The Senior Bowl practices held at Mobile, Alabama this year offered NFL teams a chance to get an early look at the cream of the crop of offensive linemen available for the 2011 NFL Draft. I watched all of the practices that aired at East vs West Shrine Bowl, all the practices that aired for the Senior Bowl and the days of testing at the Scouting Combines. Finally, we took that information, along with the results from the college pro days, in helping to compile this list.
Of the 19 offensive linemen that appeared on Senior Bowl rosters, 15 of them will appear on this list of the 25 best offensive linemen entering the draft.
From the top 10, six of them appeared in the Senior Bowl game. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, the NFL coaching staffs for the two squads, received the greatest amount of insight with these kids, as they were able to work with them on and off the field for the entire week.
For all of the hype about the defensive linemen and their collective talent in the 2011 draft, the offensive linemen are thought to also be a fairly deep group, and many will be selected over the first three rounds. It will be interesting to see which team, the North or the South, had the most linemen drafted in the first two days. It will also be interesting to see if either the Bills or Bengals use their insight to draft a lineman or two that they had the honor to coach.
On to the list.
No matter how short or deep a list you want to create when conducting a power ranking at a certain position, there are always going to be a number of players that you omitted that were there on the cusp, or that for whatever reason you failed to consider, but should have.
My list of honorable mentions for the top 25 offensive linemen include:
Lee Ziemba - Auburn tackle
Chris Hairston - Clemson tackle
Justin Boren - Ohio State guard
Darius Morris - Temple guard
Derick Newton - Arkansas State tackle
Tim Barnes - Missouri Center
Please note that regarding the physical measurables as well as the Scouting Combines numbers, the source I am using is from the information posted at fftoolbox.com.
We will also include arm length on each linemen. If you have ever wondered about what arm lengths are desired, and why it is important, I would refer you to this fine article from the National Football Post.
Kevin Kowalski, Toledo center is our 25th ranked offensive lineman. Kowalski is 6' 4" 299 pound center who is projected to be selected during day three. His arms are 31" long, which means he is one of two players that have the shortest arms of anyone making the top 25.
Kowalski offers his team flexibility as he has experience playing an entire season at both guard and center.
Kowalski figures to be a day three pick.
Joseph Barksdale appears on our list at 24. Barksdale has great size at 6' 5 " and 315. Barksdale has 36" arms, which makes him one of three linemen with the distinction of having the longest arms in the top 25.
Barksdale was a defensive tackle in high school and then converted over to offense in college.
At the combines, Barksdale ran the 40 in 5.38 seconds, did 29 reps on the bench, had a vertical jump of 29", did the 3 cone drill in 8.27 seconds, ran the 20 yard shuttle in 4.75 seconds and had a broad jump of 8' 7".
Barksdale has run the 40 in the past as low as 4.86, which is very fast for a man this big. He is probably going to be viewed as a right tackle initially.
DeMarcus Love, Arkansas guard, makes an appearance at 23. There is a lot of DeMarcus to love, as he goes 6' 5" and 315. Love has 35" arms, which will help him playing tackle in the NFL.
At the Scouting Combines, Love ran the 40 in 5.31 seconds, did 27 reps on the bench, a vertical jump of 26.5 ", 3 cone drill in 7.84 seconds, 20 yard shuttle in 4.84 seconds and a broad jump of 8' 1".
Love is projected to be gone anywhere from as high as round two to as late as round four.
Offers strong experience, with over 30 career starts at Arkansas. Was the leader of Razorbacks offensive line and has experience playing both left tackle and right tackle positions. Isn't Love grand?
Jason Pinkston, guard from the University of Pittsburgh, is number 22 on our list. Pinkston is 6' 4" and 305. Pinkston has 34" arms, so he should be able to hold off linemen at either tackle or guard.
He started out as a defensive tackle but wound up being moved to right tackle and then finally to left tackle. He started for the past three years and brings strong starting experience to the NFL.
