"I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord"
So I'm not exactly Phil Collins and I've only been waiting since January, and it's not even tonight, but the 2010 draft is, well, almost here. Right?
Diving right in, the San Francisco 49ers will draft at least one lineman this year—probably more—and I'm just sifting through big-man talent, potentially and defiantly, available to them this year.
It's likely at least one of the 49ers first-round picks will go toward a big man, and depending on who falls where, they could be in for a treat or at tackle and guard.
It's time to cram now and get familiar with this year's crop of big fellas.
Early First Round
The Big Four: These four offensive tackles are considered the crème de la crème of this year's blocking crop. Teams looking for franchise tackles, or just serious talent up front, are going to swoop on these players early. Also listed are any knocks that could keep a player out of the top 10.
Russell Okung—OT—Oklahoma State. Ranked as the best lineman in this year's draft, Okung has the most complete skill set of all this year's linemen. Why he won't be available to the 49ers: Shanahan isn't that stupid.
Bryan Bulaga—OT—Iowa. Good, quick feet and a hard-nosed attitude make Bulaga a force from the edge. Why he won't be available to the 49ers: other teams need linemen too. Why he might be available: his down side, which is said to be his suspect arm length.
Trent Williams—OT—Oklahoma. Has long arms and good ability. Why he won't be available to the 49ers: the same reason as Bulaga. Why he will be available: the one big knock on Williams would be his missed block which resulted in an injured Sam Bradford missing measurable time in 2009.
Anthony Davis—OT—Rutgers. A very big body with lots of talent, especially when run blocking. Why he could be available to the 49ers: questions have arisen about his work ethic and motivation.
Later first-round considerations
Players here will likely be selected the first night of the draft, but have an outside shot of slipping to the second round.
Mike Iupati—OG—Idaho. “I like to destroy a lot of people.” The perfect quote for a smash-mouth style offense seeking a lineman. The knock against him is the limited competition he faced at Idaho, but everything else is solid.
Maurkice Pouncey—C—Florida. Would probably start at guard until he's been toughened up and has learned the system of whatever NFL team he goes to. Not that the 49ers urgently need a center, but it doesn't hurt to plan ahead either.
Charles Brown—OT—USC. Protected Mark Sanchez' blindside in 2008 and had a good 2009 season as well. Brown is big, strong, and reasonably fast, but he did pull a hamstring at his pro day.
Bruce Campbell—OT—Maryland. Has been dubbed a "workout warrior" by many amateur scouts/writers, due to his awe inspiring combine but somewhat lackluster highlight reel. He may go early, however, as reports state that Al Davis may reach on him.
Rodger Saffold—OT—Indiana. An outside shot (way outside) at being a first-rounder, Saffold was a solid starter at left tackle since his freshman year.
These are guys who won't be selected in the first round, no matter what happens on Thursday, but they can't fall forever either.
Vladimir Ducasse—OT—Massachussetts. Another big talent, but wasn't heavily challenged at his college level.
Jared Veldheer—OT—Hillsdale. Stands 6'8" tall at 308 lbs. Again, he hasn't proven himself at a higher level of play, but still stands with a lot of potential.
Jon Asamoah—OG—Illinois. A three-year starter at right guard, he can play either side and pull if need be.
Mitch Petrus—OT—Arkansas. This year's outlier in strength, Petrus posted an amazing 45 reps on the 225 bench tied a combine record. He does need to add strength in the lower body.
John Jerry—OT/OG—Ole' Miss. Has all the tools, but needs to be more coordinated with hand placement and footwork.
Matt Tennant—C—Boston College. A standout since becoming first string as a redshirt sophomore, he started the last 41 games at center. A little lanky for interior line, but very skilled.
Eric Olsen—C—Notre Dame. Earned his team captaincy and the Guardian Award as the team's top lineman last fall, giving up one sack in 450 pass attempts. Olsen's nastiness and versatility will prove to be NFL virtues. Also put up an impressive 35 reps at 225 lbs.
Selvish Capers—OT—West Virginia. Capers went from protecting lefty quarterback Pat White to right-handed Jarrett Brown last year, but WVU coaches kept him on the right side of the line. Physical as a run blocker and prototypical as a pass rusher.
