NFL Prospect Focus: Tennessee offense

It seems like almost every year Tennessee has an offensive line prospect, and in most years, those players turn into decent NFL players. This year is no different. Tennessee has four seniors that start on the offensive line. Of the four, three should get drafted and should be gone by the end of the sixth round. Tackle Ja'Wuan James, guard Zach Fulton and center James Stone all have size, strength, and athleticism.

Ja'Wuan James – Tackle

James is a fourth year senior and has started every game of his college career. On the hoof, he looks the part at about 6’6 – 320 with long arms. He lines up at right tackle for the Vols and flashes top talent. My concern is he is an up-and-down player. Not only from game to game but also from play to play.

He plays form both a 2-point and 3-point stance. He has good snap reaction and good initial quickness. He can have a tendency to get tall, and I don’t see him as a natural bender, but there are times when he plays with good bend. As a run blocker, he shows he can get movement when blocking an opponent head up. He can get to the block quickly and shows he can run his feet on contact. The problem is, he doesn’t consistently run his feet. There are times when he stops his feet on contact and then restarts. When making down blocks or when trying to block at the second level, he shows inconsistencies. He doesn’t always take good angles and doesn’t always get to the block on time. He can get a little lazy in his play. I looked at three tapes from this year (Florida, Missouri and Alabama), and he was inconsistent in most phases of the game against Missouri and Florida but played well against Alabama. When on the move, he can be inconsistent. He doesn’t play with good speed and can have trouble adjusting on the move to hit a moving a target.

In pass protection, he sets with adequate quickness and shows a good punch. He generally does a good job with bull rushes and is fairly good with outside speed. He struggles with counter moves. In numerous plays, an opponent starts outside and comes back across James' face, and James lacks the recovery quicks to stop the charge. He has the physical traits to be able to slide and recover. I just don’t think he anticipates that well.

James can be an enigma. He looks like a top round talent, at times, and a free agent at other times. He has the talent to be a starting right tackle or guard in the NFL, but he is going to have to play more consistently to be trusted to get the job done. I would want my line coach to spend a lot of time with this player before deciding to draft him. At this time, I see him as a mid-round player but don’t be surprised if he goes higher.

James Stone – Center

Stone is a fourth-year senior and has been a starter since midway through his freshman year. He is listed at being 6’3 – 295 but looks a bit shorter and heavier. He has average arm length for the position. Tennessee usually plays from a spread formation, and the first thing you notice about Stone is he snaps the ball with his left hand. This isn’t a big deal, but the QB has to get used to the ball coming back with a reverse spin, and when playing form under center, the ball comes up on a slightly different angle.

Stone makes the line calls. I like his consistency. He has average size, but plays with strength, has bend and athleticism, and gets the job done. He has good initial quickness and shows he can snap and step. He gets his hands up quickly and on his opponent. In the run game, when he plays against a big head-up opponent, he shows he can lose some ground initially, but is able to recover and gain back some of that ground. He does get stalemated, at times. He doesn’t have great quickness, but he shows he can take good angles to get to linebackers. He will pull, on occasion, and while not fast, he can adjust on the move.

In pass protection, he was fairly consistent in all three games I viewed. He can set quickly. Has good feet and can slide and recover. He is alert to pick up blitzes and will help out when free. He plays with bend and usually does a good job against bull rushers, but he did get walked back a couple of times versus Alabama. He has good hand placement.

Stone has the tools to eventually start in the league, though, I see him as a backup early in his career. He was recruited as a guard, and if he is able to play two positions in the NFL, that will help his ability to dress on Sunday early in his career. I say that, because most clubs only dress seven offensive linemen on game day. He is a solid mid-to-late round pick.

Zach Fulton – Guard

Like Stone and James, Fulton is a fourth year senior and has been starting since midway through his freshman year. He lines up at right guard and has excellent size for the position. He is listed at being 6’5 – 322 and he looks all of that. He has good arm length to go along with a good frame. He plays with strength and power and may be the most consistent of the three Tennessee linemen.

He usually plays from a 3-point right-handed stance. He shows good initial quickness and can get to his blocks quickly and efficiently. He plays with bend and shows some explosion on contact. He is a good technician and runs his feet on contact. He shows the ability to generate movement with his run blocks, and he consistently looks to finish. He is consistent getting to the second level and is also consistent with his pulls. He has the athleticism to adjust on the move and make a productive block. He shows good hand placement with both run and pass blocks.

In pass protection, he can set with good quickness and has the feet to slide and recover and the bend to anchor. He has a good punch and shows good ability to mirror his opponent. He is patient and alert in pass protection and does a good job with stunts and blitzes. Overall, this is a solid player who will eventually start in the NFL. With his size, he may also be able to play right tackle. While his tape is good, how he tests out physically will determine where he gets drafted. He plays like a good athlete. If he tests out that way, it wouldn’t surprise me if he went late in the second round. His floor is probably somewhere in the third round.

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