Is currently projected to go anywhere from third or fourth round, and it is up in the air if he will play as a right tackle or as a guard in the NFL.
At the scouting combines, Pinkston ran the 40 in 5.47 seconds, had a 26.5 " vertical jump, ran the 3 cone drill in 7.88 seconds, the 20 yard shuttle in 4.91 seconds and had a broad jump of 8' 2".
Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU center is ranked at 21 on our list of top offensive linemen. Kirkpatrick is 6' 3" and weighs 305 pounds. He has short arms at 31", so that will require him to probably stay at center.
The senior wound up starting his final two seasons at TCU and was considered to be the anchor for the offensive line. Kirkpatrick won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center in 2010.
Due to the positive chemistry between him and Andy Dalton, it may make sense for whatever team drafts Dalton to also consider Kirkpatrick, especially if they have any depth issues at center.
Marcus Gilbert, tackle from the University of Florida rounds out the top 20 offensive linemen. Gilbert is 6' 5" 320 pounds and a senior. Gilbert has 33" arms, which is on the cusp of being just okay for tackle.
He brings four full years of starting experience to the pros, so is definitely battle tested.
Not only has he played all four years, but he also saw time at guard and at tackle, making him more valuable due to his versatility. Known as a consistent blocker, is probably headed to a role as a right tackle in NFL.
At the Scouting Combines, Gilbert ran the 40 in 5.46 seconds and did 30 reps on the bench. Not a very fast time for Gilbert, which will hurt his stock. Expected to go from round three to round four.
James Brewer, tackle from Indiana University, is 19 on our list. Brewer is a huge tackle, going 6' 8" and 331 pounds. Brewer has 35" arms, so he is well prepared to develop into a starting tackle down the road.
The senior is expected to be off the boards fairly early on day three of the draft.
At the scouting combines, Brewer ran the 40 in 5.27 seconds, had a vertical jump of 26", did the 3 cone drill in 7.84 seconds, ran the 20 yard shuttle in 4.81 seconds and had a broad jump of 8' 4".
Brewer is rather slow, so he is viewed as more of a project type. Needs to improve his technique to be adequate at slowing down NFL defensive linemen.
Jah Reid, tackle from Central Florida University has great size, at 6' 7" and 327 pounds. Reid has 34" arms.
Reid is potentially a sleeper as far as offensive linemen go, because of his quick feet and lower body that make him adequate at both run blocking and protecting the quarterback, but he could still improve his blocking in both areas.
At the Scouting Combines, Reid ran the 40 in 5.40 seconds, had a vertical jump of 29.5", did the 3 cone drill in 7.73 seconds, the 20 yard shuttle in 4.65 seconds and a broad jump of 9' 3".
Had at least 40 starts in his career and was voted team captain at Central Florida in 2010, a great indication of his leadership skills and being a great teammate.
Reid is projected to be drafted in either round four or round five.
Stefen Wisniewski, guard from Penn State cracks our list at 17. Wisniewski is 6' 3" and weighs 313. He has 33" arms.
Wisniewski has started in 38 games at Penn State. He is known for being mobile with good balance. Played both at guard and at center, so offers versatility as well.
At the Scouting Combines, Wisniewski ran the 40 in 5.26 seconds, did 30 reps on the bench, had a vertical jump of 28.5 ", ran the 3 cone drill in 7.51 seconds, did the 20 yard shuttle in 4.63 seconds and had a broad jump of 8' 4".
Projected to go from round three to round five.
Our entry at 16 on the list is from small school Lehigh University, where Will Rackley played tackle. Rackley is 6' 3" and weighs 309. He has 32" arms, which are small for a NFL tackle.
Rackley's Scouting Combine results were: 29 reps on the bench press, vertical jump of 23.5 ", 3 cone drill in 7.91 seconds, 20 yard shuttle in 4.94 seconds and a broad jump of 8' 3".
Excelling in the Patriot League is one thing, but when he did a solid job against stronger competition at the East-West Shrine Bowl, he began to move up the draft charts.
