The Cleveland Browns drafted Jedrick Wills to be their franchise left tackle, and Wills will have to make a transition after primarily playing right tackle.
The Cleveland Browns addressed their biggest need of the offseason when they selected offensive tackle Jedrick Wills with the No. 10 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. The move solidified Cleveland’s offensive line, which played a large role in the disappointing 2019 season.
Wills will be joining free agent signing Jack Conklin on the offensive line, and the two are expected to be Cleveland’s offensive tackles for years to come. However, Wills is going to need to grow as an offensive tackle during the offseason before starting on Cleveland’s offensive line.
The expectation is Wills will be moving to left tackle after playing right tackle in high school and during his three-year career with the Alabama Crimson Tide. As noted by former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz, it is rare for right tackles in college to move to left tackle in the NFL.
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During their teleconference following the selection of Wills, Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry said the plan is to move Wills to left tackle while keeping Conklin at right tackle. Berry said he is confident the move for Wills will not be a problem.
Although it may be rare for college right tackles to switch to left tackle, Wills has all of the athleticism needed to make the successful switch. During the NFL Combine among the offensive linemen, Wills ran the seventh-fastest 40-yard dash at 5.05 seconds, second-best vertical jump at 34.5-inches, sixth-best broad jump at 113-inches, and the 14th-fastest 20-yard shuttle at 4.84 seconds.
Those Combine numbers confirmed what many thought of Wills’ on-field performance, as he showed agile feet and elite movement skills for an offensive tackle. He is able to move side-to-side with ease and his feet are always under control. With left tackles needing to show elite athleticism in today’s NFL, Wills checks all of the boxes.
The biggest concern with Wills’ move to left tackle is the comfort in his sets from the right side. Moving to left tackle is going to cause Wills to mirror the mechanics he has grown comfortable with playing at right tackle. Playing from the right side is now muscle-memory for Wills, but now he will have to flip everything he has grown comfortable with to play on the right side.
Despite the concern that Wills has only played right tackle in his career, he was responsible for protecting the blind-side of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa the last two seasons. Since Tagovailoa throws left-handed, Wills was tasked with being the incredibly important blind-side tackle. The switch to left tackle in Cleveland would once again make Wills the blind-side tackle, now for Baker Mayfield.
Nick Saban, Wills’ college head coach at Alabama, told Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot that the move should not be a problem for Wills because he has all of the tools necessary to put in the work and to complete the transition.
“He was the left tackle for us by playing right tackle because Tua [Tagovailoa] was left-handed,’’ Saban said. “But he always played right tackle. He played right tackle in high school, he’s always played right tackle here. He has all the physical abilities to be able to play left tackle. He’s got the feet, he can pass-block well enough, he’s smart, he can do all the things he needs to do to be a left tackle.” – Saban via Cleveland.com
Since NFL facilities are currently under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wills will be unable to get the in-person tutelage of Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan to help with the transition. Callahan is credited with improving the technique of NFL linemen and building the top offensive lines in the NFL for several years. Once he is able to get his hands on Wills, he will certainly be key in helping with the transition.
It should be noted Callahan helped Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith make the move from right to left in 2012. Smith played right tackle during his college career at USC and during his rookie season with the Cowboys in 2011. Before the 2012 season, however, Smith made the transition to left tackle, and Callahan was hired by the Cowboys that same offseason. Callahan has been responsible for helping with the position transition previously, and he helped groom one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
It may not be ideal for a right tackle to move to left tackle, but the transition should not be a major concern for Wills and the Browns. Once they are able to get Wills in the facility to work with Callahan and the Browns offensive staff, they should have him ready to take the field in 2020 as the starting left tackle.