The More Things Change
Northwestern left tackle, Peter Skoronski, is one of the top offensive line prospects in this year's draft. His grandfather, Bob Skoronski, was the left tackle for the Green Bay Packers during the Vince Lombardi era, part of 5 NFL championship teams (including the famous Ice Bowl game), and the first 2 Super Bowls championship teams. Perhaps a sign of how different pro football was in those days, Bob Skoronski put his career on hiatus for 2 years to serve in the Air Force, because he was in ROTC in college. Could you imagine Cobie Durant telling Sean McVay "Hey, could you hold my spot open for me? I'm going to be serving on an aircraft carrier for the Navy for the next 2 years. I'll call you when I get back." Skoronski was 250 pounds. Bob Lilly of the Cowboys was 260 pounds. The size of the linemen is so different in today's game. Tyler Higbee could be a left tackle if you sent him back to the 1960's.
While much has changed since the days of Vince Lombardi, one thing remains the same. You still need a good offensive line to win in the NFL. The Chiefs and the Eagles met in last year's Super Bowl and those clubs had 2 of the best offensive lines in the league.
The Rams didn't have a top OL last season. By certain metrics, the Rams had one of the worst OLs in the NFL. Maybe Peter Skoronski could help to fix that. In order to get Skoronski, the Rams would need a combination of things to happen. First, Skoronski would need to slip lower in the 1st round than he is typically projected. Second, the Rams would need to trade up.
Name: Peter Skoronski. Turns 22 years old in July. True junior.
Combine measurements: 6'4'' tall, 313 pounds, 32 1/4'' arms, 10'' hands, 79 1/2'' wingspan. 5.16 second 40 time, 1.75 second split, 34 1/2'' vert jump, 9'7'' broad jump, 7.80 second (3 cone), 30 bench reps.
All the experts focus on his extremely short arms. At just over 32 inches (which would be short even for a center), many draft experts don't believe that Skoronski can play LT in the NFL and will have to move inside to guard or maybe center. Bryan Bulaga had similar questions when he was coming out of Iowa. He had 33 1/4'' arms and he ended up playing RT for the Packers. Skoronski's arms are a full inch shorter than Bulaga's arms, creating doubt about whether he could even hold up at RT.
4 and 5 star recruit from a Chicago suburb in Illinois. A big Packers fan, because of his grandfather. 275 pounds in HS. Recruited as a center by many schools. A recruiting profile compared him to Billy Price, the Ohio State center drafted in the 1st round by the Bengals. Renowned for his football IQ, leadership and his lunch pail, no nonsense personality in HS, when he was a junior he was described as being like another coach to the other linemen. Unlike many top recruits these days who crave attention and seek NIL deals, he almost never posted on social media when he was in HS and turned down offers from many powerhouse football programs to go to NW. He's the first 5 star HS recruit in the history of NW football. Played basketball, did shot put on track team in HS.
When Rashawn Slater opted out of 2020 season, Skoronski as a true freshman became the starting LT, 9 starts. Made 12 starts at LT in 2021 and 12 starts at LT in 2022. One of 5 team captains in 2022. Northwestern was terrible in 2022. After barely winning the opening game of the season, they lost all of their remaining 11 games. They were terrible in 2021, only winning 3 games, 2 of those wins were against small school non-conference opponents.
Prototypical personality for an NFL offensive lineman. Has a great attitude in interviews, professional, good football intelligence and character, leadership skills.
I'm not aware of any serious injuries in college, but I wonder if he might have had some type of minor issue, because in some games I watched it didn't seem like he could move as well as other games and didn't have the same energy level.
