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Isaiah Wynn: Finding Value At End of Round 1

NFL-Draft-Profile-Isaiah-Wynn

I wrote a long diatribe (love letter) on Quenton Nelson and just how special of prospect he is, (check it out here) I stand by all that I said and Nelson is truly a generational talent at the guard position. Hell, even Quenton Nelson’s father even picked up my article and tweeted it out.

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NBD, but kbd.

Nelson will always be my first crush of this NFL draft (you always remember your first) but there is an offensive lineman that I believe is being undervalued and has a chance to be one of the better players in this draft: Isaiah Wynn.

Who Is He?

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Isaiah Wynn is 6’3” 315 lbs. senior guard out of the University of Georgia. Although he projects at the next level as a guard, Wynn spent his senior season as Georgia’s left tackle, after starting both his sophomore and junior year at both guard spots. He was named first-team All-SEC and second team All-American, helping protect freshman QB Jake Fromm and leading the way for Georgia’s dynamic running back tandem of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Most scouts have Wynn going somewhere in the back half of the first round as the second guard off the board after the aforementioned Quenton Nelson. In my opinion, he is the second best offensive lineman in this draft and deserves at least top 15 consideration.

Analysis

Run Game

Point blank, pass blocking is more difficult on the edge than it is inside. As a tackle, not only are you dealing with far superior athletes but you also are operating in wide open space often times with little to no help. Because of this, tackles who move inside, more often than not, excel in the passing game, making the idea of moving a college OT to guard intriguing for NFL teams. However, where they tend to find trouble is in the run game, as a different kind of strength is required for an interior lineman than is for tackles. Tackles can often get away with position blocking and simply using technique and angles to execute their assignments (it’s pretty much how managed I to survive playing in the Big Ten) and can be in for a rude awakening when asked to 1 on 1 drive block a 320 lb. DT. I say this because Isaiah Wynn flashes rare physicality and strength in the run game for an OT and has played guard previously; making him the ideal candidate for the move inside at the next level. Let’s take a look:

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Georgia is a running a simple inside zone left here. When I say that tackles can often get away with position blocking, the play-side inside zone block is the perfect example of that. All you really have to do is wall your man off and you have done your job. Wynn takes his first few steps as if he is going to do just that, but instead, at the point of contact, he snaps his hips and turns the block into a true drive block. Generating power out of a two-point stance, after taking a few ‘idle steps’ is not easy, requiring both immense lower body strength and pure effort. This type of power generation and effort to maintain and finish blocks will be exactly why Isaiah Wynn will succeed as a guard at the next level.

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Pulling is something that tackles don’t often get the chance to do. Usually, you only really make it a point of emphasis in your offense if your tackle is a special player who wants to get out in space and lead the play. Wynn is right at the point of action for this play. If he gets stuffed, or even worse, whiffs, this play is doomed. Similar to the play above, Wynn flashes pretty rare power generation for a tackle as he steps, dips and strikes the defender and then finishes him on his back, creating space for the back to put the ball.

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Double teams are another aspect of offensive line play that tackles don’t get as many reps at as the interior guys do. While I would have probably liked Wynn to stay on the down man for one or two steps longer and not knock the guard off balance. He does an exceptional job coming in on the down lineman violently, continuing to have awareness for the LB and then peeling off of the DT and finishing the LB into the ground.

Passing Game

As I previously mentioned, tackles who move inside often excel in the passing game. Sometimes this may even occur if the player was just average in pass protection at the tackle position. In the case of Isaiah Wynn, he was one of the best tackles in pass protection in the country last year, consistently going against some of the best DL in CFB.

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The biggest thing I look for in a tackles pass set is how balanced and smooth they look. Through the whole set, Wynn looks in control and quickly meets the defender at the angle of his rush without having to overexert himself. However, the best part of the play happens right after the point of contact. It may not look like much, but the quick ‘re-anchor’ that Wynn executes as he sinks his hips and then extends his arms is beautiful, effectively ending the play for the defensive end. Furthermore, this is the type of lower body strength and knee bend will be critical at the guard position at the next level when he is getting bull rushed by 320lbs DT’s.

The play starts with Wynn flashing some pretty high-level foot quickness as he kicks all the way out to the wide blitzing defender. But again, the best part of the play occurs after the point of contact. Not only does Wynn show fantastic body control as he anchors down after having to kick to such a wide rusher, but he then turns the play into a drive block and finishes the defender onto the group. This is the type of nastiness that is required to make the move inside.

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To illustrate how this translates to the guard position, here is a clip of Wynn at the Senior Bowl playing LG. If this play looks like it’s too easy for Wynn, it’s because it is. The defender tries to beat Wynn with a speed rush and for a tackle who is now in significantly less space, against a lesser athlete, this rush posses little to no threat. Wynn slides his feet, waits until the defender exposes his chest and lands a strong two-handed punch. The other thing that is so impressive about this play is the knee bend that Wynn displays throughout the play, as he easily dispatches the DL’s attempt to convert speed to power after his initial rush is stopped.

Conclusion

Isaiah Wynn was one of the best tackles in the country last year. He displayed elite foot speed, knee bend, and technique as he effectively played out of position. When you couple that with the lower body strength and attitude to play on the interior, what you get is an extremely underrated and intriguing prospect at the guard position.

Eric Olson is a washed up former Division 1 football player. He played ball for Northwestern University from 2012-2016, where he started over 30 career games at Right Tackle. Between injuries (two elbow and two ankle surgeries) and not wanting to have his head bashed-in any longer, he decided to not seriously pursue the NFL and entered the corporate world where he currently works at a consulting firm in downtown Chicago. In an effort to keep his love of sports alive without getting the rush of playing them, Eric writes (mostly) in-depth articles on various sports stories and trends (he also degenerately gambles on them). While his primary focus is football, Eric covers (and gambles on) all sports and will be contributing to the Sports Gambling Podcast website moving forward.

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