If you were in the Los Angeles Rams draft suite, and were pounding the table to add support for the offensive line, what are the traits would you be looking to build on? Size, length, aggressive demeanor/play style, strength, footwork, and technique are the main physical features. Intangibles might include leadership, work ethic, on-field production, and experience. This list is not exhaustive, but sets a pretty good baseline.
L.A. selected tackle Warren McClendon off the NCAA National Champion Georgia Bulldogs at pick #174 and on its face, the late Round 5 player seems like just another mid-round pick, likely destined for an undistinguished rookie season or even a year on the practice squad. But McClendon deserves a deeper look, He checks off a lot of those baseline trait boxes we just laid out.
Size, length, speed and strength
At 6’4” and 306 lbs., McClendon measures in under the NFL average size for tackles (6’ 5 3/4” 317 lbs.), while his 34 1/2” arms and 82 3/4” wingspan are above the norm. He suffered a late season knee sprain and missed time during the Bowl Championship Series. In mid-January tragedy struck, McClendon was a passenger in the car crash that took the life his roommate and fellow offensive lineman, as well as that of a recruit staffer. Although knocked cold and suffering other minor injuries in the crash, McClendon toughed it out and competed in an up-and-down Senior Bowl workout week.
Warren McClendon vs Ali Gaye, pt. I— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
McClendon stonewalls him pic.twitter.com/Ti3DaAJ6OA
He’s not fleet afoot and did not test at the NFL Combine. He only did the bench press and pushed an underwhelming 20 reps. On film, his upper body strength looks better than that showing. There are reports that he struggles to keep weight, interesting because one would think that Georgia would have a stellar nutrition and training plan. McClendon looks like his frame could easily add 10 lbs. of good mass and will most certainly need play strength work.
Technique and footwork
His football IQ, instincts and technical prowess help overcome the fact that he is not athletically gifted. More of a linear player than a change of direction guy, he’s adequate laterally, but much better when moving downhill. He wins as a consummate hustler and worker. He shows pretty good get off, pulls well, climbs to second level, and does well on reach blocks. On the move, he hits the targets he’s after. Gets his hands squared early, keeps them inside and delivers a strong punch. both alternating and two-hands. Sets a good base and versus college competition had a strong anchor, but plays too high at times and loses leverage, he won’t be able to get away with either in the NFL.
Finisher, both on the line and down field. He’s a physical player, but you cannot really give him a mauler tag. His 2021 film shows off his strength in a better light, often torquing defenders out of the hole and clamping onto them with his strong 10” hands. In ‘22, he looked like he was leveraging his length more than flexing power.
McClendon is a three-year starter and two-time National Champion. He was a building block of a Top 5 national offense who used both zone and gap run schemes. The pass offense attacked all levels, short, medium, and deep. It was not a short, quick read pass-centric offense, but rather a balanced run/pass scheme that, over his three seasons, averaged 456 yards per game, 187.7 rushing and 265.7 passing.
Pro Football Focus gives McClendon a career 71.2 grade and has him giving up 21 quarterback hurries, five hits, and only two sacks over 40 starts and 2200 snaps. Almost all of those reps came at right tackle, although in 2022, he logged one snap at right guard and 77 at left tackle. Only committed two penalties around the line as a blocker, but with his aggressive play, did pile up some laundry down field while cleaning up piles. Had a few roughing calls for playing through the whistle— and more.
L.A. Rams select Georgia OL Warren McClendon 174th overall— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 29, 2023
ZERO sacks allowed over the past two seasons (822 pass block snaps) pic.twitter.com/SAtkUGID5N
Leadership and work ethic
From a military family. Coaches were effusive in their praise of his exemplary leadership, work ethic and his teammates voted him captain for three years. When he suffered the sprained knee during the Bowl Series, his two game replacement glowingly recalled how McClendon stayed engaged and helped coach him up to be ready.
What’s his upside?
He just turned 22, so he’s got some time to build up play strength and develop in the pro game. There’s a lot to like about him as a prospect, a successful SEC pedigree, hot motor, physical play style and he comes in with good technique.
McClendon does have some versatility possibilities. Many pundits would like to see him move inside and that transition might help alleviate some of his athleticism concerns. But current right tackle Rob Havenstein is not exactly a dancing bear and has carved himself out a solid career. On the current roster, the Rams have bunch of guard-sized players (shorter and stockier) and just a few prototypical tackles, McClendon is a bit of a tweener size-wise, but does have the desired length and wingspan.
I like this prospect, SEC and big-game forged. Tough and durable. Hard to project him as a plug-and-play guy, rather a block of clay that already has the technical aspects of the sculpture molded in. Likely a year away, but if he can live up to his work ethic reputation and build his play strength, he could challenge for a swing backup role.