There’s no question that this will be easier once the 2019 NFL Draft is over and we know where each player gets drafted. It’ll obviously give us a better idea of how a player fits for a team and where they might play on offense or defense. Right now, though, it’s the season of smokescreens and the ultimate guessing game.
But it’s so much fun.
If you’re an avid fan of mock drafts for the NFL Draft, then you’ve come across the name Chris Lindstrom in 2019. Right now, the offensive guard from Boston College is considered a fringe first-rounder on my board, but the more I play around with mock drafts and try to figure out where he might land, I can’t help but think of one match made in heaven.
That match is with the Green Bay Packers. Just think about it, and when I say that, really think about it. Starting with the Packers’ offensive line now, they have some serious instability on the interior of their offensive line. In the middle, it starts with Corey Linsley at center. Could they look to replace the five-year veteran? Sure, but they probably won’t, and he’s under contract for two more years.
This moves us to their left guard and right guard spots. At left guard, Lane Taylor is the projected starter, if healthy. Unfortunately, he was banged up for most of the 2018 season and is entering the second season of his three-year contract extension. Altogether, he should be back and in the starting lineup for the 2019 season. This leaves the right guard position that will be a competition between Justin McCray (64.6 overall grade, per PFF) and Lucas Patrick (47.2 overall grade). Both have been decent but nothing special, and that’s what this exercise is about — finding them something special.
In a perfect world, Cody Ford or Dalton Risner would be on the board for the Packers at the 30th pick. Unfortunately, I think both of them will hear their names called before then. Does this necessarily mean the Packers have to take an offensive lineman with their pick? Absolutely not. After all, they do have 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft and have other needs, including edge rusher and tight end.
If they were to consider an offensive lineman, how does Chris Lindstrom fit the Green Bay Packers? The 6’4″ and 308-pound offensive lineman operates well in space and has shown the ability to win with reach blocks, pulling down the line of scrimmage, and putting defenders in the dirt or simply winning with a base block. Let’s dive into some film and see why he has earned Associated Press third-team All-American and first-team All-ACC accolades. More importantly, let’s define him as an NFL Draft pick and how he’d make sense for the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers allowed 53 sacks on the season (third-worst in the NFL), and Aaron Rodgers took 49 of them. Finding ways to get him help up front is important and should be a priority in free agency and the draft. If they don’t, it could be another long season for Rodgers and the Packers.
It’s one play, I know, but it’s commonplace for Chris Lindstrom to make pass blocking look easy. On the play above, he has a smooth base and does a nice job anchoring. In the process, you can see a good hand battle from him and the ability to reset his hands inside after the initial punch. During the entire rep, he has nothing but control and looks like a smooth operator when protecting his quarterback.
Something I noticed a ton when watching the Packers is how much they reach blocked. It seemed like every running play was reach block after reach block. I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day — just living the same day over and over again.
The play above is one of the better runs from one of my favorite running backs from the 2017 NFL Draft. Jamaal Williams gets the handoff with reach blocks developing in front of him. He has the chance as a runner to bend, bang, or bounce to the outside. He bends back inside and picks up plenty of additional yardage.
Having the ability to reach block is important, and it should be in the Packers’ offense. This could change with Matt LaFleur as the head coach, but he’s shown a tendency to have a zone running scheme in his offense.
For Chris Lindstrom, he’d be an obvious fit for the Packers with his ability to reach block. As you can see from the play above, he crosses the face of the defensive end that’s aligned in the 4i-technique. This is always a tough block for offensive linemen, and he makes it look easy by winning with low pad level, control, and torque. The right tackle chips off and can’t get to the linebacker, but overall, Lindstrom does what is asked of him, which is also common in the Packers’ offense.
Attack the Second Level
Attacking the second level and sustaining blocks with good angles and control is incredibly important for offensive linemen. There are many combo blocks that occur at the line of scrimmage, and then an interior offensive lineman chips off and has to get to the second level quickly and efficiently.
There were plenty of runs for the Packers last season that had just that happen. As you can see above, both guards combo block and then attack the second level. Starting from the right side of the offensive line, the right guard and right tackle combo the defensive end (3-technique) in the B-gap. Once the right guard feels the help from the right tackle, he chips off and attacks the second level and hits the linebacker (#51).
On the left side of the offensive line, the left guard and the center combo block the defensive tackle (2i-technique) in the A-gap. Once the left guard feels the center take control of the block, he peels off and gets to the second level and attacks the linebacker (#43). Both combo blocks are sustained long enough to prevent the linebackers from coming downhill with ease and making the tackle.
Just like at Boston College, Chris Lindstrom will be able to do the same thing for the Packers. You can see how he immediately climbs to the second level and attacks the linebacker. You’d definitely want him to take a better angle and sustain contact with better control, but overall, you can live with this repetition. If he were to get drafted by the Packers, Lindstrom would certainly get better at this, especially with how many times they like to attack the second level.
Handling Loopers with Ease
We’ve all heard the saying, “keep your head on a swivel.” Playing on the offensive line and handling the variety of line stunts fits that saying, especially when you have to handle a looper. The looper is someone that’s “looping” inside or outside during a twist stunt.
It’s common for defenses to utilize their pass rushers off the edge and “loop” them inside. This creates a mismatch on interior offensive linemen that might not be fast enough to transition their weight from their post foot to their set foot or vice versa. As you can see with Chris Lindstrom, he has no issues with this. On the play above, he gives the defensive tackle a good punch but lets him go free toward the right tackle. In the process, he readdresses his attention on the defensive end that loops inside. He keeps his head on a swivel and handles the looper with ease.
Listed below is how he tested at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he certainly fits plenty of the thresholds for interior offensive linemen. He also provides versatility for the Packers. He’s a natural fit at right guard with 36 career starts at the position, but he’s also got 11 starts at right tackle.
After evaluating more of the tape for Chris Lindstrom, he’s going to be a top-35 player on my board. I love his athletic ability, and as you can tell from the film listed above, he carries his 300-plus pound frame very well but can do a variety of things as an interior offensive lineman, including keeping his pad level low and having his hands consistently pressed inside on the chest plate on defenders.
One of the biggest areas that he excels in is as a run blocker in zone blocking schemes. That will certainly help him if he were to be selected by the Packers with the 30th pick, or even the 44th pick. If he was available at 44, he’d be a great selection and would be a considered a steal on the second day of the draft.