2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Offensive Lineman
The top offensive tackles and interior lineman in the 2013 NFL Draft
By AJ Young - March 22 2013
OG | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S
These draft profiles are designed to provide you with a better insight into the prospects detailed in our mock drafts and on our 2013 NFL Draft Board:
[Editor’s note: Some of these prospects were covered in our NFL Combine previews, in which case, the profiles have been updated in light of the Combine]
1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (1)
Considering he’s likely to become the first offensive tackle taken with the number one overall pick since Jake Long, it’s only natural that he plays very similar to the former Michigan standout. He started all 37 games of his college career at left tackle and made both Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel look very good at times, providing them with ample time in the pocket, free of fear from oncoming rushers from their blindside. He faced a number of NFL-caliber pass rushers from the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and LSU during his time at Texas A&M and rarely seemed phased by anything he saw. He possesses all the relevant tools both physically and mentally to become a franchise left tackle and perennial Pro Bowler at the next level and will provide quarterbacks with piece of mine for years to come.
2. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (2)
At 6-7, 306 lbs, Fisher has the ideal size and length to anchor down the left tackle position at the next level. In most respects he’s comparable to Luke Joeckel but given the lack of premier pass rushers that he faced whilst at Central Michigan, he understandably projects lower than Joeckel. He might be the most physically refined tackle in the draft as he has a solid frame with mostly “good” lbs that he effectively uses to seal off the edge from opposing pass rushers. He has the natural technique and instincts required to protect an NFL quarterback’s blind size and though he might be susceptible to smaller speed rushers due to his height, he’s a Pro Bowl caliber talent that will make whichever team drafts him happy.
3. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (8)
There aren't many first round picks on the offensive line that started their college career throwing the football. Although he finished his career in Norman as a 6-6, 303 lbs tackle, he was actually recruited to Oklahoma as a quarterback. By the start of the 2010 season he was playing tight end and switched to the offensive line midway through the season. He's certainly athletic for a big guy but given his relative inexperience on the offensive line, he's a bit raw. His mechanics and technique in pass protection need to be more refined and I’m not sure he can start immediately at left tackle protecting the quarterbacks blindside. He'll also need to add some muscle over the offseason if he's to start early at the next level as he sometimes lacks the strength to drive defenders away from the ball in the run game. All in all he’s an extremely talented prospect with a huge ceiling that has the potential to be a lockdown left tackle for years to come.
4. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (21)
At 6-5, 339 lbs, Fluker is a mammoth at right tackle. He supposedly 'trimmed down' to this playing weight and his twenty two percent body fat is a large factor behind his limited mobility in pass protection. He'll need to have better conditioning at the next level if he's to contend with the likes of Von Miller and Aldon Smith rushing off the edge as he too often doesn't get round quick enough to deal with faster defenders. In terms of his abilities in the run game, it's not often that he loses a matchup. He uses his good upper body strength and large frame to engulf defenders and spring the running back into the second level. He has a good motor and plays for all four quarters even when he's clearly sucking air. I personally am concerned that he doesn't have the speed to play tackle at the next level and might perhaps be better suited at guard but he’s nevertheless worthy of a late first round pick regardless of where he ends up on the offensive line.
5. Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State (45)
Born in Manchester, England, Watson was a late-comer to football after initially pursuing basketball (he has a great Mancunian accent that couldn’t feel more out of place). He played for an academy in Spain, earning a scholarship to Marist College in New York. Rather than continue any further with basketball, Watson thought he’d give football a try, transferring to Saddlebrook Junior College in California where he wowed scouts with his combination of size and athleticism. He was recruited by the likes of Oklahoma, Oregon, Auburn and Cal before opting to sign for Florida State. With only a years’ experience playing football, Watson miraculously earned a position as starter, protecting Seminoles quarterback E.J. Manuel. After one season in Tallahassee, Waton enters the draft as one of the most intriguing players available. He has as much upside and potential as the likes of Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, possessing unbelievable athleticism and ideal size. He’s a natural knee bender who sinks his hips effectively to absorb contact from defenders. He shows great speed and balance in pass protection, as well as the strength and physicality to dominate defenders in the run game. But with only two seasons of football under his belt and just one at the top level, he’s understandably raw. He struggles with the mental aspects of the game through shear inexperience, frequently failing to recognize line stunts and blitz packages. Having come to the sport late he may lack the passion and desire to refine his technique and there’s always the worry that once he’s been paid that initial signing bonus, he’ll be content with what he’s achieved in such a short space of time. He has the talent and potential of a second round pick but whether teams will gamble on that ability remains to be seen, potentially causing him to fall to the mid-rounds. Using his final year of eligibility at Florida State might have been the key to solidifying his status as a top fifty pick.