ESPN top OT, 5th overall
CBSSports top OT, 12th overall
PFF 12th overall
PFN (Industry) top OT, 7th overall
Daniel Jeremiah 8th overall
Drafttek 2nd OT, 9th overall
Lance Zierlein 6th overall
Shane Hallam 9th overall
Brian Bosarge 10th overall
NFLDB top OT, 5th overall
TDN 3rd OT, 14th overall
PFN draft sim 22nd overall
NFLMDD sim 14th overall
PFN mock draft (Hodgkinson) 13th overall
CBSSports mock (Edwards) 11th overall
Lance Zierlein mock 11th overall
PFF mock 12th overall
Fanspeak: Bills (11th); Broncos (6th); Diamonds (9th); Draftplex (13th); Packers (9th); Rigdon (5th); Shoup (11th); Bears (5th)
Daniel Jeremiah: Steady, reliable OT prospect. Quick out of stance. Height and bulk, but lacks ideal length. Knee bend and balance to redirect, stay square vs counters. Gives ground vs power before settling and anchoring. Plays with leverage on runs, strong inside arm to uproot and displace. Quick to 2nd level. Excellent awareness. Not as good as Rashawn Slater [13th overall 2021], but very consistent.
Lance Zierlein: 6.73 draft grade (Year 1 starter), Zack Martin comp. Projects as NFL guard. Broad, but short arms. Blend of technique, feel and power. Scheme versatile. Explosive kick slide. Proactive hands attack first. Excellent footwork and hands vs twists. Back and hip engagement to anchor. Low pads, explosive lift into contact. Races out of stance for reach blocks. Wide base. Washes down defenders shooting gaps. Understands angles. Textbook leg drive. Predictable pass sets. Beaten by long arm moves and driven into pocket. Average adjusting to 2nd level movements. Can be beaten at POA by side step moves.
NFLDB: Exceptional athleticism. High football IQ. Natural leader, high work ethic. Crisp hand technique. Firm anchor, dynamic base. Movement on double teams. Gap and power lineman. Limited arm length. Lacks play strength. Inconsistent getting to landmarks. The best pass blocker in the draft. Elite feet and hands. The most NFL ready lineman in the draft. Bernhard Raimann comp [Raimann was a 3rd round pick in 2022]
TDN (Kyle Crabbs): Plug and play prospect, the most refined lineman in the draft. Crisp hands. Varies pass sets. Firm anchor, impressive base. Fluid foot adjustments. Movement on double teams. More fluid than explosive. Struggled vs Michigan in 2021. Justin Pugh comp. 2nd round grade. [Pugh was a surprising and controversial 1st round pick. Many people felt the NYG reached too early when they selected him.]
PFF: 93.0 pass block grade in 2022, led the nation and was one of the best seasons by a college OT in the PFF era. Dominant since freshman year. A man among boys in college. By far the most NFL ready OT in nation. A LT in the NFL. Too athletic and physical for college DEs. Excellent technique, footwork and hands. One of the best OL prospects in the last decade. Could improve his run blocking.
CBSSports: 20 pressures given up on 416 pass blocking snaps. Can do better job of playing balanced and absorbing contact. Should be given a shot at LT first.
Steelers Depot: 1st round grade. Justin Pugh comp, projected in same range as Pugh [he was taken 19th overall and had 32'' arms. Pugh has played RT and G in the NFL.] Impressive football IQ. Plus athlete. Can pull and reach block. Good leg drive. Can torque defenders. Technically sound. Active hands in pass pro. Varies pass set. Seals edge with kick step. Mirrors. Anticipates counters and cuts off rushers. Strong base and anchor. Scheme versatile. Occasional issues vs power. Will lunge and whiff on short yardage plays. Lacks size to seal inside vs slants. One of cleanest prospects in draft. Suitable as OT, but potential Pro Bowler as OG.
Nasty. Unexpected level of aggression and physicality. This surprised me, because none of the expert profiles highlight this aspect of his game. Walked back DE at point of attack, then gives him an extra shove at the whistle. Linebackers and safeties at the 2nd level better have their heads on a swivel, because if they don't see him coming he will completely unload on them and blast them into next Tuesday. Moving wide on run block, with one arm he violently flings the DE sideways to the ground. Unloaded on a CB. Against twist, devastating knockback power drove DE into the path of the OLB. The play that initially got my attention when I was watching NW's RB was when Skoronski bulldozed a defender, and I initially thought he was a guard, I didn't know at the time that he was the LT until I watched the play again. I didn't know who Skoronski was at the time, I had to look him up, but it was immediately obvious that he was a future NFL player, even though I didn't know his name. Not passive, a physical player.
