KC Chiefs: How important are left tackles measurable in the NFL Draft?

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 15: Brady Christensen #67 of the BYU Cougars in action during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin. BYU won 24-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 15: Brady Christensen #67 of the BYU Cougars in action during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin. BYU won 24-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The K.C. Chiefs really need a left tackle. It is one of the most important positions for a team’s offense and, as of this moment, the Chiefs simply don’t have an offensive tackle on their roster fit to protect Patrick Mahomes‘ blindside. At this point the free agent options are very limited, so the Chiefs are going to need to look for their left tackle of the future in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Recently, most of the top tackle prospects hosted their pro days, so we now have most of their important measurables. The question is, how much do those measureables matter? Does a left tackle have a minimum (or maximum) height and weight in order to be successful in the NFL? Is there a cut off for how fast they need to run the 40-yard dash? Do they need to be able to do a certain amount of bench press reps? Do drills like the short shuttle or three cone drill matter and what about the much debated arm length?

I think we can all agree that what matters most is how they play on the field and what shows up on their tape. However, should any of these measurables be red flags to not draft a player even if you like what you see on the field?

More specifically for the Chiefs, are there any of these measurables that might point toward a talented offensive lineman not being able to make it as a left tackle? The NFL is full of players that played tackle in college, but instead had to move inside in the NFL. Is that because of their measurables, or is it just a talent/skill set thing?

I don’t know if there is a way to definitively prove things one way or the other, but I thought it might at least be worth looking at how some of the NFL’s successful left tackles, some of the tackles that haven’t had success, and some of this year’s top tackle prospects to see if we can come to any real conclusions. I decided to do some homework on the height, weight, arm length, forty time, bench press reps, short shuttle, and three cone drill times of 12 successful tackles, 7 failed left tackles, and the 15 top tackle prospects in this draft class to see how things line up.

First up, let’s look at those numbers for twelve NFL tackles that have had success in the NFL at the left tackle position, including former Chief Eric Fisher. The order of numbers are: height, weight, arm length, forty time, bench press, short shuttle, three cone

  • Terron Armstead: 6’5″, 306 lbs, 34.08 in, 4.71, 31, 4.72, 7.62
  • David Bakhtiari: 6’4″, 299 lbs, 34.08 in, 5.18, 28, 4.74, 7.70
  • Duane Brown: 6’4″, 315 lbs, 34.25 in, 5.09, 24, 4,52, 7.58
  • Eric Fisher: 6’7″, 306 lbs, 34.48 in, 5.05, 27, 4.44, 7.59
  • Taylor Lewan: 6’7″, 309 lbs, 33.88 in, 4.87, 29, 4.49, 7.39
  • Jake Matthews: 6’5″, 308 lbs, 33.38 in, 5.05, 24, 4.47, 7.34
  • Jason Peters: 6’4″, 336 lbs, 33.13 in, 4.99, 21, 4.75, 7.70
  • Tyron Smith: 6’5″, 307 lbs, 36.38 in, 5.08, 29, 4.68, 7.47
  • Ronnie Stanley: 6’6″, 312 lbs, 35.63 in, 5.20, N/A, 4.90, 8.03
  • Joe Thomas: 6’7″, 311 lbs, 33.75 in, 4.94, 28, 4.88, 7.95
  • Andre Whitworth: 6’7″, 334 lbs, 35 in, 5.17, 28, 4.83, 8.23
  • Trent Williams: 6’5″, 315 lbs, 34.25 in, 4.81, 23, 4.63, 7.64

I feel like that is a pretty good group of left tackles that range from the best of the last decade to solid NFL starters. If we use their measurables to create a range where players have had success, we get the following:

  • Height: 6’4″ – 6’7″
  • Weight: 299 – 336
  • Arm Length: 33.13 – 36.38
  • 40 time: 4.71 – 5.20
  • Bench Press: 21 – 31
  • Shuttle: 4.44 – 4.90
  • 3 Cone: 7.34 – 8.23

Now let’s look at the measurables of what most consider to be the top 15 offensive tackle prospects in this draft class. The measurements are in the same order and any bold measurements are ones that are outside of the ranges we have established.

  • Penei Sewell: 6’5″, 331 lbs, 33.25 in, 5.11, 30, N/A, 7.80
  • Rashawn Slater: 6’4″, 304 lbs, 33.0 in, 4.88, 33, N/A, 7.48
  • Christian Darrisaw: 6’5″, 322 lbs, 34.5 in, N/A on rest
  • Teven Jenkins: 6’6″, 315 lbs, 33.5 in, 5.01, 36, 4.66, 7.72
  • Samuel Cosmi: 6’6″, 314 lbs, 33.0 in, 4.84, 36, 4.39, 7.35
  • Liam Eichenberg: 6’6″, 306 lbs, 32.38 in, N/A, 33, 4.57, 7.53
  • Alex Leatherwood: 6’5″, 312 lbs, 34.38, 4.96, N/A, 4.60, 7.50
  • Jalen Mayfield: 6’5″, 319 lbs, N/A, 5.31, N/A, 4.91, 7.86
  • Dillon Radunz: 6’6″, 301 lbs, 33.25 in, 5.11, 24, 4.53, 7.27
  • Jackson Carman: 6’5″, 345 lbs, 32.5 in, N/A on rest
  • Walker Little: 6’7″, 313 lbs, 33.75 in, 5.29, 24, 4.58, 7.43
  • Spencer Brown: 6’8″, 311 lbs, 34.75 in, 4.88, 29, 4.34, 6.96
  • Brady Christensen: 6’6″, 302 lbs, 32.25 in, 4.89, 30, 4.46, 7.33
  • James Hudson: 6’4″, 302 lbs, 32.88 in, 5.27, 22, 4.79, 8.05
  • D’Ante Smith: 6’5″, 305 lbs, 35.25 in, 5.29, 24, 4.81, 7.96

