Draft preview series: Top center, guard prospects

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    Draft preview series: Top center, guard prospects
    April 20, 2009

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    Del.icio.usFacebookDiggRedditNewsvineBuzz up!TwitterHere is a look at the top center and guard prospects in this year's NFL draft as compiled by the Press-Gazette's Pete Dougherty. Information was gathered from conversations with scouts and other NFL personnel executives.

    ♦ 1. Eric Wood, Louisville 6-3 7/8, 310 1/2: Was a four-year starter playing mostly center for Louisville. Is big, tough and mean. “Has that nasty demeanor, he’s really trying to hurt people, he’s an ***-kicker,” one scout said. Also impressed scouts with a solid workout at the combinat that included a 30 ½-inch vertical jump, an excellent 30 bench-press reps and an 8-3 broad jump. Some teams think he also could be a good guard in the NFL. “He went back to guard in the Senior Bowl and was very impressive,” another scout said. “He could start at guard and start at center, or play guard until the center left. He’s so versatile.”

    ♦ 2. Alex Mack, California 6-3 7/8, 311 1/2: Durable, tough and strong player who started 39 straight games. “Good quickness,” one scout said, “good use of his hands, pretty good pass protector, plays with a natural base.” Both he and Wood have moved past Oregon’s Max Unger this offseason as scouts scrutinized their play and workouts. Didn’t work out at the combine because of a sprained ankle on campus in March, when he impressed with an 8-10 broad jump, 28 ½-inch vertical and 5.12-second 40. Also did 20 bench-press reps. “I thought he was a lot better player (than Unger),” one scout said. “Bigger, tougher, more physical. Mack plays stronger, he can create some movement at the point of attack if he has to. He struggles a little at times if he has someone on his nose and he gets bull rushed, but most guys do. He gives you more, he has a little bit of stiffness to him but he’s a functional athlete.”

    ♦ 3. Max Unger, Oregon 6-4 5/8, 309 2/3: Initially considered a good athlete because he started at left tackle his first two years at Oregon before moving to center. However, after studying videotape of him in Oregon’s spread offense, some scouts question his talent level. “I know a lot of people love the guy, and I’m not as high on him as a lot of people,” one scout said. “Some have him going in the first round. People get sedeuced that he’s played tackle and he can look good athletically pass blocking to make you think he’s a good athlete, but I think he’s actually an average athlete. He doesn’t have great lower-body flexibility or power, he struggles in space staying on his feet, he gets overpowered when he has someone lined up over the top of him.” Had only a 7-7 broad jump and 24 ½-inch vertical. “He’s one of those guys that’s going to go high,” another scout said, “then everybody looks back and says, ‘This guy isn’t as good as I thought he was.’”

    ♦ 4. Antoine Caldwell, Alabama 6-3 1/8, 309 4/5: Smart player who started at various positions all four years except for a four-game suspension for receiving free textbooks in 2007. Graduated in less than three years. “He’s kind of an average athlete,” one scout said. “I like his intelligencee. He plays good in a confined area. If he gets extended or has to adjust and come off people he’s on the ground a lot. He struggles with the quickness and athleticism of the game. I think he’s going to struggle with the quickness on this level.” Had a 9-3 broad jump, 28-inch vertical and 23 bench-press reps. “A serviceable guy, he’s OK,” another scout said. “It’s those three (above him) and there’s a gap and it gets to a guy like him.”

    ♦ 5. Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas 6-3 5/8, 301 4/5: Super smart but plays undersized. Four-year starter who won the Remington Trophy as college football’s best center his sophomore year. Had an 8-3 broad jump, 31-inch vertical and did 26 reps on the bench press. “Can make all the calls and that stuff,” a scout said, “but he’s in the class with Caldwell, struggles athletically, kind of a limited player. But his intelligence really helps him.”

    ♦ 1. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma 6-5, 329 2: Big, powerful blocker who started three years at right guard. “From a talent perspective,” one scout said, “if everything was on par he possibly could be (a first-rounder). But there’s some things there that could push him to the second, third round.” Has a spotty work ethic and problems keeping his weight down. Had a good campus workout with a 31 ½-inch vertical jump and 8-3 broad jump. “Great body, big guy,” another scout said. “Plays a little soft, he could be more physical in the run game. Pretty good athlete. He needs to improve his dedication to the game.”

    ♦ 2. Andy Levitre, Oregon State 6-2 5/8, 305 2/3: Split time at left and right tackle as a starter the past three years but probably doesn’t have the length to play outside full time in the NFL. Decent athlete who had a 30 ½-inch vertical and 8-7 broad jump. “He’s going to go in the late second or early third,” a scout said. “It’s not a great guard class. He can play multiple positions, he can play tackle, he has average athleticism, average power. He’s not a nasty, knock-you-off-the-ball run blocker, but he’s a good, serviceable guy that’s smart and knows how to play.”

    ♦ 3. Tyronne Green, Auburn 6-1 ¾, 309 3: Moved from defensive tackle to guard his redshirt freshman season, then was the starter his last two years at left guard. Short but fairly athletic player who had a 28 ½-inch vertical and 8-6 broad jump. Didn’t run for scouts at the combine and campus Pro Day because of a quadriceps injury. “He’s going to struggle because he’s a little undersized anchoring people,” one scout said. “But he’s a decent guy with some upside.”

    ♦ 4. Herman Johnson, LSU 6-8 1/8, 364 3/4: Gargantuan man who reportedly weighed 15 pounds, 14 ounces at birth. Was more than 400 pounds when he started college and played last year around 390 before dropping weight this offseason. Has weight issues but could be an interesting developmental project because of his ridiculous size. “For a guy that big he’s not dominant in an area, not a great run blocker,” one scout said. “He tries hard, he plays at an OK level. Looks better than he plays.” Was a three-year starter, mostly at left guard. Can engulf defensive players in the run game but limited in pass protection. Had a 26 ½-inch vertical, 7-10 broad jump and did 24 reps on the bench press. “His balance and body control is a little off,” another scout said. “You get him out in space or he’s trying to combo to the second level and adjusts his feet – he really struggles when the game starts getting fast.”

    ♦ 5. Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin 6-5 1/8, 328 4/5: Has an ideal build for a guard, tall and strong. “Great size, thought he was a limited range player inside,” one scout said. “He stayed off the ground, played on his feet, OK pass blocker.” Started at right tackle as a freshman then moved to right guard for most of his final three years. Played the second half of last season with a sprained left knee that also sidelined him for two games. Had only a 24-inch vertical jump, a 7-10 broad jump and did 29 bench-press reps. “He gets some quickness on his upfield shoulder he struggles pass blocking,” another scout said. “Not a dominant run blocker. He was decent, nothing special about the guy.”

    — Pete Dougherty, pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com

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