Andrus Peat was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft in a surprising move by the New Orleans Saints. How did that turn out for them?
Andrus Peat’s rookie season was off to a rocky start as soon as Sean Payton’s son Connor spoiled the pick on Twitter last April. Many New Orleans Saints fans were livid at the decision to draft an offensive lineman instead of a wide receiver (DeVante Parker, who logged 19-yards per catch), linebacker (Bud Dupree, who has picked up four sacks and four tackles for loss), or cornerback (Marcus Peters, who leads the NFL with nine interceptions and 27 pass deflections). Few draftniks (myself included) considered Peat as an option for the Saints in the draft, but that’s neither here nor there.
Due to Stanford’s quarterly academic calendar, Andrus Peat was not able to attend most of the offseason conditioning program. He reported to training camp out of shape and behind the learning curve, with veterans like Bryce Harris getting valuable practice reps ahead of him.
Peat failed to dislodge Zach Strief from the starting job at right tackle because of his late start, so the Saints tried moving him all around the offensive line. He started games at left tackle, left guard, and right tackle before ending the season inactive with a concussion.
Peat voiced his frustrations at the end of the season to the Advocate’s Nick Underhill: “I had to work to get into shape rather than focusing on my technique and stuff like that. That held me back a little bit with all the stuff with the combine, taking trips and school and stuff. There was a lot of stuff going on for me. It will be good for me to be able to focus.” The flurry of activity surrounding the pre-draft process is a common hurdle for rookies, but what is interesting to note is that Peat never struggled to pick up the offense. He didn’t show the confusion most first-year players experience or failed to execute his responsibilities.
This can be seen in this play against the Carolina Panthers, where Peat was playing out of position as a left guard:
I watched Peat’s season on the NFL’s Game Rewind service to get an idea for how he performed and where he stands moving forward. Most importantly, I want to answer the question as to whether or not he was worth a first round pick investment.
In short: Yes.
Andrus Peat has all of the physical tools you look for in an offensive tackle. He’s tall and long with quick feet and naturally bends in and out of his stance. He rarely cedes leverage to defensive lineman in the trenches and looks comfortable getting up out of his stance and bursting to his spot. Peat’s long legs give him underrated speed, which helps him move around the field quicker than opponents may expect. He gets to the second level very easily to engage linebackers and safeties. He has plenty of strength, as shown by the stonewalling blocks he handed to Carolina’s Kawann Short, an ascending defensive lineman.
The biggest flaw in Peat’s game is his lack of a mean streak. He has the right mentality so far as recovering from mistakes and knowing his role in every play, but he lacks physicality. There were a number of times when he had the opportunity to destroy a linebacker when run-blocking but instead just blocked him out of the play. The best offensive lines don’t’ hesitate to throw those devastating, tone-setting hits when the opportunity is there. Peat has to get more aggressive.
Though it was not a frequent concern, Peat also struggled to use his length to his advantage against flexible pass rushers like Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox. Cox is one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL and showed off against Peat, at one point rushing from Peat’s outside shoulder. Peat couldn’t get his hands on Cox, who bent under Peat’s outstretched arms before chasing Brees down for a sack. This highlights another one of Peat’s weaknesses in his hand usage, which did improve as the season wore on.
The good news is that all of these negatives can be worked on. Peat did not have the luxury of a real offseason before his rookie campaign, which he does now. Barring unexpected injury, he will be able to show up every day for an NFL weight room and conditioning program to prepare him for a long sophomore season.
He will be able to learn more from veterans like Zach Strief (who should be a mainstay on the roster whether or not he loses his starting job to Peat) and Willie Roaf disciple Terron Armstead.
Now Peat is focused on improving himself and continuing to fight for a starting role. His body is already radically different from where he was last summer with a lower body fat percentage. Peat has a huge frame and great length, which will benefit him against NFL-quality edge rushers who excel at sprinting around his blocks.
Andrus Peat needs to continue to develop his ability to use that reach (he’s listed at 6-foot and 7-inches in height with 34.4-inch-long arms). This will be an interesting subplot to follow thanks to the recent change at offensive line coach with tight ends coach Dan Roushar taking over for the departing Bret Ingalls.
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