After having no players selected in last season’s NFL Draft, four Texas Tech football players could hear their names called in Chicago at the end of this month. The only Red Raider certain to be drafted is offensive tackle Le’Raven Clark but assessing what type of pro he will be and where he will be drafted is proving to be difficult.
Le’Raven Clark is going to be drafted in this month’s NFL Draft. But where he will be drafted could range from the end of round one all the way to round four.
This is because Clark played in Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense that is unlike anything the 6-foot-5 315-pound offensive tackle will be asked to play in at the next level. Thus, teams have to analyze Clark based on his physical measurements and his pre-draft workouts more than his collegiate game film.
Clark leaves Texas Tech as the most decorated offensive lineman in the Big 12 era. As a freshman in 2012, he was named a freshman All-American then he moved to left tackle where he started every game for the next three seasons earning 1st team all-Big 12 honors in 2014 and 2015.
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When it comes to physical build, Clark is right there with the best prospects in the draft. His most appealing physical trait is his 36 1/8 inch-long arms, measured as the longest of the tackles at the NFL combine.
He can use his massive wingspan to help offset his average lateral quickness by getting his hands on the defender quickly. However, scouts are uncertain about whether or not the rest of his game will immediately translate to the NFL.
In his four years at Texas Tech, the Red Raider offense threw the ball 2,487 times while rushing it only 1,640 times. So Clark dropped into pass protection on roughly 60% of his collegiate plays.
While 12 teams in the NFL threw the ball on at least 60% of its plays in 2015, teams will always want offensive linemen that can dominate in the run game. That is where the questions about Clark arise.
"According to CBSSports.com CBSSports.com , Clark “Lacks the power as a drive blocker scouts would prefer. He needs to do a better job gaining proper angles as a run blocker…”"
Others critique the fact that he spent his entire collegiate career playing out of a two-point stance which he will not do much of in the NFL. As a result, Clark has developed the tendency of playing with a center of gravity that is too high to be an effective run blocker against elite defensive linemen.
Some experts are predicting that Clark’s future could be at guard but that is hard to imagine given Clark’s height. Some elite guards in the NFL are as tall as Clark but most have spent the majority of their career at guard and are accustomed to playing at a lower pad level.
Le’Raven Clark did not play one game at guard in college so it is hard to see him making an immediate transition to the position at the highest level of football. This could hurt his draft stock because due to the limited number of players on NFL game day rosters, teams covet players that are versatile to play multiple positions in case of injury.
Clark will also need to vastly improve his upper-body strength. At the NFL combine, he bench-pressed 225-pounds only 18 times. (The top offensive lineman’s performance in the bench press was 35 reps.)
Due to his relative lack of upper body strength, Clark allows pass rushers to get to his body before using his strong legs and wide base to engulf the rusher almost absorbing defenders like a firm mattress. Powerful NFL pass rushers will be strong enough to bull-rush Clark into the backfield so he must become stronger to keep the defenders off balance using the punch technique.
Still, Clark is considered a top-10 offensive line prospect. While he is far from perfect, many think that the flaws in his current game can be corrected with good coaching.
In the video below, Sports Illustrated rates Le’Raven Clark as the No. 44 prospect in the NFL Draft.
"CBSSports.com says, “[Clark] Has the wide base, moldable frame and lower body flexibility required to start in the NFL, showing terrific knee bend and weight transfer in his kick-slide.”"
NFL.com quotes an NFC executive that says Clark, “is going to end up being big time in our league. He’s got elite foot quickness, he’s long and he’s smart. He’ll keep getting better once he gets to a pro offense and away from that stuff Texas Tech does and he’ll become one of the top five tackles in our league.”
Furthermore, the website’s Lance Zierlein speak highly of Le’Raven Clark.
"“Clark is an ascending left tackle prospect with the elite foot quickness and length that NFL teams simply don’t pass up for very long.” he says. “Left tackles with his potential in pass protection carry first round value and Clark has a Pro Bowl upside with the floor of an average NFL starter.”"
So when in the draft should fans expect to hear Clark’s name called? The fact that he plays a premium position is a plus.
Teams are always looking to stock up on offensive linemen and Clark can certainly help reinforce a struggling NFL line. Expect to see Le’Raven Clark drafted as early as the middle of round two and no later than the top of round four. That is a wide range so I will go out on a limb and predict that he goes between picks number 55 and 75 which would be the end of round two or the top of round three.
Keep checking in with Wreck ‘em Red for all the latest on Texas Tech players in the NFL.