Draft preview series: Top offensive tackle prospects

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    Draft preview series: Top offensive tackle prospects
    April 20, 2009

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    Del.icio.usFacebookDiggRedditNewsvineBuzz up!TwitterHere is a look at the top offensive tackle 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. Jason Smith, Baylor 6-5, 309 Round 1: Had eight receptions as a tight end as a freshman in 2005, then moved to tackle and started his final three years, including the past two at left tackle. “The best all-round (lineman) is Smith in terms of pass blocker, run blocker, aggressiveness, toughness, no flies on the guy,” one scout said. “He’s definitely got an edge to him. When you go to practice he’s the most energetic guy at the whole practice, you hear him before you see him. For two straight hours he’s going at a fever pitch and he’s setting a tone and tempo for the entire practice based on his energy and gregarious attitude. They kind of fed off that. And he kind of carries a chip on his shoulder. It’s real.” Isn’t a giant but is big and athletic and has played well even though he’s still relatively new to the position. Cemented a spot in the top five of the draft with a strong performance both on the field and in interviews at the scouting combine. Did 33 bench-press reps, ran a 5.22-second 40 and had an 8-0 broad jump. Works hard, wants to be good and is a leader. Also has some charisma as well as a solid character. “Is he Tony Boselli? No,” one scout said. “Is he Orlando Pace? No. But in this draft class he’s a really good player. He’s going to be a really good starting left tackle in this league.”

    ♦ 2. Eugene Monroe, Virginia 6-5 1/8, 309 Round 1: Probably the best pass blocker in the draft, but not nearly as good a run blocker. Early in his career backed up D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who was the New York Jets’ pick at No. 4 overall in 2006. When Brandon Albert struggled with a knee injury in 2007, Monroe was good enough to supplant him at left tackle, which allowed Albert to move to left guard. Kansas City drafted Albert in the first round last year and started him at left tackle. “He’s a better pass blocker (than Albert), he’s a better athlete, he’s smoother, more fluid,” a scout said. “I actually like him better than that kid that came out last year with Kansas City. Guys can develop enough of an attitude to become run blockers, and at left tackle you don’t have to be a killer. I’d take the pass blocker. He’s a better overall player than Albert.” Monroe could go in the top five overall and almost surely will be gone when the Packers select at No. 9. Doesn’t have great power and did a modest 23 reps on the bench press at the combine. Ran the 40 in 5.33 seconds and had a solid 9-0 broad jump. “If he would put the same effort into his run blocking as he does in his pass blocking – he’s hurt a little because they play in a two-point stance a lot, it doesn’t help him in his run blocking,” another scout said. “But he’s a smooth pass blocker, light on his feet. He’s just adequate in the run game.”

    ♦ 3. Andre Smith, Alabama 6-4, 332 Round 1: Junior entry with excellent overall athletic ability for such a large man, though he comes with questions about his football character. Started at left tackle all three years at Alabama and won the Outland Trophy as college football’s best offensive lineman last season. Lacks the pure athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL, so probably will be a right tackle, though guard is a possibility down the road also. “I worry about his competitiveness,” one scout said. “I don’t think he’s not a tough guy, but it concerns me a little bit. And ever since the suspension at the (Sugar) Bowl game there’s been a lot of inconsistency in him and his accountabilty, which concerns me.” Suspension was for improper contact with an agent, though it was a family member who had the contact. Let himself get out of shape in the offseason, then at the combine didn’t work out and turned off teams with lackluster interviews. Performance at his campus workout two weeks later was OK despite some initial reports that he was a disaster. His 40-yard dash time of 5.28 seconds wasn’t bad for a man his size, and his vertical jump (25 inches) and broad jump (7-10), while not good, weren’t embarrassing either. Figures to be the third offensive lineman off the board, probably between pick Nos. 6 through 10. “Dominant? Not really,” another scout said. “But good enough (to go at No. 9?)? Probably. For a guy that big, even though he has a bad body, he’s a pretty good athlete. He’s always on his feet, he’s not a guy that’s on the ground. But to say he’s a dominant player, I don’t see that.”

    ♦ 4. Michael Oher, Mississippi 6-4½, 309 Round 1: Came from extremely difficult circumstances in his early childhood but went on to be a four-year starter in college, at guard his first season and left tackle the last three. Appears to have the athletic talent to play left tackle in the NFL, and enough power to play on the right side. Mother was a drug addict and father was murdered, so he lived in multiple foster homes growing up in Memphis, Tenn., until he was adopted by a wealthy family. Didn’t take up football until his junior year in high school. His story and subsequent college recruitment was the subject of a book, “The Blind Side.” Some teams worry about how well he’ll adjust to life on his own as a professional athlete after living in something of a cocoon ever since he was adopted. “I don’t think he’s a bad kid, (but) he’s a little bit of a product of his environment,” one scout said. “It may take him a little while to trust people coming from the situation he came from. He’s a good player, good athlete. But it worries me a little bit. You just have to do your homework on the guy.” Not quite as talented as Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. Ran the 40 in 5.35 seconds, had a 30½-inch vertical jump and an 8-7 broad jump. Wasn’t a quick learner. “He’d have to be a right tackle, I don’t see him as a left tackle,” another scout said. “He has the athletic ability, he’s a little stiff. But he has the strength and size you look for. There’s some skeletons and holes there that makes one have some reservations, but as a player, there is talent there. The learning I don’t think was much of a problem because (Mississippi) didn’t have a problem with him.”

