Maryland left tackle, Jaelyn Duncan is ranked as a 1st round prospect on multiple major draft boards. Other boards see him as only a middle round prospect. The majority of Rams fans on TST seem to want a guard or center for the Rams in the early round, not a left tackle. So, why did I decide to write a fanpost about Duncan? Because, I don't see him as a LT at all at the NFL level. In my view, there is a reasonable argument that Jaelyn Duncan might be the best offensive guard prospect in this draft class.
Duncan is ranked 27th by ESPN and 49th by the PFN industry consensus board. I'll arbitrarily add a full round (32 slots) to those grades just to reflect projecting him as a guard instead of a tackle, since guards are less valuable. That would make him 59th and 81st, for an average ranking of 70.
Compare that to some other top guard prospects mentioned on TST. Luke Wypler is ranked 66th and 95 on those boards, for an average of 80. Andrew Vorhees is 127th and 72nd for an average of 100. Jarrett Patterson is 105th and 89th, for an average of 97. So, even after making a considerable upward adjustment to Duncan's rankings, he still comes out ahead of those other guys, in some cases by nearly a full round.
If you remember the profile I did on the Florida guard, O'Cyrus Torrence, he's a huge guy who is best in a phone booth, but he's not very mobile or quick. He's suited for a power run team, but doesn't have good position or scheme flexibility. He's not a great fit for the Rams. On the other side of the spectrum, many zone scheme guards are athletic, but smaller in size and can struggle against power. Duncan in a sense is the best of both worlds. He once weighed 335 pounds in college and "slimmed down" to a playing weight of about 320, so he's a big guy. Unlike Torrence, Duncan has very good mobility and overall athleticism. Sports Illustrated said that Duncan's pure athleticism rivals that of any player in this year's draft. So, by moving Duncan inside to guard, you potentially could have a guy capable of playing at around 330 pounds, but who moved more like a player who weighed 310 pounds. That's a unique combination of both size and athleticism.
Before you get too excited, Duncan has considerable warts as a draft prospect. Some of his flaws at LT I don't care as much about, because they can be hidden if he's moved inside. Many of his other issues in terms of his technique and on field awareness are very concerning and I don't know if they can be fixed. The single biggest issue that scares me about Duncan is how his personality in interviews potentially hints at why he's still so raw as a player, despite so much starting experience at Maryland. Duncan has a very laid back, low key attitude, giving me very strong "Greg Robinson" vibes. That's not good.
Should the Rams run away screaming from this potential GRob version 2.0 or is Jaelyn Duncan exactly what the doctor ordered for the Rams OL, a versatile lineman who could play multiple spots, including interior and could eventually be the best guard in the 2023 draft?
Name: Jaelyn Duncan. Turns 23 years old in July. Redshirt senior.
School: Maryland. Studied family science.
Size: Per Sports Illustrated 6'5'' tall, 288 pounds (in spring), 9 1/8'' hands, 33 1/4'' arms, 79 7/8'' wing, 5.15 sec (40 time)
4 star recruit, one of the top recruits in Maryland's history. Didn't play football until high school (I don't understand why this is a big deal to the draft experts. Is it necessary to play pee wee football to make it to the NFL? It isn't like he didn't play at all in HS.)
Listed at 335 pounds in 2018, when he redshirted. Listed at 323 the following year, then 315 in 2020, then 320 in 2021 and 2022. Sports Illustrated said that in spring 2022 measurements, he was only 288 pounds.
Per NFLDB, he gave up 29 hurries and 7 sacks in 11 starts at LT in 2019. Coach praised his improvement in 2020 season. In 5 games in 2020, he gave up 6 hurries and 1 sack. He blocked for Jake Funk that year. Made 11 starts at LT in 2021, 7 hurries and 4 sacks. In 11 games in 2022 had 16 hurries and 7 sacks.
Missed a game in 2022 for personal reasons.
ESPN 27th overall, 5th tackle (1st rd)
CBSSports 72nd overall, 10th tackle (3rd rd)
PFF not ranked in top 100
Drafttek 83rd overall, 7th OT (3rd rd)
Draftcountdown 22nd consensus board, 18th overall Brian Bosarge, 26th overall Shane Hallam (1st rd)
PFN 49th overall, 5th OT (2nd rd)
NFLDB 115th overall (4th rd)
Sports Illustrated (prior to 2022 season): Can play 4 OL positions. Stellar mover, dominant power in massive frame. High pad level, raw hand usage, inconsistent angles. An early backup in the NFL with elite potential. Impressive change of direction for his size. Easy anchor. Strong grip. Limited length, oversets, wide and high punches. High pad level, inactive feet, allows edge rusher to get to corner. Whiffs on run blocks. 1st to 2nd round grade.
PFN(Ian Cummings): Extremely quick off snap. Excellent foot speed. Exceptional range as puller. Explosive athlete in short ranges. Impressive recovery athleticism. Good raw power, hips to generate torque, leg drive. Good depth on kick slide, wide base. Average length and grip strength, lurches to make up for lack of length. Plays too tall. Lack of progression in technique for an experienced starter is concerning. Hands too wide. Doesn't have independent hand usage, relies on two hand extension. Stops his feet at apex. Grabs when in trouble. A developmental tackle, might be better inside. Early Day 3 grade.
NFLDB: Mauler in run game. Good balance, bulk, prototypical build. Hands not violent enough. Doesn't move his feet, choppy footwork. Plays with poor balance. Lacks core strength, comes off snap too high, struggles to generate movement at the point of attack.
