Earlier this month, I took a look at the most technically sound offensive tackle for the 2019 NFL Draft, Jonah Williams. There’s plenty of potential with Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia and Greg Little from Ole Miss to put themselves in position behind Jonah Williams for the offensive tackle rankings.
Another name that will be considered is Max Scharping from Northern Illinois. The redshirt senior has been discussed as one of the best offensive tackles for the senior class and he could make a push up draft boards by the time we get to the 2019 NFL Draft. However, I want us to ease the brakes on the prospect. He’s not awful but he’s not great. There’s some consistencies that teams will love but the inconsistencies might make teams squeamish.
Coming out of Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Scharping was a two-star recruit. According to 24/7 Sports he had received five college offers. They ranged from Northern Colorado to Western Michigan. Staying somewhat close to home might have weighed on his decision to choose Northern Illinois as it’s just under a four-hour drive from his hometown of Green Bay to Northern Illinois University.
There can be a million reasons to why a prospect chooses a college but there’s also plenty of reasons to why draft evaluators either like or dislike a prospect. When you watch Max Scharping, you can see that he has plenty of tools to work with. However, you can tell that his tools at offensive tackle need some resharpening. Here’s what I found after some film:
Footwork Needs Improving
One of the very first things that stood out on tape was the footwork of Max Scharping. There were often times that his feet were crossing during his kick-slide and he looked uncomfortable within his kick-slide. Look no further than the clip below:
Despite the quarterback going with the half-roll to his right and this pass protection rep being relatively good, there’s plenty wrong with Scharping’s footwork. As you can tell, his set foot (outside foot) and his post foot (inside foot) have a tendency to touch. In the process of opening up towards the EDGE rusher, you’ll notice his feet actually cross.
Meanwhile, Scharping’s kick-slide is more of a gallop than a slide. When dealing with more prominent speed rushers at the next level, Scharping could have a difficult time containing those types of EDGE rushers.
Addressing the First Step within the Kick-Slide
Not every offensive tackle has a smooth kick-slide. Sometimes the set foot (outside foot) gets stuck in the mud and other times, they just don’t have the lower body quickness to match the speed of the EDGE rusher. Last year, we were spoiled with the dominance of Quenton Nelson at guard and Mike McGlinchey at offensive tackle.
This year, we get Jonah Williams at offensive tackle who is clean and Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia is relatively consistent. As for Max Scharping, I’ve notice the lack of consistency within his kick-slide. As we talked about the footwork above, we jump back into it again. This time, I want to talk about his initial step within that kick-slide.
The play above is a perfect example of Scharping struggling with the first step in pass protection. Once the ball is snapped, it looks like he falls forward onto his toes and this could be because of an expectation of a more aggressive pass rush from the EDGE rusher. These false steps is what forces him to open his hips toward the sideline and gallop like Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby.
Once he opens up toward the sideline, you’ll notice how he loses the edge right away and has to chase. But the quarterback didn’t get sacked so what’s the problem? If an offensive tackle opens his hips towards the sideline on a consistent basis, he’s going to get beat in the NFL on a consistent basis.
Here’s what a good kick-slide should look like. On the play above, Mike McGlinchey (RT #69) for the San Francisco 49ers has to cover so much ground and stop Clay Matthews (LB #52). From the very beginning, you can see that McGlinchey never crosses his feet. His post foot and set foot don’t cross and he’s consistently sliding his set foot. Once he gets to the proper depth and knows that he’s prevented Matthews from running the arc, he then opens his hips toward the sideline, anchors and prevents Matthews from creating any type of pressure.
Concerns Against Power
We all know that offensive lineman will deal with some strong and powerful defensive lineman. Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt have the rare blend of power and speed. However, Dontari Poe and Damon Harrison have plenty of power behind their 345-plus pound frame. Those are just some examples of the type of defensive lineman that are dealt with on Sunday.