It appears that Rackley could go in the second or third round of the draft.
Yes, America there really is a Slippery Rock University. Long-standing joke is that Slippery Rock scores were regularly announced at Ohio State football games, with the crowd left to guess if it was fact or fiction. As an alumni of Slippery Rock, I am happy to report that it does exist, and that on occasion, we crank out some really good football players. But Brandon Fusco is the exception to the rule.
Fusco is 6' 4" and weighs 300. He has 34" arms.
Good hands and durable, he was the Remington Award winner for Division II schools. Effective at both run blocking and pass blocking. Biggest issue is that he projects to be a center only, so not a lot of flexibility.
At the Scouting Combines, Fusco ran the 40 in 5.21 seconds, had a vertical jump of 28.5 ", did the 3 cone drill in 7.29 seconds, ran the 20 yard shuttle in 4.43 and had a broad jump of 9' 0".
He is pegged to go anywhere from round three to round four.
Going up Marcell Dareus every day at practice is a very good way to get somebody ready for life in the NFL. James Carpenter, Alabama tackle, is battle tested and ready for the next level. Carpenter played only two years at Alabama after coming in from a junior college, and he started in every game during that time.
Carpenter is 6' 4" and weighs 320. He has 34" arms. Currently thought to be a right tackle or a guard.
At the Scouting Combines, Carpenter ran the 40 in 5.28 seconds and had a vertical jump of 23". That was all the testing he completed. He has run the 40 as fast as 5.16, and he is also quick.
Carpenter could go as high as the second round or as low as the third round.
John Moffitt, guard from Wisconsin University, is a highly thought of lineman that has been through the wars at Wisconsin, playing along Gabe Carimi.
Moffitt is 6' 5" and weighs 323. He has 33" arms.
Moffitt has some quickness issues and may be overlooked somewhat due to all of the attention being placed on his teammate Carimi. He could be going on the third or fourth round.
At the Scouting Combines, Moffitt ran the 40 in 5.55 seconds, had 23 reps on the bench, a vertical jump of 30.5 ", ran the 3 cone drill in 7.79 seconds, the 20 yard shuttle in 4.53 seconds and a broad jump of 8' 6".
Marcus Cannon had over 20 starts at right tackle and another 12 at left tackle, so that bodes well for teams needing help at tackle. He is a big tackle at 6' 5" and 358 pounds, with 34" arms.
Cannon has good speed to go with his size, so this will make him an attractive option after the bigger names go off of the board in the first round. He plays with a mean streak and looks to be drafted in the second round.
At the Scouting Combine, Cannon ran the 40 in 5.26 seconds, did 33 reps at the bench, had a vertical jump of 30.5 ", ran the 3 cone drill in 8.07, ran the 20 yard shuttle in 4.97 seconds and had a broad jump of 8' 9".
Rodney Hudson is a 6' 2" guard, 299 pounds, from Florida Sate. Hudson has 32" arms, meaning that he is probably relegated to either guard or center. Appears that he has maxed out his weight for what his frame can handle.
He has played guard the most at Florida State but may find himself employed as a center in the NFL.
At the Scouting Combines, Hudson ran the 40 in 5.31 seconds, had 27 reps on the bench, had a vertical jump of 25.5 ", 3 cone drill in 8.03 seconds, the 20 yard shuttle in 4.96 seconds and a broad jump of 7' 11".
Will probably be drafted in the second round.
Orlando Franklin, from Miami, Florida rounds out our top 10 offensive linemen. Franklin is 6' 5 and 1/2" and weighs 315. He has 35 " arms which make him eligible for consideration at tackle or guard.
At the scouting combines, Franklin ran the 40 in 5.20 seconds, did 26 reps on the bench press and had a vertical jump of 28.5".
Franklin can be difficult to work with and has an attitude at times. But, he has starting experience at both left guard and left tackle, so it is a question of what do you place more value on, the combination of the ideal size and speed, or the question marks?
