Monroe part of a Va. tradition: Top-rate offensive linemen Updated 7h 42m ago | Comments 1 | Recommend 1 E-mail | Save | Print | Reprints & Permissions | Enlarge By Scott Boehm, Getty Images "He's a hard worker," Chiefs tackle Branden Albert says of his college teammate, Eugene Monroe (above). "There are different techniques in the NFL and you have to adapt to that and good football players should be able to do that. He's motivated. He's quiet and he goes to work." Draft order: How they'll select in first round Draft history: Trace the football lineage of every player selected since 1988 Yahoo! Buzz Digg Newsvine Reddit FacebookWhat's this?By Larry Weisman, USA TODAY USA TODAY analyzes the offensive linemen available in the April 25-26 NFL draft. Also in this article: Cream of the crop among offensive linemen and teams in need. If Eugene Monroe were venturing forth in the business world, he'd be admired for his network of connections and advisers. His profession instead will be professional football, and the circle around him gives him a distinct edge. Monroe, a left tackle, could be one of the first six players selected April 25 in the NFL draft. He can thank, in part, his confidants for helping him achieve that status. MOCK DRAFT: Our analysts project the first round PHOTOS: Best O-linemen available THE TOP 500: Track the risers and fallers In four years at the University of Virginia, Monroe first backed up D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a No. 1 pick by the New York Jets in 2006. He practiced against defensive end Chris Long, a No. 1 pick last year by the St. Louis Rams, and played next to Branden Albert, also chosen in the first round last year by the Kansas City Chiefs. FIND MORE STORIES IN: Virginia | New York Jets | St. Louis Rams | Kansas City Chiefs | University of Virginia | NFL Network | Sugar Bowl | Chris Long | Track | D'Brickashaw Ferguson | Cream | Branden Albert | Eugene Monroe | Recorded | Moved | Ruled "Luckily for me," Monroe says, "I have been a close friend of people who have gone through this experience. I haven't had any surprises yet. I have an idea of the things that are going to be done." Albert, with whom he has stayed in close touch, counseled him on his approach to the scouting combine in February, telling him the kinds of questions teams pose in interviews and the responses they're looking for. "The main thing I talked to him about was the rigors and how taxing it would be, what they would ask him and how to answer the questions. They want to know if you can be honest with yourself. He took heed," says Albert, a guard at Virginia but a 16-game starter at left tackle as a rookie with the Chiefs. All the practice time he logged against Long helped provide a base of knowledge for what's to come at the next level. "I still haven't played against a player who works as hard as him every play," Monroe says. "He never takes a play off. Practicing against someone like that just forces you to play better." The 6-6, 309-pound Monroe, who turns 22 on April 18, showed a similar sort of dedication. After not allowing a sack as a junior, he was expected to consider turning pro. He instead returned for his senior season. "I didn't consider coming out last year because I didn't graduate. That was my main objective," he says, having earned his degree in sociology in December. "I had another year at Virginia to improve and I feel I improved tremendously, not only in playing but being on a line with three starters that were new. I was able to improve myself as a leader. "The experience in general prepares you for life, to think and understand the world around you. It equips you to flourish in any environment. I came to college planning to graduate. My draft status wasn't going to hold me back from that goal." Baylor University's Jason Smith and Monroe head a class of tackles that could see five taken in the first round. A year ago NFL teams selected eight (counting Albert) in round one. Where and when he will go concerns Monroe very little. "Ultimately that's not my decision," he says. "All I can do is prepare myself. Everybody knows about Eugene Monroe and what type of player and person he is." Especially Albert, who sees quick success for his friend. "He's a hard worker," Albert says. "There are different techniques in the NFL and you have to adapt to that and good football players should be able to do that. He's motivated. He's quiet and he goes to work." CREAM OF THE CROP AT OFFENSIVE LINE JASON SMITH, OT, Baylor Scouting report: Recorded 96 knockdowns and led Big 12 down linemen with 17 touchdown-resulting blocks. Excelled after a knee injury shortened his junior year to seven games. Insider's take: "He can be a very good pass blocker day one. He needs some work on his run blocking." —Mike Mayock, NFL Network draft analyst. Projected round: First ANDRE SMITH, OT, Alabama Scouting report: Ruled ineligible for the 2009 Sugar Bowl for improper contact with an agent. Allowed 2½ sacks over last two seasons covering 806 pass attempts. Won Outland Trophy. Insider's take: "Explosive run blocker. Has good balance and body control. Will need technique work handling speed rushers." —Buffalo Bills coordinator of college scouting Doug Majeski. Projected round: First MICHAEL OHER, OT, Ole Miss Scouting report: Started 47 consecutive games, 37 at left tackle and 10 at guard and didn't allow a sack as a senior. Insider's take: "Very athletic guy. He's about the right size, good length, pretty good strength. His biggest problem has been footwork. —Ted Sundquist, former Denver Broncos GM. Projected round: First EBEN BRITTON, OT, Arizona Scouting report: Moved to left tackle as a junior and started 13 games. He's an agile pass-protector who makes good use of his long arms but he is also solid on running plays. Insider's take: "Good frame, can get stronger. Good intangibles, character, intelligence and work ethic." —Majeski. Projected round: First ALEX MACK, C, California Scouting report: Started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears, allowing one sack. Worked at guard during Senior Bowl practices. Insider's take: "Very, very good use of his hands. Very quick. Stout. Plays the game with excellent leverage. " —Sundquist. Projected round: Second TEAMS IN NEED AT OFFENSIVE LINE Detroit Lions: Could select a marquee left tackle and then move incumbent Jeff Backus to guard, which would be his natural position. Drafted a right tackle (Gosder Cherilus) with a No. 1 pick last year but got little return on the investment. St. Louis Rams: Released left tackle Orlando Pace and should not move right tackle Alex Barron to replace him. Kansas City Chiefs: Used a No. 1 pick last year on Branden Albert, their left tackle. Could pick another tackle and move Albert, who played guard in college. Cincinnati Bengals: Lost right tackle Stacy Andrews in free agency and have concerns over injuries to left tackle Levi Jones, who missed the last six games of '08. Need help at center as well. Seattle Seahawks: Veteran left tackle Walter Jones is aging and coming off knee surgery. The rest of the line could also use a look. Jacksonville Jaguars: Injuries wrecked their line early last season, could at least use some depth. Washington Redskins: Left tackle Chris Samuels comes off season-ending knee injury. Overall an aging group with a noticeable need at right tackle. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lost left tackle Marvel Smith in free agency. Could stand interior help as well. Chicago Bears: Signed Pace to play left tackle and will try last year's No. 1 pick, Chris Williams, on the right side. Still need depth and insurance against injuries.