NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: Highest-graded offensive tackles on zone run concepts

2WPPJBC Oregon State offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

• Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga leads the way: He earned a 91.3 run-blocking grade on zone concepts in 2023, pacing the 2024 draft class.

• Notre Dame's Joe Alt is a tough foe on zone runs: He lost only 5.3% of his reps on such plays in 2023.

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With the 2024 NFL Draft quickly approaching, teams are evaluating the top offensive lineman prospects to bolster their rosters. Based on season-long grades and performance, here is a breakdown of the top-ranked offensive tackles on zone run concepts in this year's draft class.

Zone concepts include inside zone and outside zone.

1. Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State (91.3 run-blocking grade)

Fuaga is an unstoppable force in the run game. He was the only FBS offensive lineman with 100-plus snaps and a 90.0-plus run-blocking grade on zone-scheme runs in 2023. Fuaga was excellent on inside- and outside-zone plays, earning a 90.3 grade on the latter and an 83.1 mark on the former.

Pac-12 linebackers feared Fuaga, who on multiple occasions in 2023 reached the second level of the defense with bad intentions. His unrivaled raw power led to many pancakes and tons of vertical movement on his blocks.

Click here to see Taliese Fuaga's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

2. Joe Alt, Notre Dame (90.3 run-blocking grade)

Alt does not lose reps. Notre Dame ran 131 zone-scheme runs while Alt was on the field in 2023, and he was defeated on a minuscule 5.3% of those plays, the lowest mark of any tackle on the PFF big board with at least 20 such snaps. His combination of size and excellent base make it a Herculean task for any defender to claim victory against him.

Notre Dame ran inside zone to the left on 66 of the team's 131 zone reps in 2023, and Alt earned a 92.0 run-blocking grade on those snaps while the Fighting Irish averaged 6.5 yards per rush and 2.1 yards before contact.

3. Javon Foster, Missouri (91.2 run-blocking grade)

It may seem odd that Foster is ranked lower than Alt despite his higher grade, but when we look at each against FBS competition, Foster’s grade drops below Alt's, from 91.2 to 88.4.

Foster thrived when Missouri ran outside zone this past season, earning a 90.8 overall grade. He was even more lethal on the backside of the run, posting a 96.1 run-blocking grade on outside-zone runs to the right. He often used a deadly cut block that got many defenders on the ground and opened up significant cutback lanes for his running backs.

4. JC Latham, Alabama (86.2 run-blocking grade)

Latham rounds out the top tier of zone-scheme tackles. He is the only one of the top four who can compete with Fuaga in physicality. Latham's size and elite hand strength are evident when watching his inside-zone tape. When he got his hands on defenders, it was often over for them.

Latham is also in the same class as Alt as the cleanest zone run blocker. He was defeated on only 10.6% of Alabama‘s 180 zone runs this past season. And when the Crimson Tide ran inside zone behind Latham, which they did 77 times, he was defeated on 5.2% of reps.

5. J.C. Davis, New Mexico (82.4 run-blocking grade)

New Mexico knew it had a future NFL-level offensive lineman in J.C. Davis and did not shy away. The Lobos ran a zone-scheme concept 318 times in 2023, and Davis was on the field for 316 of those snaps — a top-10 mark in the FBS. Of the teams with 300-plus snaps of zone-scheme runs last season, Davis helped New Mexico record the highest team rushing grade (91.5), with 58 explosive runs, an average of 2.0 yards before contact and a low 16.0% stuff rate.

Davis greatly understands the details of zone schemes, as shown by his well-rounded grades of 78.6 on inside-zone runs and 78.4 on outside-zone runs. He displays excellent eyes in the run game, executing sift blocks and linebacker cut-offs well. He earned an elite 91.6 grade on the backside of outside-zone plays. Davis does play too tall at times and fails to get the necessary vertical movement. On runs in his direction, his grades in 2023 dropped to 67.7 for inside zone and 64.0 for outside zone.

6. Christian Jones, Texas (81.8 run-blocking grade)

Jones is an all-around zone run blocker, having earned a 78.0 run-blocking grade on outside-zone plays and a 77.9 run-blocking grade on inside-zone plays in 2023. He is at his best when he can use his speed to get on the straight-line track that zone schemes provide and get on top of defenders quickly.

Jones sometimes struggles with not striking through the defender's body, instead getting his hands wide and placing them at the point of contact. Also, if Jones has to change direction and restart his motion in the play, it often leads to a lost rep.

7. Graham Barton, Duke (78.5 run-blocking grade)

Barton is a clean zone run blocker who has teach-tape-worthy film. He possesses a great base and a low center of gravity when working through his blocks. Many analysts project Barton as an interior offensive lineman in the NFL, the grades show that it is likely the way to get the most out of him at the next level.

Barton earned a 78.3 inside-zone grade and a 68.7 outside-zone grade in 2023. Isolating the stats shows his dominance when working against interior defensive linemen. He earned an 86.8 inside-zone run-blocking grade when he was the backside tackle, generally working down against a defensive tackle.

Click here to see Graham Barton's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

8. Isaiah Adams, Illinois (77.1 run-blocking grade)

Adams runs outside zone exceptionally, earning an 86.8 grade last season. He is strong at the point of attack in the run game, using the defender's momentum against them, which is shown by his elite 94.9 outside-zone run-blocking grade when he is the backside defender.

However, Adams struggles when the run call is in his direction, earning a 57.5 run-blocking grade on all zone runs to the right, with most of his struggles on inside-zone plays coming when he was one-on-one with an edge defender looking to set the edge on him.

9. Jordan Morgan, Arizona (76.9 run-blocking grade)

Morgan is a very similar zone run-blocking prospect to Adams. He is much better on outside-zone plays, where he earned an 81.8 grade compared to a 67.6 mark on inside-zone plays. Morgan also posted an elite grade when on the backside of outside zones (94.5). Unlike Adams, Morgan showed more of an ability to reach the defender in both types of zone, which, at times, was also his undoing — trying to work the reach longer than it should have instead of converting it into a crash block.

Morgan is much more consistent than Adams, with only 10.6% of his zone runs in 2023 ending in a negative, but has a lower positively graded run-block rate (14.5%) than Adams. Morgan also struggles with zone runs called to the left (his side), earning a 60.5 overall grade.

FCS Standout: Josiah Ezirim, Eastern Kentucky (86.6 run-blocking grade)

Ezirim is ranked 254th on the PFF big board. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, he has NFL size and earned excellent grades at the FCS level, earning an 85.0 mark on inside-zone runs and a 79.5 mark on outside-zone runs. Ezirim has NFL-caliber potential with the right coaching and some time to get up to speed.

Games against FBS competition:

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