Skip to main content

Depth of offensive line prospects doesn't match level of need

Lots of teams need help along their offensive lines.

This year the NFL draft has to provide 10 teams with a left tackle, while another five need a right tackle. In addition, 10 teams are looking for help on the interior at guard or center.

There appear to be 12-15 prospects worthy of being drafted in the first three rounds, and that simply isn't enough talent to satisfy all the teams in need. That usually leads to a rush on the available talent, especially at left tackle. Upwards of five left tackles will go in the opening round, along with the best guard and center.

Teams have to resist the temptation not to reach for a guy because the well is starting to run dry. Instead, they must hope to find a hidden gem in the later rounds, someone their offensive line coach can mold.

An issue that makes the evaluation process tougher is that many of these linemen come from spread offenses, meaning they played in a two-point stance. Teams must project how they will handle the three-point stance and a power run game.

Players with the most upside

At tackle, Russell Okung has a chance to be close to an elite player, maybe not in the class of Jonathan Ogden but a guy who can start from Day 1 and stay put for 10 years. In interviewing him twice, he has the maturity and drive to be great.

At guard, Idaho's Mike Iupati really hasn't played a lot of football. However, he has the physical toughness and mean streak to be a dominating inside player, as well as play some tackle if needed.

At center, Maurkice Pouncey has rare size and athletic ability. He should be a Pro Bowl option in a few years.

Others in consideration include Indiana OT Rodger Saffold and Illinois center/guard prospect Jon Asamoah.

Gil Brandt's scouting report

Bruce Campbell, Maryland
Campbell is a big risk-reward prospect. When you see him in person, it just makes you drool. Everybody has little things that they pay attention to. One of the things I try to do is call the conference office when their all-league teams are announced, and I ask them for the vote count. Campbell did not get one vote in the All-ACC team last year by people who are coaching him and writers who are following him. That's telling. Yet when you see him and see what he can do, he has got great ability. I'd put him in as my eighth-best player in this draft. This is one of those players that could end up being either all-everything or wonder why he was ever drafted.

Biggest boom-or-bust prospect

Does the biggest, fastest, best athlete make the top offensive lineman? Not always. Football intelligence, technique and experience count for a lot on the line.

Maryland OT Bruce Campbell, a phenomenal athlete who, at 6-foot-7, 314 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds, was the talk of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Unfortunately, when you turned on the game film, he didn't play anything like a first-round left tackle. Does he have the traits to be a fine player? Yes, but how long will he take to develop? The earlier he's selected, the sooner he'll take the field, and that could spell disaster. He really needed to stay in school and develop his craft.

The other candidate in this category is Rutgers' Anthony Davis. The underclassman's another raw talent with a first-round grade.

Player with the most to prove

Oklahoma OT Trent Williams will be an early first-round pick. While there's no doubt he has the traits and skills to play the position, he has to show that his work ethic and dedication to the game can match the expectations that come with a big contract.

Others in consideration were Campbell, Davis and Saffold.

Small-school prospect with a chance

The big colleges usually gobble up the large, athletic kids coming out of high school, but keep an eye on two prospects with a real chance to have good careers.

Hillsdale College's Jared Veldheer, a gigantic tackle candidate at 6-8, 312, and Massachusetts' Vlad Ducasse, a guard-tackle type, are worth keeping an eye on.

In sitting with a few offensive line coaches at the combine, they really liked the movement skills from Veldheer. Even though Ducasse struggled at the Senior Bowl, he demonstrated the athletic ability to make it. Both prospects need time, but look for them to come off the board in the second or third round.

Can you find a two-for-one player?

Young offensive linemen are much better served if they can play two positions like center and guard or line up at left or right tackle. With most teams only activating seven or eight linemen on game day, finding a guy with versatility is critical.

Mississippi's John Jerry, who is the brother of the Falcons' Peria Jerry, could be a fit as a guard or right tackle. He performed well at both spots at the Senior Bowl.

Although Alabama's Mike Johnson played guard most of his college career, NFL offensive line coaches have said center could be his best spot.

Debunking a myth

While long arms are critical for offensive tackles, height can be misleading. There are hardly any tackles under 6-4, but anything over 6-6 can work against an offensive tackle when it comes to stopping a pass rusher who gets under his pad level. Veldheer, Notre Dame's Sam Young (6-8) and a host of other late-round candidates could struggle in the NFL if they can't bend their knees.

Teams with the greatest need

» At tackle (right or left): Seattle, Arizona, Chicago, Washington, Buffalo, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, Dallas and Green Bay.

» At guard: St. Louis, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and the New York Giants.

» At center: Atlanta, Denver, New England, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.