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Old 04-01-2011, 01:58 PM   #1
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Default At offensive line, NFL draft could yield rich first-round crop

At offensive line, NFL draft could yield rich first-round crop
By Jeff Reynolds, Special to USA TODAY

Offensive tackle won't soon be a position where supply exceeds demand. Pass attempts per game in the NFL were up again in 2010, and there's no return to a "3 yards and a cloud of dust" offense on the horizon. The game belongs to franchise quarterbacks … and thereby the men charged with protecting them are close to invaluable.

The 2011 draft class has talent and depth at tackle, though there is no single standout in a crew that could produce six first-round picks.

"I think the tackle group is better," said Kevin Colbert, director of football operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's actually been good the last couple years. It all relates to the spread offenses in college football, because these guys are good pass protectors from their freshman year on as they develop."

There also are several promising interior linemen, led by Florida's Mike Pouncey and Baylor's Danny Watkins, who was a tackle in college.

A closer look at this year's top offensive line prospects, listed with their school, height, weight and projected round of selection (*denotes underclassman):


1. Anthony Castonzo

Boston College, 6-7, 311, 1: Before landing at BC, he was a string bean high school tight end who had visions of catching passes from Matt Ryan. After a year at prep school, Castonzo was growing into the frame of an offensive lineman. But at 260 pounds, it was a surprise he played so well at right tackle while protecting Ryan as a freshman. Castonzo logged three years at left tackle and, after showing well in the Senior Bowl and combine, many teams view him as the best of a strong tackle crop. The academic All-American, who scored the second-highest Wonderlic score (41) among players tested at the combine, majored in biochemistry, and he says 10 or 12 years down the road he hopes to be working on a cure for cancer.

2. Tyron Smith

Southern California, 6-5, 307, 1: Smith is the top athlete in this class, though like fellow former Trojan Winston Justice— who needed three years to crack the Philadelphia Eagles' starting lineup after parlaying an excellent combine into a second-round selection in 2006 — he isn't a sure thing. Some have projected Smith, a top-shelf athlete, as a top-10 pick, but he has never played left tackle. He played most of his college career at or just below 283 pounds, and a knee injury at the combine prevented him from allaying doubts.

3. Nate Solder

Colorado, 6-8, 319, 1: Getting around him requires raw power. There is no looping around Solder's 81-inch wingspan, and he's agile enough to limit mistakes. When stacking himself against the top blockers in this class, Solder said, "I think I'm more athletic than they are; I can move a little better in space." He was a tight end as a freshman at Colorado, but he's getting accustomed to some of the position intricacies at tackle, and his limited strength stood out at the combine. If teams are willing to live with a year of development under pro coaching and strength training, the payoff could be big.

4. Gabe Carimi

Wisconsin, 6-7, 314, 1: No need for a promotions team here after he proclaimed himself the best tackle prospect available at the combine. A few teams might agree. Based on Carimi's performance against top competition, scouts like his upside. His height can be used against him, and he too often is off-balance because he leans and lunges to recover rather than sliding or shifting laterally. If he doesn't correct this technique flaw, he'll be a right tackle in the NFL.

5. Derek Sherrod

Mississippi State, 6-5, 321, 1-2: He started for three seasons at left tackle, flashing good athleticism to go with prototypical size and a large wingspan. He runs well and can redirect and hit targets gliding into the second level. His experience (50 games played) and ability to play immediately at the NFL level should keep him in the first round.

6. Marcus Cannon

TCU, 6-5, 358, 2: He doesn't have the physique of an excellent athlete, but he can scoot once he gets his 358 pounds moving. If draft grades were assigned based on weight-room numbers, Cannon would be first in line. He owns several program records for power lifts, and his natural strength is evident when he gets his hands on defenders. Cannon's weight gives some potential investors pause, but he's been durable and has the frame and game to warrant a first-round pick if a team gives him a year to grow within the structure of an NFL offense. Scouts have said he must become more assignment-sound. His future likely is at right tackle. At worst, he's a candidate to be the next Leonard Davis, a college tackle who converts to guard and dominates with sheer size and overwhelming strength.

