Terms of endearment for offensive linemen never sound very complimentary.
Fat guys ... Big uglies ... Maulers ...
And when it comes to 40 times and agility tests, most offensive linemen just can't compare to the defensive counterparts they fight off all game long. In fact, many tackles, guards and centers played both sides of the ball in high school, but moved permanently to offense because they lacked the agility and quickness to attack ball carriers at the collegiate level.
But each year at the NFL Scouting Combine, the men charged with protecting quarterbacks and providing room for running backs prove themselves as exceptional athletes.
For example, top tackle prospect Matt Kalil (USC) cemented his status as a top-five overall pick by being one of two linemen to run the 40 under 5.0 seconds. Even before stepping foot on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, Kalil impressed scouts with 34 1/2-inch arms and 10 3/8-inch hands -- prototypical measurements for the left tackle spot.
Linemen also can make their mark at the combine by excelling during position drills, like projected first-round guard David DeCastro (Stanford) did by being the coaches' demonstrator before multiple drills. Not that DeCastro didn't open some eyes during testing; his 5.43 40 wasn't exceptional, but scouts and coaches know his 4.56 20-yard shuttle and 7.30 three-cone results are more important for his position. Those numbers equaled or beat a few of the more athletic defensive linemen, as well as a couple of solid linebacker prospects carrying 60-70 fewer pounds.
Kalil and DeCastro were already considered the elite prospects at their respective positions, however. The five players listed below needed strong combines to maximize their draft stock -- and they delivered.
Brandon Mosley, OT, Auburn: The former Coffeyville Community College tight end/defensive end reluctantly moved to the offensive line upon arriving at Auburn -- a move that proved wise as the 2011 second-team All-SEC selection started his final 24 games for the Tigers. He missed the Senior Bowl after spending time in the hospital with viral meningitis, however, putting extra value on his combine results. Mosley did not disappoint, first measuring taller (6-foot-5 5/8), heavier (314 pounds) and longer (34-inch arms and 11-inch hands) than expected, and then running a strong 5.21 40 with a solid 1.75 unofficial 10-yard split. He also finished third behind Kalil and DeCastro in the three-cone drill and put up 30 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press -- a very good number for a player with longer arms. With this year's tackle class falling off a bit after the elite prospects, Mosley's athleticism and upside may be too intriguing to ignore.
Draft projection: Third round.
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Donald Stephenson, OT, Oklahoma: Stephenson struggled to get on the field early in his career at Oklahoma, fighting injuries, academic issues and the program's annual offensive line depth. But in 13 starts over the past two seasons, he flashed the athleticism to contribute on an NFL roster. He came into the combine heavier than expected (312 pounds), but still ran the fastest 40 time (4.94) and jumped the furthest (9-foot-6 broad) and highest (35 1/2 inches) of all offensive linemen. He's not an elite prospect, but these test results and his long arms (34 7/8 inches) suggest potential as a Demetrius Bell-type starting left tackle down the road with time and coaching.
Draft projection: Fourth round.
Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota: Scouts already knew Compton stood out among other players at the Football Championship Subdivision level, but they didn't necessarily believe he would keep up athletically with players from major programs. He ranked in the top five in the 40 (5.11), unofficial 10-yard split (1.69) and broad jump (9 feet), and finished in the top eight in all other tests. The four-year starter also measured in at just under 6-5 and with 34-inch arms -- acceptable for an NFL tackle. His 20 bench reps aren't exceptional, but scouts will tell you it's easier to increase a player's upper-body strength than it is their innate athleticism.
Draft projection: Fifth round.
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Desmond Wynn, OG/OT, Rutgers: Already climbing up charts with a second-team All-Big East senior season and a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game, Wynn's performance at the combine may have sealed a slot in the first five rounds. He played guard and tackle during Shrine practices and though it was clear he needed more coaching, if he moves outside, his measurements and times matched or out-paced many tackle prospects in this class: 34-inch arms, 10 1/4-inch hands, 5.05 40 (with a very good unofficial 1.71 10-yard split), 28 bench reps and 32 1/2-inch vertical jump. Scouts were left wanting a bit more, though, as he did not perform the agility tests. But even if his pro day results aren't elite, Wynn may have shown teams enough to prove his past knee and shoulder injuries are not affecting his overall athleticism.
Draft projection: Fifth round.
Adam Gettis, OG, Iowa: Just like Stephenson, the Hawkeyes' second-team All-Big Ten right guard failed to see the field as often as he would have liked through his first four years in Iowa City, due to a redshirt season, strong veterans ahead on the depth chart and ankle issues in his junior season. Listed at 280 pounds before 2011, Gettis got up to 293 for the combine and still ran a solid 5.00 40. More importantly, he led all offensive linemen with a 1.65 unofficial 10-yard split, ranked second with a 9-foot-4 broad jump and finished third in the group with a 31 1/2-inch vertical -- three numbers showing potential explosiveness from his stance. He'll need to add more weight and get stronger (Gettis didn't lift in Indianapolis), but his combination of good film and excellent athleticism should still earn him a slot in the middle of Draft Saturday.
Draft projection: Fifth round.