The 2023 NFL Draft offensive tackle class has developed a great deal over the past few months, but where does the scouting report of Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan rank in the masses? Duncan’s upside has tantalized scouts for a long time, and that’s no different today.
Jaelyn Duncan NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Maryland
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’6″, 320 pounds
In a class with high-level tackle prospects from college football blue bloods like Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, and Penn State, it’s a bit surprising to see a tackle in the first-round conversation from Maryland. But in actuality, Duncan was a recruit who fielded interest from those same blue bloods five years ago.
Duncan was a four-star recruit in the 2018 class on ESPN’s board and the fourth-ranked tackle prospect in the entire nation — behind Bengals 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman and Nicholas Petit-Frere, a starting rookie tackle for the Titans.
Fielding offers from schools like Ohio State, Florida, LSU, Michigan, and Penn State, Duncan was on the top schools’ radars. But coming from St. Frances Academy near Baltimore, Maryland, Duncan chose to stay home and sign with the Terrapins.
A top 25 recruit all-time in school history at Maryland, Duncan quickly became a fixture on the offensive line after redshirting his first season. He started 11 games at left tackle in 2019, five in 2020, and another 11 at the same spot in 2021. In 2022, he’s maintained that role, nearing 40 total starts in his Maryland career.
Jaelyn Duncan Scouting Report
One thing that works in Duncan’s favor is that he most certainly looks the part. The Maryland OT has a tall, sturdy frame with great lower body mass, and he’s a near-elite athlete at his size.
Duncan is extremely quick and light-footed off the snap — an amped-up mover with excellent foot speed and corrective athleticism. He can quickly close gaps and square up defenders off the line. To that end, he’s an explosive athlete in short ranges, who can quickly correct positioning with bursts of energy, and has exceptional range as a pulling blocker.
In contact situations, Duncan can leverage his high-end initial burst into displacement energy. He has the athletic freedom to explode off the line laterally and turn upfield through gaps as a pulling blocker. But he also flashes impressive recovery athleticism against power rushes as a pass protector. He’s shown to quickly recoil, recollect his feet, and channel power from momentum in recovery.
With his frame density, Duncan possesses good raw power. He has the power capacity to knock back linebackers in space and clear open lanes. He’s also shown to use his hips to effectively torque through blocks and seal out edge defenders against the run — an important component of functional power. He has solid leg drive when blocking to the second level and can churn through blocks and displace defenders.
Strength is also another above-average component in Duncan’s game. The Maryland OT has enough core and lower body strength to wall off defenders off the snap when well-leveraged. Additionally, he’s shown to sustain anchors sealing the edge in run defense with a wide base. Against power rushes, when he’s able to re-align his base, Duncan’s proven he can slow displacement as well.
For his size, Duncan has excellent knee bend and solid flexibility. He can effortlessly lower and attain proper leverage heading into contact, and he very naturally bends his knees and gets square to fully envelop defenders off the snap. Going further, Duncan has fairly fluid hips. He quickly flips around and sustains acceleration out of transitions to seal at the apex.
Duncan still has room to refine his game on the operational side, even after accruing several years of starting experience. That said, there are flashes in pass protection. The Maryland OT has shown he can get good depth on his kick and keep a wide base while matching rushers. And while matching, he can violently latch when rushers enter his wheelhouse.
On stunts, Duncan flashes good awareness. He effectively drags interior defenders with one arm, before hinging outside to seal off edge rushers. In the running game, Duncan chips interior defenders while stacking to the second level and maintains angles against LBs. Also appealing is Duncan’s baseline physicality. When given the opportunity, he finishes imbalanced opponents into the turf and drives through with power.
Duncan’s Areas for Improvement
There are several very pressing concerns on Duncan’s profile that detract from his high-end athleticism — the most notable of which is his non-elite length. Despite measuring in at 6’6″, Duncan has above-average length at best, and it may be closer to average. Without elite length and load-up, he visibly lacks elite power capacity, and his middling length also hurts him in other areas.
