A Scout's Guide to Grading Offensive Linemen
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When scouting an offensive lineman, we are looking at many things at once. We must look at size, strength, hand speed, footwork, agility, hand placement, vision, reflexes and toughness. These traits combine to make an offensive lineman a good or bad pass blocker and run blocker, which is what we are essentially looking for.
You routinely hear in scouting circles that offensive linemen must have the feet of a dancer to excel on the edge in the NFL. While interior offensive lineman can be protected by each other, an offensive tackle is generally on an island in pass protection and must have the agility and coordination to counter a faster pass rusher.
Awareness (Center only)
Awareness refers to the center's job identifying defensive alignments and plans before the snap. As a center you must be able to find the MIKE linebacker, diagnose stunts and blitzes and adjust the blocking assignments of the entire offensive line accordingly.
Pass Block Speed
Pass blocking is so important, we divide it into two categories. This trait refers to how well the offensive lineman handles a speed rusher. Does he adjust well to a speed move vs. a power move; is the lineman quick enough to meet the defender?
Pass Block Power
Just like it sounds—can the lineman handle a power move from a defender? For offensive tackles this generally will be a defender attacking their body or inside shoulder. For interior lineman a power move generally comes right over top of the blocker. This criterion judges the lineman's ability to hold his ground, weighing things like strength and leverage to control the defender.
Pretty simple—can the player move the pile and open rushing lanes for the ball-carrier?
Move in Space
Moving in space refers to the player's ability to block in space, like when setting up the pocket with a wide split (distance between offensive linemen). This area grades how well the player moves when getting to his first and second assignments on a given play and factors in plays like screen packages and draws.
Pulling and trapping have become more important in the spread-style offenses in the NFL today. A pull is when an offensive lineman takes a small step back and then works down the offensive line (in either direction) to block on the edge. A trap block is when the offense purposefully opens a hole for a defender to come through and then blocks him from the side—thus trapping the defender in the backfield away from the ball-carrier who has slipped through the hole.
A good offensive lineman has to be strong enough to drive his man off the line of scrimmage and control his area in pass protection. Strength can be measured quite simply by watching a player. Does he drive his man off the ball? Does he routinely get pushed backwards by the defender?
Technique is an all-encompassing term that relates to the player's mechanics when playing his position. For an offensive lineman this refers to hand placement, the balance and speed of his kick-step (which is the first big step back a lineman takes at the snap), how well the player drives his legs through the defender he is blocking, and how well he does at keeping himself between the defender and the ball carrier.
Size gives us a look at the player's height and weight measurements, as well as his overall bulk and muscle tone. With the varying schemes in the NFL today, there is not a strict size requirement, but a general rule for offensive tackles is at least 6'4" and 300 lbs; a guard should be at least 6'3" and 290 lbs and a center should be no less than 6'2" and 290 lbs. Scouts sometimes refer to a player's "bubble," which is the space taken up by his rear and upper legs.
Health is simply how it sounds. How affected was the player's season by injury? This does not factor in past injuries or future availability.
The cumulative score of the 10 traits above, all wrapped up in one score. This sets the player's place in the position ranking and, ultimately, in the B/R NFL 1,000 ranking across all positions.
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