Green Bay Packers 2017 Draft: Interview with Kentucky center Jon Toth
Like it or not, the NFL pre-draft season is in large part propelled by numbers-driven events, such as the combine and the various college pro days held across the nation, that can sometimes indicate the skill level of select players at certain positions, including wide receiver and cornerback among others.
But the offensive line is almost its own species in that numbers seldom tell the tale about the great big body guards entrusted with arguably the most important task on the field—protecting the quarterback.
Any one single tackle, guard or center is often only as good as the players around him. Individual knock downs, blitz pick-ups or cut blocks are irrelevant if the numbers of their skill-position peers aren’t where they should be in terms of rushing and receiving yards; touchdowns or sacks allowed just to name a few.
And yet, the talking heads at the NFL Network continue to break down a 315-pound widebody’s technique in the 40-yard dash and marvel at how spring-loaded he may appear in his vertical jump.
Who could forget the athletic exploits of University of Maryland’s bookend Bruce Campbell back in 2010, when the technically-challenged waist-bender stole the show at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine that year by delivering a 40-time that would bring a smile to just about any tight end’s face (4.75), a 32-inch vertical leap and 34 reps in the bench press to boot?
And the outwardly measurables didn’t end there.
The fact that the chiseled 6-foot-7, 314-pound prospect featured 10 ½” hands and 36 ¼” arms made a least some teams drool about the young man’s potential and led to Campbell being drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round despite his tape suggesting he was a priority free agent at best.
Seven years later, numerous talent evaluators continue to underscore the fact that a blocker may possess prosaic athletic traits or pedestrian lateral movement instead of shining a spotlight on the player’s ability to win battles.
Enter Jon Toth, the four-year SEC starter that consistently came out on the winning end of his one-on-one skirmishes by employing superior hand skills, balance and the ability to sink his hips to gain leverage on his opponent.
In short: it’s all about technique on the offensive line.
It’s a repetitive term used ad nauseam by coaches and players alike, but a blocker with no technique can easily be thrown off-balance and has then little-to-no chance to recover against a penetrating defender.
The former Kentucky Wildcat was routinely the aggressor in engaging his man by jolting him with immediate contact, which put Toth is position to steer the adversary away from the direction of the play.
The 2016 season saw the Mark Stoops-led former conference also-rans peel off 7 wins and earn a trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl thanks in large part to new offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and a standout 1,000-yard campaign on the part of running back Stanley “Boom” Williams.
The contributions of a stable offensive line had a big hand in the Wildcats resurgence led by the presence of Toth, who hadn’t missed a start in his four years in Lexington.
The Indianapolis-born center never flinched at the prospect of locking horns with NFL-level competition, as he held his own against the likes of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators.
What’s more, Toth saved his best when facing some of the top prospects in the nation at this year’s Senior Bowl, where he moved well throughout the week and capped things off by delivering a dominant performance during the Saturday game.
In that game, in fact, Toth received top honors from Pro Football Focus (PFF) as the winning South team’s highest-rated offensive player with an 81.1 grade on the afternoon.
With the combine and his pro day in the rearview mirror, No. 72 recently took a break in between his hours of physical training and film study to fill in LombardiAve.com on how he’s been preparing for the draft over the past few months.