Zane Beadles—OG—Utah State. Beadles considered going pro after Utah's huge win over Alabama in the 2009 Suger Bowl, but he opted to stick around one more year. More of a spread-offense pass-blocker than a smash-mouth run blocker.
Marshall Newhouse—OG—TCU. Quick enough to prevent ends from turning the corner. Comes off the ball better in run blocking, one reason for a potential move to OT at the next level.
Ciron Black—OG—LSU. For four years and 53 consecutive games, LSU's Ciron Black showed up at the same place to work—left tackle (a school record). Black is an efficient blind-side Doe protector despite less than ideal foot quickness
Mike Johnson—OG—Alabama. Johnson was the unquestioned leader of the offensive line that opened the way for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and helped the Crimson Tide roll to a national championship in 2009. Shows decent physical but great cerebral abilities.
These guys (among others) are off the radar and off the map. The late rounds get real hard to predict because of all the variables leading up to them, but great talents hide here like needles in haystacks—ready to draw blood if you're not careful. Some might not even get drafted.
Tony Washington—OT—Abaline Christian. Another big fish from a small pond, Washington put up impressive combine numbers. Although he had an off-field issue in high school, he has been a stand-up citizen and ideal teammate through college.
Shawn Luavo—OG—Arizona State. started the final 33 games of his career, switching between left guard (17), left tackle (12), and right tackle. Wherever the Sun Devils needed improvement, they inserted Lauvao. He also posted good workout numbers.
Jason Fox—OT—Miami. Fox began his career at right tackle, but started the final three years manning the blind side.His stock has fallen due to a recent leg injury.
Ed Wang—OT—Virginia tech. teams will have a hard time ignoring his intriguing combination of size and pure athletic ability in the middle rounds. Wang's athletic ability comes naturally, as his parents were each members of the Chinese Olympic team in the 1970s. He's considered a developmental prospect at tackle.
Kyle Calloway—OT—Iowa. He's big at 6'7" and 220 lbs. Calloway's length, strength, footwork and technique give him a chance for a long pro career, no matter where he's placed on the line.
Sam young—OT—Notre Dame. his 6'8" height, and accompanying arm length and strong punch make it easy for him to engulf smaller ends in pass blocking, and Good drive blocker despite his height, getting low and pushing back the line. Strong enough to turn his man inside or outside, but slow in feet for pulling assignments.
Joe Hawley—C—UNLV. Hawley had very impressive workouts, put up 35 reps at 225 lbs and posted an 8'9" broad jump.
Chris Marinelli—OT—Stanford. has the versatility to play guard or tackle at the next level, thanks to his intelligence, size, strength, foot speed and nasty streak.
Shelly Smith—OG—Colorado State. Smith's strengths include getting out in front of run plays, which could gain him fans among NFL offensive line coaches, especially those using zone-blocking schemes.
Charlie Tanner—OG—Texas. Although he didn't attend the combine, his vertical jump would have beaten out Oklahoma T Trent Williams' top mark of 34 1/2 inches, while his 4.38-second short shuttle would have shattered the best mark at the combine set by Shawn Luavo.
Brandon Carter—OG—Texas Tech. Once projected as a third or fourth rounder, mediocre workouts have dropped his stock into the will-he-or-won't-he-be-drafted range. Nevertheless, this is a character I believe in. In spite of his gnarly head tattoos and colored mohawk, Carter has been described as an ideal team mate. He's taken on some of the best prospects at tackle—Ndamukong Suh, for instance, only recorded 2 tackles against Texas Tech last year. A strong pass protector, but an unrefined run blocker, Carter lacks consistency but has a ton of potential.
Mike Tepper—OG—Cal. In spite of questions about his speed, Tepper has valuable experience in pass blocking.
Andrew Lewis—OG—Oklahoma State. Lewis (6-4 1/2, 298 pounds) ran the 40 in 5.35 and 5.40 seconds, had a 24 1/2-inch vertical jump, an 8-foot broad jump, a 4.98 short shuttle and did 22 lifts in the bench press.
Thomas Welch—OT—Venderbilt. In spite of a series of ankle injuries (which really suck when you're a big man) Welch has shown toughness and a willingness to play where ever his team needs him.
Granted these are only the more notable offensive bulldozers of this year, but they sure are worth paying attention to. In the coming decade of football, don't be surprised when you're hearing many of these names and devastating block in the same sentence.