Breakdown: Offensive Linemen

April 6th, 2009
Might the Bucs look to find a successor to Jeremy Trueblood with their third round pick? Monstrous Sooner Phil Loadholt might be available.

Might the Bucs look to find a successor to Jeremy Trueblood with their third round pick? Monstrous Sooner Phil Loadholt might be available.

Despite the Bucs’ solid offensive line and many holes on defense, if they choose to take the best players available on draft day, one of those could be an offensive lineman.

Courtesy of NFL Draft guru Justin Pawlowski, of The Sports Animal, Joe has an in-depth look at the tackles, guards and centers who could make an impact in the 2009 draft.

The reality is the Bucs won’t want to pay top dollar to every member of their young offense line, which they’ll be forced to do if the line continues to progress and the Bucs muster a dominant running game under the new regime.

Eventually, they won’t want to pay all these guys, so finding a future replacement for Jeff Faine, Jeremy Trueblood or Donald Penn might be a consideration in this year’s draft.

So without further jabbering, Joe presents the hogs of 2009. Check out more of Joe’s awesome daily draft coverage right here.


Offensive Tackles

Jason Smith – OT – Baylor
6’5’’ – 309 lbs – 5.22
Top 5 pick

Why I’m taking him:  I love the natural athleticism Smith has.  He was a former tight end that transitioned to offensive tackle.  I’d say that was a good move.  He’s got all the physical attributes you look for in a franchise left tackle: big frame, great feet, long arms, and excellent strength.  Also, he’s still raw as an offensive tackle, so with more coaching and improved technique, he has a chance to be an elite tackle in the NFL.  

Why I’m staying away: We’re not really sure what kind of tackle Smith is going to be.  He mainly played out of a 2-point stance at Baylor, which is typically for pass protection in the NFL.  Since he never played offensive tackle until his time at Baylor, he’s rarely ever played out of a 3-point stance, which is required for any offensive lineman in the NFL.  His run blocking has been questioned. 

Impact on the Bucs roster: Don’t hold your breath!!! 

NFL Comparison: Jordan Gross:  Gross came into the NFL as a very talented pass blocker with a nasty streak to him.  Smith is very similar in that regard.  Since then, Gross has gone on to become one of the premier tackles in the NFL. 

Eugene Monroe – OT – Virginia
6’5’’ – 309 lbs – 5.23
Top 10 pick

Why I’m taking him: I was a big fan of Branden Albert last year, and the man that forced Albert to play guard because he was at tackle was Monroe.  I guess he’s doing something right.  Well, he does a lot of things well.  The part of his game I like most is his combination of aggression in the run game and fluidness in pass protection.  Usually, an offensive tackle will be one or the other, but Monroe is a very balanced lineman.  

Why I’m staying away: I’m not sure he’s as mean as he needs to be.  There are times when he doesn’t display a killer instinct that I like to see in linemen.  I don’t feel he is very dominant in the run game, either.  He also must strengthen his lower body to be successful in the NFL.  The upper body is fine.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Once again, I’m not seeing this happening.

NFL Comparison: Walter Jones:  Walter Jones has become one of the best offensive tackles in NFL history with the attributes both positive and negative that Monroe possesses.  I see a lot of Walter Jones when I watch film on Monroe.  I never thought Jones was overly dominant in the run game, but he always got the job done.  Monroe is very similar.  They both shine in pass protection.

Michael Oher – OT – Ole Miss.
6’4’’ – 309 lbs – 5.23
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: The thing I like most about Oher is his nasty demeanor.  The guy is flat out mean in the run game, and dominates at times.  He also is very smooth in pass protection, and makes that look easy at times.  He’s a very powerful player who plays with a toughness about him, but is also extremely durable.  Oher has the potential to be a great offensive tackle in the NFL.  I did say potential.

Why I’m staying away: I’m not too keen with the inconsistency I see when I watch Oher.  There are times when he’ll lose his leverage or he’ll take plays off.  That concerns me.  I’d also like to see him get better technique, which might be an issue because he isn’t the most football smart player in this draft.

Impact on the Bucs roster: This would be interesting because even though the Bucs have Donald Penn, {+++}Oher has the potential of being one of the best tackles in the league.  The question is whether you’re willing to risk waiting for him to reach that potential.  Oher would take over for Penn in 2010, who would leave in free agency, if the Bucs were to select Oher with the 19th pick.

NFL Comparison: Marcus McNeil:  Oher reminds me a lot of McNeil because when McNeil was playing his final season in college and right up to the draft, he was considered one of the best offensive tackle prospects to come out in a while.  I’ve heard similar things about Oher both last offseason and this one.  The difference is that health dropped McNeil, while inconsistent play might drop Oher.

