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2010 NFL Draft: Offensive Line Breakdown


2010 NFL Draft: Offensive Line Breakdown

By Lance Epstein

The NFL draft is only five days away. Each day leading up to the draft, I will breakdown one of the seven major positions on the field. Those positions are secondary, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, wide receivers/tight ends, running backs/fullbacks and quarterback.

With each position, I will breakdown the best player at the position, two sleepers, a overrated player, a late-round gem, and the player(s) the Eagles should select.

Today's installment is the fourth part of the seven part series. I will be breaking down the offensive line position.

Heading into the 2009 season, the Eagles did a massive overhaul of the offensive line. The Eagles ridded themselves of aging veterans in Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. They traded with Buffalo for the young and very talented in Jason Peters, signed Stacy Andrews as their marquee free agent and were counting on Shawn to be the team's starting right tackle.

Before training camp, many around the league thought the Eagles offensive line would be one of the better units in the league, if not the best unit. Unfortunately for the Eagles, injuries and players failing to live up to expectations killed that dream.

Both Andrews’ brothers rode the bench all season. Shawn missed the entire season with a reoccurring back injury and was placed on IR. Stacy never fully healed from his torn ACL that he suffered in 2008. On top of that he was having issues with the new technique the Eagles were forcing him to use.

As for Peters, he was just not he player the Eagles envisioned when they got him. He was overweight and it affected his play on the field. Even though he made the Pro Bowl in 2009, he only made it only on name recognition.

However, the injury that completely destroyed the Eagles was the loss of center Jamaal Jackson. In week 16, Jackson tore his ACL, which pretty much destroyed any chance that the Eagles would make a lengthy playoff run. Nick Cole was just not good enough at center and Max Jean-Gilles is an average backup.

The one positive that came out of the season, was right tackle Winston Justice. Justice was considered a bust until this past season. His play earned him a contract extension and a starting position for the next couple of years.

Still the Eagles might look to upgrade that tackle position and will have to look for a center because Jackson might not be ready for the start of the season. Additionally, he could possibly never be the same player he was before his injury.

Tackle:

The Best: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 307 lbs

When all is said and done, Okung might become an All Pro left tackle for years to come. His rare size and arm length allows him to easily control defenders and knock pass rushers of the blocks. Over his career at Oklahoma State, he showed great balance and body control, which allowed him to drive defenders into the second level and allow his team to be top 5 in the NCAA in rushing the football during his three years as a starter. Eagles fans should get used to this guys' name, because he is likely going to be protecting Washington Redskin quarterback Donovan McNabb.

The Sleepers:

Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale, 6-8, 312

While fans may not know of Veldheer right now, they sure will in the NFL. If Veldheer went to a Division I school, he might be a fringe first round player. He was widely considered as the best linemen in Division II since he was named to the 1st team AFCA All-American team and a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award. More importantly, he is a physical freak of a kid that ran extremely well at the combine. In addition, his long arms, natural strength will allow him to develop into a very good left tackle in the NFL.

Rodger Saffold, Indiana, 6-4, 316 lbs

At Indiana, Saffold started for three consecutive seasons at left tackle. He might lack the ideal size and burst that NFL teams covet in at left tackle position, but he could become a dominating force right tackle. His best attribute is his hands. He uses his hands to control and push defensive players around. Furthermore, he understands blocking angles and recognizes what defenses are throwing at him. Saffold is a very smart player that could be a good right tackle in the NFL for the next decade and be selected in the third-round.

Overrated:

Bruce Campbell, Maryland, 6-6, 314 lbs

At the combine, Campbell was the most impressive offensive lineman. He ran a 4.8 40-yard dash and showed nice explosiveness in the vertical jump. However, Campbell did not even make any All ACC team and has durability concerns as well. During his career he suffered from multiple aliments including a brain issue. Moreover, he is a lazy offensive tackle. Instead of shifting his body, he lunges and is not able to completely punish defenders. Also, his instincts are not good enough to be a starting caliber left tackle. Campbell will be drafted high by some team, but he has bust written all over him.

Late-Round Gem:

Ciron Black, 6-4, 327 lbs

It is amazing that a player this productive will not be picked until the late rounds of the draft. In his four-year career with the LSU Tigers, Black was very valuable and did what he was supposed to do. Black has great strength and raw power, but needs to improve his agility and lateral range to get to the outside pass rushing defender. However, he did show good but not great leverage and is a fearless lineman that has the propensity to show a bit of nastiness. Of course, Black will not be able to be a great left tackle, but he should be able to become a solid right tackle for years to come.

