NFP Prospect Focus: Ron Stanley
A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a well-known draft analyst. He asked me if I thought Ronnie Stanley, a redshirt sophomore left tackle at Notre Dame, was going to enter the draft. To be totally honest, I was taken totally off guard that he would even ask. Ronnie Stanley was the last guy I would think should enter the NFL Draft.
Why? He’s just not ready! I follow the Notre Dame program very closely and there are people around the program I know very well. Because of that I feel I know the Notre Dame players as well if not better than any scout. That includes Ron Stanley.
Stanley is a third-year sophomore and a two-year starter for Notre Dame. He was a highly recruited four-star prospect coming out of high school and received offers from many of the top programs in the country.
As a freshman at Notre Dame, he red-shirted, as the Irish had a veteran offensive line. In 2013, he started at right tackle, and this past season, he was moved to left tackle after Zack Martin was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
When you look at Stanley on “the hoof”, he looks like a prototypical NFL left tackle. He is tall, with very long arms and a good natural frame. He is listed as being 6060 – 315, and in person, he looks all of that. While he has an excellent natural frame, he is very raw when it comes to physical development. Because of some injuries, he hasn’t yet had a complete off-season weight lifting program. He lacks NFL-quality upper and lower body strength. He is at least a year away from being physically ready to play in the NFL.
Athletically, Stanley can compare to anyone in the NFL. He has very good movement skills, is light on his feet, plays with bend, has quick feet and can change direction. He comes off the ball quickly and, usually, is able to keep good positioning on opponents, but there are times in space where he will take bad angles to a block. While Stanley has good natural snap on contact, he lacks the power to consistently get movement and finish blocks. Because of his lack of top strength and power, he is more of a finesse player than a power player. That should change as he gets stronger.
In pass protection, he can set quickly and has the lateral agility to stop wide speed. He is a natural knee bender who generally stays in a good football position. While he has the athleticism to slide and recover very well, he lacks top anticipation and can struggle at times versus counter moves.
Stanley’s hand use is adequate, but like the rest of his game, it needs improvement. He has quick hands and a fairly good punch, but he doesn’t consistently keep his hands inside.
I’ve been told that there are some teams that like Stanley because of what he CAN be not what he is now. My experience tells me that is a poor way to draft. Stanley still has two years of eligibility left and is not physically or emotionally ready to make the jump to the NFL. While naturally talented, he hasn’t yet developed the work habits needed to sustain a career in the NFL.
Last year, Auburn’s Greg Robinson was a third-year sophomore who entered the draft. He was drafted second overall but the Rams, but if they had to do it over I’m not so sure they would make the same decision. Robinson was way more physically mature than Stanley. He has more size strength and athleticism. As a rookie, Robinson has struggled. The Auburn offense is not very sophisticated when compared to an NFL offense. Robinson has had trouble with the mental part of the game. Early in the season, Robinson wasn’t even dressing for games and it wasn’t until injuries decimated the Rams line that Robinson was put in the lineup. He is also playing guard, not the tackle position he was drafted to play.
If Stanley were to enter the draft, his struggles would be far greater than Robinson’s. While yes, there could be some teams that would take the chance of drafting Stanley in the first round, that doesn’t mean he will be successful. He will struggle, and because of those struggles, he may not make it to a second contract. To play in the NFL, you have to be both physically and emotionally prepared. Stanley isn’t. If he wants a successful NFL career, he needs to stay in school at least another year.
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