Andre Smith – OT – Alabama
6’4’’ – 332 lbs – 5.28
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: I don’t care what anyone says, when I watch game film of Andre Smith, he absolutely dominates the competition.  He is a nasty offensive lineman that simply dominates in the run game.  Any kind of strength attribute, Smith has.  He packs a brutal punch in pass protection.  He finishes blocks.  He can’t be bull rushed.  He’s also surprisingly nimble and athletic in pass protection.  The potential Smith has is probably greater than any other prospect in this draft.

Why I’m staying away: His workouts worry me.  If you can’t be ready for the most important interview of your life (the combine), what makes me believe that you will get yourself ready week in and week out in the NFL?  Obviously, work ethic is a concern, and, with that, I’m concerned that he won’t put forth the effort to reach his potential.  Also, he struggles a bit with speed rushers off the edge, and might have to move inside to guard.

Impact on the Bucs roster: This is interesting.  I was not a big fan of Andre Smith after his showing at the combine and his pro day, but then I went back and watched his film.  Wow.  The guy is frickin’ good.  I do think he will be a very good pro, and would be a steal at 19.  The question is whether the Bucs would draft Andre Smith even though they don’t have a glaring need at tackle or guard.  If they were to select him, multiple things could happen.  Smith could take Jeramy Trueblood’s job, making him expendable.  Smith could also play left guard, making Arron Sears expendable.

NFL Comparison: Levi Brown:  Brown has quietly been one of the steadiest right tackles in the NFL.  He’s only a few years into his professional career, but he has shown the ability to anchor a line from the right side.  I do feel Andre Smith has much more potential, but Smith is the same type of player as Brown.  Smith, like Brown, should find himself at right tackle or at guard in the NFL.

Eben Britton – OT – Arizona
6’6’’ – 309 lbs – 5.16
1st Round

Why I’m taking him:  I like Britton as a solid tackle that could start in the NFL for 10 years.  He’s a tough and physical player who never takes a play off.  Britton is also incredibly smart and can pick up an offense and not miss an assignment immediately.  Britton never missed a game due to injury, making him extremely durable.

Why I’m staying away: Britton is very coordinated in space.  What I mean, is that he has trouble getting down field to linebackers and defensive backs.  He also has very average quickness and poor feet.  Because of those poor attributes, he has a lot of trouble with speed rushers off the edge.

Impact on the Bucs roster: I don’t think Britton would fit in at all with the Bucs.  The Bucs new run scheme calls for their linemen to get to the second level and block linebackers and defensive backs.  They also need to be able to move very well in space.  Those are Britton’s biggest weakness.  Britton would struggle beating out both Trueblood and Penn.

NFL Comparison: Jon Jansen:  Like Jansen, Britton will be limited to right tackle in the NFL with his inability to block speed rushers.

William Beatty – OT – UCONN
6’6’’ – 307 lbs – 5.12
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: Well, someone had to pave the way for the nation’s leading running back.  That man was Beatty.  Beatty’s the solid left tackle each team wants.  He does all the little things to perfection.  Aside from his size, Beatty has excellent footwork, works well in space, and does a superb job of getting to the 2nd level.  He shut down George Selvie two years in a row.

Why I’m staying away: I’m not thrilled with Beatty’s lack of strength and power.  This hurts him from being dominant in the run game, and it also makes him susceptible to the bull rush.  His overall technique needs to be improved, and he needs to find a way to add some weight to his big frame. 

Impact on the Bucs roster: I’m not so sure the Bucs would look at taking Beatty even if they traded back from their original pick.  However, Beatty’s ability to work well in space and get to the 2nd level might have the Bucs thinking twice about him.  In the Bucs new offense, they need their offensive linemen to do just what Beatty is best at.  If the Bucs select Beatty, then Jeremy Trueblood and Donald Penn will be in line to lose their starting jobs.

NFL Comparison: Alex Barron:  Barron has been a starter for the Rams the past few seasons.  Much like Barron, Beatty’s number one strength is movement and blocking downfield.

Jamon Meredith – OT – South Carolina
6’5’’ – 305 lbs – 5.04
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: Meredith has all the athleticism I look for in an offensive tackle.  The most athletic part about him is the fact that he is a natural knee bender.  When an offensive lineman bends from the waist, they put themselves in a position to be beat by a cornucopia of moves, but when they bend at the knee, they put themselves in a strong position to take on whatever moves the defender puts on them.  All of his athleticism has made Meredith a premier pass protector.

