Today, in our own backyard at Yankee Stadium, David Edwards, a massive offensive tackle prospect from Wisconsin, will be playing in the Pinstripe Bowl. The game is at 5:15 pm EST and is on ESPN.
Edwards is a towering 6’ 7”, 320 lbs behemoth with quality movement skills for a man his size and the power to make a difference in the run game. He is a red shirt junior who came to Wisconsin as a 240 lbs tight end and is still learning the techniques that will make him a force in the NFL. Edwards shows great power in the run game that will only get better once he learns better leverage and hand usage.
Every player at the collegiate level needs refinement to play at a NFL level of proficiency, Edwards more than most because of his inexperience at the position. The thing to look for in college players is the talent necessary to make the transition to the next level. Edwards has the size, length, tenacity, power and enough movement skills to project as a plus player at his position.
Edwards has experience playing against Big Ten players like Nick Bosa, Chase Winovich and Anthony Nelson and he has performed well against them. Let’s take a look at some video from a 2017 game against Ohio State. Edwards is playing right tackle #79.
On this play Wisconsin is pulling the backside tackle to clean out the hole in an off tackle run to the right. Edwards’ job on this play is to make a cursory chip of the DE to open the hole, then move quickly to give the running back a downfield block. Because the linebacker crashes the hole and the CB drops back into zone coverage Edwards’ responsibility is to block the CB, who is the defender closest to the play.
Edwards is simply not agile enough (no OT is) to block a much smaller and quicker player. The technique used on this play is to simply stay square to the defender and wait for the RB to come up behind you. The defender has to pick a direction (right or left) to get around the blocker. Once the CB chooses, Edwards is supposed to use the defenders’ own momentum to move him in the same direction and the RB should cut off the backside of Edwards and into open space. This never happens on the play because the backside tackle and guard get tangled and miss their blocks. Nonetheless Edwards moves easily to the second level, breaks down nicely under control and is ready to make a block on the CB.
On this next play Edwards has to explode off the snap, get to the next level and cut off a pursuing ILB. This is a tough block, as the ILB is positioned to the inside of Edwards at the outset. The ILB is flowing to his right and his job is to protect against a cut back by the RB to his left.
Edwards does a good job of reaching the smaller, quicker player and using his strength to force him away from the expected hole and into oblivion. This play is designed for the RB to eventually cut back to his right, but penetration by the Ohio State defense destroys that option. Nonetheless, Edwards did his job on this play.
This next play is a play action pass that is blown up by a missed block by the center and a QB who can’t hit a wide open man because of pressure.
There are four things to notice on this play: 1) Edwards does a nice job of pushing his man outside and mirroring him so he is far away from his QB. 2) You can see how Edwards uses his length well and gains great position by getting his hands inside the DE, controlling him with ease. 3) Edwards does all this while starting from a three point stance which makes it more difficult. Wisconsin tackles use three point stances often, but Edwards will rarely use a three point stance in the NFL outside of short yardage and goal line plays. 4) The Ohio State player, #11 Jalyn Holmes, is 6’ 5” and 270 lbs, and he looks considerably smaller than Edwards.
The next clip is two consecutive plays using two different blocking schemes. Edwards is in a three point stance on each play.
The first play is a zone blocking scheme and Edwards is keeping his man controlled while allowing the RB to choose which hole he wishes to cut into. Edwards does a nice job of getting to his man and getting great position on him, keeping himself between the defender and the RB.
The second play Edwards allows his man to take himself out of the play by directing him up field while the RB is picking a hole in the center of the line. Edwards projects best in a power or gap blocking scheme, but these plays show he has enough mobility to hold his own in a zone blocking scheme as well.
The last clip shows Edwards in two pass sets. Early in Edwards’ pro career pass sets should be his biggest test as an offensive tackle.
In the first play the defender tries to power his way by Edwards while trying to slap his arms away in an effort to gain the edge; he was unsuccessful. The second is an attempt to feign an outside rush then quickly spin move himself free on the inside; again unsuccessful.
Edwards is a player who has played very well but has been under the radar as a prospect in the shadow of Jonah Williams and Dalton Risner. Edwards projects best as a right tackle prospect, but if he works on his footwork he might be able to transition over to the left side.
Edwards needs work on technique, but more of an adjustment than an overhaul. He needs better leverage in run blocking and he needs better balance especially on reach blocks. His massive size will likely prevent him from ever being great in space, but he can use that size effectively in space if he works on angles and avoiding false steps. Edwards will need a much better slide step and his hand usage is hit or miss at times. These are things that can be improved by a good offensive line coach plus the desire to get better.
It will be interesting to see Edwards at the NFL Combine to see how he matches up athletically with other tackle prospects. I currently have a mid second round grade on Edwards but that may change as I continue to assess his tape. Edwards has the right type of frame (long arms, massive body with plus strength) to develop into an above average player and a force on any offensive line. The key is whether he will put in the hard work necessary to maximize his talents. Today at the Pinstripe Bowl you can have a front row seat to judge for yourself.