7. Orlando Franklin

Miami (Fla.), 6-6, 316, 2: Jamaican-born and Canadian-raised, he found his way to Miami when his family moved to Florida for his senior year of high school. By the time Franklin left school, he had produced quite a résumé with outstanding efforts against first-round picks Chris Long (2007) and Jason Pierre-Paul (2009). A guard who moved to left tackle as a senior, Franklin looked like he was built for the position with his broad shoulders and long arms, which camouflage his still-developing technique, adequate athleticism and average instincts for the position. Even if he winds up at guard or right tackle, scouts are lauding his toughness. He played the 2010 season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury that occurred in 2009. Franklin said he opted to delay surgery because he felt the Hurricanes had "something special going" in 2010. He had surgery at the end of the season but deemed himself 98% at the combine and chose to participate in all workouts.

8. James Carpenter

Alabama, 6-4, 321, 2-3: He was a standout at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College and signed with Alabama in January 2009. He moved into the starting left tackle spot, leading the way for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to average 127.6 yards a game. Carpenter earned first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors last season, showing athleticism, technique, hand placement and power. He isn't quick enough to be a full-time left tackle, but he could be an exceptional right tackle in a run-first offense.

9. James Brewer

Indiana, 6-6, 323, 3: Hoosiers are born with hoops in their blood. Basketball was Brewer's first love, and he didn't give it up for shoulder pads and a helmet until his senior season in high school. He attended IU for two years before he got onto the field — he redshirted in 2006 and missed the '07 season with a foot injury — and his sophomore season in '08 ended when he went down with an ankle injury at midseason. Brewer enters the NFL with 21 career starts. His size and potential pique the interest of scouts who might be inclined to gamble on his upside in the middle rounds if they're convinced he won't spend most of his time in the trainer's room.

10. Marcus Gilbert

Florida, 6-6, 330, 3-4: He has been trained to set and explode quickly in the Gators' spread-read offense, and he has the footwork, strength and size to be an NFL right tackle. He is described as highly coachable and a leader. If there is a concern, Gilbert has to improve picking up edge defenders in the 3-4 front.

11. Jason Pinkston

Pittsburgh, 6-3, 317, 3-4: Converted from the defensive line, he was a two-time all-Big East left tackle in three years as a starter for the run-heavy Panthers. He'll move to the right side in the NFL, where his strength is a greater asset and his lack of ideal size won't be exposed.

12. DeMarcus Love

Arkansas, 6-4, 315, 4: Formerly a right guard in the Razorbacks' previously run-heavy offense, Love moved to tackle and played both sides in pass-happy coach Bobby Petrino's complex system which calls for the line to "flip" based on the play call. Short on speed, flexibility and agility, Love more than held his own, earning first-team all-Southeastern Conference recognition as a senior. He'll fit best at guard in the NFL unless a coach is able to polish his technical skills as a right tackle.

13. Joseph Barksdale

LSU, 6-5, 325, 4: He came to Baton Rouge in 2007 as a top defensive tackle prospect and a five-star recruit thought to be the second coming of Haloti Ngata. Barksdale was immediately shifted to right offensive tackle amid a logjam at defensive tackle with Glenn Dorsey, Marlon Favorite, Al Woods and Drake Nevis. Barksdale started in 2008 and '09 on the right side and moved to left tackle in 2010, when he was the lone senior on the line. A second-team all-SEC pick, Barksdale has to shake the reputation for playing to the level of his competition.


1. Mike Pouncey

Florida, 6-5, 303, 1: When he requested an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory committee in 2010, he wasn't satisfied with a late first-round grade. He then realized that would mean he and his twin brother, Maurkice (who opted to enter the draft), would be separated for the first time. But Mike Pouncey's senior season began with a thud. He slid from left guard after 28 consecutive starts to replace his brother at center, and the position was anything but a natural fit at first. He snapped the ball over the head of the quarterback and had several that were charted as bad snaps in the season opener. "I told myself when I left the locker room I'd never play like that again," said Pouncey, who went on to have an all-SEC season and projects to go in the first 25 picks of the draft.

2. Danny Watkins

Baylor, 6-3, 310, 1-2: He first played organized football at Butte College in California; two years later he landed at Baylor. The 26-year-old Canadian is as good on skates as he is in cleats, thanks to his hockey background. Watkins has impressed since working out at guard in the Senior Bowl. His age and limited football experience will be a hindrance, and he doesn't have ideal size. But his technique is exceptional for a raw prospect with agility and strength.

