As a Yellow Jacket
It's hard to measure statistics for offensive linemen, but there are two for Mason that stand out to me. First, look at his track record of game participation. Mason came in as a true freshman and played in 11 games, including a start in the Sun Bowl for an injured Omoregie Uzzi. From there, do you recall the most recent game Georgia Tech played where Mason didn't start? It was against Presbyterian -- Week 2 of the 2012 season. Since then, Mason has started all 39 games without ever missing for injury or falling on the depth chart. Put another way, since Mason signed his LOI, he's played in 52 of Georgia Tech's 54 games (96%) and started 39 of them (72%). Playing in 96% of the possible games and starting over 70% of them an amazing feat, especially for an offensive lineman who's constantly in danger of being injured. That he was able to shows toughness to go along with his talent.
Second, look at Georgia Tech's offensive rushing output during his tenure. This one doesn't exactly make much statistical sense as an argument for how good Mason is (at best, it could speak to the ability of the offensive line, which includes 4 other players at any one time), but at the same time Mason was relied on as the anchor of the line for the entirety of his career. When tough yards were needed, the plan was simple -- get the ball behind Mason.
The other thing worth pointing out here is Mason's list of accolades he's received over the past four years. Mason is a five-time ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week, he was named to eight separate All-ACC teams, he appeared on five different All-America teams, he made the 2014 All-Bowl team and was named to ESPN's All-ACC Bowl Team as a true freshman to boot. The point of all of this? When the local and national media looked to credit Georgia Tech's rushing performances to the offensive line, Mason was the focal point.
Pro Day Results
|Height||Weight||40-Yd||Vertical||Bench Press (225 lbs)||Broad Jump||Arm Length|
|6'1"||300 lbs||4.97 sec||32 inches||25 reps||9'2"||31 1/8"|
Mason measures in at a very stout 6'1", 300lbs, and with arms that are 31 1/8" long. In terms of both height and arm length, that's noticeably undersized for an offensive lineman. For reference, Mason is shorter than every single offensive lineman to attend the last three NFL Combines, and his arms are shorter than all but two of those players (and neither of those two were drafted). That said, Mason makes up for size with athleticism -- his 4.97-second 40-yard dash shows outstanding mobility for someone at 300 pounds, and would have been faster than all 40 offensive linemen that ran at this year's Combine. Additionally, his broad jump would have placed him 7th among linemen at this year's Combine.
Generally, Mason is undersized in some areas but still very athletic and valuable. If he makes an NFL roster, he'll immediately be the one of the shortest offensive linemen in the league. That said, there's still a lot of value to be found in his athleticism and mobility, especially for teams that use more spread-based attacks.
It's tough to find film specific to an offensive lineman, especially one who doesn't get beaten very often. See below for some of Mason's highlights, and then some analysis.
As mentioned above, Mason's sub-5.0 mark in the 40-yard dash is a true testament to his athleticism. Throughout his career, Mason displayed excellent mobility and athleticism in Georgia Tech's rushing attack, both when pulling and in getting to defenders at the second level. Additionally, notice his ability to get low and execute cut blocks in addition to the more traditional drive blocks. In general, he moves extremely well for someone of his size and his athleticism could add lots of value to an offensive line in the NFL.
Mason exhibits very refined technique, especially in the running game. He regularly is able to stay low, enabling him to maintain leverage on defenders from the start. Additionally, he turns his body very well to seal off holes and provide running lanes. In his limited experience with pass protection, Mason shows very good arch in his back and holds his ground extremely well. As in the run game, Mason does a nice job of redirecting pass rushers away from the pocket when necessary.
Perhaps one of Mason's strongest qualities as an offensive lineman is his motor. As soon as the play starts, Mason's feet start churning and rarely stop before the play ends or he hits the ground. Even when the play is past him, Mason is continually making sure to drive defenders away from the action, in case a ball carrier needs a cut-back lane. In a similar vein, Mason regularly hustles down the field to provide ball carriers with a "caravan" when he's not already tied up with a defender. His intensity and attitude are a major plus for NFL teams looking to evaluate him.