Why I’m staying away: I’m not seeing nastiness or a mean streak with Meredith.  I want my linemen thinking “kill” on every play.  He definitely needs to find a way to be more physical and tough.  Also, he needs to get in the weight room and get stronger.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Meredith’s athleticism makes him a nice candidate for the Bucs, but with Merediith getting a 2nd-round grade, it’s unlikely to see him in a Bucs uniform.  If he slips to the 3rd round, and the Bucs take him, he’ll be expected to take over for Donald Penn eventually.

NFL Comparison: D’Brickashaw Ferguson:  When Ferguson was drafted, I thought he was a great pass protector, but lacked the meanness to dominate.  Well, that’s just what I’ve been saying about Meredith.  It doesn’t mean Meredith won’t make it in the NFL.  Hell, Ferguson’s doing just fine.  However, if Meredith is looking to become dominant and elite in the NFL, he needs to find that nastiness.

Phil Loadholt – OT – Oklahoma
6’8’’ – 332 lbs – 5.45
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: I’m excited about Loadholt’s massive frame, strength, and surprising agility.  It’s pretty apparent, that with his size and strength, Loadholt is dominant in the run game.  He’s also a nasty player that finishes his blocks.  With his size, strength, and surprising quickness, Loadholt has a lot of potential and upside.

Why I’m staying away: Loadholt tends to struggle with speed rushers off the edge.  That will limit him to playing right tackle in the NFL.  He’s also had some character issues as he’s been arrested twice including June 2008 for suspicion of driving under the influence.  His awareness needs improving as well, as Loadholt had some trouble with false start penalties at Oklahoma.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Loadholt wouldn’t be a terrible option for the Bucs in the 3rd round.  His massive frame and potential would definitely be hard to pass up.  If the Bucs feel Loadholt would be an upgrade over Jeremy Trueblood, they should pull the trigger.  We have seen Trueblood get manhandled over the past couple years, which is something Loadholt will never let happen.  If the Bucs draft Loadholt, expect him to take over for Trueblood in 2010.

NFL Comparison: Flozell Adams:  Both Adams and Loadholt have such massive frames and dominate at times.  Adams has made his living on the left side, but I believe Loadholt will find his most success on the right side.

Offensive Guards

Andy Levitre – OT – Oregon St.
6’3’’ – 305 lbs – 5.25
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: Levitre is extremely nasty and very powerful.  His versatility is valuable as he played tackle in college, but projects to guard in the NFL.  He’s got great technique and is constantly trying to improve it.  Levitre gets good push in the run game while having good agility for pass protection.  He was a team leader and captian at Oregon St, and I expect the same character at the pro level.

Why I’m staying away: Levitre isn’t the greatest athlete.  He tends to struggle in space while going after linebackers or defensive backs.  Levitre also needs to work on getting better leverage consistently.

Impact on the Bucs roster: The Bucs don’t need a guard, and Levitre might not be a good fit for the Bucs’ offense.

NFL Comparison: Chris Snee:  Snee, along with the entire Giants offensive line, is nasty.  He might not be the biggest guard in the NFL, but he is powerful and uses his nastiness as an advantage.  Levitre is very similar in that aspect.

Duke Robinson – OG – Oklahoma
6’5’’ – 329 lbs – 5.27
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: I like the attitude Robinson brings more than anything else.  He plays with such a mean and nasty demeanor.  With that, he finishes his blocks and buries his opponents in the ground.  Also, for such a big guy, Robinson does an excellent job at bending his knees and keeping good leverage.  It can’t go unnoticed either that Robinson has a ton of experience against some of the best competition in college football.

Why I’m staying away: Inconsistency was a big part of Robinson’s collegiate career, due in most part to his questionable technique.  Robinson will also have some trouble with the quicker defensive tackles in the NFL.  Robinson has been known to not have the greatest work ethic and rely on his natural talent to get by.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Robinson isn’t the type of guard the Bucs will be using.  Robinson is best fit for a power running offense, and the Bucs will be implementing a zone-blocking style of offense.  The Bucs already have Davin Joseph, Arron Sears, and Jeremy Zuttah as their guards.  If you add Sean Mahan, who can play guard or center, the Bucs aren’t really in the market for a guard.

NFL Comparison: Shawn Andrews:  Shawn Andrews came into the league a few years back and has not disappointed.  His physical play fits exactly what the Eagles look for in their linemen.  Along those lines, Andrews has shown the ability to play either guard or right tackle.  I would expect the same type of career out of Robinson.

