Green Bay Packers rookie Zach Tom doesn’t necessarily look like a typical NFL left tackle, but his head coach believes he has the right combination of athleticism and technique to handle the high-stress position.
Tom, the Packers’ fourth-round pick, is already getting first-team reps at left tackle to start training camp.
“I know it’s a different game, but he’s done it in college and he’s got the athleticism, and he’s got great technique. He really does,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “For what he lacks maybe in sheer size, he can really sink his hips and anchor and does a great job with that.”
Tom, at 6-4 and 304 pounds, has almost identical size as five-time All-Pro David Bakhtiari, who was 6-4 and 299 pounds coming out of Colorado. Like Bakhtiari, Tom will need to rely on his athleticism (Relative Athletic Score of 9.59 at offensive tackle) and ability to be technically sound to mitigate some of the concerns over size at the position.
The comparison between Tom and Bakhtiari probably isn’t even the best one out there. Tom and Rashawn Slater – a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie left tackle – are almost identical in terms of size and athletic ability:
This isn’t to say Tom is going to be the next Bakhtiari or Slater. It’s to demonstrate that players with his size can still thrive on the edges of the offensive line.
Tom started 24 games at left tackle for Wake Forest. His college tape reveals a player who was always under control in pass protection, using balance, footwork and an understanding of angles, leverage and hand usage to consistently keep edge rushers out of the pocket.
Tom’s lack of size might be a bigger issue at the NFL level, where almost all edge rushers are giant athletes. But his work against first-round pick Jermaine Johnson during the 2021 season proves that Tom’s combination of skills is more than enough to win against high-end rushers.
The Packers are giving Tom a legitimate chance to develop his skills at the offensive line’s most important position. Undersized doesn’t mean incapable. It just requires more in other areas, and LaFleur and the Packers are confident Tom checks the other important boxes for a player at left tackle.