So Many Alternatives
A decade ago, in the 2014 NFL draft, one of the top needs for the Rams was left tackle. At the very end of December 2013, Matt Miller did a mock draft (notice that this is more than a month away from where we currently stand in the draft cycle.) In Miller's mock, Teddy Bridgewater was the top overall pick. The 5th overall pick was Brett Hundley, the UCLA QB. At least the number 5 was correct. Hundley was a 5th round selection... in the 2015 draft.
At slot 13, the Rams took a left tackle. No, it wasn't Greg Robinson. In Miller's mock, GRob went 15th overall. Allen Robinson went 30th, while a talented DT was right behind him, a guy named... Aaron... no wait, Louis Nix.
Michael Sam was a very early 2nd round pick (Can you believe that?) Miller gave the Rams a QB in the 2nd round, AJ McCarron (a 5th rd pick in the actual draft.) In the 6th round, Miller had the Rams drafting a DT who would become a high 1st round pick, a guy named Aaron... no wait, Danny Shelton. Like Hundley, Shelton wasn't in the 2014 draft, he was a 1st round pick in the 2015 draft.
Joel Bitonio, who is perhaps the best guard in the NFL, went in the middle of the 5th round. DeMarcus Lawrence went 2 slots later. I know it sounds like I'm just making all of this up as a comedic parody of the draft, but no, this is all true, it was an actual mock draft by one of the top draft experts, you can look it up. Where did Matt Miller project Aaron Donald to get selected? In the 4th round.
So, welcome to the joys of "not way too early, but still kind of early" mock draft season. The time of year where Michael Sam gets drafted 2 rounds ahead of AD.
Name: Joe Alt. Turns 21 years old in February of 2024.
School: Notre Dame. True junior. Team captain in 2023.
Size: Listed at 6'8'' tall, 322 pounds. 4.90 sec (40 time) per NFLDB
A high 3 star to low 4 star recruit from Minnesota. Son of former Chiefs offensive lineman, John Alt, who was the 21st overall selection in the 1984 NFL draft. Playing for Marty Schottenheimer, Alt was a Pro Bowl and All Pro offensive lineman, paving the way for great KC rushing attacks. In 1989, Christian Okoye led the NFL in rushing with 1,480 yards, ahead of both Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson. Okoye and Barry Word combined for 1,820 yards in 1990 and 1,715 yards in 1991. Has 4 siblings, including a 32 year old older brother who is an NHL hockey player.
As a junior in HS, he played TE and DE. Also played basketball. Was about 220 to 240 pounds as a TE, then began adding weight and moved to OL. Considered to be a project recruit when he signed with ND, weighing about 280 pounds.
As a freshman, he was the 4th string left tackle, listed at 305 pounds. He was initially used as a jumbo TE in power formations. All 3 of the OTs ahead of him on the depth chart got injured. Made 8 starts in 2021. Had some pass blocking issues as a freshman, but his technique reportedly improved the following season. 13 starts at LT in 2022. Listed at 315 pounds in 2022. PFF graded him as the best run blocker in FBS in 2022 and per NFLDB he gave up zero sacks and only 3 QB hurries. Alt was PFF's top graded returning tackle for 2023, with a 91.4 grade. He was a consensus All American in 2022. ND's OL coach retired, so they have a new position coach in 2023.
Mechanical engineering major. Reportedly had 3.25 GPA entering fall 2022 semester.
Professional in interviews, reminds me of Greg Olsen, the former NFL tight end. Leadership traits, intelligent, quick mind, answers to questions are organized and reflect an analytical and problem solving mind. Aspires to go into the business side of an engineering company after football, maybe as a military contractor.
All the recent mocks connect Alt to the Green Bay Packers.
Josh Edwards (CBSSports) mock draft 6th overall
Luke Easterling (SI) mock draft 6th overall
Connor Rogers (NBCSports) mock draft 6th overall
Drafttek 6th overall
NFLDB 10th overall, 2nd OT.
PFF 7th overall
CBSSports 7th overall
NFLMDD 7th overall (projected 6th overall pick)
NFLDB: Prototypical build, optimal weight distribution. TE athleticism, explosive 1st step, mirrors with ease. Jarring punches, displaces rushers, leverage vs power moves. Excellent pad level, dominates at point of attack. Refined hand fighter. Processes on the fly. Dominates in run game. Reliable pass pro, strong anchor. Lacks elite quickness in kick slide, relies more on reach. Propensity to lose balance. Allows defenders to get into frame. Tends to lunge, must refine punch timing vs swim and push pull moves. Occasionally falters drive blocking.
Windy City Gridiron (Bears fan site): Sturdy anchor. Tremendous size and length. Dominant run blocker. Good short area athleticism, nice acceleration. Wide and sturdy base. Grip strength just okay. Not nasty. Tall, with knee bend and leverage issues.
Huge, towering player with very long arms and big wingspan. Difficult to run around him. Smothers opponents with his length. Looks like he has big hands. Once he extends his arms and locks onto pass rushers, it is tough for them to disengage.