In pass protection, has sudden feet and Joe Thomas type hands. Perfect 4 step footwork to suffocate inside counter move, able to get his hips back into perfect position to cut off the rusher and his hands cemented to the middle of the defender's jersey. In the games I watched, there wasn't a single play where he was completely beaten on a pass block. Every single time he even got even somewhat in trouble he recovered every rep and at least partially saved the block. Moreover, on none of those plays did he even come close to committing a holding penalty.
Not only does he smoothly kick out of his stance, but his 2nd step in his pass sets is amazing. Very good tempo and spacing if he has to adjust his angle and pace to mirror edge speed. Super composed and under control at all times on the field, never looks stressed, overwhelmed in his technique or overmatched by the opponent. Extremely polished with his technique and detailed in his execution on each play. Clearly takes pride in excelling at both pass and run blocking, not a one dimensional lineman, a well rounded player.
Fantastic balance in his pass set. Wide base with his head properly centered. Uncanny ability to maintain balance through contact. His feet stay low to the ground, the spacing of his steps are appropriate, very difficult to knock him off balance or to the ground. If someone collides with him from the back or the side he might get knocked down, but I don't recall a single play where he fell down due to losing balance. Zero wasted movement when mirroring inside moves.
Stands up bull rushes and power moves. Able to plant his back foot and arch his back at an exaggerated angle, like a bow and arrow, to absorb and deflect force from the opponent, both on pass and run blocks. Balanced vertical set on 3rd down pass, then anchors vs power rush with extreme back arch. Strong inside arm T-boned the pass rusher trying an inside power move.
Elite timing of his initial punch. Immediately replaces his hands if they are knocked off. Improves his hand placements as engagement progresses. Independent hands, fantastic 1 hand punch, then when the defender knocks his arm away, LT is so balance he instantly pops up and is ready to reengage. Rusher tries to spin and seal him, but LT slides to mirror the outside counter, sustains, then uses his outside hand to punch and disrupt the move. Accurate and skilled at clamp technique, controlling shoulder pads of the rusher to stifle pass rush moves. Chops down arms of defender to disrupt pass rush moves. Strong 2 handed chop and kung fu one hand slaps. Outside hand firmly controls shoulder pad of rusher, inside hand initially at defender's side, but then slides up to the middle of chest and firmly grabs jersey. Arm length not as much of a weakness as you would think, because so often his arms are at full extension, gets most out of his length.
Not only does he have independent hands, but he has independent feet. Against a bull rush, has an uncommon feel for how to step back one foot at a time to settle, so that the foot still planted on the ground helps him maintain his base, stay engaged and slow the momentum of his opponent.
His angle is so consistent, he doesn't overreact or overset, so there are limited opportunities for counters. He stuffs edge speed without opening himself up to inside moves.
Plays with excellent leverage and persistent, relentless leg drive. On most plays, this helps to cover up his short arms, because the defender cannot disengage from him. Skoronski is able to maneuver his base to stay engaged and balanced. LB swam over him at 2nd level, but LT turns, recovers and shoves the LB.
Somehow always seems to have center of gravity lower than the opponent. Plays with good knee bend. Are his legs slightly short relative to his torso? He's tall enough to play both OT and OG, but it is like his COG belongs to a player who is only 6'2'' tall, an optical illusion.
Powerful jump set, can burst out of his stance, gets into the chest of the defender and owns them.
Generates movement on solo run blocks. Washes DL down the LOS on combo blocks. Drives DL backwards off the LOS on double team blocks. Gets to hip of DT and displaces them on combos to open up gaps at the LOS for the RB. Leg drive to wash DT down line. When he gets to 2nd level on schedule his hand placements are accurate. Sometimes he'll miss if he arrives late or if the LB charges forward and surprises him before he's ready.
Hands and feet perfectly coordinated on run blocks. Downblock on DT, smooth and measured lateral hops to stay latched on, creating powerful seal, refusing to surrender blocking angle when DT tries to get around him. Fantastic hip snap into DE, clean grab to control the block, then 3 great power steps to improve his angle and sustain at the POA, after the RB gets through the hole and is being tackled, the LT is still engaged with the DE, as if the DE were a criminal who just stole something from him.
