NAME: Ben Bartch
POSITION: Offensive Tackle
SCHOOL: St. John’s (MN, D-III)
Ben Bartch is perhaps the most interesting prospect in this year’s draft class. He has gone from third-string tight end at a Division III school to potential NFL draft pick in a matter of two years. Bartch’s coaches challenged him to change positions, and he has completely reformed his body. A disgusting smoothie made of eggs, sports drinks, grits, bananas, and peanut butter helped him gain 75 pounds in the transition from backup tight end to all-conference left tackle. His willingness to stomach that mixture every day leaves few questioning his commitment. The Colts are likely in the market for a lineman or two in this draft, and Bartch makes a lot of sense on paper.
“Coming from a small school, you kind of have a chip on your shoulder.”
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 29, 2020
Aside from playing tight end, Bartch also threw shot put and discus at St. John’s and ran hurdles in high school. As such, he has some of the quickest feet among all draft-eligible offensive linemen this year. That’s no exaggeration: he more than held his own all week at the Senior Bowl against elite competition. He is still very raw in his technique, but he has a high floor based on athletic traits alone. Linemen have to play from the ground up. With such a quick jump out of his stance, Bartch moves about as well as a 310-pound man can.
D-III vs. SEC. Here is @SJUFootball OL Ben Bartch’s first 1-on-1 rep of the @seniorbowl against @AlabamaFTBL EDGE Terrell Lewis, a potential first-round pick. Bartch moved up multiple rounds in Mobile last week. The stage wasn’t too big for Bartch. 💪#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/qqhX27T6ph
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— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) January 28, 2020
Bartch is relatively thin for his position, and his frame may be almost maxed out. He has already had to gain 75 pounds, and although he could continue replacing fat with muscle, he may not get any bigger. Additionally, his arms are under 33″, which is shorter than most NFL offensive tackles. As mentioned in Julian Okwara’s profile, scouts drool over the prospect of a player “filling out” with a professional strength program. Bartch’s athleticism piques their interest, to be sure, but how much better he can become is a mystery.
Even if he never overcomes his thin legs and short arms, Bartch can improve immeasurably with NFL coaching. Keep in mind that he has only started 27 games as a lineman. Before that, he only played in nine games as a tight end. Few players are as inexperienced as Bartch is, and that fails to consider the level of competition he faced at such a small school. In his defense, he absolutely dominated and outclassed his opponents after switching to left tackle. Any team drafting him will need to be patient and thorough, but he could become a starter on the right team.
Anthony Castonzo may only have two more years left. That is the length of his new contract, after all. With that in mind, a raw player like Bartch could study from a master technician like Castonzo while adjusting to the professional game. Le’Raven Clark is in position to serve as the backup swing tackle now that Joe Haeg is a Buccaneer. When given opportunities to contribute, though, Clark has failed to impress. Bartch could push him for reps as a rookie and take his job in year two. Come year three, Bartch may be in line to ascend to the starting lineup and keep his meteoric football journey alive.