Player: Greg Little
College: University of Mississippi (declared for draft as a junior)
Weight: 310 lbs
40 Time: 5.33 seconds
10-Yd: 1.84 seconds
Vertical Jump: 25”
Broad Jump: 9’5”
Selected: 5th pick in the second round, 37th overall
Physically, Greg Little is a prototypical left tackle with his size, length and speed. His intangibles, however, are questionable almost all across the board, including motivation, technique, and football intelligence. The Carolina Panthers picked him at an appropriate spot in the draft given his pre-draft profile. He is expected to be a productive NFL starter but that is not a guarantee.
Little checks all the boxes for the physical traits wanted in a left tackle. He has height, weight and length ideal for the position, and some think he can add additional muscle to enhance his strength. What’s more, he is very athletic and quick and his mobility not limited by his size. His quick feet enable him to effectively mirror speed rushers on the edge and deal with linebackers. He can get to the second level fast. With an arm length of over 35 inches, Little has great length that enables him to initiate contact, which also helps him against edge rushers. Little’s hands are big – they measure over ten inches – and fast, so he can fend off hand fighting by opponents. With a lot of his weight below his beltline, Little complements his size with a wide base, a loose lower body, and a tendency to bend at the knee rather than the waist. Thus he isn’t easy to bully back with power. It is believed by some that his athleticism will enable him to be used in a variety of schemes and gives him huge upside.
Little’s physical traits have enabled him to build a strong resume. In high school at Allen in Texas, he was part of national title in 2014 and was a second team All-American as a senior. He came out of high school as top five recruit regardless of position. He showed a lot of promise as a freshman left tackle at Ole Miss, playing in all twelve games and starting the final five games. He was a Freshman All-American and SEC All-Freshman First team honoree. As a sophomore, he was voted onto the All-SEC Second Team. In his junior year, his last before declaring for the draft, he was honored with All-SEC First Team and All-American Second Team selections. Little obtained these honors playing in 36 college games with 29 starts against some of the best college competition in the country. In his final year, he was part of a Mississippi offence that led the SEC and finished fifth in the country for passing with 346.4 yards per game.
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Little’s physical abilities are potentially undermined by intangible concerns, such as effort, rawness, and technique. Each of his physical traits seems to come with a caveat, a “but”. He has size and strength, but he needs to work on his core power and body control and block with more force. He has speed and quickness to mirror blockers but he gets beat due to reaching for rushers when he should be patient and wait for them to come to him. He has quick feet but his placement can be poor and his footwork is not at the NFL level. He has good length and extension for a tackle but he can extend too far, lunge and leave his feet behind. He has reach and big hands but his hand placement and timing are spotty, and his punch is soft. He has a wide base but his anchor and lower body strength could be better, and he plays upright at times.
In addition to particular flaws with his individual attributes, there are more general concerns about Little. The most significant of these are questions about his work ethic and football intelligence. Even though Little has an impressive resume, he has been inconsistent and there is some feeling that he has been an underachiever. Little is not aggressive, physically dominant, tenacious or mean, all of which are typically desired in an offensive lineman. He is a finesse blocker rather than a mauler. Although he is generally hard to move, he can get bull rushed back into the pocket and he can give up pressure to the inside. Little needs to improve his run blocking. He is slow out of his stance and is not forceful enough to knock defenders off the ball. His size would suggest a fit for a power-man scheme but he would be better in a zone-blocking scheme.
Evaluating the pick
Going into the draft, the Panthers’ top two positions of need were defensive line with an emphasis on pass rush, and offensive line. Having addressed one of their top priorities with their first selection, the Panthers addressed the other with their second. Given the Panthers’ problems with depth at offensive line, they arguably could have used someone with more versatility, but they also needed a left tackle. Little played solely at left tackle all through college. Little was viewed by some pre-draft prognosticators as a top five tackle, and he was the sixth tackle taken overall. With their second round pick, the Panthers also netted a talent that some thought might go in the first round. So the Panthers arguably picked him for the right value in terms of where he was taken overall in the draft and where he was selected within his position group, as well as selecting him in a round commensurate with their need. Put simply, Carolina did not “reach” for him.
Yet the value of the pick will be ultimately verified by the play. Little’s productivity on the field will show whether the Panthers chose wisely, and that productivity will be determined by his effort and ability to learn. Little will have to step up to consistently stay on the NFL playing field and perform at the required level. Can coaching make up for Little’s shortcomings? The inability of the Panthers offensive line coaches to muster adequate depth last year suggests that coaching may not necessarily provide the solution. Little’s physical traits and history, however, suggest that he will at least be serviceable to good. Polishing off his rough edges will enable him to deliver to his full potential and make him truly worth the second round pick.