Last year, Division III offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz came to the Senior Bowl as a relative unknown. After a dominant week of practices, he left as a Day 2 pick. Meinerz was the non-FBS sleeper offensive lineman that came out of nowhere in 2021. Who will be that guy in 2022? With his NFL Draft scouting report, North Dakota OT Matt Waletzko has a chance to take that mantle.
Matt Waletzko NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive tackle
- School: North Dakota
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’7″
- Weight: 305 pounds
Matt Waletzko Scouting Report
Waletzko was one of the first players to be added to the 2022 Senior Bowl roster. His name still hasn’t completely made the rounds, but scouts have been aware of his ability for a while. The North Dakota OT — who’s been at least a part-time starter for each of his four seasons with the Fighting Hawks — has definite talent. The question is, how far can he rise?
With his collegiate career now in the background, Waletzko is set to move on to the NFL. And now, it’s time to figure out how he projects. Can he be a starter in the league? And if so, how long will it take him to get to that point?
Matt Waletzko’s athletic profile
Early on, Waletzko passes the eye test. At 6’7″, 305 pounds, the North Dakota OT has an outrageously long frame — reported to feature 36-inch arms. His long, lumbering strides cover a lot of ground in space, and he’s a rangy blocker with a wide reach. With his length, Waletzko can generate good artificial power with his extensions. Even with his lighter frame, he has decent power capacity, and he can knock players off-base with heavy clubs.
On top of his length, Waletzko is also a good athlete. He’s surprisingly nimble in pass protection. He appears as a springy athlete with easy mobility around the arc. He’s light on his feet when matching defenders, and he keeps a wide, active base in the passing phase. As a run blocker, Waletzko is explosive off the snap. He has the mobility to get to the second level and enter space, and he can pop defenders with power, paving open lanes. The North Dakota OT can bully smaller defenders with his physical tools.
Going further, Waletzko has decent recovery athleticism. Although he can be stiff at times when diverting course, he’s shown he can flip his hips and redirect defensive linemen outside the pocket. With his recovery athleticism, he can recover laterally and regain his base relatively quickly. He can also swivel with his wide frame and athleticism and wall off rushers on the outside.
Execution beyond the physical traits
The main appeal of Waletzko is his rare combination of athleticism and length. But he has picked up a thing or two after starting on the line for over two seasons. With his length, Waletzko can load and launch his hands to maximize the power exerted. He’s shown he has the capacity for fast hands, and he tucks his elbows well to maximize potential energy.
Waletzko can violently bat down extended arms and deconstruct opposing pass-rush plans. Furthermore, the North Dakota OT has shown he can quickly react and respond to specific moves. He can redirect his momentum and load up with quickness, and he also lowers his pads well for his larger frame. He has decent knee bend and flexibility, and he doesn’t play too upright too often.
As a pass protector, Waletzko has shown he can keep his hands within his torso, preventing defenders from getting inside his frame, though he can be more consistent here at times. He’s also shown he can respond to stunts effectively with his athleticism and wide reach. And as a run blocker, he’s flashed the ability to anchor and use leg drive to move opposing players.
Areas for improvement
As enticing as the physical upside is with Waletzko, his NFL projection is a bit more complicated. Most notably, Waletzko’s frame is noticeably light, and that lighter frame does not absorb power well. He can get driven back easily, and when he’s on skates, he has trouble resetting his feet and halting bull rushes. He’s not very dense or compact, and he’ll have to add weight in the NFL.
Waletzko’s light frame makes his margin for error slim, especially against more powerful rushers. When he does open up his torso, he leaves surface area for defenders to exploit. Additionally, the North Dakota OT can have trouble sustaining blocks at the second level. His grip strength is not elite, and he can be bent around by stronger players. He can lurch and lose his balance, and he bends at the waist occasionally, which also affects his balance and leverage.
Waletzko’s balance can be easily disrupted, and he can be somewhat uncoordinated at times. He sometimes freezes his feet when extending, opening a window for rushers to attack. Even with his lighter frame, his feet aren’t particularly fast. He doesn’t adjust angles well or adapt on the move at a high level. Going further, Waletzko runs a bit upright as a moving blocker at times. This also exposes him to power.
Among other things, Waletzko can be more consistent with his hands and awareness. He can more precisely place his hands at times and do a better job of getting under pads and latching consistently. As a help blocker, his head isn’t always on a swivel, and he sometimes loses track of the play and drops his energy.
Matt Waletzko’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
There are a lot of intriguing tools in play with Waletzko, and the North Dakota OT will show those tools off at the Senior Bowl. He’s an albatross with his length and easy athleticism. Moreover, taller tackles often have trouble with pad level and knee bend, but Waletzko has shown he can bend his knees and lower his pads into blocks effectively. He’s also flashed some operational utility with his hand fighting and recovery technique.
However, while there’s an appeal with Waletzko, there’s also uncertainty. The big wild card for the North Dakota OT is his weight. He is noticeably light for his taller frame, and against stronger NFL defenders, his light frame may be particularly easy to exploit. With that frame comes a lack of elite play strength. And Waletzko isn’t at a high enough level with his refinement to offset the size concerns.
Luckily for Waletzko, he does have unteachable traits. His length is rare even for offensive tackles, and he clearly moves well in both phases. If he holds his own against the top edge competition at the Senior Bowl, he can potentially work his way into the middle rounds. But he feels like a Day 3 developmental tackle either way. The offseason may be the difference between Rounds 4-5 and 6-7. He has eventual starting potential, but he has to get stronger to match up against NFL competition.
Matt Waletzko’s Player Profile
Many of the small-school offensive linemen that find themselves making it to the NFL level still have a degree of natural talent. Meinerz was a dominant blocker at the D-III level. Spencer Brown was a former tight end convert with rare athleticism. Waletzko has that degree of natural talent, but like his predecessors, he too was spurned by most of the college football world.
Coming out in the class of 2018, Waletzko was a mere two-star recruit. He was barely rated as a Top 300 offensive tackle on 247 Sports’ board. And in the state of Minnesota, he was 29th-best at his position. With no FBS offers, Waletzko set his sights on the FCS, and eventually signed with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
Waletzko’s career at North Dakota
Interestingly enough, Waletzko arrived at North Dakota heavier than he’s listed at now. He was 6’7″, 310 pounds as a recruit and upped his weight to 320 pounds in his freshman season. With his natural size and length, he earned early opportunities on the field. The North Dakota OT played in nine games and started five as a true freshman. He’d carry that starting role into 2019, but he suffered a season-ending injury six weeks in.
In 2020, Waletzko returned, using the delayed season to his advantage. He came back to start all seven games of the 2020 campaign at left tackle, reprising his role as a mainstay on the Fighting Hawks’ offensive line. He was named to the All-MVFC second-team and also earned academic honors. 2021 was just more of the same. Waletzko once again locked down the left side and secured a Senior Bowl invite late in the year.
Matt Waletzko’s NFL Draft ascension
As the draft process unfolds, Waletzko will have a lot on the line at each event. The Senior Bowl will be a crucial opportunity to prove he can go toe to toe with FBS edge rushers. And later on, athletic testing will be a way of validating his athletic prowess and potentially putting a better weight number in the system. It’s encouraging that he’s already been at 320 pounds before, so he may be able to gain that weight back.
At the point of attack, Waletzko’s combination of length and athleticism makes him an able protector of the quarterback. But to make the leap to the NFL, there are still things for him to work on and prove. He’s already in the draftable discussion, but sealing the deal in the offseason can help him rise into the early-to-mid Day 3 range.