Although a player having strong character generally won't raise his Draft stock, it also won't hurt him where poor character might. On the field and in the locker room at Georgia Tech, Mason was a clear leader of his teammates. He was voted a team captain his senior year and was the offensive player selected to represent the team at the ACC Media Kickoff in 2014. Off the field, Mason is a new father, and a dedicated one at that. His girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl back in early August, and Mason commented on how it really "forced [him] to grow up in a major way". By all counts, Mason is not a person or player who will find his way into much, if any, trouble.
The biggest criticism to Mason as an NFL prospect is his size, more specifically his height. At 6'1", Mason is shorter than every single offensive lineman to measure in at the last three NFL Combines. Subsequently, Mason's arm length of 31 1/8" would be shorter than all but two prospects from those Combines, and neither of those two were drafted. A lack of height, and moreso arm length, open Mason up to being unable to use the technique and leverage he's gotten so used to getting in college. At his height, he still could very much have the ability to get underneath a tall defensive lineman, but that ability could be negated if the opposing player were able to render Mason's arms useless.
Following the concerns about his size, Mason's best fit in the NFL is at center, a position he never played at Georgia Tech and, to his credit, he has been cross-training at. He looked good at Georgia Tech's Pro Day when a couple of teams worked him out as a center, but there's no way of knowing how effective he can be at the position until he's going up against defensive linemen in practice at camp at the earliest. That said, this quality has the potential to become a strength if Mason is able to adapt and be an effective center. His background as a guard would give teams an opportunity to retain him as a player with experience at a second position. With NFL rosters so limited in numbers on game day, a player having the ability to play multiple positions is always going to be a plus.
Experience in Pass Protection
It isn't exactly breaking news to find out that an offensive lineman from Georgia Tech doesn't have extensive experience with pass protection, but it has to be said. Over the last three seasons combined, Georgia Tech has attempted exactly 600 passes. Compare that number to the 76 FBS teams who attempted at least 400 passes last year alone. Indeed, with passing becoming a more integral part of NFL offenses every year, Mason's lack of significant experience in pass protection (as compared to other linemen in the Draft) will be viewed as a major question mark in his game.
Potentially Interested Teams
This writer's eye was immediately drawn to the Eagles and their offense, installed by head coach Chip Kelly. The heavily spread-based system employs a number of smaller interior offensive linemen, including three centers between 6'1"-6'3", and 290-300lbs. That fits Mason's mold perfectly and could very well be a landing spot in the later rounds of the Draft. The Eagles also only claim two guards on their roster, one of which is listed at 6'2" and 311 lbs. Mason's mobility would fit their system well and could add valuable depth as a player with experience at guard. There may not be a better fit for Mason than in Philadelphia.
The Patriots in particular were very interested in Mason as a center at Georgia Tech's Pro Day. The Patriots only claim one center on their roster and could use a backup, and also have three offensive guards between 6'2" and 6'3". In terms of scheme fit, New England's offense has often involved a zone running scheme that would find great value in Mason's mobility and flexibility. The biggest question here may be Mason's pass-blocking ability as the Patriots look to get another few years out of Tom Brady before transitioning to the heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Rams are short on offensive line depth and could use a backup at guard or center. The interior offensive linemen on the Rams' roster are very comparable in size to Mason for the most part and there's an opportunity to add a second center/guard combo to supplement Barrett Jones. Additionally, scheme-wise St. Louis is set up to run a more spread-based attack with former Eagle Nick Foles at quarterback, a smaller running back in Tre Mason, and weapons on the outside like Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
Mason is an undersized prospect for his field in the NFL, but brings an awful lot of upside if teams are able to get past that limitation. Between his athleticism and versatility, he brings a lot to the table, even if there are questions about his size. Mason may be picked as early as the fifth round, but is likely to fall between the sixth and seventh rounds, with a small chance that he isn't drafted. Expect for someone to pick him up late and give Mason the opportunity to prove himself as an NFL-caliber offensive lineman before the start of the season.
Projection: 6th-7th Rounds