2010 NFL Draft: Top Five Interior Linemen Rankings
Interior linemen usually have to wait in the background during the early part of the NFL Draft.
The reason being most NFL personnel people, with the exception of last season, look at centers and guards as positions to be filled in the later rounds.
This year, in a very deep draft, two tough inside guys are getting their fair share of attention and should be first-round selections.
One prospect will be making the switch to guard after playing left tackle in college, while another was anchoring the line of the current national champions.
The 2010 Draft will be a year that the unheralded interior linemen get some love.
Here's a look at the top five interior linemen in the upcoming draft.
1. Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
A versatile powerhouse who can play center or guard.
Pouncey is just as quick as he is tough. He played in the Sugar Bowl just hours after treatment for kidney stones.
NFL draft guru Gil Brandt called Pouncey, "the best center prospect in 10 years."
Coming from a guy who helped build the Dallas Cowboys into a power in the 60s and 70s, that is quite a compliment indeed.
The veteran of 40 starts for the Gators emerged as the country's top center this season, earning All-American honors and winning the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center.
He'll need to prove he can handle the adjustment to the traditional snap after two seasons in Florida's shotgun offense.
But all signs point to Pouncey making an immediate impact in the NFL.
2. Mike Iupati, Idaho
Iupati dominated in college at left guard and some feel he has the ability to move out and play tackle in the pros.
He'll most likely start his NFL career at guard, and the 6'5", 331-pound behemoth has the power and nastiness it takes to play inside.
Iupati, who entered his senior season with only 20 career starts, did not allow a single sack in 2009, earning consensus All-American honors.
He does have to work on pass blocking, but he's already NFL-ready as a run blocker.
His unique combination of size, strength, and quickness will guarantee a first-round selection.
3. Jon Asamoah, Illinois
If not for Iupati, Asamoah would be the top guard in this draft.
Asamoah has the size (6'4", 305-pounds), strength, and mobility to project as a versatile guard who can play either side and pull when needed.
He plays with a mean streak and Illini coaches raved about his leadership in the locker room.
Like most linemen coming into the NFL, he needs to work on his pass blocking.
Asamoah has more than enough talent and will be a fine pick in the second round.
4. John Jerry, Mississippi
John Jerry is the brother of Peria, the first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons last season.
Jerry played guard and tackle at Ole Miss and most evaluators feel his best position is at guard.
He was a four-year starter for the Rebels and many scouts feel he could be a solid contributor in the NFL with his massive size (6'6", 328-pounds) and surprising agility.
Jerry needs to get better with his technique. He won't be able to get away with making mistakes and trying to compensate for them with his size in the pros.
He should go late in the second or by the middle of the third round.
5. Mike Johnson, Alabama
Johnson was the unquestioned leader of the offensive line that opened the way for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and helped Alabama roll to a national championship in 2009.
The most appealing thing about Johnson's game is his versatility.
His 41 consecutive starts were split between all four line positions, with the majority coming at left guard (24) and right tackle (10).
Johnson's durability is also a plus. He played in a record 54 games for the Crimson Tide in his career.
He's a very intelligent player who needs to get stronger at the next level.
Regardless, Johnson should have a long career in the NFL.
Others to watch: Zane Beadles, Utah; Mitch Petrus, Arkansas: Matt Tennant, Boston College; J.D. Walton, Baylor.