Franklin will probably be a day two draft pick.
Our highest ranking offensive lineman coming out of a small school, is tackle Ben Ijalana from Villanova University. Ijalana is 6' 4" and 320 pounds, with long 36" arms, which makes him an ideal candidate for tackle. There are some teams though that prefer to play him at guard.
Ben Ijalana is a two time All-American. He was an Outland Trophy finalist in 2010, as the only FCS representative.
He figures to be a day two draft pick.
Clint Boling, guard from the University of Georgia is number 8 on our list. Boling is 6' 4 and 1/2 " and weighs 308. He has 33" arms, which is on the smaller side.
Boling started 49 games at Georgia, and played left tackle, right tackle and guard. Very versatile in that regard.
However, is considered to be an average run blocker and pass protector, so that combined with average arms will hold him back to become a day two draft pick.
Scouting Combine results for Boling: ran the 40 in 5.25, did 28 reps on the bench, vertical jump of 31.0 ", 3 cone drill of 7.66, did the 20 yard shuttle in 4.64 and had a broad jump of 8' 6".
Our oldest lineman (26 years old) hails from Canada, which would be none other than Danny Watkins, the guard from Baylor University. He is an ex-fire fighter and hockey player, who plays with a mean streak, and is very tough.
Watkins is 6'4" and weighs 310. He has 34" arms. Even though he played left tackle at Baylor, he is ideally suited for guard. Watkins caught the eyes of the Buffalo Bills coaching staff during the Senior Bowl, and the NFL Network has been singing his praises ever since.
At the Scouting Combines, Watkins ran the 40 in 5.40, did 29 reps on the bench, had a vertical jump of 26", ran the 3 cone drill in 7.61 seconds, did the 20 yard shuttle in 4.62 seconds and had a broad jump of 7' 8".
With his above average ability to both run block and pass block, to go along with his intangibles, Watkins is considered to be one of the best guard prospects in the entire draft. He could conceivably go anywhere from late in the first round to a mid second round pick.
While the top five linemen on our list are all projected to be probable first round draft picks, Derek Sherrod, the tackle from Mississippi State is another player just like Danny Watkins, that is in that fringe area between the bottom of the first round to the top of the second round, according to most mock draft experts.
Sherrod is 6' 5" and weighs 305 with 35" arms. He is very agile for his size and has run the 40 as fast as 5.08. Watkins has been a target of the Chicago Bears, with their first pick late in the first round.
He started the final three years at Mississippi State at left tackle but projects to be a right tackle in the NFL to begin his career. He is above average in all phases of blocking, but is not considered to be as tough as Danny Watkins, for example.
At the Scouting Combines, Sherrod ran the 40 in 5.20 seconds, did 23 reps on the bench, had a vertical jump of 28", ran the 3 cone drill in 7.43 seconds, the 20 yard shuttle in 4.63 seconds and a broad jump of 8' 1".
Nate Solder rounds out our top five offensive lineman, and is a good bet to be drafted in the first round. Solder is huge at 6' 9" and weighs 319. He has 35" arms.
Solder started the final 36 games at left tackle for Colorado, so he has proven to be quite durable. He has very strong intangibles and excels at all phases of blocking. Because he is so tall, if he does use his knees enough to get down in his stance, he can be beaten by double moves.
Began as a tight end at Colorado, and continued to grow from starting out at 230 pounds to almost 320 pounds now. Despite the extra weight, he still ran a very respectable 40 time. During his career at Colorado, he ran a 4.80 40. After his first year as a tight end, Solder was moved to tackle, where he has stayed ever since. Would make sense to have him lined up as tackle eligibile on goal line situations, since he would be a better receiver than most regular tackles.
At the Scouting Combines, Solder ran the 40 in 5.05 seconds, did 21 reps on the bench, had a vertical jump of 32", did the 3 cone drill in 7.44 seconds, the 20 yard shuttle in 4.34 seconds, and a broad jump of 9' 2".