You can't coach size. He's like an NBA center who is just really big with an enormous wingspan. It intimidates anyone trying to drive towards the hoop and you can get dunks just lobbing the ball up to him. A tough customer, because he's just a really big guy.
Even on plays where Alt kind of gets beat, he's able to use his length to recover. He has a big effective radius within which he can shove the defender or arm bar them.
Plays with good knee bend relative to his height.
Plays with composure on the field, under control.
Shows awareness to twists. Displays football IQ, scanned as a pull blocker and adjusted his assignment to the proper linebacker on the fly.
While he plays LT, Notre Dame uses unbalanced, power formations quite a bit where he flips over to the other side and plays RT (almost always it is a run play), so he does have at least limited experience on the right side of the line.
Can overwhelm smaller defenders and bully them.
Flashes hip fluidity to swing his hips around to the other side of the defender to seal them on runs or keep them away from the QB on passes. Had an excellent reaction to stuff a spin move. Shows promising ability to move his feet laterally to mirror defenders in pass pro when his helmet is up and his body is balanced.
Early entrant, young prospect. Only recently grew into his body and filled out his frame, adjusted his body fat. An ascending player who didn't play OL much of his HS career, has plenty of room to grow and develop his game. More of a ball of clay with upside potential than a finished product, could entice NFL teams based on what he could become in a couple of years, even if he's not a consistent performer Day 1.
Very good intangibles. Accountable, can be coached, potential team leader and captain of the OL room. NFL pedigree.
He's a soft football player. Not going to sugar coat it or dance around the subject, that's what I see on tape. Too "nice" to LBs at the 2nd level. He'll ease up instead of blocking to the whistle. Like he's afraid he might injure them. If he's engaged and it is a stalemate, Alt is often content to just stand there and call it a draw, he doesn't try to walk the defender backwards or finish the block aggressively. He needs to amp up his intensity level, where is the fire and fight?
Alt's long arms cover up many concerning flaws and sloppy technique in his pass blocking. This was a similar issue that former Notre Dame OT, Mike McGlinchey (9th overall pick, 2018, Niners) had as a draft prospect. McG got a huge contract from the Broncos and has been a starter his entire NFL career at right tackle, but he struggles pass blocking. Rob Havenstein averages 15.25 SIS pass blocking points each season. McG has only averaged 8.3 points. Hav has 127 career blown pass blocks in 113 games. McG is closing in on the same number of career blown pass blocks (he has 112), but has only played in 78 games.
Shows little ability to kick slide. Doesn't kick, he just shuffles his feet. Poor technique in his footwork very similar to Dalton Risner coming out of college. Wasted step and unnecessary movement out of his stance, doesn't gain depth with initial step. Heels nearly click, feet get too close together, then next step they get way too far apart. Spacing of his feet wild and all over the map during course of his pass set, both before and after initial engagement. Hips open up very early. If he tries to overcompensate by taking a big recovery step, he's open to inside counter moves.
Cheats too far back off the LOS. His helmet on some plays is all the way behind the RT's helmet on obvious passing downs. Another symptom that he can't comfortably get to the corner to cut off speed rushers.
Reaches instead of punches. Timing of his hands inconsistent. Sometimes he'll show his hands too early, wanting to feel the defender. Other times he's late with his initial punch, letting the pass rusher to get into his chest and he can't fully extend his arms. He might engage his inside hand, but is slow to get his 2nd hand on the rusher before they get into their move. Little power in his punch, he controls opponents by suffocating them with his length, but he doesn't actually have advanced skills using his hands. Accuracy of his hands not elite, he'll miss slaps, grabs and punches.
Too predictable in his sets. Needs more of a plan and variation to his approach. His hand placements tend to be wide and high.
Slow hands. I hate offensive linemen with slow hands. Passive hands in hand fights. A DE with fast hands and unload 3 punches in the time that Alt delivers a punch with one hand. Weak grip, let DE into chest, who rips through, QB flushed from pocket.
Posture is hunched over in pass pro. One play, the angle of his back is nearly parallel with the ground, he is leaning so far forward, with his helmet so far ahead of his feet. Tries to recover from poor footwork by lunging at the pass rusher, which is a bad habit.
Lunges forward at apex. Body not balanced through engagement. Defender can grab him and fling him sideways, then proceed towards QB. When he lunges forward, the DE can dip under him and bend the edge towards the QB.
The combination of his poor footwork, weak hand usage and posture is that on initial contact, Alt does not have a solid base planted in the ground to anchor. Against a good pass rush, LT gets driven backwards. Feet go into scramble mode. Sometimes does reverse bicycle to settle down bull rush and try to re-anchor. Surrenders pocket space too easily, can get driven back into the lap of the QB.
Frequently overreacts to pass rush moves and counters, resulting in getting beat by defender's next move back in opposite direction. He's a thick, big boned guy who only has average athletic and change of direction quickness. Not a quick twitch athlete. LT did a very nice job stuffing rusher's push pull and inside move, but then got beaten by the 3rd move, a spin back to the outside.
Also tries to recover by lunging towards the corner, unable to gain enough depth with his feet. On some plays, this results in his shoulders being more than 90 degrees from the LOS and his feet being angled 45 degrees backwards. In other words, Alt is facing almost back towards his own end zone instead of facing upfield or towards the sideline.
