Remember when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used a second-round draft pick to take some unknown player out of freaking Hobart college? Well, probably, because that player was Ali Marpet and turns out he’s actually pretty good. Who knew? Other than Jason Licht.
As a rookie Marpet was a revelation, probably the second-best player on the offensive line behind the now-retired Logan Mankins. In his second season he didn’t progress as much as most Bucs fans had hoped, but he still had a pretty good year: Pro Football Focus ranked him 14th among all guards last season — pretty good, and borderline Pro Bowl material.
Of course, PFF’s rankings (aka player grades) are not perfect or, shall we say, uncontroversial. So take those grades and that ranking with a few grains of salt. Overall, though, that ranking more or less conforms to what we’ve seen in games and on film: Marpet was a little sloppier this year, but still a solid player both in pass- and run-blocking.
The secret to much of Marpet’s quality is simple: his athleticism. It allows him to be less-than-perfect in his technique and still effective, but it stands out especially when he’s on the move, blocking at the second level or in space for running back screens.
If Marpet continues to develop like this, and there’s no real reason to think he wouldn’t, he’s a future Pro Bowler. Perhaps a future All-Pro. Perhaps, if all goes right, one of the best guards in the NFL and someone you can build an offensive line around. Now that’d be nice and refreshing.