Herman Johnson – OG – LSU
6’7’’ – 364 lbs – 5.51
2nd – 3rd Round

Why I’m taking him: When looking at the positives that Johnson will bring, you have to start with size.  That’s what she said!!!!  With that size, Johnson is extremely powerful, has great strength, and is dominant in the run game.  If Johnson gets his hands on a defender, he wins.  He always finishes his blocks and plays with a nasty demeanor.

Why I’m staying away: Size is great, but you need to be able to move it.  Johnson’s mobility, quickness, and agility are only average.  He will struggle in pass protection against quicker defensive tackles.  Also, he doesn’t play with great leverage and tends to bend at the waist and not with his knees.  He’s not a good fit for every kind of offense.

Impact on the Bucs roster: The type of offense that Johnson does not fit in is a zone-blocking run game.  That’s exactly what the Bucs run.  Do not expect the Bucs to draft Herman Johnson.

NFL Comparison: Leonard Davis:  Johnson does offer some versatility, and could play right tackle, but should have his most success at guard.  This is very similar to Davis’ career that started with him playing right tackle for the Cardinals before a move to guard with the Cowboys.  Also, don’t be fooled by Johnson’s weight at 365 lbs, he is not fat.

Offensive Centers

Alex Mack – OC – Cal.
6’4’’ – 311 lbs – 5.17
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: When I look at a center, I want to see how smart he is.  The center is in charge of all the calls for the offensive line.  I’m not so sure that you will find a smarter lineman than Alex Mack.  Mack won the Draddy Trophy after last season.  The Draddy Trophy is best known as the “Academic Heisman” and is given to college football’s top scholar athlete.  By the way, Mack is also a very good player.  He plays mean and looks for the kill shot on every play.  His technique is superb, and he always knows where to place his hands and feet.  His work ethic is great as he is also a monster in the weight room.  

Why I’m staying away: Mack likes to get down too much.  What I mean is that he spends too much time on the ground.  He could be overpowered by massive defensive tackles.

Impact on the Bucs roster: The Bucs aren’t necessarily in the market for a guard, but with Jeff Faine’s contract able to be voided after 2009, the Bucs could be in the market for a center in 2010, so why not now.  Sure, Jeremy Zuttah could be the eventual successor at center, or the Bucs could simply keep Faine, but if they still feel they need an upgrade, Mack would be an ideal fit.  I’m not expecting it to happen, but Mack will anchor some team’s offensive line for 10-12 years.

NFL Comparison: Matt Birk:  It’s almost like Mack is a clone of Birk.  Birk has had an incredible career with the Vikings and now starts a new era with the Ravens.  Mack will be looking at a career like Birk’s, filled with Pro Bowls.
Max Unger – OC – Oregon
6’5’’ – 309 lbs – 5.30
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: Versatility is Unger’s biggest strength.  His size and skill set allow him to line up at any position along the line.  He’s got great strength and power, while having the agility and balance to protect the quarterback.  He’s a smart player who knows everyone’s assignments, and also uses superb technique.  

Why I’m staying away: He was good while playing left tackle and center at Oregon, but wasn’t elite at either position.  He needs to play with better leverage.  He also allows defenders to get into his chest.  When that happens, the offensive lineman usually gets beat.  An offensive lineman’s strength is at its best when the arms are extended.

Impact on the Bucs roster: The Bucs already have a super utility offensive lineman in Jeremy Zuttah.  I don’t really see them taking Unger.  Also, I don’t believe Unger would be better than any of the Bucs starting offensive linemen or Zuttah.

NFL Comparison: David Diehl:  The reason I compare him to Diehl is because of Diehl’s ability and willingness to play any position the team needs him to play.  Unger will be quite similar.

Eric Wood – OC – Louisville
6’4’’ – 310 lbs – 5.23
2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: This Wood is nasty, hard, and has good size and bulk.  You can go ahead and guess who said that!!!   Really, Wood is a nasty player who plays to the whistle and finishes his blocks.  He is also light on his feet and very good at getting to the next level.  Wood is very smart and is a very hard worker.

Why I’m staying away: He can be a little stiff at times.  You can go ahead and insert your own joke here.  He doesn’t play with great leverage and does not bend his knees well.  He should have trouble with bigger nose tackles.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Wood wouldn’t be a great fit for the Bucs.  I have him slated as a 2nd round pick, so unless the Bucs somehow acquire a 2nd round pick, it is unlikely that Wood will be a Buc.

NFL Comparison: Jake Grove:  Grove is a good center, but not great.  Wood should see similar success.

Comments are closed.