Saturday, February 26, 2011

NFL Scouting Combine Thoughts: Offensive Linemen

I’m spending yet another nerdish afternoon watching large men in tight clothes run around in an empty arena. It’s the NFL scouting combine, and it tells you some things. The Offensive linemen are first.

First, a general thought. Why can’t we give these guys sweatshirts and sweatpants? They’re wearing bike shorts and tight sleeveless shirts. Sure, some of them carry 300+ pounds well, but others look like Larry the Cable Guy’s fat cousin, or a character in a shitty Tyler Perry movie. Also, when did it become mandatory for white linemen to have beards?

Alrighty, let’s talk about some guys. I’m not going to go into everyone, only 1 out of 6 of the participants in the combine will ever make any sort of impact in the league. It’s easy to tell who has it and who doesn’t at these things, and the athletes who belong in the NFL always pop off the screen. Now understand, just because a guy looks good at the Combine doesn’t mean he will be a good NFL player, so it isn’t a surefire way to FIND players, but it is a good way to eliminate players from consideration. If a guy can’t look good doing drills on his own, he sure as hell won’t look good with NFL players harassing him in actual games.

Joseph Barksdale 6’5” 305lbs LSU

I hadn’t given a moment of thought to Barksdale prior to the combine but he looks great in drills, especially the Kick Slide Drill from the Right Tackle side. Everything I’ve read on Barksdale says his main problem is his athleticism, but watching him move in space this morning has quieted those concerns in my mind. Keep an ear out for him on draft day.

Ryan Bartholomew 6’1” 302lbs Syracuse

Syracuse doesn’t send a ton of guys to the NFL but when they do, those players usually make an impact. Bart has worked out at center and I like what I see. The most important attributes I want to see in a Center are 1)Size 2)Strength 3)Intelligence 4)Long Arms 5)Straight Line Speed. Lateral quickness just isn’t as important for centers. Bartholomew hasn’t answered the bell in all other categories.

Marcus Cannon 6’5” 360lbs TCU

Cannon is huge and quick. Not quick enough to stick at tackle in the NFL, but he’ll be a starting guard in the NFL for years to come. The one concern I have are the reports about his football IQ. Apparently he has trouble reading blitz pickups and blocking assignments. I’m not sure if those reads get easier as you move inside (my gut and logic both say no) but with some good coaching he should be fine.

Derek Sherrod 6’5” 321lbs Mississippi State

Sherrod confuses me. Some drills he looks great, some he looks awful. Unfortunately for him, one of the drills he didn’t look so hot in is the one I consider most important for Tackle prospects, the Kick Slide Drill. Looking bad in that drill is a red flag for me with Sherrod’s one excuse possibly being the fact that coaches force prospects to start in a 3 point stance where in most obvious passing situations tackles would start in a 2 point stance. I’ll watch some film on Sherrod to make my opinion more concrete, but I’ve got the bust-o-meter on standby for him.

Gabe Carimi 6’7” 314lbs Wisconsin

Carimi looks great, I’m not worried about him at all and if your favorite team drafts him you should feel good about it. The one concern I have is his height. Leverage is important and Carimi’s center of gravity may be so high that stout, powerful Defensive ends may give him trouble (Elvis Dumervil, Trent Cole, guys like that).

Anthony Castonzo 6’7” 311lbs Boston College

Castonzo looks good, too. I’ve seen him on film and he looks alright most of the time, having trouble against elite rushers (Robert Quinn destroyed him in 2009). He reminds me of D’Brickishaw Ferguson, a lanky, wiry athlete who may need to gain weight and strength. I think he’ll be an average starting Left Tackle in the NFL, with most of his value coming from his pass blocking skills.

Rodney Hudson 6’2” 300lbs Florida State

Hudson, a guard, jumped off the screen today, another guy I knew nothing about when I went to bed last night. Obviously I’ll try to find some Seminole game film before I say this definitively, but I think Hudson can help a team inside right now. In the Down-block Twist drill, Hudson delivered the most violent strike of the pad that I saw all day. He’s a fine athlete and I’d hate to be in his way on screen and sweeps. I’d LOVE for my Panthers to grab him in round 3.

Ben Ijalana 6’4” 317lbs Villanova

I’m not sure if I missed him or if Ijalana didn’t work out but I didn’t see him at all. I’ll look into and update this if I need to , but I wrote a full on report on Ijalana in the fall, and you should read it.

Mike Pouncey 6’5” 303lbs Florida

If you follow any of this stuff you already know Pouncey is a sure thing and the best interior lineman in this draft class. I don’t think he’s better than his brother, who came out last year, but he’s going to be good. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes in the first round. He’s one of the top 15 players in the draft, but teams generally don’t like to use picks that high on Guards or Centers.

Will Rackley 6’3” 309lbs Lehigh

Rackley looked very good today, especially in the Mirror Drill where he showed high intelligence as he focused on moving with his opponent’s chest, not head. He looked calm and smooth for that drill. I want to see what his 10 yard split was in the 40yd dash. One of the concerns I had for Rackley watching his film was his ability to explode off the snap. A good 10 yard split would quell my concerns a bit.

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