Saturday, March 29, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Ryan Clady

[With Free Agency all but over, it's time to take a look at who the Vikings might select in the first round with the #17 pick. Today, we're previewing Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt. Previously, I previewed Derrick Harvey, a defensive end from Florida, Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt, Malcolm Kelly, a wide receiver from Oklahoma and Phillip Merling, a defensive end from Clemson.]

The reason that Ryan Clady wasn't the first offensive lineman I previewed (as you may have noticed, I tend to do the players I like more first), was because I just don't see him still being available at #17. He's too good, with too few question marks to drop out of the top 15. But if he does, he'd be a great choice as the successor to the legally troubled Bryant McKinnie.

Clady left Boise State after his redshirt junior year and stands 6'6". He weighs 309 pounds, but has a frame that could easily support 20 more pounds without impacting his quickness. His career at Boise St. was ridiculously successful, as he earned All American honors as a junior (the first Boise St. player to do so since 1992) and his blocking grades were 82.23% and 85.77% his final two years, despite mainly playing defensive tackle in high school and during his redshirt year.

Then again, it's not surprising that Clady was able to dominate as a left tackle despite his inexperience. He's quick, has a long reach and plays aggressively, seeking out and destroying his blocking assignment (he had 224 career knockdowns). He is an outstanding pass blocker, able to lock down rushers that engage him and beat speed rushers to the edge. His footwork is impressive, he keeps his weight back, doesn't lunge and gets his arms locked.

His run blocking is also impressive, though not as much as his pass blocking. He's a good drive blocker, and explodes off the ball, but he has room to improve, as he doesn't always get low enough, something he was able to get away with in college, but that will get him driven back by the stronger linemen in the NFL. He isn't as strong as you'd like either, but that's something that he can improve upon once he gets into an NFL strength program.

There are two question marks with Clady and neither is too glaring. The first is his work ethic. While its hard to question the work ethic of someone who turned himself from a redshirt defensive tackle into an All American left tackle, there are some rumors about how motivated he is off the field. He isn't a slacker, but he'll need to be constantly monitored. If the coaching staff stays on him though, he'll put in all the work you'd expect. That'll help him fix the other question mark, which is his lower body strength. Clady has trouble stopping the bull rush, as he can be driven back into the pocket. He doesn't get knocked down, but stronger defensive linemen can force him back into the quarterback. Luckily, it isn't a technique issue, but a strength one, and should be fixable with enough time in the weight room.

Ryan Clady would be a great choice for the Vikings at #17, and would be able to step right in and contribute at either offensive tackle position. The problem is that he's too good of a prospect and isn't likely to still be on the board when the Vikings' pick. If he's still there though, the Vikings should jump on him, especially if Derrick Harvey's no longer available.

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