Tremendous lateral burst out his stance to cross the face of DL on zone and gap runs to make backside seal blocks. Excellent initial range out of stance on both pass and run blocks.
Crafty techniques to make backside seal blocks. Great body control and sense of how to extend his arm to cutoff the defender and get in the way.
Precise with his initial step to make kickout blocks.
Sufficient athleticism and hip snap to make quality pull blocks. Great pad level on pull block, absorbed hit by LB attacking LOS, then throws the LB to the ground.
Engages run blocks by bringing his hands from low to high, transferring power into torso of the defender. Mauled DE on short 3rd down. Loads energy with gallop steps then explodes into LBs.
Able to adjust in tight quarters to movement by smaller defenders. Doesn't lunge at defenders at 2nd level.
Effective and reliable short yardage and goalline blocker. Buried defender on critical run play late in 4th quarter. Solid drive blocker, good pad level, body control and explosion out of stance.
Outstanding at sustaining his blocks. Only on rare occasions does he get shed.
Very good awareness vs stunts, reliably in position to pick up DL passed off to him by the G, then moves feet cleanly and efficiently to maintain correct angle. Great awareness and timing to pick up run blitzes and protect his gap. When OLBs pretend to rush, then drop into coverage, his eyes immediately snap inside to identify next assignment. One such play, the center is being beaten by the NT and the LT hustles over to rescue the situation. Only took 1 step out of his stance, sees the OLB drop and immediately snaps head around so that he's prepared when the LG passes the DE off to him. No delays when reading twists. Excellent adjustment on short yardage play when the DL slanted and jumped into different gap. Seamlessly adjusts his blocking assignment if his primary target moves away from him. On a run that looked like it was supposed to be a pin and pull, he adjusted on the fly when the pin failed and the edge defender jumped outside, the LT cut inside and made his block.
In the games I watched, he didn't have a single penalty worthy play. Good judgement when to let go and when not to even attempt to push or grab the defender so as to not commit infractions.
I don't agree with the Justin Pugh comp. I think the reason some expert went to him is to find a player who had matching arm length. IMO, there should be a clue right off the bat that there is a difference, because Skoronski jumped a full foot longer in the broad jump and had a vertical jump half a foot higher than Pugh, even though Skoronski weighed more than Pugh at the Combine. I liked Pugh, he wasn't a bad prospect, but he was more of a steady guy, he wasn't on paper a Pro Bowl high ceiling prospect. He wasn't a true 1st round draft prospect, which is why it was something of a shock when he got picked so early.
Might have the highest floor of any prospect in the entire draft. About a year younger than a normal prospect. A Day 1 NFL starter and potential impact rookie. No redshirt season required.
Honestly, it is difficult to come up with many true weaknesses for Skoronski. The only things I could think of were relatively minor in nature. While he has very short arms and limited overall size, I don't believe this is going to be as much of a problem in the NFL as the experts seem to think. The reason for this is his feet and his technique are so good, it makes him play on the field as if he had longer arms and had more mass and weight on his body.
Has great technique, but his raw, physical and athletic tools are not elite. Andrew Whitworth at the Combine was 6'7'' tall, 334 pounds, with 35'' arms, a massive mountain of a human being compared with Skoronski. Joel Bitonio has 34'' arms, a very fast 4.44 second shuttle time, and was an incredibly powerful blocker in college. Skoronski isn't a big, huge player, he's not a powerful hulk and he's not one of those ultra athletic zone scheme linemen. He's a mix of everything, but he doesn't neatly fit into a single box, making it difficult to decide where to play him in the NFL and uncertain how high his ceiling will be at each OL position. Is he a LT, RT, G or a C? The answer isn't immediately obvious.
Due to short arms, sometimes has to lean forward to engage the defender. In a joust situation, defenders can beat him with stab and swim moves when they have longer arms. The initial jolt will momentarily stop his forward momentum, allowing them to make a move to get around him.