3. Benjamin Ijalana

Villanova, 6-4, 320, 2-3: He started all 53 games of his career for the Wildcats' fast-paced offense. But playing tackle at the Football Championship Subdivision level raised questions with scouts eager to see him work at the Senior Bowl and combine position drills in direct competition with Football Bowl Subdivision talent. Ijalana was unable to take the field at either event because of a sports hernia, and his final draft grade might be incomplete for many teams. He's a better athlete than 2010 second-rounder Vladimir Ducasse (New York Jets via Massachusetts), but Ijalana will have to grow to be considered a pro tackle prospect.

4. Clint Boling

Georgia, 6-5, 310, 2-3: A four-year starter — logging time at both tackle spots and at right guard — who said he feels more comfortable at tackle, Boling is determined to prove himself capable of staying outside in the NFL. It will be a hard sell, though he eventually might be capable of sliding to tackle in a pinch. He isn't a stiff athletically, and he started for his high school basketball team and played some tight end. But his agility and mobility are considered average for an NFL tackle. He's a bit of a 'tweener because he hasn't shown the knee-bend or heavy anchor to excel at offensive guard.

5. Will Rackley

Lehigh, 6-4, 307, 3: It didn't take long for him to prove he belonged with the big boys in the East-West Shrine Game. A dominant force for Lehigh, he didn't look like an FCS offensive lineman, but rather a future NFL starter. Rackley made 40 consecutive starts to end his career, the last three at left tackle after starting at right guard as a freshman. Given his textbook technique, the success of small-school linemen such as New Orleans Saints all-pro guard Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg) and the versatility he has displayed in recent months, Rackley has a chance to play right away.

6. Stephen Schilling

Michigan, 6-4, 302, 3-4: A top-40 overall prospect by USA TODAY in 2005 and a two-year starter on the varsity basketball team, he chose a football future after being adorned a five-star prospect by Scout.com. A shoulder injury suffered as a high school senior and a bout of mononucleosis that shaved 20 pounds off Schilling's frame kept him out of action in 2006. He missed one game the rest of his college career, starting 49 games toggling from right tackle to right guard and finishing as a two-year starter at left guard.

7. John Moffitt

Wisconsin, 6-4, 314, 4: He was a first-team All-American and consensus first-team all-Big Ten selection as a senior who has started more than 30 games at left guard and a handful at center. Moffitt won't outrun many of his teammates at the next level, but his quickness, mobility and footwork paint the picture of a longtime NFL starter. If he can quicken his steps against three-technique pass rushers, Moffitt could be a Pro Bowl steal in the middle rounds.


1. Rodney Hudson

Florida State, 6-2, 299, 2: He has All-American credentials and dominated in the Seminoles' wide-open offense because of his athleticism and quickness. He's not tall or broad enough to play tackle long term in the NFL, but his experience at center might attract teams that operate zone-based blocking schemes. He can play any of the three inside spots, where his shorter arms might give scouts pause despite consistent technique and much better power than most players his size.

2. Stefen Wisniewski

Penn State, 6-3, 313, 2: He is the nephew of Oakland Raiders offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski, a former Penn State All-American and an eight-time Pro Bowl guard known for his aggressive demeanor. "He was known for finishing blocks and being a nasty guy, and that's what I always try," said Stefen Wisniewski. Offensive line coaches will tout him not just for his bloodlines (his father, Leo, played three years in the NFL) because Wisniewski is NFL-ready with intelligence, strength and durability.

Reynolds is a senior editor for NFLDraftScout.com, USA TODAY's scouting service
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Old 04-01-2011, 02:37 PM   #2
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Default Re: At offensive line, NFL draft could yield rich first-round crop

i think we will take a tackel in one of the 1st 3 rounds
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Old 04-01-2011, 03:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: At offensive line, NFL draft could yield rich first-round crop

I like Joseph Barskdale, he seems like a good value left tackle we could get in round 2 or maybe even round 3. I'd rather take him and a first round corner than Sherrod or Watkins or somebody and a second round corner.
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