The importance of a quality offensive line cannot be underestimated. As a result, talented blockers often carry as much value on draft day as any position, with the possible exception of quarterback. While this yearís class boasts quite a few talented prospects, there does not appear to be a true elite prospect on the offensive line.
- Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
- Luke Joeckel, Texas AM
- Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
- DJ Fluker, Alabama
- Justin Pugh, Syracuse
- Menelik Watson, Florida St.
- Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
- Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
- Oday Aboushi, Virginia
- Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Texas AMís Luke Joeckel has the best chance at landing inside the top ten. He combines solid physical tools across the board, with great football intelligence, and toughness. That package will give him the chance to be a fine left tackle at the next level. Joeckel is a solid athlete that is a true technician on the field. He is rarely out of position, and has enough natural gifts to keep most defenders neutralized. He will not drive many defenders off the ball, but he is strong enough to get an initial surge and create space for his back. Joeckel isnít a freak athlete, and will likely never be a 330lb mauler, but he has a chance to be a very, very good left tackle in the NFL for a long time. With the amount of teams looking for help on the offensive line, he will be in high demand in April.
Michiganís Taylor Lewan will also be in the conversation for the right to be the first tackle selected on draft day, should he declare. He possesses the most upside, due to his natural physical tools. He has the classic left tackle frame: long and lean. He stands 6í7, tops the 300lb mark, and has the frame to add even more bulk. He is a very good natural athlete, showing the nimble feet to mirror defenders in pass protection, and even get out and block on the move. He has good natural strength and long arms to control defenders at the line of scrimmage. The difference between Lewan and Joeckel is development and consistency. Joeckel is a technician on the field that has a tremendous feel for the game. Lewan can be a bit hesitant at times and be a step late to adjust to a moving target. He is still a fine prospect that has the talent to be the next great Michigan lineman in the NFL.
Eric Fisher of Central Michigan is a player who has seen his stock rise tremendously throughout the season. He is the top senior available the draft, and actually resembles Lewan quite a bit. Fisher has a lean body but still packs 300lbs on a 6í7 frame. Added bulk is necessary to handle the jump from Central Michigan physically, but the natural strength is apparent in games. Fisher has the natural athleticism and nimble feet to operate in space and move well laterally. Fisher looks like a first rounder physically, and plays like one. How high he goes will depend on which underclassmen declare, but he wonít last long on day two if he falls there.
Tennesseeís Dallas Thomas continues the trend of athletic blockers that are a bit light in the pants. He has the athleticism and quickness to play on the edge in the NFL, but must get stronger and add more bulk to his frame. The ability is there to slide from side to side in pass protection, but also get out and block on the move. Thomas has extensive experience at both tackle and guard, and could play either spot in the NFL. He struggles at the point of attack and powerful defenders can push him around in both run blocking and in pass protection. Whether at guard or tackle, Thomas will have to get stronger maximize his athletic gifts.
Brennan Williams of North Carolina projects as a very solid right tackle prospect. He is a decent athlete, but not at the left of protecting a quarterbacks blind side. He has great size, has the strength to move defenders off the line, and can play with a mean streak making him a quality run blocker. Williamsí senior season ended prematurely due to labrum surgery on his shoulder, and itís something to watch in the post season.
DJ Fluker(Alabama), Jake Matthews(Texas AM), Oday Aboushi(Virginia), and Ricky Wagner(Wisconsin) are all guys that project as day two talents that could break into the top portion of the least as the season concludes and post season begins.
Azusa Pacificís Luke Marquardt and Glenville Stateís Mark Jackson are two small school sleepers to keep an eye on. Both players pass the eyeball test: they have the body and requisite physical tools to play at the NFL level. Keep an eye on them as the post season begins and they get a chance to make a name for themselves.
- Chance Warmack, Alabama
- Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
- Kyle Long, Oregon
- Larry Warford, Kentucky
- Brian Winters, Kent St.
- Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
- Hugh Thornton, Illinois
- JC Tretter, Cornell
- Mark Jackson, Glenville St.
- Earl Watford, James Madison
On the interior line, there are two guards that carry legitimate first round grades. Alabamaís Chance Warmack and North Carolinaís Jonathan Cooper are rare guard prospects that could push for top 20 selections.
Chance Warmack may be the best offensive lineman at the college level. He is the complete package at guard. He has the bulk, power, and tenacity you want in a dominant run blocking guard, but he combines it with surprising athleticism and agility for a 320lber. Once he locks on to a defender, he can completely take them out of the play and consistently open up space in the running game. He also impresses on the move, showing the ability to block on the move and get to the second level. There really are no holes in his game, other than nitpicking as a prospect and saying he doesnít have the classic body you see in a mid first rounder. His game and impact are well worth that selection however.
Jonathan Cooper is right up there with Warmack as a prospect. He is dominant in both phases of the game and has the physical tools that project well to the NFL game. He is a very good pass blocker for a guard. He sets up quickly, has great balance, and has the strength to absorb the bull rush with ease. As a run blocker, he shows the ability to lock on to a defender and drive them into the ground. Cooperís athleticism and agility allow him to pull and pick up moving targets. He should also hear his name called in the first round, just like Warmack, making this a very strong draft at the top for guards.
- Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
- Barrett Jones, Alabama
- Brian Schwenke, California
- Khaled Holmes, USC
- Braxston Cave, Notre Dame
Alabamaís Barrett Jones could play a number of positions in the NFL, but may project best at center. He has excelled at tackle, guard, and center at the college level, making him one of the more versatile prospects you can find on the O-Line. His size, intelligence, and toughness would allow him to play any interior line spot, and kick outside in a pinch. Nothing about Jones physically is going to jump out at you. Heís only a decent athlete at best, lacks the power to drive defenders off the line, and doesnít have tremendous size. He does possess the skills you canít teach however: football intelligence and toughness. Jones is always in the right spot, has tremendous awareness, and never gives up on a play. He wonít fit well in a power blocking scheme, but he has good quickness in a short area and his intelligence would be served very well at the center position. Jones may crack the end of the first round because he is a relatively safe pick that can start from day one, but is a lock for day two if he slides there.
Khaled Holmes of USC is another talented center prospect that should hear his name called on day two. He is a good athlete that has very good mobility on the field, showing the ability pull and block on the move very well. He lacks power at the point of attack, but is usually in the right position and never quits on the play, so he can hold his own against power players on the interior line. Holmes may not project well in a power blocking scheme, but could be a standout in a zone blocking scheme.
The interior line prospects after this group is a bit of a fall off, but there are some talented players that could move up after the season. Guards to watch: Brian Winters(Kent St), Larry Warford(Kentucky), Travis Bond(North Carolina) and Omoregie Uzzi(Georgia Tech). Centers to watch: Braxston Cave(Notre Dame) and Dalton Freeman(Clemson).
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