He has more technical issues that the profiles discuss in great detail, but it would take too long to list all of them. Let's just say he needs coaching and patience in both pass and run blocking. He's not a plug and play guy who can be counted on to help the Rams in 2023. He's a developmental project.
Explosive out of his stance. Good lateral range for zone blocking. Good quickness.
Really tall. Arms are short to play OT, but average for a guard.
Has uncommon ankle and hip flexibility for a player his size.
Can chip and climb to 2nd level fluidly and easily. Can pull and get out in front on screens. Agile at the 2nd level, good effective range. He can get to the necessary landmarks, it is just that his technique and angles are poor.
Able to move the DT on a combo block to create space. Can seal defenders on kick out blocks and use his massive frame to shield them off.
Athleticism allows him to partially save blocks where he's in big trouble, moves his feet in scramble mode when his anchor is compromised. Nearly did the splits on a play, but somehow saved it and stayed on his feet.
His hand and foot speed are fine, it is like he just doesn't know how to use them in a proper and coordinated manner.
Seemed to me to be a better player in 2022 compared to 2020. Still has substantial flaws, but I thought there was noticeable improvement.
Scheme versatile player who can play multiple positions.
If the lightbulb could ever turn on for him, Duncan's ceiling is very high.
There is no "nasty" in his game. Not a dog. He doesn't finish blocks, the defenders finish him off. Defenders push or throw him off blocks.
Poor hand placements. Very similar to Greg Robinson at FSU, hands start wide and land outside the frame of the defender with weak grip. Since his grip isn't strong enough to control the block, when the defender violently pulls away from him, this creates a risk for holding penalties.
Passively catches pass rushers, doesn't punch, leading to him getting run over by bull rushers, put on skates and driven backwards to the QB or shoved aside like a swinging door. Wildly lunges at DEs at the top of their rush.
Lacks upper body and core strength. Power element doesn't match his listed size and weight. Has athleticism to make pull blocks, but doesn't deliver enough thump or pop into the defender.
Beaten by both quickness and power off the snap. Defenders swim over him when he ducks head.
Poor awareness on field. He's reactive, not proactive. Very sloppy and unnecessary block in the back on LB, didn't have the sense and control to pull up and just use his body to screen off the guy. Lacks feel for timing of combo block, making him late and ineffective trying to get the LB at the 2nd level. There's a play where he moves to the 2nd level, but the LB he thought he needed to block moves the other way and in a manner that reminded me very much of GRob, Duncan just stands there looking around, like he has no idea what to do next, he can't find a 2nd assignment to block a different guy. Bottom line is he plays like he's a very inexperience player who just started playing football, which is odd, because he was a 4 year starter at Maryland.
Extremely poor feel for blocking angles, especially when they change or he's on the move. It is like he's solely focused on the defender and trying to mirror them, instead of understanding that he needs to be between the defender and the runner. Or, he'll overextend and go by the defender, allowing them to easily go around him. DT jumps to the side and Duncan flies by him, losing the angle. Screen pass, he goes too wide, allowing the defender to get inside leverage towards the RB. Doesn't slide his feet laterally when necessary to defend the blocking angle.
I don't think he's ever played on the right side of the line before.
I couldn't find any info on why he was so light during the spring. Was he sick? Was he injured? Why was he so far off from his playing weight? Kind of odd. A potential flag that needs investigation.
Has underachiever traits. In terms of size and athleticism, this guy should be a dominant player. Instead, he's not very consistent or reliable in games. He loses far too frequently on both run and pass blocks. Something is "off" about him as a prospect. Substantial bust risk. Question marks about how much he really "wants it" and whether he is dedicated and committed to becoming a great player.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
3rd round. Ereck Flowers (9th overall selection, 2015, NYG, Miami)
Ereck Flowers was drafted one slot before Todd Gurley. He was supposed to become the franchise left tackle for the New York Giants, but is considered to be a big draft bust. Flowers was very young for a prospect and was considered to be immature early in his pro career. His footwork was considered to be very poor to play LT and he gave up the most pressures of any lineman in the NFL, per PFF.
Later, Flowers somewhat revived his career by becoming a decent starting left guard for Washington. Moving him inside helped to hide his slow feet. I don't think it's just a coincidence that the OL coach for Washington at the time was Bill Callahan. The guy has a magic touch, he somehow has managed to turn multiple players other teams gave up on into solid to great NFL starters.
Offensive tackle is more important than guard, so I imagine NFL teams will first try Duncan at either LT or RT. Even if he doesn't make it as a starter, they'll probably use him as a swing backup. In my view, this might be a mistake, because his arms aren't very long. An immediate move to guard might serve him better. True, he'd likely have huge struggles there initially, because he played LT in college, but if he flops at OT and you try to move him to G years later you might have wasted valuable years of development.
Duncan is a risky prospect, but I think he's a better gamble than Saahdiq Charles, who was drafted at the very top of the 4th round in 2020 by Washington. He's similar to Duncan in that he's very athletic, played LT at LSU, but had substantial character red flags and off field issues. Washington has been playing him as a guard. Charles is listed at 322 pounds and he has 33 inch arms. He's had to fill in at times when other guys have been injured. He had a miserable 43.6 PFF grade in 2022, but a solid 67.6 grade in 2021.
In order to become a good zone scheme guard, Duncan needs to improve his understanding of blocking angles and clean up his hand usage. With time, coaching and work by the player, he could eventually be a good NFL player. If you want the Rams to draft a guard, but either don't like the other prospects or they aren't available when the Rams pick, don't forget about the Maryland tackle. Even though none of the draft boards list him as an interior offensive lineman, he's a good candidate to play inside in the NFL.