He could go off the big board anywhere from the teens throughout the 20's in the first round.
Mike Pouncey, Florida University center is the twin brother of Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Maurkice Pouncey. The fact that Maurkice did such a phenomenal job as a rookie, bodes well for Mike. Even though his brother is thought to be more agile, Mike is thought to be a very solid run blocker as a guard. His pass blocking skills is not on the same level as the run blocking.
Pouncey is 6' 5" and weighs 320 pounds, with 32" arms.The short arms prevent him from ever being considered as a tackle.
He began as a defensive lineman in his freshman year at Florida, but was switched to offensive line as a sophomore, where he has played ever since. He has started for the Gators at both guard positions, as well as at center. Great flexibility to offer a team, having played all three interior line positions.
At the Scouting Combines, Pouncey ran the 40 in 5.12 seconds, had a 25" vertical jump, ran the 3 cone drill in 7.66 seconds, did the 20 yard shuttle in 4.64 seconds and had a broad jump of 8' 0".
Pouncey was the Gators team captain in 2010. He never missed one game due to injury, so he also brings great durability. It remains to be seen if he will be ultimately reunited with his brother Maurkice in Pittsburgh or not. He is a threat to go off the big board anywhere from the middle of the first round up to the Steelers pick at 31.
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin tackle, is our third best lineman in the presentation. Carimi is 6' 7" and weighs 327. He has 35" arms and brings a prototype physique to his NFL team.
Somewhat slower afoot, Carimi is thought to be a better run blocker, than a pass protector. He will undoubtedly be pegged to start out as a right tackle, and then move over to the left side when he can show improvement in protecting the quarterback.
At the Scouting Combines, Carimi ran the 40 in 5.27 seconds, did 29 reps on the bench, had a vertical leap of 31.5 " and a broad jump of 9' 1".
Solid starting experience at Wisconsin as their left tackle. Has had some knee issues over the years. Projects to go anywhere from late teens throughout the 20's in the first round.
Ranked in the second spot is Anthony Castonzo, the big tackle from Boston College. Castonzo is 6' 7" and weighs 308. He has 34" arms.
Castonzo is thought to be a better pass protector than a run blocker, due to not being as dominating in clearing lanes for the back. Good athlete, and a hard worker. Needs to get stronger, but that will come with time.
At the Scouting Combines, Castonzo went through the entire battery of tests. Here are his results: ran the 40 in 5.23 seconds, did 28 reps on the bench, vertical jump of 29.5", 3 cone drill in 7.25 seconds, 20 yard shuttle in 4.40 and a broad jump of 8' 9".
Castonzo will be either the second or third tackle drafted in the first round. He could go anywhere from mid-first to late in the first round. Should be a regular starting tackle for many years to come.
Our top ranked lineman is also one of the youngest, as underclassman Tyron Smith wins the first place nod, due to having the highest potential ceiling of any other lineman in the draft. Is thought to have elite speed.
Smith is 6' 5" and weighs 307. He has the great long 36" arms that scouts love. Smith is above average at both run blocking and pass protection. He is very agile for his size, and is very athletic. Might have a slight work ethic question, but that is nit picking. This guy is the real deal.
Due to his injuries, the only testing Smith did at the Scouting Combines was the bench press, where he did 29 reps.
Coming in to the draft, Smith only has two years of starting experience, which pales in comparison to many of the other athletes we profiled here. But, due to his athleticism, and the high ceiling, teams would love to have him on their team. For now, he is being seriously considered by the Dallas Cowboys with the 9th overall draft pick.
This list is not meant to be the end all, be all, but a solid overview of the top linemen expected to go in the draft. When we get down in to the 20's their is a drop off in quality, and the lines start getting a little more blurry.
A case could be made for some of the honorable mentions to be in the top 25, and there could be additional linemen that you think of that I somehow omitted. If you are aware of someone that you think deserves to be in consideration for the top 25, please drop a comment or two.