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Costanzo leads crop of athletic O-linemen entering 2011 draft

Editor's note: This is the seventh in a weekly series detailing the top senior prospects, by position, for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Did you know?

   » In 1997, the 
  Seahawks and 
  Rams paid a high price to move up in the draft to select Walter Jones (Seattle) and Orlando Pace (St. Louis). Both players played 13 years and were selected to 16 
  Pro Bowls. Both have a chance to be selcted to the 
  Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

» Former Houston Oilers/ Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews is tied with Merlin Olsen for the most consecutive Pro Bowl selections (14). Matthews played in 296 games -- the most in NFL history for a non-specialist.

Offensive linemen keep getting bigger, faster and stronger and 2010 will be no exception. Of the 51 offensive linemen at the 2010 NFL Combine, none weighed less than 300 pounds and none measured under 6-foot-2.

For years, everyone heard or read about how important it is to have an outstanding offensive line. To be successful and to have that, you need above average tackles. In the 2008 draft, seven tackles were selected in the first round. All seven started at some time during the 2008 season. Dolphins OT Jake Long (First overall pick) was named to the Pro Bowl following the 2008 season, his first in the NFL.

Note: This list only includes players who will have exhausted their eligibility after the 2010 season. BYU OT Matt Reynolds (missed two seasons will on LDS mission) is an outstanding player, but has two years remaining. For that reason, he is not included on this list even though he would likely be a top prospect if he chose to enter the 2011 draft. The same can be said of Virginia Tech tackle Blake DeChristopher.

Here are the top 18 senior offensive linemen prospects NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on this fall.

Top offesnive linemen

1. Anthony Costanzo, OT

College: Boston College
Height/Weight: 6-foot-7, 300

Costanzo has played and started since his true freshman year in 2007. He played right tackle in 2007 and left tackle the past two years, totaling 41 starts in that time. He was All-ACC in 2009, and is also a very smart (he's a biochemistry major) athlete with quick feet and long arms. He should be a top-10 pick in the 2011 draft.

2. Nathan Solder, OT

College: Colorado
Height/Weight: 6-8, 305

Solder is a fifth-year player who started four games at tight end in 2007. He will be starting his third year at left tackle. Solder has gained over 60 pounds since coming to Colorado and he can run the 40-yard dash in under 4.9 seconds. Solder has the long arms and great footwork necessary to play the tackle position well. He needs to develop more strength, which will come. He should play for a long time in the pros, and at a high level.

3. Stefan Wisniewski, G

College: Penn State
Height/Weight: 6-3, 295

Wisniewski was the first true freshman to start at right guard since 1999 for the Nittany Lions. He started 12 games at guard in 2008 and played center in 2009, earning first team all Big-Ten honors. Wisniewski comes from a long line of professionall football players. His father, Leo, was a second-round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts and his uncle, Steve, was drafted by the Cowboys and traded to the Raiders, where he played for 13 years. Wisniewski's strength and quickness should help him to play well for many years in the NFL.

4. Derek Sherrod, OT

College: Mississippi State
Height/Weight: 6-5 1/8, 305

Sherrod played as a true freshman at right tackle in 2007 and started at left tackle the past two years. He has good athletic ability and size. Sherrod was highly recruited out of high school and will be a good NFL player.

5. Clint Boling, OT

College: Georgia
Height/Weight: 6-4 1/2, 306

The 21-year-old Boling played as a true freshman, starting 11 games in 2007, 12 in 2008 and 13 in 2009. Boling has played guard, right tackle and six games at left tackle in 2009. He will play left tackle this season. Boling is a good athlete, who played tight end at one point in high school. He runs well and is a smart, young player.

6. Marcus Cannon, OT

College: TCU
Height/Weight: 6-5 1/2, 360

Cannon is a fifth-year player who started for the first time in 2008. He has played right tackle the past two years, starting 24 games, and will move to left tackle this fall. Cannon is well coached by TCU Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Eddie Williamson. Cannon has long arms and moves well for his size. Scouts will need to watch if he is quick enough to play left tackle or if he is better suited as a guard in the NFL.