    ♦ 5. Eben Britton, Arizona 6-6, 309 Round 1/2: A junior entry who started at right tackle his first two seasons and then left tackle last year. Definitely a notch or two below the players rated ahead of him but could go in the first round because tackle is a premium position. Teams differ on whether he can play left tackle in the NFL. “I think he’s more of a right tackle,” one scout said. “He lacks some foot quickness and foot agility to play left. He’s kind of a Jon Jansen-type, pretty good player, has a little bit of toughness about him, but he’s more of a short-area player.” Tested fairly well at the combine but doesn’t have long arms (32¾ inches). Ran the 40 in 5.16 seconds, had a solid 28½-inch vertical and 8-4 broad jump, and did 24 bench-press reps. “He can survive at (left) tackle and he tests better than he plays,” another scout said. “He runs pretty good but he doesn’t move like that when he’s playing or pass blocking. I thought he’d be a solid second-round guy, I don’t think he’s a first-rounder. But once the tackles start running out, people might jump in to take him like they did Sam Baker last year.”

    ♦ 6. William Beatty, UConn 6-6, 307 Round 1/2: Started the last two seasons at left tackle after having his sophomore year short-circuited in the fifth game because of a broken leg. Shows excellent athletic ability but might lack desire and toughness. Had the second-best vertical jump (33½ inches) among tackles at the combine, and tied for the third-best 40 (5.12 seconds). Also did a solid 27 bench-press reps. “I question a little bit Beatty’s commitment to the game,” a scout said. “He has some outside interests that take away his focus from the game. You don’t get the sense that – not that it has to be, but it’s not the be all, end all with him, he isn’t super passionate about the game. He likes to play the game, he likes things about the game, but there’s not a burning desire to be great. Might rather go play an intrument or be an entrepreneur than be the best tackle in the National Football League. That takes away from him a little bit. But physically, athletically as a pass blocker, he could be as good as any of these guys.”

    ♦ 7. Jamon Meredith, South Carolina 6-4 5/8, 304 Round 2: A versatile and physically talented player with suspect desire. Depending on the offensive system might be able to play either tackle as well as left guard. Started four games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman, then became a full-time starter his final three years. Split time at right and left tackle as a sophomore and junior, and moved to left guard as a senior after losing the starting job at left tackle in part because of an ankle injury. “Physically he could easily be a second-round guy,” a scout said. “With the issues probably will go no later than the third round. But he’s a talented, talented guy athletically. He has the body of a defensive lineman playing offense. Great body.” Had an impressive 40 time of 5.03 seconds and did 31 bench-press reps, which was eighth-best among 59 linemen at the combine. Probably best suited for right tackle in the NFL. “He’s not a nasty player to play guard,” another scout said. “He’s more, can get out and run, pull good, can mirror people inside. He doesn’t have great size so he might struggle a little bit when he’s covered up. But he’s quick enough to block some of the quicker guys that are three-techniques. He’s a pretty solid player. Not the greatest worker, there’s been some questions about his commitment to the game, that’s where we stand on him.”

    ♦ 8. Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma 6-7¾, 332 Round 2: Huge and powerful, played left tackle at Oklahoma but isn’t athletic enough to play there in the NFL and will have to move to right tackle. Junior-college transfer who was arrested at Oklahoma for DUI. “Struggles with speed on his upfield shoulder, he doesn’t have great flexibility for a tall guy, he’s kind of a waist bender,” one scout said. “He doesn’t play strong, he was a juco guy. He’s got some upside but if you’re talking about taking him (in the early second round), that’s overvaluing him there.” Has the longest arms (36½ inches) of any offensive lineman in the draft. Did 24 bench-press reps. “He’s long enough, he’s tough enough, that he’d be a good right tackle,” said another scout.

    ♦ 9. Gerald Cadogan, Penn State 6-5 1/8, 309 Round 2/3: Started at left tackle the past two years and elicits widely varying opinions from scouts. Some consider him a battler who will find a way to produce, others think he’s a try-hard player who will struggle at the next level. Could end up at either of the tackles or guard, depending on the team. Had a mediocre broad jump (7-11) and did 26 bench-press reps. “Athletically he should be a right tackle,” one scout said. “(But) run-blocking wise he should probably be a left tackle because he’s not a real explosive guy in his lower body. He’s not real pretty to watch but he’s effective, kind of like (the Packers’ Mark) Tauscher. When (Tauscher) came out of Wisconsin you looked at him and said, ‘This guy looks terrible,’ but when you watch him play he’s effective. (Cadogan) just finds a way to get it done. He’s going to find a way to play because he knows how to play. Not the greatest athlete, not the greatest pass blocker, not a power run blocker because he doesn’t unlock his hips and explode on people. But he’s fairly effective.”

    ♦ 10. Troy Kropog, Tulane 6-5 3/8, 309 Round 3/4: Started the last three seasons at left tackle and at first blush last season looked athletic on the edge. But the more teams have scrutinized, the more some question whether he’s agile enough to play tackle in the NFL, and he’s not a power player. Had a solid 30-inch vertical jump and did 21 bench-press reps. “The funny thing is, his skill level is more suited to play guard, but he’s not a physical run blocker so you’d rather have him play tackle,” a scout said. “But I’d still put him at guard. Pretty good pass blocking skills, he just doesn’t have a lot of range on the edge.”

    — Pete Dougherty, pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com

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