A three year starter on the offensive line, Nebraska offensive tackle Nick Gates declared for the NFL Draft shortly after the Huskers season ended. There’s probably an argument to be made that the impression Gates made his last two seasons at Nebraska didn’t live up to the expectations that his redshirt freshman season drove. As a freshman, Gates started 10 games at right tackle, missing three games due to an ankle sprain, earning him spots on the Big Ten’s all-Freshman and All-Bowl teams. As a sophomore, Gates moved over to left tackle and started all 13 games. A midseason ankle injury hampered his effectiveness the second half of the season; he didn’t miss any action, but it certainly limited him until he fully healed after the season. Still, he earned third-team all-Big Ten honors from the media and honorable mention honors from the coaches.
As a junior, he again started all 12 games and again was named honorable mention all-Big Ten from the coaches and media. After the season ended, Gates declared for the NFL Draft instead of working under his third coaching staff at Nebraska. (Gates redshirted in 2014.) At the NFL Combine, Gates ran a 5.46 in the 40 yard dash was rated a 50-50 chance to land on an NFL roster. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein projected him a seventh round selection after the Combine, but Gates has been told that he could go between the third and fifth rounds in the draft. CBS ranked Gates as the 285th ranked prospect (16th ranked offensive tackle) in the 256 player draft.
Zierlein likes Gates’ footwork and hands, but tape review showed that “speed-to-power rushers” (i.e. Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Ohio State’s Joey Bosa) can push him back into the pocket. Many suspect that Gates will move inside to play guard in the pros.
Strengths per Zierlein
- Good foot quickness
- Able to gain necessary ground in his first two kick-slides when he gets out of the blocks on time
- Has extremely impressive mirror talent
- Seamless ability to change direction without a stall
- Catches inside moves and rides them into the line of scrimmage from left tackle spot
- Adequate punch timing
- Hands are strong and can lock into targets once he lands
- Plays with balance as run blocker
- Has move blocking ability
- Adjusts to second-level movement
Weaknesses per Zierlein
- High-cut with long legs and lacking a sturdy base
- Pass sets tend to be too upright
- Speed-to-power rushers put him on skates and roll him back into the pocket
- Lack of anchor is troubling
- Slow to see tackle/end twists coming and will get blindsided
- May lack necessary length for tackle
- Ohio State’s Jalyn Holmes lived in his frame
- Below average drive power as one-on-one blocker