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Top offensive tackle prospects heading into the NFL Combine

We’re continuing our look at positions of need for the Niners heading into the Combine. This time around it’s offensive tackles we’ll be examining.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hello 49er faithful! We’ve got another installment of prospects you should keep your eyes on as the Combine and Draft both approach - this time it’s the offensive tackle position we will be taking a look at. San Francisco seemingly struck gold with the drafting of Mike McGlinchey in the first round of last year’s draft (if for nothing else than the best friendship that has been fostered between him and veteran Joe Staley); that doesn’t mean that it’s still not a position of need. This team can use talent at depth at every position and with the aforementioned Staley - while still as solid as ever - on the decline of his career, it would be smart for John Lynch took take a good, hard, look at prospects that may be available come April.

As always, please let us know your thoughts on these rankings in the comments below!

1. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama Height: 6’5” Weight: 296 lbs Round Projection: 1

It goes as no surprise that Alabama is able to churn out talent year in and year out. Some knock Jonah Williams for not refining his game with another year in college - others, though, see the obvious merits in trying to cash in on a payday as soon as possible. Williams has everything you’d want in a lead tackle at the next level: appropriate size, strength, quickness, and a suitable knowledge of the game that should ensure his ability to maintain a solid career.

Williams will need to add some more lower body strength to hold up against defenders but he possesses good length and moves very well laterally. Luckily he has the frame to add more bulk - as soon as he does he will be the anchor to a team’s offensive line. Expect him to be chosen somewhere near the middle of round one.

2. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss Height: 6’6” Weight: 325 lbs Round Projection: 1

It is so incredibly difficult trying to avoid any sort of size-related puns when it comes to Greg Little’s last name (get it? He’s, like, big and stuff. Not little. Little is his last name, though. Not Big. Greg Big doesn’t sound as good).

Little has the length, height, and mobility to play left tackle at the next level, and has progressed from being a raw prospect into a more developed technician. Impossible to beat with a bull rush, he has continued to develop his hand and leg work to be more effective against speed. He would be well suited to sit behind a seasoned vet for a year or two while he leans the ropes. At the end of the day, though, Greg Little’s game is not so little. He plays rather large. Okay. I’m done. Moving on.

3. Cody Ford, OT/OG, Oklahoma Height: 6’4” Weight: 338 lbs Round Projection: 1-2

Cody Ford played tackle in college but may be projected by some as a guard at the next level. He is able to get a powerful thrust off of the snap and is difficult - if not impossible - for most defenders to move without extra help. Ford also moves extremely well for his size and is quite honestly an underrated athlete overall.

Ford is also able to get to the next level in the run game when asked to do so, providing additional blocking down the field for running backs, scrambling quarterbacks, and receivers running off a screen. Like most offensive linemen in a wide open spread offense in college, there has to be a lot of caution in associating success of the offense with the offensive line play as he will need to modify technique significantly at the next level. He projects somewhere in the latter portions of round one or the early stages of round two.

4. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State Height: 6’5” Weight: 305 lbs Round Projection: 2

Here is someone who has the prototypical athletic skillset as a pass protecting offensive tackle. Andre Dillard moves very well laterally and has a nice pop right from the snap to get into position, even against the speediest edge rushers. He moves his hands quickly into position, and doesn’t over commit.

Dillard played in a wide open air raid offense in college so NFL teams have a little bit apprehension about the amount of learning curve these offensive linemen have in acclimating to the next level. As much talk about how much the game is changing, it isn’t all that much from the offensive line point of view, and he will need to rework his technique (especially as a run blocker), but he still projects well and can eventually make strides as a starter if given the opportunity to grow.

5. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida Height: 6’5” Weight: 340 lbs Round Projection: 2-4

Jawaan Taylor has excellent height and a strong build but appears to not have the ideal arm length of a tackle. He could very possibly be seen as a guard at the next level. Even though he doesn’t possess the wingspan that NFL scouts look for, he does an excellent job of mirroring defenders and gets a powerful first hand punch, and sustains blocks. Taylor also has very good balance and bend and does enough to get the job done on the line.

If he wants to find any sort of consistent success in the NFL he will need to work on footwork and positioning when blocking in space. Taylor’s technique has continued to improve as time has gone on so it will be interesting to see how he is viewed in terms of position during the draft process. Since he’s a bit of a project with some upside he could go anywhere between rounds two and four.