In an NFL draft full of intriguing prospects, there may be no one more enigmatic than Miami Hurricanes offensive tackle Ereck Flowers.
After Wednesday’s pro day that kept him as a probable first-rounder in this month’s draft, Flowers continues to puzzle. He has the strength and athleticism to succeed at left tackle in the NFL, but his technique lags behind other first-round prospects.
Flowers was one of the most impactful players for a Hurricanes squad full of future NFL players this year, but he let his actions do the talking and granted no media access last season.
And despite the complexities of the pre-draft process, Flowers and his father decided against hiring an agent. But Flowers’ talent and toughness are undeniable, and with no long-term answer at offensive tackle on the Panthers’ roster, he could be the pick at No. 25 for Carolina.
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“He’s got great feet, really good balance,” Jason Taylor, a former All-Pro defensive end for the Miami Dolphins, said Wednesday at the Hurricanes’ pro day. “He played the right side and the left side, and he’s interesting. He has the disposition of a right tackle with a mean, nasty streak – kind of a road grader. But (he has) the athleticism and patience to play the left side. He has the consistent hand placement and punch to play on the left side.”
The Panthers liked him enough to send offensive line coach John Matsko to the Miami area on March 20 to have dinner with Flowers and work him out. And one team source indicated “it’d be close” when asked if Flowers, 21, could fall to the Panthers at No. 25.
But Flowers, like all NFL prospects, has question marks.
Former NFL defensive tackle Stephen White praised him in a recent film breakdown for SBNation.com. But what concerns White the most about Flowers is his weight (329 pounds, though he looked slimmer at pro day), and Flowers consistently having a high stance at the snap.
“Most of what I didn’t like about Flowers is readily correctable,” White wrote. “While Flowers is no doubt a big, strong man – who was about to play pretty good football in spite of poor pad level against other college players – he is about to enter a world where (almost) everybody is big and strong and powerful. There will be definitely be more than one opponent in five games who tests him under his chin on bull rushes no matter how big and strong he becomes because of his poor pad level.”
What Flowers lacks in technique he makes up in brute strength. He led all combine participants with 37 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press in February.
“I’ll never stop getting stronger,” Flowers said at the combine. “The day I stop getting stronger is the day I stop lifting weights so always look for improvement.”
Flowers did not speak with the media after his pro day, where he showed good, choppy steps in his pass-blocking sets and a violent punch on the bags. While his 40-yard dash wasn’t impressive at 5.31 seconds, Taylor didn’t care about that.
“As an offensive lineman, you aren’t running anywhere,” Taylor said. “It’s the phonebooth quicks, and I think he has that.”
Flowers is one of several first-round prospects at tackle. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, Stanford’s Andrus Peat, LSU’s La’el Collins, Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi and Florida’s D.J. Humphries could all be selected on the first night of the draft.
Because of his technique issues, Flowers would likely begin his NFL career at right tackle as a team teaches him how to play left.
And occasionally, Taylor said, Flowers gets beaten on an inside move. Is that how the four-time All Pro would get past Flowers now?
“I’m not going to tell you how I’d beat him,” said Taylor, now 40 and an analyst for NBC Sports. “I can’t give that up. Those are state secrets. But I’m pretty confident that right now, today, he’d block the heck out of me.”
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9