Tampa adds a Notre Dame product to serve as versatile depth on the offensive line.
The Buccaneer selected OL Robert Hainsey in the third round to conclude their Day 2 of the NFL Draft. The Notre Dame product looks poised to slot in as a key depth player right away with potential to start in the next few seasons if his development progresses nicely.
Let’s take a closer look at the latest Tampa trench player.
ROBERT HAINSEY’S COLLEGE CAREER
Hainsey, who is 6-foot-4 and 306 pounds, is a weathered veteran by college standards, starting 34 total games for the Fighting Irish and earning team captain honors twice. The Pittsburgh native played right tackle on Notre Dame’s vaunted offensive line, but below-average length and foot quickness will likely drive him inside at the next level.
He was a 2020 second-team All-ACC selection as a senior and earned a trip to the Senior Bowl. His performance at the annual all-star game is what likely pushed him into the top 100, as that’s when the Bucs took note of him.
Jason Licht on Robert Hainsey: “We see him as a real versatile guy … we do think he has a big upside at guard or center.”
Said the Bucs took notice of him at the Senior Bowl after seeing him play those interior positions.
— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) May 1, 2021
Asked to take reps at guard and center, Hainsey held his own and drastically increased his profile as someone who could fill in around the line, which Tampa places a big emphasis on.
WHAT ARE HIS STRENGTHS?
First and foremost, Hainsey came up in a program that understands how to teach players the fundamentals. He’s technically sound and maintains good footwork and base when mirroring his opponent. His anchor isn’t elite by any means, but he knows how to stay calm after the initial rush and reset when necessary. His recovery ability overall is definitely above average.
He’s surprisingly explosive off the snap, utilizing his hips, a good punch and functional strength to establish himself. There’s definitely a mean streak there, as he looks for the right moments to put defenders into the turf and constantly looks for work. His head is always on a swivel, remaining very cognizant of passing off rushers and picking up blitzers.
Overall, just a notably smart player on a snap-to-snap basis.
It didn’t always show up at tackle when facing better athletes, but Hainsey has good short area quickness to keep himself in front of the play when pass and run blocking. That should surface more with a move to guard or center, where he’ll be on a more athletically even playing field. He’ll obviously need a lot more live reps, but snapping looked surprisingly clean at the Senior Bowl, which bodes well for a future position change.
The versatility to work long-term on the interior while possibility playing tackle in a pinch is a huge asset.
He’s been highly praised by scouts and coaches as a reliable leader who establishes himself as a prominent voice in the offensive line room (he supposedly earned the nickname “Cap” among teammates). A strong work ethic shows in his commitment to technique and detail, as well as him embracing the Senior Bowl reps at center and guard despite never starting there in college.
WHERE CAN HE IMPROVE?
Hainsey isn’t a bad athlete, but he’s far from exceptional. A full-time stay at tackle isn’t going to fly at the professional level due to sub-optimal length (32” arms) and less-than-desirable sand in the pants. Against quicker rushers, he has to press himself to meet his landmarks with choppy steps and bending at the waist. That throws his entire body out of whack, leaving him susceptible to counters.
Against stronger rushers, he has a tendency to drop his hips and lean too far into the bull-rush, which also leaves him susceptible to follow-up moves. Additionally, he needs to work on creating more drive with his lower body in the run game so he can generate more movement at the line.
And, most obviously, he hasn’t played significant snaps on the interior before so he will have a lot to learn if he hopes to be ready for playing time at any point this season. Changing positions presents some level of challenge for any young professional.
HOW DOES THIS ALL WORK WITH THE BUCS?
While Creed Humphrey and Quinn Meinerz were the most popular prospects among Buccaneers faithful when speculating on interior line additions, the team preferred to wait it out and nab Hainsey with the 95th overall pick.
It seems that he’s intended to be the contingency plan at center if Ryan Jensen goes down with injury this season, as the team has only John Molchon and Donnell Stanley on the roster otherwise. Never starting a game at the pivot in college is worrisome, but Jason Licht and Co. are clearly sold on Hainsey’s capacity to learn and get himself up to speed. Given all that’s out there about his work ethic and the promise he’s shown already, it’s not an absurd expectation but perhaps a tad cavalier when considering who he’d be protecting.
Robert Hainsey’s 2020 PFF Grades (rank among 2021 draft-eligible OL)
— PFF TB Buccaneers (@PFF_Buccaneers) May 1, 2021
He should work fine in Tampa’s gap/zone hybrid scheme, where he can utilize those plus instincts, an aggressive mentality and short-area quickness. Ideally, you’d like to see him refine his frame and add a little bit more weight so he can handle stronger defensive tackles more consistently.
That said, he profiles with the entire theme of this draft so far. Hainsey is a project like Joe Tryon and Kyle Trask, and the team is betting on his innate talent and work ethic to flourish as a backup while learning from the coaching staff and high-level starters at their respective positions.
Time will tell if they see Hainsey as a future starter at center or guard, but he’ll have a one-year head start to leave an impression on the brass before they make any future personnel decisions for 2022.