As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done all offseason; these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
With Ramon Foster at the age of 29 and in his last year of his contract, the Steelers must decide if it is worth molding his replacement yet or not. In the upcoming draft, if the value is there and the right player falls, a guard may be selected. Today, we will evaluate Laken Tomlinson.
#77 – Laken Tomlinson/ G Duke: 6033, 323lbs
-Has the size for the position
-Possesses power and strength
-Gets to the 2nd level
-Has a good base, doesn’t get knocked around
-Reads pressure well, adjusts to help teammates
-Tons of experience
-Impressive Senior Bowl
-Good pad level
-Great at seal blocking
-High football IQ/ very intelligent
-Not very athletic
-Not a high effort guy
-Lacks explosion of out stance in the run game
-Overextends at times
-Allows defenders to disengage too easily
-Misses blocks in the 2nd level
-Needs to improve blocking against speed rushers
-Born in Jamaica, moved to Chicago when he was 10.
-Earned two degrees from Duke: Evolutionary Anthropology and Psychology
-First Team All-ACC
-Nominated for the AFCA’s Good Works Team (community service)
-First-Team A.P. All-American
-Didn’t allow sack last two years
-Started every game the last four seasons (52)
There’s not much to dislike about Tomlinson. He isn’t the athletic guard who can pull and move extremely well. But he is a guy who is durable and reliable. He has not given up a sack in the last two seasons. He absorbs bull rushes extremely well and he can seal block as well as maul. He is an ‘in the phone booth’ type of player because of his lack of athleticism, but he is extremely intelligent and can sure up his side of the line.
Tomlinson can convert strength to power. He doesn’t do it on a consistent basis, but he has that ability. He gets low and uses his strong lower half to propel him up and mauls defenders back. Here, he does just that. He needs to do this on a consistent basis because this is what will make him great in the NFL.
Tomlinson displays a rare, explosive first step, but can’t stick to either block that he attempts to make. He loses his balance and can’t keep his body in control. He does a great job getting up field but would like to see him keep his balance and stick to his blocks. Can’t let defenders disengage.
What I really liked and noticed about Tomlinson was his high football IQ and awareness. He is always aware of pressure and adjusts to compensate that. Here, he adjusts well to the pressure and hands off the defender to his tackle to take on another defender. Love to see high awareness and football IQ from your offensive lineman, they will never be lost.
Tomlinson does a great job getting to the second level. There is no doubt about that. He needs coached up on what to do when he gets there. He finds himself trying to do too many things at once. Here, sticking to blocks is a huge issue for him. At the end of the play he doesn’t run over to the pile or anything really. Would like to see more urgency to move the pile.
Like the first GIF, Tomlinson shows that he does possess the ability to convert strength to power. Here, he combines that and the capability to get to the next level and beyond. He gets to the second level, finds a defender and drives him back 15 yards, leading the way for his running back. If Tomlinson could be this kind of athlete on a consistent basis, he will never have to worry about having a job.
With Chris Hubbard and Cody Wallace as the only backups to each guard position, one would think the time would be sooner rather than later to draft a guy to eventually take Foster’s place. It is mildly apparent that Foster is the weakest link on offensive line. But he is not a bad player and his play does not raise caution. The offensive line has gotten a lot better and I bet Ben Roethlisberger would like it to stay that way. This is Foster’s contract year; if he plays well, the Steelers will likely extend him on a short term contract.
The biggest question may not be about Foster, but about his backups, or the heir to the left guard spot. Is Hubbard the guy to take over? I’m not convinced so. Cody Wallace has proven to be serviceable but that is his ceiling. I believe that Foster’s future replacement is not yet on the roster.
If Tomlinson is selected, is he a starter? I think that in Tomlinson’s future as a Steeler, if selected, would be a starting role. Barring injury, I don’t see him being a starter in 2015. The Steelers like to stick with their own and Foster is comfortable in this offense. It would give Tomlinson a year to learn the offense and develop chemistry with the other offensive lineman, Le’Veon Bell, and Roethlisberger.
Could Tomlinson play on the left side? I think so. His entire career at Duke was spent on the right side, but transitioning to the left side shouldn’t be a problem for Tomlinson. His football IQ is extremely high and his intelligence may be even higher. With Mike Munchak’s coaching and guidance I don’t see the Duke product having any issue going from right guard to left.
Tomlinson’s high intelligence and even higher character, there is no doubt that he has the Steelers attention. The Steelers sent their offensive assistant Shaun Sarrett to Duke’s pro day to check out Tomlinson.
The best ability is availability, and that might as well be Tomlinson’s middle name. From his first career start to his last, he has not missed a game. With the injury bug always biting the offensive line, it would be nice to have an offensive lineman who wears the injury bug repellant.
Projection: 2nd-3rd round
Games Watched: 2014 at Pittsburgh, 2014 at Miami (FL) University
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