Draft Daily: Ronnie Stanley Would Address A Need
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. We’ve already covered Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Vernon Hargreaves, Paxton Lynch, Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa. If you have a player you think should be covered, shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
THE BACK STORY
After years of neglect by Chip Kelly, Howie Roseman and the Eagles made fixing the offensive line a clear priority this offseason. They signed Brandon Brooks to start at right guard, extended Lane Johnson to presumably be their future left tackle and brought in Stefen Wisniewski to — at worst — provide depth at guard and center.
Still, the Eagles face uncertainty along the line. It’s unclear if they have a starting caliber left guard on the roster, and with questions about how much Jason Peters has left in the tank, they’ll likely need another offensive tackle in the next year or two. That’s where Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley comes in.
Similar to Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Stanley could both be the best player available and fit a need. In our consensus prospect rankings, Stanley is slotted at No. 7, with all five draft boards including him in the top-10. Although Stanley most recently played left tackle in South Bend, he played right tackle for a season and said at the NFL Combine that he’s equally comfortable on both sides. He was also a consensus All-American in 2015, but it’s unclear how well he’d fit at guard if he needed to play the position as a rookie.
Red flags were raised a couple of weeks before the NFL Combine when team executives told the media that they questioned his work ethic. Stanley met reporters not long after that in Indianapolis, and he was asked whether there were any questions he needed to answer for scouts.
“Yeah, my passion for football. I feel like a lot of people don’t know the impact football has on my life before college and the role it played,” he said. “I think there’s a big — I don’t know — aura of people thinking I’m lackadaisical, I guess. I don’t know, but I’m just really trying to show people how much football means to me and how much I do care about it.”
It’s unclear how effectively he addressed those concerns, but he’ll almost certainly be a prospect of interest for the Eagles if he’s available at the eighth pick.
Stanley didn’t test very well at the NFL Combine, but teams don’t seem too concerned about his measurables.
The Ravens’ Director of College Scouting, Joe Horitz, was asked to evaluate Stanley’s game yesterday.
“When you watch the film on him, he’s big, he’s long, he’s athletic,” Horitz said. “He’s an easy mover. He’s really developed over his career. He’s done a good job of it. He toyed with the idea of coming out last year, and I think coming back [to Notre Dame] really helped him just hone his game up, in terms of fundamentals, play strength. You can see the improvement with how he played last year versus this year. Athletically, he is certainly talented enough to play left tackle. He’s a competitive kid. He does a good job of working with his fellow linemen on blocks. Certainly, I think he’s capable to challenge right away and to step in.”
Breaking down offensive line play — at least for me — is challenging enough even when you can talk to the players and coaches about their assignments, technique on a play and their execution. But when I don’t have the All-22 film or the access to better understand what I’m seeing on tape, that’s when I turn to the experts.
Fran Duffy, a former football video coordinator at Temple and current X’s-and-O’s guru over on the Eagles’ website, had a good breakdown of a couple of Stanley’s plays. Duffy first explained why he was impressed with Stanley’s pass block on Notre Dame’s game-winning touchdown against Temple.
“Watch the feet here from Ronnie Stanley, because he’s got the ability to protect the edge,” Duffy said. “You’re going to see him here against this Temple pass rush — he’s got calm feet, light feet for a big man. You’d like to see the feet be a little bit wider here, play with a little bit better base, but he’s got the ability to protect the edge. He uses his length really well to protect the quarterback.”
Duffy then addressed Stanley’s second-level block on a run play.
“He’s going to climb up to the second level and erase the backside linebacker — that’s Tyler Matakevich, one of the best players in college football,” Duffy said. “Watch the athletic ability from Ronnie Stanley to get up into space, find a moving target and latch on. [He] completely erases Tyler Matakevich from the action [and] gives C.J. Prosise the ability to get out on the perimeter, get into space and make a play.
“Ronnie Stanley is one of the most impressive physical specimens in this offensive line group. [He] has a little bit of refinement that he needs to go through at the next level, but, surely, an impressive prospect.”
Stephen White, a former NFL defensive lineman who was the Eagles’ sixth-round draft pick in 1996 and played seven seasons for the Buccaneers and Jets, also recently wrote a SB Nation story about why Stanley may be better than Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil, the top tackle and overall prospect in the draft.
“With Stanley, not only did I actually get to see him out on an island blocking edge rushers one-on-one in every game, I also saw him lock those guys down game after game after game,” White wrote. “He faced speed rushers, power rushers, little rushers, big rushers or some combination of those attributes and the results were almost always the same: little to no pressure.
“What makes Stanley so effective is the fact that his arms are almost 36 inches long. He also has really good, quick feet to go with them. His punch isn’t necessarily all that powerful, but it is damned effective for two reasons: First, his arms are so long that they usually get to a pass rusher’s chest quicker than they’re used to; and, second, once he gets his hands on a guy and fully extends his arms, it’s hard for the rusher to be able to reach out and get ’em off because their arms are likely much shorter.”
The whole thing is worth a read, but White also compared Stanley’s pass set to Ravens Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden’s. White then discussed Stanley’s matchup against Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson, who is projected to be a mid-first round pick, and how Lawson caught Stanley slipping a few times, mostly on counter moves.
Here’s one example when Lawson beat Stanley (on the top of the screen), prompting Stanley to literally tackle the defensive end.
The typical critique of Stanley is that he isn’t very powerful, he’s not a road grader and he doesn’t have an obvious competitive edge. White, however, doesn’t seem to care much about those things.
“If it came down to Stanley or Tunsil first overall, I wouldn’t give a damn about 40 times or bench press or any of that shit,” White wrote. “I’d take Stanley seven days a week and twice on Sunday because I’m reasonably sure from watching his film that, barring injury, he is going to be able to lock down edge rushers for the next decade or so.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Similar to Hargreaves, Stanley seems like a solid pick who doesn’t appear to have much bust potential, while at the same time lacking the ceiling that the higher rated prospects have. The Eagles need to find another good offensive tackle soon to pair with Johnson after Peters is done, and Stanley seems to fit that bill.