When the Falcons drafted Southern Miss offensvie tackle Lamar Holmes, I’m sure I was among many Falcon fans that were perplexed. Holmes had been designated by many draft sites as a late round project, and here the Falcons a team that desperately needed a left tackle had just taken him in the third round. It suggested they thought much more highly of Holmes than many of the so-called experts.
I’ve learned over the years, that when it comes to rookies and draft prospects, you shouldn’t have any strong opinions about them until you’ve seen them play. Guys that are initially judged as reaches can often become studs. And others that are deemed sure-fire studs and can potentially become busts.
I went back and watched three games of Southern Miss on ESPN3.com to form my own impression of Holmes. I saw him from this past year against Virginia, Houston, and Nevada.
Pros: The first thing you notice about Holmes is his size. He has very good size for an NFL tackle with the long arms and bulky frame you want. He is a fairly good athlete that is able to move his feet and slide in pass protection. His technique and footwork are pretty solid. His long arms allow him to get extension in pass protection, as he’s able to initiate contact with pass rushers on the edge. He bends his knees well and can get leverage at the point of attack as a run blocker. He can drive his feet when he does lock on as a run blocker to get some push. He is able to block on the move and does a nice job getting downfield to hit assignments on the second level. He also flashed nice potential as a cut blocker.
Cons: Holmes lacks great feet. He can struggle at times with speed, mainly because while he does a good job initiating contact on the edge, the contact is lackluster. He tends to push rather than punch pass rushers, which allows them to continue to work their way around the edge. He doesn’t do a great job locking on which prevents him from maintaining his blocks. And he doesn’t possess the short-area power as a run blocker that even when he gets leverage he is able to consistently push defenders off the ball. Doesn’t do a great job finishing his blocks either because of his inability to lock on. Doesn’t dominate smaller defenders in a short-area the way a guy with his size should.
Holmes is expected to compete right away for the left tackle position for the Falcons. But in watching Holmes in these three games I do not think he’s quite ready to be an NFL starter. While he is technically sound in the sense that you can tell he’s been well-coached, he hasn’t quite polished that technique to make him effective against speed. He needs to refine his technique, and getting at least a year in the weight room and on the bench should help him go a long ways towards doing that.
But even if Holmes does get a year to learn and improve, I’m still not convinced he’s ideally suited to play left tackle in the NFL. At least not a high level. He looks more like a player that is better suited to playing right tackle in the league because of his struggles against speed.
Whoever plays left tackle for the Falcons this year is not going to have an easy task over the first half of the season. Likely matchups include going against Tamba Hali (12 sacks in 2011), Elvis Dumervil (9.5 sacks), Shaun Philips (3.5 sacks), Charles Johnson (9 sacks), Brian Orakpo (9 sacks), Matt Shaughnessy (7 sacks in 2010), Trent Cole (11 sacks), and DeMarcus Ware (19.5 sacks) over the first 8 games.
That’s not going to be an ideal situation for a player like Holmes. I believe Holmes can be a good player for the Falcons, but probably not in 2012. In time, he can potentially become a Donald Penn-caliber of left tackle. He won’t set the world on fire, but is more than capable of doing more good than bad if he can be developed. That should begin with patience from the Falcons.