Only has average lateral speed and recovery range to deal with elite edge speed. If he has to pick up a looper and doesn't have a superior angle or a super explosive edge rusher goes outside against him, the defender can bend the edge and get around the corner, Skoronski isn't always able to push them past the back of the pocket and his arms aren't long enough to make up the difference. A really fast edge rusher can apply enough pressure on the outside to also unlock the inside.
Barely hangs on to some pass blocks, forced to recover. Bull rushed, then inside power move, the LT immediately recovers instead of falling off balance, gets 2 hands on DE, salvaging the block, but giving up penetration into the pocket. In trouble vs bull rush, insufficient length to handle swim move, barely hangs on. Swipe moves or cross chops can knock away his punch, allowing the rusher to get to his edge, forcing him to recover.
Has to rely on technique over body mass to anchor vs bull rush, so if his feet aren't set properly, he can lose his anchor.
Can be beaten by quickness right off the snap on run blocks if he's trying to make drive blocks and is moving forward.
Even when he gets his run block right, occasionally he doesn't have enough body mass, length or power to finish off the defender, then can recover from his initial blow and still find the way to the RB, even though they never defeated his block, they just "survived" it.
Rarely shed on run blocks by college opponents, but defenders who had superior length demonstrated that this is possible. They can grab his shoulder pads and throw him off balance at the POA and LT's short arms aren't able to retaliate.
Average speed and burst on screen passes and pull blocks. Doesn't have elite change of direction ability. Doesn't explode climbing to 2nd level. A solid, but not elite combo blocker.
Has only played LT in college. Doesn't have any experience on the right side of the line and didn't play any interior line positions.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
Top 10 overall prospect. (Jake Matthews, 6th overall selection 2014, Atlanta Falcons, Texas A&M)
I couldn't help but notice Skoronski when I was studying the NW running back, Hull, but until now I didn't get the chance to actually study his tape. When I finally got around to watching him closely, his talent was jaw dropping. He plays like an NFL veteran, not a college player. We're talking about a player who is an early entrant, he only spent 3 years in college. He's precocious, he shouldn't be this good already.
I don't think that Skoronski has to move inside to guard or center in the NFL, I think he could be a very good left tackle. He could be great inside as well. He's one of the rare prospects who not only could play any of the 5 OL positions, but he might be great at all of them. Not only do I think that he has Pro Bowl potential, regardless of which OL position he plays, but I'd go as far as saying that he has the potential to play at a Pro Bowl level as a rookie. He's that good of a prospect.
Peter Skoronski isn't just one of the best OL prospects in the last decade, I consider him to be one of the best draft prospects at any position in the last 15 years. He's not going to be as good as Joe Thomas, but I think that he's going to be an excellent NFL player and go to multiple Pro Bowls.
If we graded Skoronski purely as a center prospect, I'd give him a 1st round grade. Compare his measurements and Combine testing head to head with Creed Humphrey. Skoronski is a hair better, plus I think his overall run and pass blocking is better than Humphrey was at OU. I'm dead serious, if you played Skoronski 100% of the time at C, I think he'd eventually be a better center than Creed Humphrey.
If we graded Skoronski purely as a guard prospect, I'd give him a 1st round grade. Lance Zierlein's comp of Zack Martin is fair, he potentially could be the next Martin, an elite NFL guard. As a guard, Skoronski projects to be a better player than Rodger Saffold, because Saffold isn't an elite pass blocker.
If we graded Skoronski purely as a left tackle, I'd give him a 1st round grade. He could be a franchise LT, I don't agree that he's too small to play the position. His feel for how to play the LT spot is very rare, you are almost never going to see a college player with such an innate feel for and advanced understanding of the LT position. I think Skoronski is better as a LT prospect than Jake Matthews, who was taken 6th overall.
Jake Matthew's dad is Bruce Matthews, a top 10 pick in 1983 and one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the NFL. Peter Skoronski is the closest thing to Bruce Matthews you are ever going to find in an NFL draft. Skoronski might simultaneously be the best OT, G and C prospect in the 2023 draft. How many times can you say that about a draft prospect?
