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Draft Profile: Pats Can Choose Sides with Wallace

Third-round pick Caedan Wallace has the athleticism to switch to left tackle with the Patriots.

Patriots third-round pick Caedan Wallace.
Patriots third-round pick Caedan Wallace.

For the first three years of his career at Penn State, Phil Trautwein rarely thought of Caedan Wallace as a potential NFL starter. That all changed during the 2023 season.

It's not that Trautwein, the Nittany Lions offensive line coach since 2020, didn't think highly of Wallace. To the contrary he tabbed his fellow New Jersey native with a starting role at right tackle, a spot Wallace would ably man for 40 career starts. But it wasn't until this past season that Trautwein started to think differently of Wallace's place on the team.

"His freshman year he was redshirted and then Covid hit, then it was sort of Covid-2," Trautwein explained. "Then during his third year he got hurt and his ankle bothered him for much of that season. Last year he played his best football. I always feel like guys get better and Caedan certainly did.

"But this last year he just had this different mindset, and it was like he flipped the switch. I felt like, 'Is he going to last? Can he sustain this?' And he did. He was at an entirely different level both physically and mentally."

Trautwein wasn't the only one asking where the transformation came from. He talked about the numerous visits from scouts, as well as Wallace's trips to various NFL locales, and they all wanted to know the same thing: Why the change?

Trautwein credits the attention that first-round pick Olu Fashanu received while manning the left tackle spot for inspiring Wallace.

"Watching Olu … all the hype … he was like, 'Man I need to be more like him and be better than him,'" Trautwein said. "He saw the competition and he wanted to battle with him and beat him out. He attacked it and changed and now you're talking to me about Caedan.

"He took a lot of visits and they were all asking, 'Why is his game, his approach, so much different?' But I think it just finally clicked."

As a result, Wallace began to climb up the draft boards and was chosen by the Patriots in the third round with the 68th overall pick. He entered his final season as a potential late-rounder, many believing a fifth-round grade would be the limit. Once he showed a more focused approach in 2023, things changed and suddenly he was a solid Day 2 option.

Despite the improvements, Wallace still comes to New England with some question marks. All of his starts came at right tackle, a position most believe will be filled by Mike Onwenu, who was re-signed to a lucrative three-year, $57 million extension during the offseason. That leaves a gaping hole on the left side, and aside from a couple of snaps here and there and some practice reps, it's a position Wallace has never played.

"He's done it a bunch during practice and even though he hasn't done it in games I believe he has the necessary skills to make the switch," Trautwein said. "I always make sure they're developing on both. I don't want them to just be a right tackle because I want them to have a long career and get on the field as fast as possible. I would have no hesitation to put him on the left side."

Trautwein explained that Penn State had a pair of gifted left tackles ahead of Wallace and that made keeping him on the right side the better option for the Nittany Lions. Rasheed Walker, a seventh-round pick for the Packers in 2022, and Fashanu, who the Jets took 11th overall last month, allowed Trautwein the luxury of keeping Wallace in place on the right side.

"I didn't want to move Caedan just to move Olu, but Caedan has taken many reps at left tackle just in case he did have to play there some day. I tried to do that so I could say this to a reporter someday," Trautwein joked.

"He probably won't feel great the first day of training camp, but he'll attack it with a good mindset. He'll get the coaching and he will continue to improve. I think left tackle will help him and make him hungry and motivated to keep getting better."

Wallace should get the opportunity to show he can switch sides immediately. Free agent addition Chuks Okorafor is the only other tackle on the roster with significant NFL starting experience, and all of that came on the right side in Pittsburgh. Those two could be battling for a starting spot, possibly along with Calvin Anderson, Vederian Lowe and Tyrone Wheatley. None of that latter group has any substantive experience playing left tackle, which is considered integral in protecting the quarterback's blind side.

"I still think his best football is ahead of him," Trautwein said. "He loves the game of football and works hard. He's going to attack every day to get better and help the Patriots win a Super Bowl. He's a great competitor and a great person.

"I always thought he had the talent and the athleticism; I just didn't know if the mindset and want-to and ability to push himself would be there. The first couple of years he didn't. He did just enough to start as redshirt freshman and played OK.

"He's becoming more nasty as he's becoming more confident. This year he was playing with a nasty streak, which was great for him. It's all starting to click. You're getting a kid that is playing his best ball with his best ball still ahead of him."

Caedan Wallace

  • T, 6-5, 314
  • Penn State
  • Robbinsville, N.J.
  • 3rd round, 68th overall.

Strengths: Has solid size to create push in the run game. … Effectively slides quickly to deal with outside rush. … Uses big (10¾-inch) hands violently in pass protection to keep rushers away from his body. … Handles stunts and blitzes well. … Predominantly a right tackle but some scouts believe he has the versatility to play guard as well. … Improved steadily through the years and brings 40 starts of experience after cracking the lineup as a redshirt freshman. … Smooth athlete with a wide base and rarely overcommits and gets out of position.

Weaknesses: Can struggle at times with elite speed rushers due to limited range. … High pad level gets him in occasional trouble in pass protection. … That can also lead to breakdowns in his technique in the run game. … Tends to grab when out of position, leading to penalties. … Lacks explosiveness with his kick-slide. An older prospect at 24. … Needs to develop more consistency.

Personal: Grew up in Atlanta before family moved to central New Jersey in 2012 when he was in middle school. … Began career at Robbinsville HS before reclassifying and transferring to The Hun School of Princeton. … Started at offensive and defensive tackle for three seasons and was captain during his junior and senior seasons. … Named U.S. Army All-American and 2018 prep lineman of the year as a senior. … Also lettered in track, winning state championship in the shot put. … Father, Charles, played football at The Citadel (1986-89) and older brother, Charles, was an offensive lineman at Delaware State (2016-17).

Comparable NFL player: George Fant, T, Seattle – Veteran has carved out solid career as RT with Seattle, Jets and Houston.

Workout numbers

Table inside Article
Wallace Combine avg. for pos.
Height 6-5 6-4
Weight 314 312.2
40-yard 5.15 5.27
Bench (225) dnp 25.2
Vertical Jump 31-0 28-0
Long Jump 9-8 8-6
Shuttle dnp 4.74
Cone dnp 7.84

What they're saying …

"Wallace was a four-year starter at tackle, but many NFL scouts believe his best position in the pros might be at guard. Ranked No. 115 on my board, the value is off for New England, but a run on tackles at end the second round meant a bit of a reach was in order to get a starting-caliber player at a huge position of need." – ESPN's Matt Miller

View photos of Patriots 3rd round pick OT Caedan Wallace in action at Penn State.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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