Now the question is if any of the outlier measurables are reason for alarm. In my opinion, the outliers that I am prone to dismiss are those that are hypothetically better than the range zone, like more bench press reps or faster shuttle and three cone times. If we take those out., here are the potential red flags.

  1. Weight for Jackson Carman.
  2. Arm Length for Rashawn Slater, Samuel Cosmi, Liam Eichenberg, Jackson Carman, Brady Christensen, and James Hudson.
  3. 40-yard Dash time for Jalen Mayfield, Walker Little, James Hudson, and D’Ante Smith.
  4. Short Shuttle for Jalen Mayfield.

These are the guys with potential red flags for playing left tackle based on our ranges we set up, using twelve recent successful NFL left tackles as examples. On these, I think Mayfield can be written off right away. He played right tackle at Michigan, hasn’t had his arms measured (not a good sign), and had both 40-yard and Short Shuttle times outside our range. He looks like he might have to kick inside in the NFL.

Carman is probably next on the red flag list for me. Being heavy for a left tackle, short arms, with no 40 or other drill times to show off his speed/agility would make him a gamble to draft with the idea of him being the left tackle of the future.

Hudson is another guy who I can’t draft with much confidence that he’ll be able to make it at left tackle. His short arms, slow 40, and questionable shuttle and three cone times that are just barely inside the range make him a risky bet at left tackle.

Smith is borderline at this point. Unlike many prospects on this list, his arm length is great, but his 40, shuttle, and three cone are all a little slow. I will need to look at his tape again and watch his movement closer to see what I think.

Little is still a possibility at left tackle for me. His 40-yard dash time was outside the range, but not so slow that it’s a big concern for me when his shuttle and three cone times were good.

The interesting ones are all the guys that have great measurements other than arm length. Slater, Cosmi, Eichenberger, and Christensen all have great tape and meet every other range requirement. Is arm length alone enough to take a guy out of left tackle consideration? I guess we’ll find out later this month.

Finally, as part of this study, I thought I would look at some tackles that weren’t able to cut it (as least as left tackles) in the NFL. The following four players were all taken early in the draft between picks 2-11. Their measurements are listed in the same order.

  • Greg Robinson: 6’5″, 332 lbs, 35.0 in, 4.92, 32, 4.86, 7.80
  • Luke Joeckel: 6’6″, 306 lbs, 34.28 in, 5.30, 28, 4.68, 7.40
  • Ereck Flowers: 6’6″, 328 lbs, 34.5 in, 5.31, 37, N/A, N/A
  • D.J. Fluker: 6’5″, 339 lbs, 36.68 in, 5.31, 21, 5.0, N/A

Of these, Greg Robinson had no red flags according to our ranges. Joeckel, Flowers, and Fluker all had 40 times that were slower than our range. Flowers didn’t do the agility drills, which could have added more red flags for movement (which ended up being an issue for him on the outside). Fluker was outside the range on the shuttle and didn’t do the three cone drill. Movement ended up being why he’s been primarily a guard in the NFL with a little time at right tackle. All four of these guys had great arm length, but still couldn’t cut it. For early college tackles who didn’t do well on the outside, movement ability seems to be the biggest issue.

The next three guys were all taken closer to where KC will be picking in the draft.

  • Gabe Carimi: 6’7″, 314 lbs, 35.0 in, 5.18, 29, N/A, N/A
  • Derek Sherrod: 6’5″, 321 lbs, 35.38 in, 5.18, 23, 4.63, 7.43
  • Rodger Saffold: 6’5″, 316 lbs, 33.63 in, 5.21, 27, 4.67, 7.42

Of these prospects, none of them have any big red flags. Yes, Saffold was 0.01 slow on the forty time, but that’s so close and his other drills were fine. Once again, their arm lengths were within the range. Carimi didn’t do the agility drills, so that could have been a red flag, but we’ll never know. So it really appears that it’s more about their actual play and not measureables (shocker, I know).

What we don’t see in this study is guys who were drafted to play tackle with short arms. Because of that it’s hard to come to a conclusion based on history to say if those players whose only red flag is arm length can cut it at tackle. Is the sheer lack of guys with those arm lengths taken a sign that it’s not meant to be, or in today’s pass happy NFL, is movement skills and technique the real “musts” that help guys survive on the outside? That may be the biggest question of the NFL draft when it comes to several of these top tackle prospects.