Nov 1, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Taylor Decker (68) against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Probably the biggest hole on the Detroit Lions roster is at offensive tackle. At left tackle, Riley Reiff is entrenched as the starter but only has one more year left on his contract. However at right tackle there are only question marks, LaAdrian Waddle is recovering from a partial ACL tear which could force the Lions to trust Cornelius Lucas, Michael Williams, or Corey Robinson at right tackle this year. Unless one of these players solidifies themselves as the starting right tackle the Lions will be shopping for a new one in the draft next year.
Taylor Decker could be that guy at the end of next season. He has played in all 41 of Ohio States games over the past three years and has been a fixture on the Buckeyes offensive line. His massive 6 foot 7 inch frame combined with his plus athleticism make him a prototypical left tackle. Decker also has the required character to be a Detroit Lion. The coaches at Ohio State constantly talk about how great of a teammate and all around human being he is. Per the teams official website:
"Decker is also a high-character individual and one of the most conscientious men on the squad … after hearing Decker speak one day following the terrible news surrounding a fallen teammate, one media member said Decker “handled himself with incredible poise with probably 50 media members crowded around him looking for answers about Kosta Karageorge, and he patiently addressed them all with thoughtful, insightful responses that were incredibly helpful in painting a clearer picture of a player hardly any of us knew in any way” … his leadership is also represented in the fact he is a three-time “Iron Buckeye” award winner, which is awarded to six players bi-annually for unquestioned physical training dedication, determination, discipline, toughness and leadership"
The play above shows off some of Deckers ability in pass protection. He is matched up against Shalique Calhoun who is a formidable pass rushing threat. Shalique gets a really good jump off the ball and Decker is forced to recover, he displays a beautiful footwork and immediately cuts off Calhoun’s angle towards the quarterback. He then uses his massive frame to his advantage to out leverage Calhoun and force him past the quarterback. He displays very good hand placement and completely seals Calhoun out of the play.
This is another play where Decker shows off his ability to protect the edge. This time he is facing Marcus Rush a quicker smaller edge rusher. Again he matches Rush’s burst right off the line swallows him up on the edge, Rush tries to wrap around a get to the inside but Decker maintains his body position and keeps Rush in front of him. He finishes the play and gives J.T. Barrett enough time to make a play in the pocket.
Taylor Decker is a very sound run blocker, he leverages the defender correctly and understands his assignment on each play. Above is an impressive play where first he helps double team a defender, once he and the guard knock this defender to the ground he engages with a defesensive back coming into support on the tackle. He makes two successful blocks in this play and displays some of his impressive athleticism. He can make an impact in the second level blocking and does a good job of locating defenders in space. He also is very effective at double teaming defenders to open up large holes in the middle, he was a part of some vicious combo blocks and showed some great chemistry with the rest of the offensive line.
This play displays Decker’s very good body positioning and understanding of leverage in the run game. He does a fantastic job of turning his assignment inside and forcing him out of the play. He controls his block and takes his assignment completely out of the play. He consistently leverages his assignment away from the play and uses his large frame to lock out defenders from the ball. He seems to swallow defenders in his frame when he gets his hands on them. He has strong powerful hands that he uses to his advantage. His first punch is impactful and stuns defenders when they make contact.
Overall, Taylor Decker is a very good offensive tackle prospect. He has the perfect frame and athleticism for the position. He has very good footwork and is a consistent force in the run game. He is a versatile blocker and can be utilized as a pulling lineman or blocking in the second level. One thing he needs to work on his pad level, he has a tendency to get out of his stance too high and can loose leverage battles because of it. He also has a tendency to be the last person off the ball, which can kill him against snap anticipators and players with a high level of burst. He should be a first-second round pick in the 2016 draft and would be able to step right in as the Lions starting right tackle before potentially taking over as the left tackle of the future.
Next: Josh Doctson