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Bama’s Jedrick Willis Poised To Star

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Former Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills has the potential to be the first offensive lineman off the board this April.

There are countless NFL draft unknowns at this time every year, but this offseason, one thing has become clear -- the 2020 class is deep at offensive line.

But not only is it deep, the position group is filled with elite offensive linemen that could make a tremendous immediate impact, especially for a team needing to shore up its protection in front of a young franchise quarterback.

One of those linemen is former Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills, who could potentially even be the first offensive lineman off the draft board this April.

As I’ve said many times, player comparisons during the draft process are often silly because it leads to ridiculous matches such as measuring Joe Burrow against Tom Brady. But it is often useful as well, especially at positions without many statistics for common fans to analyze.

NFL.com says Wills resembles long-time Eagles left tackle Jason Peters while SB Nation’s Stephen White made several comparisons, matching Wills to Jawaan Taylor, Ronnie Stanley and Greg Robinson.

“As a matter of fact, if Wills were just a little more consistent, I wouldn’t have had any problems making a Quenton Nelson comparison to him,” wrote White.

Even if he turns out to be an inconsistent Nelson, teams would love to grab Wills in the Top 10. All Nelson has done in two NFL seasons is make the All-Pro team twice. At 24 (he just celebrated his birthday on March 19), Nelson is arguably the best guard in the league.

Taylor didn’t participate in most of the drills at the 2019 NFL Combine, but standing at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, he’s of similar build to Wills. The former Alabama tackle weighs the same and stands just an inch shorter.

Although regarded as very talented, Taylor fell to the second round last year because he possessed some risk due to his weight and pre-snap penalties from college. Wills is a more highly-regarded prospect and doesn’t come with the same risk.

Starting all 13 games at right tackle, Wills helped Alabama finish first in the SEC with just 12 sacks allowed, and that was with a backup quarterback playing at the end of the season. Alabama also finished fourth in rushing yards per carry.

Wills performed well at the NFL combine as well. He finished sixth among offensive linemen with a 5.05 40-yard dash time and second in the high jump at 34.5 inches.

In the newest mock draft from Ryan Wilson at CBS Sports, Wills landed with the New York Giants at No. 4 overall as the first offensive lineman off the board. At SB Nation on Monday, Dan Kadar had him as the second offensive lineman taken at eighth overall to the Arizona Cardinals.

Trades are going to happen, but looking at the board as it stands heading into the draft, there are three teams in the top 10 that could potentially select a quarterback -- the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers. Six other teams in the top 10, the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Giants and Cardinals, either have stable quarterback situations or possess who they believe is their quarterback of the future.

The last remaining team is the Washington Redskins, who appear to be a true wild card at the moment with the team drafting Dwayne Haskins last year and potentially interested in another signal caller this year.

The Giants and Cardinals both drafted quarterbacks last year and badly need better pass protection. Cleveland’s offensive line was in dire straits last year too, and Jacksonville was average to below average upfront.

This breakdown appears to give Wills at least six solid chances, including four very good opportunities, of going in the top 10 even if he’s considered the third-best offensive linemen a month from now. Wills should be excited about this breakdown as well because it’s highly likely that he’ll be blocking for Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, or Gardner Minshew.

If all works out, Wills could block for one of those signal callers for the vast majority of his NFL career.