Player name: Jack Conklin
H/W: 6'6 308
Position: Offensive Tackle
School/Class: Michigan State/RS Junior
Measureables: 4.98 40, 25 bench press reps, 30" vertical jump, 8'7" Broad Jump, 7.63 3 cone drill.
- Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who's the best magician of them all? Conklin went up against some elite defenders in 2014-15 and virtually eliminated nearly all of them. I was really impressed by his work against Oregon. His footwork, while choppy at times, is one of the best in the class. In the Oregon game, he proved that he can keep up with the Ducks' all world DL Deforest Buckner. It didn't look pretty at times but he stoned Buckner repeatedly. I also enjoyed his tape against Baylor in that wacky bowl game shootout in 2014. Conklin threw down the gauntlet against Shawn Oakman and didn't let him get through for the most part. Ohio State was also another positive film for him as he took out the talented Buckeyes front seven at will.
- Boxing Day isn't just a holiday in Canada: He locks onto the defender and doesn't let go. A mauler that can go 12 rounds in the "phone booth" all game long. Hand usage is above average. Understands when and how to get way with holding calls. Utilizes arm length/hands in repeated short bursts instead of burning out quickly by being a long reacher.
- Work Ethic/Character/Football IQ: Conklin was basically a no name recruit even with having a father who played for archrival Michigan. He was a walk on that had to earn his scholarship the hard way. He was one of the hardest workers on the Spartans team that prides itself as a blue collar program. Character is excellent as well. Football IQ is great as well despite his athletic limitations. After watching his film, he's excellent at combo blocks in tandem with the guard. Has that veteran's savvy when it comes to getting away with holding. The Spartans very rarely had to have TE help on his side of the line except when their gameplan called for it. The one thing that stood out to me was that he is always looking for another blocking opportunity after his initial assignment is neutralized.
- Athleticism: Conklin isn't the greatest athlete in the world as evidenced by his 40 time. I've noticed that he tends to get sloppy with his footwork when he loses leverage. Knows how to get to the second level but it's a serious chore getting there. He's so slow even on slow developing plays like screens where he has to pull block.
- Leverage just isn't a fiscal term: To compensate for his lack of ideal athleticism, he allows his defensive assignment to show their cards first before he reacts. This leaves him susceptible to counter moves and there were times that he lunging at air because the defender was already past him. Occasionally allows defenders to lean into him and stand him up instead of being the aggressor.
I watched the playoff game against Alabama live and on film to see if he was bad as people said that he and the rest of his teammates were. Conklin didn't play all that bad against the fearsome Tide front 7 even with Sparty getting destroyed by the national champions. He was occasionally beaten but won more than his fair share of battles. The Oregon game stands out in particular as recent 49ers draft pick DeForest Buckner couldn't do anything against him. If you're looking for a blocking clinic, watch him against Ohio State. He didn't get to face Joey Bosa that much but he stoned whatever player came his way.
I like the pick, even with Laremy Tunsil still being on the board at the time. Conklin is a natural fit for the right tackle position but he probably will be cross trained at left as well. He isn't your typical franchise left tackle but can get the job done there if need be. Due to the depth or the lack of it at RT, he's likely the opening day starter. New OL coach Russ Grimm should be delighted that he gets a new asset to work with. While he isn't Big Country 2.0 just yet, he has the skillset and attitude to reach those heights. The anti Taylor Lewan if you will. It will be interesting to see a former Wolverine and Spartan as the bookend tackles for this organization. I bet it was very interesting in the Conklin household when those two programs got together. New teammates are raving about him and he hasn't even been a Titan for three weeks.