College: Pittsburgh
Height/Weight: 6-3 1/2, 310

Pinkston is a fifth-year player who played some as a true freshman in 2006 when he came into games as a short-yardage runner. He was a medical redshirt in 2007 and has started at left tackle the past two years. A first team Big East selection in 2009, Pinkston has very good athletic ability and good feet. He can play left tackle in the NFL. His cousin, Todd Pinkston, played six years in the NFL as a wide receiver.

College: Wisconsin
Height/Weight: 6-7, 315

A second team all Big Ten selection in 2009, Carimi is a fifth-year player who has started at left tackle for the last three years. He is a giant of a man with long arms. Carimi may have trouble with speed rushers making him a better fit at right tackle in the NFL, but he is a solid player nevertheless.

9. Lee Ziemba, OT

College: Auburn
Height/Weight: 6-5 5/8, 322

Ziemba is a fourth-year player, who has started 38 consecutive games. He was named Player of the Year in Arkansas in 2006. Ziemba is a young player with size and speed, but he needs to develop more strength. He was named second team all SEC in 2009.

10. Rodney Hudson, G

College: Florida State
Height/Weight: 6-2 1/2, 280

A four-year player who started 10 games in 2007, Hudson gave up a sack in his first game as a starter, then went 16 consecutive games without giving up a sack. He plays guard at Florida State, but I'm not sure center wouldn't be his best position in the NFL. Hudson's potential is limited by his small frame, but he is a very good athlete.

11. Marcus Gilbert, G/OT

College: Florida
Height/Weight: 6-6 1/8, 315

He has started 17 games for the Gators in his first four seasons. Gilbert has played both guard and right tackle. He's a good athlete, but needs to get stronger. He is best suited to play right tackle. I don't think he can be a left tackle at the next level.

12. Chris Hairston, OT

College: Clemson
Height/Weight: 6-6 5/8, 323

Hairston is a fifth-year player that has started the past two years at left tackle, but he can play guard as well. He is a young player who came to Clemson at age 17 and went on to earn second team all ACC honors last year. Hairston has a lot of upside. He needs to get stronger, and he will.

College: Miami (Fla)
Height/Weight: 6-6, 315

Franklin lived in Jamaica and Canada before moving to Florida his junior year of high school. To see what type of player he is, watch his performance against Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy last year. Franklin played and started three games as a true freshman and has started the past two seasons. He is a very fast and athletic guy who has played some tight end. He has a lot of upside, but needs to get stronger

College: Florida
Height/Weight: 6-5 3/8, 311

Pouncey played as a true freshman, starting four games as a defensive lineman. He has started the past two seasons at guard and was named to first team all SEC in 2009. His twin borther Maurkice was drafted in the first round by the Steelers this past April.

College: Arkansas
Height/Weight: 6-4 1/2, 315

Love is a fifth-year player who has started 24 games for Arkansas at both guard and right tackle. Though he will play right tackle this fall, Love might be better suited to play guard. He has a lot of upside, but he needs to get stronger.

College: Baylor
Height/Weight: 6-3 1/2, 310

An older player (he turns 25 this fall), Watkins did not play football until junior college, where started at left tackle in 2007 and 2008. He started 12 games at left tackle for Baylor in 2009. A native of Canada, Watkins is a good player, considering his lack of experience. He will likely be drafted very late. His best position may be at guard.

17. Kyle Hix

College: Texas
Height/Weight: 6-6 1/2, 320

Hix started one game as a true freshman in 2007 and has since started 28 games at right tackle. He is a good, not great, athlete. He's a tough, hard working player who can only play right tackle.

Here are four small-school guys worth keeping an eye: Missouri State's David Arkin (6-4 1/2, 300 pounds), Villanova's Ben Ijalana (6-3 1/2, 320), Arkansas State's Derrick Newton (6-6, 305) and Lehigh's William Rackley (6-3 1/2, 306).

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