But, can he play OL?
(Gotta get the important questions out of the way first)
Tanner Farmer made 11 starts for Nebraska in 2018 - three at right guard and eight at center, replacing the injured Cole Conrad. The line appeared to take a step forward with Farmer in the middle.
Despite playing most of his career at guard, Farmer took hold of the center position and solidified an offensive line that turned into a pretty respectable unit. The line paved the way for the first 1000 yard rush (Devine Ozigbo) since 2014 and protected Adrian Martinez on how way to becoming a freshman All-American at quarterback. Even when Conrad was healed, Farmer remained in the lineup.
In the three years he made it onto the field at Nebraska, he appeared in 31 games, most of them as a starter. Unfortunately, in two of those three years, injuries cut short his season - something NFL GMs are likely to knock him for.
After a tough loss to Troy, the second of six losses to start a miserable season, Tanner spoke to the media and gave an interview for the ages.
Farmer was a dual-sport athlete at Nebraska as he also wrestled (heavyweight of course). As a freshman he posted a 5-1 record. He did not compete in matches after that season but still continued to join wrestling workouts after the football season ended each year.
Keep in mind that Nebraska wrestling is not a ragtag outfit happy to have any bodies. This is a team that usually boasts multiple All-Americans at the end of each season and finished in the top 10 (I believe) as a team this past year. If Mark Manning welcomed Tanner at the end of each football season, it was because he contributed in some way.
Honors and awards from his Huskers.com bio:
- Nebraska Heart & Soul Award (2019)
- Nebraska Sam Foltz Hero 27 Leadership Award (2017)
- Brook Berringer Citizenship Team (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- Tom Osborne Citizenship Team (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll (Fall 2017, 2018)
Even though Farmer never received all-conference honors from the Big Ten, his 2017 performance did garner notice from Pro Football focus. He was named to their 2017 all Big Ten team and was the only B1G guard that season that they graded above 80 in both pass and run blocking.
Pro Day Results
Like many other Husker fifth year seniors leaving the program, Farmer played under three different coaching staffs. Recruited by Pelini, three seasons under Riley, final season under Frost. The general impression of most Husker fans is that under Riley, accountability and leadership were lacking. Bad practice habits abounded. There was even a rumor that squats were optional for offensive linemen.
Regardless if the rumors were true, it is known that strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval had to dial back his workouts considerably during that first winter. One season of S&C is not enough to truly develop lineman and any NFL team eyeing Farmer is probably aware that he has room to develop in that department.
The athletic ability is there. His background as a wrestler and his eye-opening pro day workout has probably made at least a couple NFL coaching staffs assign some eyes to figure out what his ceiling might be.
Bench press: 39 reps (that would have been first at the NFL combine among offensive linemen). He put that up while rehabbing a strained pectoral muscle.
Vertical jump: 32.5 inches (would have been a top 5 OL performance at the combine)
Broad jump: 9’10” (also would have been first at the combine among OL)
Why he might get drafted? He has good size at 6’3” and 315 lbs and showed some good tape at center. If some OL coach recognizes the sub-optimum conditioning program during a good chunk of his time at Nebraska and falls in love with his pro day workout he could make a push to acquire a project that just needs some time in an NFL strength program to reach his potential. Farmer showed himself to be a leader doesn’t have any character concerns that I’m aware of. He also has experience in a pro style offense under Mike Riley.
Why he probably won’t get drafted? There are a lot of big bodies with potential trying to get into the NFL. Most NFL staffs don’t have time for a lot of projects, they are under constant pressure to win now. He has missed enough time to injury to give coaches at the next level pause. If they think those injuries were the result of subpar strength and conditioning, they might overlook that history, but it seems more likely that he signs as an undrafted free agent and has to work his way up the food chain.
From his nfl.com draft profile:
He was graded as “should be in an NFL training camp”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
- Team leader with exceptional football character
- Big, thick frame with hulking upper body
- Tremendous weight room power
- Knocked out 39 bench reps at his pro day
- Former wrestler with above-average core strength
- Able to bang and hang against one-on-one power
- Experienced at both right guard and center
- Aggressive, heavy finishes to splatter opponents
- Lacks functional initial quickness and lateral agility
- Unable to find reactive quickness to protect the gaps
- Very limited blocking range
- Slow in climbs up to second level
- Late and wide with initial hand strikes at point of attack
- Below-average length to create extension and secure blocks
- Feet deaden in pass mirror
- Slow to recognize and react to looping twists back underneath
So, your team just drafted him. What are they getting?
Tanner Farmer is a guy that played right guard most of his career and made a position switch as a senior. He performed admirably at center and was the glue that held together a unit that made possible some excellent skill performances for Nebraska in 2019.
He was a vocal leader and held himself and others accountable during a miserable losing stretch at the start of Nebraska’s 2018 season. He is going to represent himself and his new team well.
He’s a dual-sport athlete which always speaks well to raw athletic ability. The draft profile above indicated he had above-average strength and he probably does, but I would bet he has more room for improvement given the subpar strength and conditioning at Nebraska for a good chunk of his career. The knocks on his quickness and agility, and the number of game missed due to injury may also be fixable with good strength and conditioning?
If Farmer has already reached his ceiling strength-wise, then he probably is a camp body. If there is some untapped potential for him to get stronger and quicker in an NFL program, some team could be getting a project player for the practice squad with upside to to eventually make a roster as a backup guy on the interior line.