Duncan doesn’t have elite grip strength on its own, as his anchor can be wrenched loose by stronger opponents. But his lack of length can impact his ability to acquire sure grip, as he’s often outreached by longer defenders, who thus have superior leverage. Additionally, he too often lurches past his center of gravity to compensate for his non-elite length and can be worked off-balance by longer opponents.
Moving elsewhere, while Duncan has good functional strength, he falls short of the elite mark. He has room to improve his core strength, as he struggles to stymy well-leveraged power rushes while anchored. Furthermore, Duncan’s hand strength is notably inconsistent in pass protection. Individual anchors of his can be broken by swipes and jabs.
In spite of his natural knee bend, leverage is another issue that’s prevalent on Duncan’s film. The Maryland OT sometimes plays too tall and leans on the move, failing to leverage power through his lower body. This also impacts his ability to sustain blocks.
Duncan can be easily worked upright while matching backward, and at times, he struggles to manage pad level on the move. Meanwhile, at contact, he’s rather upright by nature as well, and this sometimes undermines his ability to latch.
Moving to the operational realm, for a player who’s logged almost 40 starts at left tackle at the Big Ten level, it’s at times concerning how little sustained progression Duncan has shown with his footwork and hand usage.
Duncan consistently keeps his hands too wide when matching back in pass protection, exposing his torso to power. He could also be more efficient with his hands, as he sometimes swings around into contact in a circular motion, wasting energy and failing to load maximum power.
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Duncan’s hands can be late to reach ready position, in comparison to his feet. Overall, he could improve his synergy off the snap, as well as his reaction quickness against initial moves.
On a related note, there’s very little independent hand usage on Duncan’s film. He can be over-reliant on two-hand extensions and could be more combative and precise with placement when he does engage.
When rushers get a step on Duncan, he grabs to compensate, and his middling length makes this a tendency that may be hard to kick. Similarly, Duncan will try to compensate for his middling length by extending early and minimizing load, therefore minimizing knock-back power on his punches.
While Duncan has ideal foot speed, he needs to refine his lower body mechanics. The Maryland OT sometimes stops moving his feet while matching to the apex and allows rushers to splice around him. Ahead of that point, his footwork can be frantic and scattered off the snap, and he sometimes struggles to manage depth and freezes up at contact.
Duncan has visible waste in his foot motion and can be unstable at contact as a result. He needs to be more efficient with his foot speed, and his sense of timing flipping hips and shifting his base at the apex is inconsistent. With his upright posture, open torso, and staggered feet, Duncan can lose quickly and struggle mightily against power rushes.
Rounding out the evaluation, Duncan is sometimes a bit late to diagnose the speed of edge rushers from wide alignments and is subsequently late in response. Additionally, he doesn’t have elite hip flexibility. His hips sometimes get locked up at the apex when attempting to transition, and he can’t always sink and redirect to match rushers effectively.
Current Draft Projection for Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan
Duncan’s name sometimes shows up in Round 1 in mocks. Down the stretch, his testing and Senior Bowl performance could drive his stock to that point. Right now, however, I have an early Day 3 grade on Duncan.
Duncan’s athleticism is extremely appealing and serves as an elite trait to build around at the next level. He’s explosive off the snap, fleet-footed in short ranges, and an easy mover in space. But beyond his athleticism, there are many pressing issues on Duncan’s film — both physical and operational — that dilute his current projection.
Middling length is a notable concern for Duncan on the edge, and it at times, contributes to other operational issues, like unstable grip strength and lurching in contact situations. Duncan also lacks the stable footwork, hand usage, and leverage management to properly counteract his length concerns.
Duncan’s blend of athleticism, power, and strength serves as a solid physical foundation to work with. But until he refines his upper and lower body technique, and learns to better manage his leverage, he’s a developmental tackle, who may ultimately better project inside.
At his maximum, Duncan has a starter’s traits, either at tackle or on the interior. But he’s mainly relied on those traits throughout his collegiate career, without much refinement, and he might not be ready to start in the NFL on Day 1. Ideally, he has time to sit and keep growing, because with his non-elite length, the margin for error will be smaller against NFL defenders.