NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
This draft process started so long ago that I thought it would never get here. Now that we are only about a month out I find myself wishing I had more time. I have watched a ton of players (193 by my count) but there are still so many more I want to watch and write about. Today’s report spawned from a conversation on Offensive Tackles and which ones are good fits for the Patriots. Jerald Hawkins was a name brought up with mixed reviews. I had watched Hawkins awhile back, so this gave me the excuse to review my notes and to go back and watch him one more time. Is he a good fit for the Patriots? You will have to read on to find out.
This is a position that potentially could get hurt by the Patriots not having a first round pick. Because of the nature of the position, Tackles get drafted early. I expect four or five of them to go in the first round and potentially another three or four taken before the Patriots even get on the clock. This is not ideal when many fans think getting an Offensive Tackle in the draft is priority #1. Jerald Hawkins is one of those Tackles that still might be available at pick #60, but is he worthy of being picked at that spot. Here are my thoughts on the player and where he should be taken.
From a size perspective, Hawkins seems like a good fit for the Patriots. He is tall with long arms and an athletic build. Hawkins shows good quickness at the snap and shows good footwork overall. He is smooth in his shuffle when in pass protection, mirrors his defender well and uses his long arms to his advantage. Hawkins shows the movement skills to get to the second level when run blocking. He does a nice job of absorbing a defenders initial attack and shows the ability to re-anchor. Hawkins shows good field awareness, keeping his head on a swivel and doing a nice job of combo blocking.
Hawkins has one clear negative as he heads into the NFL and that is strength. Too often he does not have enough power to maintain blocks. In the run game, he rarely shows the power to move defenders from their spot. This allows defenders to clog running lanes and shed off of Hawkins to make the play. Hawkins can get over his feet at times when getting to the 2nd level. This gets him off balance and ineffective as a blocker. From a technique standpoint, Hawkins needs to use his hands more efficiently and consistently.
Hawkins is intriguing. I think another year in college would have been good for him, but if a team is patient enough to allow him to develop his strength, he has the natural tools to play Left Tackle in the NFL. The good news for Hawkins is that the footwork is there. He moves well enough to be effective as a pass blocker early in his career. He has work to do from a strength perspective to be effective as a run blocker. I think with a year to develop his strength and work on some of his technique, he will be ready to be a starter come year 2. If the Patriots do indeed like Hawkins, they will have to take him with one of their two second round picks, although I would feel more comfortable taking him in round 3.