One of the fastest-rising prospects leading up to last year's draft was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. This season, one of the fastest-risers has been Pitt offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings. Interestingly, the two once lined up together on the Panthers' defensive line.
Clemmings (6-foot-5, 307 pounds) spent his first three seasons at Pitt (including his redshirt year) as a defensive lineman. He was moved to the other side of the ball in 2013 and did a solid job at right tackle. He did an even better job at right tackle this season, and now he looks to be a first-round lock.
It seems as if he could be changing positions again, this time to left tackle.
NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock raved about Clemmings on NFL Network's coverage of the Reese's Senior Bowl practices, saying that Clemmings' "physical traits are all left tackle."
"I believe at the end of the day, if things play out, he'll be a top-10 pick," Mayock said. "He's got beautiful feet. He's a dancing bear. He's a guy that's a pass protector first. He just needs to clean up technique and get stronger, especially in his core areas."
In their first mock drafts, NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks had Clemmings just outside the top 10 -- Jeremiah had Clemmings going No. 12 to the Browns, and Brooks had him going No. 11 to the Vikings.
As for college right tackles making a smooth move to the left side, fellow analyst Charles Davis pointed to Tyron Smith, who played on the right side at USC but was drafted in the first round to play the left side with the Dallas Cowboys. Smith was an All-Pro this season.
» Mayock praised Duke guard Laken Tomlinson (6-3, 323), who might be the first player at his position taken in the draft. "He's a starting guard in the NFL all day long," Mayock said. He also said Tomlinson is a "road grader in the running game. And he's a better pass protector than people think." Duke hasn't had a player selected earlier than the fourth round since 1999; Tomlinson should change that this year.
» Jamil Douglas (6-4, 307) played left tackle for Arizona State this season and was an All-Pac-12 selection. But he previously played guard for the Sun Devils, and Davis said "Douglas' future is inside at guard."
» Penn State's Donovan Smith (6-6, 341) was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions, and though he has graduated, he left school with one season of eligibility remaining. His decision to turn pro surprised a lot of observers, including Mayock. But Mayock also thinks Smith has an upside: "This kid can be a better football player than people understand." Daniel Jeremiah said Smith's size obviously is appealing and that "he moves people in the running game." Smith is one of the more mysterious tackle prospects; he looks to be a third-day selection, but perhaps could move up some draft boards.
» Hobart (N.Y.) is a Division III school, and tackle Ali Marpet (6-4, 307) is the only D-III player in the game. Mayock said that while Marpet is raw, he remains intriguing. "What would really help is if he can play all three interior line positions," he said, noting that Marpet could begin his NFL career on a practice squad.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.