the defense a chance to move in front of him. He is so committed to putting his man on the ground or getting up to the next level and sealing off the linebacker so the running back can make a big gain, that he never looks at the quarterback.
So, yes there are some pretty big differences. In the NFL you have to be the aggressor as an offensive linemen. You stay in the right position and never give the defender an easy lane to the quarterback. You always punch, you never let the defensive lineman punch you. You preform against top competition every time you step on the field, and you always focus on your assignment no matter what.
Conklin has all these things in addition to all his other pluses as a run-blocker and a tone-setter, so I think there is a reason for Tennessee Titans fans to be hopeful in this pick.