In April, the Green Bay Packers used their second pick from the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft on offensive tackle Zach Tom of Wake Forest. The rookie left tackle started all 14 games left tackle (23 total in his career) for the Demon Deacons, played a team of 1,205 offensive snaps and was a first-team All-ACC roster.
He also played 14 games at center during his entire time at Wake Forest. After his senior season, he competed in the 2022 Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas, shooting in both tackle and center positions.
It’s not quite known where or what position Tom will eventually play full-time in, but given the Packers’ need to shake up the offensive line in 2021 by allowing players to play multiple offensive line positions, it’s possible that Tom could be asked to learn both tackling and centering. He is already in the middle for the first part of the rookie practice that took place recently.
“I want to be someone who can play all five positions at a high level. That’s the goal. That’s my main goal for the off-season, through camp. I want to be someone who can go out in any position and who you can rely on to perform at a high level,” said Tom after Packers’ recent minicamp.
Below are his physical readings and test numbers from the NFL Combine.
HEIGHT: 6’4 1/4”
HAND: 10 3/8”
ARM: 33 1/4”
WING PAN: 6’8 3/8”
40-YARD DASH: 4.94
His Mockdraftable spider chart puts him in a category with other notable offensive linemen like Joel Bitonio, Rashawn Slater, David Quessenberry and Ali Marpet.
What Zach Tom does well
One of the first things you notice about Zach Tom is how light he looks on his feet, his lateral speed and his ability to push defenders and lead them past the bag.
Tom shows good balance and gets out on the snap, nice low pad level, using the defender’s momentum to push him past the quarterback. He stays involved through the contact and controls the defender so he never gets a chance to get to the quarterback.
He also shows good hand use combined with strength to control the defender’s movements in pass protection.
Here Tom has the pass rusher make the first move with his punch and have him declare his rush. He shoots his inside hand low and under the rusher’s arm and clings to the defender. The defender can no longer control his arm and Tom can retaliate against the defender’s handfights with his outer arm while the defender tries to swim across.
Tom’s best game came against the state of Florida where he spent most of the game in pass rush situations versus first round pick Jermaine Johnson. It was Johnson’s least effective play as a pass rusher. In the run game, Tom shows good timing to reach his combo blocks in the inner zone and while he won’t overpower an opposing defender, he shows that he still has enough agility and speed in the lower body to defeat defenders from to get their place.
During this trap game, he shows the ability to go to the second level and quickly locates his block. Pay attention to his leg drive and speed and how it allows him to move the defender in the field, away from the line of scrimmage.
While the defender can still cling to the back, Tom sticks to the block and allows his rearguard to get more yards, as the defender can’t take him down adequately. His best tool will be his lower body drive, while adding strength to his upper body.
In blocking passes, he was generally decent in college, but perhaps his best game was against Florida state Jermaine Johnson, who was pulled back to the first round by the New York Jets to draft.
Tom blocked Johnson on numerous pass rush repetitions throughout the game.
College infractions required offensive linemen to think and react faster than in the past as their opponents try to adapt to changing offensive schedules. The college defenses build themselves in a way that allows them to gain numbers versus the run-pass option attack of the modern college offensive and this means that defenders everywhere they can gain an advantage to keep the run stop, drop.
This means that an attacking lineman must be able to react quickly after the snap with what he sees and immediately seek work.
Here versus Louisville, Tom shows how quickly the post-snap handles defensive front rotation. As the defensive end falls into cover, his eyes turn to the slanted defensive lineman working to the edge. He gets his outside hand into the defender’s top chest plate and his inside immediately checks the pass rusher’s shoulder.
The defender can’t break free because Tom keeps his shoulder under control and stays stuck on him. If a pass rusher can’t dip his inside shoulder, the rep is over at that point.
He also showed good balance and space awareness as a traditional pass blocker, gets his hands in and almost never gives too much ground.
Where he needs to improve
He doesn’t make many mistakes and the biggest blows to him that come in the NFL is his size and strength. The reps above show this because it doesn’t often overwhelm defenders, many of whom will never play defeat in the NFL. This may be a concern at first, but he should be able to add strength to an NFL training program.
On the field, his biggest problems may be that he tends to exaggerate a little too much when passing downs, requiring him to recover quickly or not recover at all.
Here against Syracuse, he crosses too wide and sideways, allowing the defending end to swim in over him. However, he is quick enough to recover and push the defender past the quarterback, but only because the quarterback gives him some help and moves away from the rush. This throws out the timing of the game and the pass falls incomplete.
Perhaps his worst reputation came when he misanticipated the defender’s pass rush in front of him.
The NC State defensive front aligns strongly with Tom’s side, but eventually slopes away from him. Tom jumps out at the snap and the defender leans in before beating Tom with a spin over the edge.
Overall, Zach Tom is a very solid prospect for the Packers offensive line, who will likely start as a backup to the tackle position but can be expected to see some playing time in a position group that didn’t last season. was completely healthy. David Bakhtiari’s left tackle status is still up in the air as he hasn’t practiced during OTA’s or mini camp and with head coach Matt LaFleur still non-committal about his practice status for training camp, which begins July 27, Tom is said to find himself with representatives with the first team along with Yosh Nijman and Royce Newman.
That should give Tom valuable experience in camp and in the preseason, although I don’t think he will make a significant impact right away. However, he should develop quite well as a rookie and will most likely compete for a full-time starter role in 2023.