Below average drive blocker for such a large lineman. Generates little power coming out of his stance. Lunges forward on runs and can be beaten by swim and other quick moves. Doesn't create a forward surge on GL or short yardage plays. Prone to faceplanting trying to drive block. If he's heads up and the DE moves to the side, Alt can get lunging forward and struggles to recover to salvage the block.
Not suited to block in a man blocking power scheme. Little explosion out of his stance heads up on solo blocks. Unable to generate movement at LOS except against small defenders or opponents who are angling away from him and at a disadvantage. Alt relies on his huge size to get into the defender, not on leg drive or upper body power. Opponents can get leverage under him with better pad level, then disengage to the RB.
Slow out of stance run blocking. Heads up, DE burst forward into Alt's frame, quickly sheds and wins the inside gap. Heads up at POA, the DE violently flings LT sideways, discards and gets to the RB. In Oklahoma drill type situations, he's slow off the snap, so the initial engagement tends to occur on his side of the LOS.
Gets stacked and shed at the point of attack, especially by stronger defenders. Tends to lean into the defender like a tired boxer, allowing them to throw him sideways and discard. Part of the reason he gets shed is his hands are too passive after engagement.
It is 3 blockers (LT, LG and TE) vs 2 defenders, who are both small and undersized (small DT and a small OLB). Straight ahead, power blocking. Should be a mismatch. But, the ND guys generate zero forward movement, they can't move those 2 guys off the LOS. Alt is hardly contributing anything, he has no knee bend, there's no power. The RB has to go around, there's no distortion at the line to open up a gap.
Limited grip strength to secure seal blocks on the backside of runs. Passive hands, arms got ripped down by push pull move on run play. Insufficient torque and grip strength to reliably control OLBs on kickout blocks. Lunges on seal blocks, allowing fast OLBs to run around him. Not always able to latch on, allowing defenders to spin away from him on zone run blocks.
Initial footwork on combo block off, collides with hip of his own LG, not getting into the DT, then makes sloppy climb to 2nd level, unable to seal the LB. No power on combo, unable to move DT, then wimpy block on LB at 2nd level.
Gap run with both guards pulling. The LT gets driven backwards by the DT into the running lane, making it difficult for the RG to get all the way around the congestion and make his assigned block, also forcing the RB to run wider. This should not happen, because LT's block isn't very difficult, all he has to do is hold his ground momentarily, he doesn't have to move the DT at all, but LT is unable to effectively anchor.
Offers little value blocking on the move or in space. Not enough speed and burst to get out on screens. Limited short area burst as a puller. Average speed running as a puller. LBs can run by him or they accelerate and blast into his chest, blowing up his pull and making Alt the nail instead of the hammer. Doesn't disguise the screen, his footwork right off the snap tips off what is happening. No explosion getting to 2nd level. Not athletic in open field.
He's such a tall guy with a wide stance, multiple times he got his feet tangled up with the LG or nearly tripped the LG. One such play resulted in LT falling on his rear end, allowing the pass rusher to be free to the QB for a sack.
Being tall creates balance issues. Other players sometimes collide into his side by accident and this causes Alt to fall down.
Awareness not always clear. Was late to pick up DB blitz.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
3rd round grade. Cyrus Kouandjio (2nd round 2014, Buffalo Bills, Alabama)
Who was the OT that Miller sent to the Rams in the middle of the 1st round in his 2014 mock draft? It was Kouandjio. Aaron Kromer became the OL coach for the Bills in 2015. Kouandjio was mostly a backup, though he did get a few starts in his 3rd year and flashed some signs of potential. Unfortunately, he got injured at home during the following offseason and never played another snap for the Bills. After bouncing out of the NFL, he later was in the XFL and CFL. If you were disappointed in how the Greg Robinson pick turned out, imagine if the Rams had drafted Kouandjio with the 2nd overall selection.
I painted myself into a corner with this draft grade. In my view, Kiran Amegadjie (the guy from Yale) is a better LT prospect than Joe Alt. I already gave Amegadjie a 3rd rd grade. So, either I messed up his grade big time and should have ranked him as a top 10 prospect, or I have to slot Alt in behind him, which by definition has to result in Alt being a 3rd rounder as well.
Windy City Gridiron used Brian O'Neill of the Vikings as their pro comp for Alt. O'Neill is considered to be one of the best RTs in the NFL. On the other hand, O'Neill was drafted near the very bottom of the 2nd round in 2018. I'm not a big fan of this comp, because Alt has much better length than O'Neill, while O'Neill is much more athletic than Alt.
I know this grade is going to be very controversial. Joe Alt is nearly universally projected as the 6th overall pick in the draft. Not only do I not have him in the top 10, I didn't even give him a 1st round grade. I don't have much else to say in my own defense, other than that's simply how I interpret Alt's game tape. And that Aaron Donald was once projected as a Day 3 draft pick.
Oh, one more thing. I'm pretty sure that I drafted Louis Nix for the Rams in my mock draft that year. So, maybe you should just ignore everything I write about any particular draft prospect.