Texas A&M has been the NFLâ€™s No. 1 source of offensive tackles over the past five years, starting with Luke Joeckel in 2013, followed by Jake Matthews in 2014, Cedric Ogbuehi in 2015 and Germain Ifedi this past season. According to a press release from Texas A&M to KAGSTV.com, that is an unprecedented run of production at the position, and I am inclined to believe them when they say that no other school has ever had first round picks at the tackle in two consecutive drafts.
Those four players have had various levels of success — in my professional estimation: Joeckel (real bad), Matthews (very promising), Ogbuehi (struggling early), Ifedi (weird skill set, but not necessarily bad). The 2017 NFL Draft is not expected to house a ton of offensive line talent, but the Aggies do have one of the few that could be in the mix for a top-50 selection. SeniorÂ Avery Gennesy is the player who blocked Ifedi from starting on the left side in college.
Gennesy is a different type of player than the aforementioned offensive tackles. Despite how they have fared at the NFL level, all four of those first-round picks are similar athletes. They are tall, long players with big wingspans and physical blocking styles. Gennesy isnâ€™t small, standing at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, but doesnâ€™t look like those other players. Despite his listed size, Gennesy has a different center of gravity, and while it wonâ€™t be confirmed until the NFL Combine, he isnâ€™t expected to possess the above-average arm length of his predecessors — nor the speed and agility of other top-tier offensive tackle prospects.
While those things donâ€™t make him a bad player, they do hurt his ceiling as a prospect. NFL teams like the Seahawks are more comfortable taking a chance on a player like Ifedi — who had mixed results as a right tackle in College Station — knowing that fixing his technique and improving his skills could potentially unleash a player who gets better as a pro than he ever was in college. With both players on the offensive line last year, it was Gennesy who was often more impressive.Â Against Auburn last year, Gennesy went up against Carl Lawson and held him at bay most of the day in the loss.
Late in the game needing two scores and a pair of two-point conversions, Lawson got to tee off on Gennesy on five consecutive plays in obvious passing situations. On all five plays, Gennesy was able to give his quarterback time to stand in the pocket and deliver the football, even if the quarterback wasted those opportunities. He may not be the athlete Ifedi is, but he is very good at using leverage to cut off pass rushers on the edge and finding small ways to gain an advantage on his opponents.
He pushes Lawson wide, cuts off his counter moves to the inside, and does a great job slowing Lawson down by remaining stable in his pass set and not giving him an easy decision on which shoulder to attack. These subtle moves have helped him provide protection for Trevor Knight this year, and although it canâ€™t be seen in the examples above, he uses similar savvy to make plays in the run game. He isnâ€™t a road grader paving the way for Aggie running backs. Instead, he slides his feet to cut off pursuing defensive linemen and linebackers, which works well with the zone read plays and the ability for Knight to run with the football himself.
Those subtleties are excellent and are a reason Gennesy should continue to be successful in the pros. However, in Texas A&Mâ€™s win against Auburn earlier this year Gennesy had a rematch against a much healthier Lawson. That matchup happened only in theory, though, as Lawson spent the majority of pass snaps opposite the formation, giving us only a small handful of plays pitting the two against each other. Lawson finished the game without a sack, but as a much more explosive player, this example shows Gennesy having difficulty to keep up with the superior athlete.
Lawson is clearly much more effective, and had Knight not gotten the football out so quickly, he would have taken a huge hit. Gennesy was overmatched on this play and that is unsurprising. Despite a career marred by injury, Lawson is probably the best physical specimen Gennesy would ever have to face off against outside of his own practices. Had the two spent the entire game on the same side of the formation, we would have a much better idea of whether Gennesy will be able to hold up against Von Miller and Khalil Mack and Jadaveon Clowney when he is playing on Sundays.
As good as Gennesy can be in spite of his physical limitations, the gap in strength and athleticism will only increase against NFL competition. He has a great set of tools to deal with that gap at the collegiate level, which makes him one of the better offensive tackles in the country for his role in the Texas A&M offense.
Plays like the followingÂ againstÂ Tennessee show the uphill battle he is up against. The Volunteer defensive lineman doesnâ€™t play around with any speed rush or counter moves;Â instead, he takes away Gennesyâ€™s advantage by driving a bull rush right through the offensive linemanâ€™s chest.
Gennesy has a hard time stopping the bleeding when challenged in this way. He doesnâ€™t have the arm length to keep the defender away from his body and doesnâ€™t have the pure lower body strength to push the defender off his path. Again, Knight gets the ball off quickly enough that it doesnâ€™t derail the play that went for a big gain. For an undefeated Aggies team, even this piece seems like too many positive comments about Trevor Knight.
While we didnâ€™t get the marquee matchup with Lawson against Auburn (although we saw plenty of examples against Derek Barnett), it will be difficult for Gennesy to escape the spotlight against Alabama. Whether it is Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, Dâ€™Shawn Hand or Dalvin Tomlinson, he should have a handful to deal with on every single play. If draftniks are lucky, we will see a mix of all these players (and whatever other non-draft-eligible five-star recruits Nick Saban has behind them on the depth chart).
SoÂ Gennesy should get a real test against the Crimson Tide. If he finds a way to shine despite the nightmare that awaits him, he could push himself up draft boards in a class that lacks legitimate first-round talent at his Â position. If he plays well enough, he might actually be able to still sneak into the top 32 picks and keep the streak of Texas A&M first-round tackles alive.