When Dalton Risner was in the draft, we talked about his versatility, but he was a late 1st to early 2nd round tier draft prospect. Skoronski is on a higher tier compared with Risner. LZ's draft grade on Skoronski is almost exactly the same as Risner's grade, but IMO this is not correct. I think Skoronski's grade should be adjusted even higher. Quenton Nelson of the Colts, who might be the greatest guard prospect of his generation, with a 7.40 draft grade, Skoronski should be closer to that range than to Risner's number. For sake of discussion, let's say we gave Skoronski a 7.00 draft grade. That would make him the 3rd overall prospect in this year's draft, behind only Jalen Carter and Will Anderson. Somewhere in that general range is where I think Skoronski belongs.
Jake Matthews was 6'5 1/2'' tall, 308 pounds, 33 3/8'' arms, 9 7/8'' hands, 79 1/2'' wingspan, had an identical 1.75 second split time, did 24 bench reps, with a 30.5'' vert jump and 8'8'' broad jump. Skoronski and Matthews have identical wingspans, Skoronski did more bench reps and has better jumping numbers.
Matthews has only missed 1 start in 9 NFL seasons. His PFF season grades: 59.7, 79.3, 72.5, 80.1, 80.0, 79.7, 75.5, 71.3, 77.2. Apart from his rookie season, Matthews has been a very consistent and reliable performer for the Falcons.
In the fanpost I wrote about Michael Mayer, I said the very first thing an NFL GM should do in preparing for the draft is just take out a piece of paper and write down the name of every prospect who has high Pro Football Hall of Fame potential. Realistically, there should only be about 5 names on that list. In the 2023 NFL draft, Peter Skoronski's name should be on such a list.
Andrew Whitworth was a late 2nd round pick, experts thought he was too limited of an athlete to play LT and had to play either RT or G. At the very top of that draft, you had players such as Mario Williams (a great pass rusher), Reggie Bush (already anointed as a HOFer before he even got to the NFL), Vince Young (who was supposed to become the Michael Jordan of football), D'Brickashaw Ferguson (a great LT prospect), Vernon Davis (one of the most athletic TE prospects ever), AJ Hawk (an incredible LB prospect), Haloti Ngata (a dominating NT) and Jay Cutler (prototypical arm strength and size for a franchise NFL QB.) Out of that entire draft, Whitworth is probably the most valuable player, because not only was he a great LT, he played at a high level for so long. Whitworth played mostly guard in the early years of his career.
It feels odd to say this, because on many draft boards Peter Skoronski is a top 10 prospect, but I think the draft experts might be too low on this prospect. Just as Whitworth would be the number 1 overall pick in a redraft of 2006, ahead of all of those incredibly talented players who were taken at the top of that draft, I think there is a decent argument for making Skoronski the number one overall pick in the 2023 draft. Vince Young, Matt Leinert, Jay Cuter, Andrew Whitworth, out of that group, which player should have been drafted first in 2006? Yeah, the slow guy who was supposed to only be a guard in the NFL.
The NFL draft isn't all about hype. What was true for the Packers in the 1960's remains true in the NFL in 2023. Football is a game that must be won in the trenches. Peter Skoronski is a difference maker up front. In an era where quality offensive linemen are a scarce commodity and so many college OL prospects are raw and not NFL ready, Skoronski is one of the biggest prizes in this year's draft. If the opportunity presented itself for the Rams to get him, Les Snead should burn up the phone lines trying to trade up.
There only a few true whales in each draft class and typically almost all of them get taken inside the top 10 picks. Similar to Aaron Donald only going 13th overall, because people thought that he was too small, Skoronski is one of the few special talents who could easily slide out of the top 10 and still be sitting on the board in the lower half of the 1st round.
If we created a team specific draft board for the Rams, and you believe that offensive line is a priority, Peter Skoronski might be the number one prospect for the Rams on their board. Why are we wasting time talking about later round OL prospects? Are we trying to be mediocre on the OL or are we trying to be great? If you want to build a great NFL offensive line, go get Peter Skoronski.