Player the Eagles Should Take:

Anthony Davis, Rutgers, 6-5, 323 lbs

With Peters coming off a very subpar season, the Eagles might be will to take a offensive tackle to push him or replace his large salary if he flops again this season. On NFL.com, Davis is considered to be the best-rated tackle in the draft. However, on many team's draft boards, he probably ranks as the fourth-best tackle and might fall to the Eagles at 24. Davis is a prototypical left tackle that has the rare athleticism, bulk, long arms and balance that allows him to control his opponents. He has the speed to dominate against speed rushers and the strength to also dominate bull rushers. When all is said and done, Davis might become the best tackle in this draft.

Interior Linemen

The Best: Mike Iupati, Idaho, 6-5, 331 lbs

At the Senior Bowl, scouts were blown away by Iupati's versatility. He played every single position on the offensive line. That said he is better suited to play guard since that is his natural position. Iupati does have red flags, which is that he had shoulder surgery, which cost him a couple games. Despite those red flags, he is one of the more powerful blockers in this draft and he utilizes his hands to maul opponents. What makes him such an intriguing prospect is that he plays with a nastiness and tenacity that offensive line coaches love. Plus he has great balance and is a "bender," which is needed to strive in the NFL.

The Sleepers:

J.D. Walton, Baylor, Center, 6-3, 300 lbs

If Walton declared for the draft last year, he would have been a lock to go in the second round. However, he stayed and Baylor’s offense struggled, which hurt his stock. While Walton is not as good as Alex Mack, the first center taken last year, he has the ability to be a very good center in the NFL. Walton is not getting the recognition he deserves from most draft analysts but all he does is be a consistent blocker and motivated to make a name for himself in the NFL. Like Iupati, he has a nasty streak, which allows him to be an anchor for a line for years to come.

Mike Johnson, Alabama, Guard, 6-5, 312 lbs

The word that describes Johnson is "done," as he finds a way to get the job done. Johnson is a versatile lineman that has played guard, but can also slide over to the tackle position, which he did under Nick Saban at Alabama. One of Johnson's strengths is that he never allows opponents to use his weakness against him. His weaknesses are his lower body strength and his explosiveness out of the blocks. He is a typical late third-round pick/early fourth that somehow manages to go under the radar and turns out to be a stud.

Overrated:

Vladimir Ducasse, UMass, OG/OT, 6-4, 332

Some team with draft Ducasse under the idea they can make him into a starting left tackle. The problem is that he is a limited due to his instincts and is often caught out of position. Additionally, he does not finish off blocks nor does he play all the way through the whistle. Along with those problems, he gets beat by defensive linemen with stunt moves and speed rushers. Teams are enamored with his athleticism, but watching the tape, he might be a guy that will get move out to tackle and fail, but would’ve been a productive guard.

Late-Round Gem:

Erik Cook, New Mexico, 6-6, 312

Entering the draft, Cook is a rare prospect that is not set at any one position on the offensive line. Over his career at New Mexico, he started at all three positions on the line. Some believe he is too tall for the center position and his height would eliminate his leverage. However that was his best position in college. Another positive for Cook is that he is a natural knee bender that uses his leverage extremely well. As a tackle he lacks the quickness and range, but at center he could be a very valuable pick late in the draft. His versatility will intrigue someone and get him selected.

Player(s) the Eagles Should Take:

Maurkice Ponucey, Florida, 6-3, 307 lbs

One of the major reasons the Eagles will look hard at Pouncey is that he is versatile. He can play both the guard and center position at a very high level. With Jackson out until probably week six of the 2010 season, Pouncey can immediately start at center. When Jackson comes back, he can compete with Stacy Andrews and Nick Cole for the starting right guard spot. He has quick feet, can change directions extremely well and is very powerful. In fact, his strength is containing bull rushing nose tackles, which the Eagles will have to face in Jay Ratliff and Albert Haynesworth four times a year. One concern with Pouncey is durability. In college he had a torn labrum in his shoulder repaired, which could eventually catch up to him in the NFL. Still, he is a typical Eagles type of lineman that can play multiple positions and very well.

Matt Tennant, Boston College, 6-5, 300 lbs

Tennant was a three-year starter at center with BC. He is excellent in knowing angles and has the strength to steer opponents into the second level. At the combine he had a poor showing, which is the reason he will most likely slip to the fifth round. Still, he is quick off the blocks and is able to change direction very well. He may lack the lower body strength and overall power right now, but with a good offseason workout program, he could be a hidden talent. It says a lot that he finishes off blocks, plays with a mean streak and goes until the whistle blows.

Tomorrow is breaking down the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends...

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