The NFL Scouting Combine is in the books and the Buckeyes are now moving to the next part of the process. Nicholas Petit-Frere was one of the members who participated in the combine and the last lock to get drafted of the draft-eligible Buckeyes. Petit-Frere was a multi-year starter for the Buckeyes playing both the left tackle and right tackle positions, and was one of the most consistent players on the roster in his time at Ohio State. As he prepares for the NFL, he brings high-level athleticism for the position and was a high-end pass protector in college.
NFL teams will value his experience playing both tackle positions and the numbers he posted at the combine solidified the views on his athleticism. When it comes to questions, his play strength in the run game raised some eyebrows, especially with Ohio State’s challenges in short-yardage situations in 2021. Opting not to bench at the combine did not answer any of those questions, but a look back at the tape should ease them for NFL evaluators. As the draft approaches, Petit-Frere has the tape and the natural athletic ability to succeed in the NFL, but the question that rises continues to be about his floor. If he can show NFL teams that they're getting a well-polished player, expect his name to be heard on Day-2 of the NFL draft.
Nicholas Petit-Frere Draft Round Projection: 2nd-3rd Round Pick
When we talk about NFL Offensive tackles, the two components people talk about the most are incredible size and extremely athletic. Tackles are responsible for guarding arguably the most explosive players on the field, and some of the strongest players in the league. This means tackles need to be strong enough to slow down humongous athletes and nimble enough to block more athletic players in space. This combination does not grow on trees, but Nicholas Petit-Frere has shown he has the potential to be that player at the next level.
Elite Pass Protection
Nicholas Petit-Frere had tall tasks at times against elite pass rushers playing Ohio State, this list includes two potential top-10 NFL Draft picks in George Karlaftis and Aidan Hutchinson. After his injury in the game against Michigan, there was a noticeable drop-off in the protection of C.J. Stroud.
In the first play, Ohio State is in a relatively straightforward pass protection slide upfront. Petit-Frere’s responsibility is outside to his left which ends up being Aidan Hutchinson (No. 97) and in this play, he is single coverage with help if no one comes into Munford’s rush lanes. When the ball is snapped Petit-Frere eats Hutchinson’s initial rush and then slides up the field with him. Stroud does his job and gets the ball out quickly, and Petit-Frere wins this battle. This play is by no means flashy, but if you look at his two years of tape, this is what you see every time no matter who he was matched up against.
Offensive tackles are often tasked with getting to the second level in run blocking and blocking defensive backs in space on screenplays. This is where athleticism comes into play on top of being extremely coordinated in pass protections. If a tackle is not comfortable in getting up to linebackers or blocking in space, they won’t be a starting tackle in the league for long.
In the next play, we see Petit-Frere getting to the second level and blocking a linebacker. Ohio State is running their “Inside zone” concept and Petit-Frere is responsible for blocking Clemson’s linebacker No. 10. Clemson’s backer flows immediately with the offensive line’s zone steps to the left. This means Petit-Frere has to close the gap and get hands on him. The block is extremely as it opens up the cutback for Trey Sermon, and his block on the backer is what allowed this play to break off for a nice gain.
Once again, not a flashy play which is why Petit-Frere has not gotten the buzz he deserves, but if you’re looking for consistency you’ll find it with the former Buckeye tackle.
In the last article, we talked about swing players and swing tackles being an incredibly valuable asset in the NFL. For Petit-Frere his experience starting on both sides will give him a ton of help when it comes to draft positioning. Being able to play both tackles will net him opportunities in the long term as a backup offensive lineman as teams can use one less roster spot having a player who can back up both positions.
We’ve seen Petit-Frere have high-level success at both positions and this will translate to the next level and help him find his way onto the field earlier than a player who has only played on one side.
Scheme and Team Fits
Many teams in the NFL need an offensive tackle, but if Petit-Frere is going to have success he needs to go to an offense like Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes did not run many gap schemes and even though Petit-Frere can learn to run those plays, it may not net him success early. The other aspect is he needs a team that will throw a higher percentage of the time. His ability in pass protection is much more pro-ready than his strength in the run game, and a situation in a more pass-happy offense will allow his better skill to flourish.
Cincinnati Bengals (Round 2): The Bengals have much later picks than they’re used to having and they will need to build a better offensive line to protect franchise quarterback Joe Burrow. The amount they threw the ball was in the upper third of the league and the number of sacks they allowed led the league. This is a match made in heaven with the Bengals picking at 63 in the second round.
Green Bay Packers (Round 3): With David Bakhtiari locked in at left tackle for the foreseeable future and inconsistent play at the right tackle position, Green Bay may be looking to improve at the right tackle position. Aaron Rodgers plans to re-sign, so investing in some more protection is never a bad idea.
Miami Dolphins (Round 2): The Dolphins had one of the worst tackle units in 2021 according to Pro Football Focus. If they don’t plan to add an offensive tackle in the first round, they could find great value in Petit-Frere in round 2 or round 3 of the draft. This would allow for them to bring in some competition and possible long-term solutions at either tackle spot.
Alex Leatherwood (Las Vegas Raiders): The Raiders’ starting right tackle also came from a blue blood in Alabama. Leatherwood is the same type of player being a little more on the slender side for an offensive tackle and he also has high-level athletic upside. After being drafted to play left tackle, he has found a home at right tackle and looks to continue to establish himself as a starter in the league.
Terron Armstead (New Orleans Saints): This is not a flashy comparison, but Armstead came into the league with a lot of the same question marks that Petit-Frere will be coming into the league with. After playing ins one spot duty, Armstead became the starter in New Orleans and has grown into a dependable pass protector.
In the name of fairness, here are some other evaluations from “NFL Draft Experts”:
Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network): “Petit-Frere has excellent physical tools and offers the kind of frame that is meant to play on the edge. He’s long, dense, and fluid as an athlete, offering a promising skill set for an NFL team to continue to tinker with in an effort to reach his high ceiling.”
Nick Malano (Giants Country): “Petit-Frere is a likely first-round selection with a high recruiting pedigree. Despite his high pedigree, it still took some time for Petit-Frere to consistently find the football field, a product of excellent recruiting at Ohio State. Petit-Frere opted out of the Rose Bowl to prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.”
BR NFL Scouting Department (Bleacher Report): “Overall, Petit-Frere has the foot quickness, athletic ability and competitive toughness worth developing inside a zone-heavy scheme, but he needs a lot of work on his footwork, balance, play strength and hands before being counted on to hold up in pass protection.”
Nicholas Petit-Frere has drawn tons of praise from draft evaluators, but there are some reasons we don’t see him in the first round of most NFL mock drafts. As a starter at two positions, he showed stability, reliability, and played at a generally high level. That being said there are some questions about his strength and consistency in fundamentals as he journeys to the next level.
Many evaluators believe he has the upside to become a starting left tackle in the league, but his experience at two positions will provide value to NFL teams for a long time even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling. A team in the second or third round can see the long-term value and potential. If a team is looking for a high floor player to add to their offensive line room, Petit-Frere brings a ton of value. Teams have pinpointed his strengths and will take his weaknesses into consideration.
As the draft approaches expect his name to show up in a lot of places, but with his ability expect him to be a day 2 selection on draft day.