NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: Olu Fashanu remains a top-10 talent despite pre-draft talk

2T7FN43 UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Penn State tackle Olumuyiwa Olu Fashanu (74) pass blocks during the Michigan Wolverines versus Penn State Nittany Lions game on November 11, 2023 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• The conversation should still be between Joe Alt and Fashanu for OT1: Fashanu has a weakness in run blocking, but he excels at the most important part of offensive line play.

• Fashanu will have plenty of room to grow as a run blocker: He has the athletic traits to get better, and the right scheme (a Shanahan disciple, for example) would mitigate that weakness and play to his strengths more in that area.

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There are very real reasons for a player's stock to move between the end of the college football season and the 2024 NFL Draft, but there are also times when it seems hard to explain.

The pre-draft process can create a narrative snowball, one that doesn't always stop easily. It seems to be happening to Drake Maye, who began the process neck and neck with Caleb Williams for the No. 1 overall spot and is now ostensibly battling J.J. McCarthy for QB3, and it’s also happening to Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu.

Like Maye, Fashanu began the process locked in a battle with another player — Notre Dame’s Joe Alt — to be seen as the best prospect available at his position. As time has worn on, Alt has become the consensus top tackle and Fashanu seems to keep sliding down the board, dropping as low as the fifth tackle in some rankings.

Click here to see Olu Fashanu's 2024 NFL Draft profile.

Fashanu isn’t a perfect tackle prospect. In fact, he has a significant weakness in run blocking. 2023 was the best year of his career in that regard, and his PFF run-blocking grade was just 70.5, a solid but underwhelming figure. Alt was at 86.5, and Taliese Fuaga from Oregon State posted a 90.9 grade.

That’s definitely not ideal for a player talked about as an elite prospect, but neither is it necessarily unusual. Troy Fautanu didn't clear 75.0 in run blocking grade in three years, while some top tackle prospects of the past have been average run blockers. It’s a weakness of Fashanu’s, certainly relative to Alt, but we need to keep it in perspective.

Run blocking is important, but it doesn’t have the season-changing ramifications that pass protection does. Bad pass protection jeopardizes the most valuable asset the franchise has: the quarterback.

There is an adjustment period for most offensive tackles moving to the NFL, so if I need a player to start right away, I want the one whom I have the most confidence in to protect my quarterback, and this is where Fashanu excels.

He didn’t give up a sack in his college career and allowed his quarterback to hit the turf on only one occasion. His entire college tenure amounted to 17 pressures surrendered, 16 of which were hurries. And he did it without needing to resort to penalties, with five total across his career.

His PFF pass-blocking grades were at least 84.7 in each season, and in 2023 there was only one game that was anything other than excellent from a pass-protection standpoint (Ohio State).

Even watching that game against the Buckeyes back, it wasn’t a case of Fashanu being overwhelmed or beaten by a player of a quality he hadn’t run up against before. He was simply getting himself in bad positions repeatedly in a way he hadn’t in the past. Whatever the reason behind that dynamic, it seems to represent a very clear negative outlier to the rest of Fashanu’s college career, let alone season.

Every NFL team now passes more than runs, and the quarterback is the most important player, so protecting that guy is paramount when looking for offensive linemen.

Fashanu’s run blocking is less than ideal, but he has the athletic traits to get better at it, and the right scheme (a Shanahan disciple, for example) would mitigate that weakness and play to his strengths more in that area.

What Fashanu is good at, you can teach but can’t replicate. He has rare footwork and fluidity of movement for a player of his size. The massive size of Alt (6-foot-9 and 321 pounds) has diminished Fashanu’s prototypical size (6-foot-6 and 312 pounds). The only area in which Fashanu is not above average in measurables is his curiously small hands (8.5 inches).

Ultimately, the league still covets elite pass protection, and Fashanu is the best pass blocker available in this draft. There are absolutely schemes that will value the run-blocking component of play more than others, and those teams are perfectly within their rights to skew toward favoring Alt. But the teams that acutely need a pass protection upgrade should be looking at Fashanu as the best player available, and the discussion should be where it was back in January — between Fashanu and Alt, not how far down the tackle rankings Fashanu has slid.

The New York Jets signed Tyron Smith to fix their left tackle problem and keep a 40-year-old Aaron Rodgers upright this season. Smith is still a great player when healthy, but the last time he played a full season of games was in 2015, and over the past four years he has missed an average of nine games. The Jets could do a lot worse than drafting Fashanu as a contingency for Smith and an eventual succession plan at the most important position on the line.

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