After opting out of the 2020 college football season to concentrate on the 2021 NFL Draft, Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little presents an interesting evaluation. Will playing just one game in two seasons have a dramatic impact on his stock in a deep class?
Walker Little NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Stanford
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’7″
- Weight: 309 pounds
Football, and the NFL Draft, is in Walker Little’s blood. His grandfather, Gene Little, was selected by the New York Giants in the 1952 NFL Draft. One year later, his uncle, Rick Little, was a fifth-round selection out of Texas A&M by the Baltimore Colts. The family bloodlines ran strong, as Walker excelled in multiple sports early in his life.
After playing running back and linebacker as a boy, Little found his true calling at offensive tackle. Naturally taller than the kids of his age, he was built to play the position. In 2014, as a varsity freshman, Little would be a part of a State Championship-winning team for Episcopal High School. Despite being younger than his opponents, Little’s size and strength for his age allowed him to be successful.
Little would become a four-year high school starter, leading the team as captain and team MVP in 2016. His performances would earn him All-American honors by MaxPreps and Parade as well as an invite to the US Army All-American Bowl. A consensus five-star recruit, 247 Sports ranked Little as the number one offensive tackle, player in Texas, and the nation.
Unsurprisingly, college football programs flocked to Little. Amongst a myriad of offers, one appealed the most. Despite a late run from his home-state Texas, the academic possibilities at Stanford prevailed. Walker Little would begin his path to the NFL Draft on the west coast, committing in December 2016.
Walker Little’s college football career at Stanford
Little made an immediate impact for the Cardinal. Playing in nine games in his debut season, he became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for Stanford since 2000. After leaving Episcopal with a reputation for having a mean streak in the run game, Little flashed his capabilities early and often.
In just his second career start, he was a lynchpin for an offensive line that rushed for 405 yards against UCLA. One game later, Little helped spring Bryce Love for a program single-game rushing record. The accolades rained down. Little was named an ESPN Freshman All-American and the Pac-12 Freshman Co-Offensive Player of the Year.
As a sophomore, the Stanford offensive tackle had the opportunity to shine in pass protection
Walker helped pass protect for quarterback K.J. Costello as he threw for the second-most passing yards in school history. Although he had some struggles, Little started all 12 games at left tackle. After impressing in his sophomore season, he was voted first-team All Pac-12.
Walker Little entered the 2019 season as one of the hottest NFL Draft prospects. The Stanford offensive tackle garnered first-round conversation. In the opening game against Northwestern, he played up to that expectation as he led the Stanford offensive line. Devastatingly, Little suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Despite being eligible to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, Walker Little opted to return to Stanford for the 2020 season. At the time, he cited academic reasons and a desire to play one last season for the Cardinal. However, due to safety concerns and uncertainty around the Pac-12 season, Little opted out of and instead declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Walker Little’s NFL Draft Profile
Back in September, Pro Football Network NFL Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline reported that Walker Little was still receiving first-round NFL Draft buzz. What are some of the reasons that teams are so high on the former Stanford offensive tackle?
Let’s start with his size. At 6’7″ and 309 pounds, Little is built like an NFL left tackle. He has the potential to add further weight to his frame, which would make him even more difficult to move once he is set. Little already shows decent functional strength. With a little extra weight, he would be verging on an immovable force.
In addition to his overall strength, Little has excellent hand strength, which he puts to good use in pass protection. He is capable of using that strength to slow down oncoming pass rushers.
For a man of his size, he has showcased good footwork and athleticism. There are good examples on tape of him moving well laterally to pick up blitzes on the outside and to move inside to contribute as a run blocker.
When you combine his footwork, athleticism, and overall football awareness, Little puts up some excellent pass protection tape. The best example of this is his most recent — and ultimately final — college game against Northwestern.
What are the potential concerns with Walker Little?
The most obvious concern for Walker Little’s NFL Draft stock is his recent history. The Stanford offensive tackle has played just one game in two years. In that last game, he suffered his season-ending knee injury. Despite the availability of rigorous medical testing, teams will be concerned about how the injury holds up to the stresses and strains of live action.
Another concern will be how Little will be able to pass protect in the NFL.
He’s shown some tremendous pass protection during his college career. However, in some games, he showed weakness — both inside and out — against speed rushers. The 2018 game against Notre Dame stands out as a prime example of this. As NFL teams gravitate towards speed rushers who can bend around the edge, how will Little stand up to those?
Finally, for a player who had the reputation of having a mean streak in the run game coming out of high school, I don’t see it all that often in his college tape. He’s clearly efficient as a run blocker, but he doesn’t appear to have that “mauler” mentality that you love to see in offensive linemen.
Walker Little’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
If popular opinion is believed, Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little could be anywhere between a first-round or fourth-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has the potential to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. Multiple teams need to address the position, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers.
In his latest big board for the Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline has Little ranked as his fourth offensive tackle, 26th overall prospect, with a first/second-round grade. Although several other tackle prospects elevated their stock in 2020, will teams gamble on Little’s ability to replicate his high school dominance and limited college career on the NFL stage?
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