We're a little over a week into the free agency period, and the Detroit Lions have yet to address their need(s) on the offensive line. Yes, there is still plenty of time, but unless general manager Martin Mayhew works his magic to free up some cap room, the Lions may be forced to upgrade through the draft.
Previously, we took a closer look at offensive tackles T.J. Clemmings and Ereck Flowers. Both players remain solid first-round options for the Lions, but there is one name that has recently surged into the first-round discussion on virtually everyone's draft board.
Going into the combine, Florida OT D.J. Humphries had a lot to prove. Humphries weighed as low as 282 pounds while playing left tackle in his final year with the Gators. He arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL Combine with an added 25 pounds to his frame, listed at 307 pounds. Even with the extra 25 pounds, Humphries posted some impressive numbers during drills. His agility scores were top notch, and his 40-yard dash was tied for the fourth-highest among all OT prospects.
Here's what Humphries had to say about his skill set and what sets him apart (via NFLDraftBible.com):
"I think my fluid athletic ability sets me apart from other guys. There's a lot of guys that are very athletic just like I am but I think I'm very fluid in how athletic I am. I think my pass-protecting skills is kind of my main thing that's going to make me stick out. How quick I can get to the second level and get on linebackers and get to safeties."
He pretty much hits the nail on the head on why teams are beginning to value him as a first-round draft pick. Humphries has great foot quickness and very good knee bend. He's considered one of the top tackles in this draft and excels as a pass protector.
Humphries is a spectacular athlete and has the foot quickness and lateral agility that scouts love to see. He does a phenomenal job of mirroring his opponents' moves and is extremely quick out of his stance, with the ability to kick out and stuff speed rushers.
The edge rusher gets a great jump off the snap and does a nice job of dipping his shoulder around the edge, but he's no match for Humphries, who kicks out and wipes the defender out of the play. It's a close call, but not many prospects in this year's class would have been capable of cleaning this play up for their quarterback.
Here is a great example of Humphries using his feet to stay with his target and keep himself between the defender and the QB. He's working against Danielle Hunter, who is considered to be a possible Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft, and manages to stuff the spin move.
Humphries had a nice showing against LSU last year and went toe-to-toe with Hunter. He wasn't as lucky against Florida State's star-studded front seven.
For offensive linemen, hand placement is extremely important in regards to technique and sustaining blocks. Typically, you want your left hand on the left number (from your point of view) of the defender and your right hand on his right number while delivering a punch. If you hold a player with your hands on his numbers, it's legal. If you grab his outside shoulder, you're most likely going to get called for a penalty -- unless it's Ndamukong Suh you're holding, of course.
Here are just a couple of examples where Humphries is unable to get the right hand placement and gets pushed back or thrown to the side as a result. When you put the tape on and watch him closely, it becomes apparent that he's more of a slapper than a boxer.
In the first play, his left hand barely even grazes the defender and he loses immediately. In the next play, Humphries' left hand is too far outside, while his right hand gets the top of Mario Edwards' shoulder pad, causing him to get thrown to the side.
Humphries' hands are a mess, but it's something coaches can work with at the next level.
Average vs. the Run
Playing at 282 pounds is probably going to get you thrown around at times, so I'm not too upset when I see Humphries struggling versus the run. However, I would like to see him try to keep his feet underneath him and use them as leverage instead of always trying to wrestle with his upper body.
Despite playing as an undersized left tackle, he still displayed a nasty attitude in the trenches and never backed down from any fight.
One last concern with Humphries will be his history of leg injuries, which caused him to miss seven games over the past two seasons at Florida. It doesn't seem to be too serious for him, but teams will be taking a good look at his medical evaluations, nonetheless.
How He Fits
D.J. Humphries is getting a ton of love from NFL scouts, and his combine performance only cemented his value as a first- or second-round pick. I've heard from several O-line experts that he should go anywhere between the 15th and 25th overall pick. For those who believe the Lions are better suited by moving left tackle Riley Reiff inside, Humphries is a true LT prospect with a ton of upside.
Like every other OT prospect in this class, Humphries is not perfect and will need some time to develop. His hands need a lot of work, but it can be an easy fix with the right coaching. His combination of superb athleticism, foot quickness and lateral agility is what will draw teams in and make him one of the top tackles off the board.
2015 NFL Draft profiles: OT T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh), RB Duke Johnson (Miami [FL]), CB Eric Rowe (Utah), DT Michael Bennett (Ohio State), CB Quinten Rollins (Miami [OH]), DT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), OT Ereck Flowers (Miami [FL]), DT Malcom Brown (Texas), RB Jay Ajayi (Boise State), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA), DT Carl Davis (Iowa)
Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any suggestions of prospects you would like to be profiled in the comments below.