For Max Scharping, he’s had his issues against power and it could translate to the next level. It’s a rarity for him to bury the opposition in the dirt. He battles with his hands but as you can see, there are some concerns with his lower body strength. This is concerning for an offensive lineman that is listed at 6’6 and 311 pounds but there’s been speculation that he’s only 6’3 and if that’s the case, moving him to guard is a real possibility. Seeing less speed and more powerful defensive lineman, doesn’t bode well for him.
As you can see above, Scharping creates some separation but his ability to not anchor is concerning. His pad level is far too high and the defensive tackle just bullrushes his way into the pocket. Clearly, the quarterback isn’t sacked but it’s alarming to watch Scharping lose so much ground, so fast. If he doesn’t get stronger and can’t handle himself in these type of one-on-one situations, it’s going to be tough for him at the next level.
Scharping Wins with Hand Placement
As you watch offensive lineman, you’ll always want to look at their hand placement. If it’s consistently too high or outside, there will be issues moving forward. The motto should be “hands inside and you win every time.”
Even though, we’ve talked about resharpening some of the tools for Max Scharping, it’s not all bad with the redshirt senior. For the most part, Scharping has consistent hand placement. His hands lock inside and he’s able to control the pass rusher.
On the play above, you can see Scharping do a good job with hand placement and ultimately, wins this one-on-one battle. His kick-slide still has a gallop to it but his hand placement on the chest plate allows him to control the pass rusher. Once there’s the no where else to go on the outside, the pass rusher attempts to go back inside. Scharping resets and prevents any pressure outside or inside on the quarterback.
Good Angles When Attacking the Second Level
Operating in space can be pivotal on an offensive lineman’s draft grade. It’s always nice when a player can handle himself in a phone booth but with the game getting faster, offensive lineman have to operate in space. From pulling into the open field or attacking linebackers at the second level, the process has to be relatively smooth for the offensive lineman.
For the sake of Max Scharping, he does a good job attacking the second level and sealing a linebacker. On the play above, he takes a great angle towards the linebacker and seals him off. By having efficient blocking downfield, we all know what happens. It creates more opportunities for ball carriers and more big play potential. Scharping has the ability to attack the second level and wall off defenders in the process.This will be an area that scouts and evaluators will view as a positive for the offensive tackle.
What’s next for Max Scharping?
So far, Scharping has received an invitation to the 2019 Senior Bowl but there’s no confirmation on if he’s accepted the invite or not. It’s never a bad idea for a prospect to accept these invitations to these college all-star games. For his sake, it would be a good idea to accept the invite and put his talent on display. Especially, for the chance to show what you can do in one-on-one battles and the opportunity to put his versatility on display.
NIU tackle Max Scharping was one of the nation's finest when it came to pass-blocking pic.twitter.com/0n7DiEfXj9
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 26, 2018
It’s important to note that Scharping brings some versatility to the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s got experience at right tackle, right guard and left tackle. He also held a 3.9 GPA during the 2016 season and earned one of the Huskies’ top Scholar-Athletes. Even though it hasn’t been decided on whether he’ll be in Mobile for the Senior Bowl or not, it does seem like his draft stock could rest on what he does during that final week in January. Certainly, there’s a chance at the Scouting Combine and a Pro Day but that week at the Senior Bowl will be crucial for him if he accepts. What can be done to help him?
Moving Scharping back to right tackle should be considered for his development. He looks much more consistent from the right side compared to the left side. Teams that could consider his talent would be the New York Giants and Houston Texans who have had their obvious flaws on the offensive line. However, the feel good story would be to see him drafted by the Green Bay Packers. He’s a hometown kid and would make sense for their right tackle position. Bryan Bulaga will be 30-years old next season and has battled through injuries the last few years. Meanwhile, Jason Spriggs hasn’t had the most successful transition to the NFL.
There’s plenty to like with Scharping, even when he played against some of the Power-5 schools such as Florida State, Nebraska and Utah. His hand placement has been consistent and Northern Illinois loves to have him down block and then peel off to the second level. However, there’s still some flaws within his game. His lower body needs more work than anything else. From his footwork to his overall strength, it will have to be fixed before I feel confident for him to be starting. It’s quite obvious that there’s promise with Max Scharping but it’s evident that his tools need resharpening.