6. Kyle Long, OT, Oregon (55)
With a father in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a brother who was recently drafted number two overall, Long has some lofty shoes to fill. Long has followed a very different path to his father and brother however; he initially accepted a baseball scholarship at Florida State coming out of high school but was kicked off the team after a year following a DUI arrest and struggles academically. He enrolled in a junior college (the same one as Menelik Watson by coincidence) before later transferring to Oregon and even then he started out at defensive end before moving to guard. He never started in Eugene but saw extensive playing time (probably because lineman get gassed in their blur offence) so he's very much a prospect due to his upside and potential more than anything he's necessarily done on the field. That he's even considered a second round pick is a testament to his potential given the path he's taken.
1. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama (5)
Not many guards have the versatility and ability to dominate in both the pass and run like Warmack does and those who do, normally enjoy a brief vacation to Hawaii each year. Warmack has the perfect combination of power, athleticism, balance and technique that very few at his position have. He has the ideal technique with both his hands and feet to control oncoming defenders in the pass game as well as maul in the trenches when run blocking. Warmack also has the quickness and speed required to take on linebackers in the second level to spring the running back free for big gains. At 6-2 he perhaps lacks prototypical height but his relative low center of gravity compared to others at his position allow him to effectively anchor in and avoid being driven backwards. Warmack could be the best player to come out the draft at his position since Steve Hutchinson in 2001 and projects to be one of the best guards in the league for years to come.
2. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina (11)
Cooper was one of the big reasons why Giovani Bernard rushed for an average of 123 yards per game last season for the Tar Heels. After redshirting as a freshman, Cooper finished his career in Chapel Hill with 35 starts to his name and comes with the requisite experience necessary to start right away at the next level. As much as teams have historically begrudged spending a first round pick on interior offensive lineman, Cooper’s polished skill set, run blocking abilities and awareness in pass protection will have teams clamoring to select him in the middle of the first round. At 6-2, 311 lbs, any teams looking to shore up their offensive line with an immediate contributor will hit jackpot by selecting Cooper.
3. Justin Pugh, G, Syracuse (33)
As a redshirt freshman, Pugh started 13 games at left tackle and went on to start 34 games protecting the quarterback’s blindside over the course of his three year career. Considering his starting experience and 6-5, 3071 lbs stature you would expect him to project as a tackle at the next level but his best position is likely at guard due to his lack of top end strength. He also struggles to control rushers at the point of contact due to average arm length and footwork that needs improvement. Nevertheless, his combination of speed and athleticism allows him to dominate defenders in the run game and opens holes for the running back to hit the second level. He has a high ceiling that with some additional work in the weight room, coupled with technique coaching, could result in Pugh being a Pro Bowl caliber guard. He currently projects as a borderline first round pick.
4. Travis Frederick, G, Wisconsin (50)
Wisconsin is fast becoming a standout school at producing talented offensive lineman than can contribute right away at the next level. At 6-4, 312 lbs, Frederick is no exception and with experience starting at guard as well as center, he’s one of the premium interior offensive linemen available in this year’s draft. Although his size and strength are among his best attributes, he needs to keep his weight in check; he played at around 338 lbs during last season before slimming down to 312 lbs for the NFL Combine. If he puts that weight back on over the offseason, he could risk losing some of the lateral quickness that makes him such a capable blocker in pass protection. He’s a cerebral player that recognizes what the defense is doing, enabling him to make timely adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Frederick will likely be selected in the middle of the second round; a bargain for a talented player that has the potential to contribute from word go.
1. Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (67)
In his 49 career starts for the Crimson Tide, Jones started 25 games as right guard, 14 at center and 10 at left tackle. Not many offensive linemen enter the draft with such diverse and extensive playing experience across the offensive line. In last season’s national championship campaign, Jones was a permanent fixture at center. He showed excellent fundamentals as he controlled defenders in both the pass and run game, rarely allowing the defender to get the better of him. He's not a natural athlete per say and is somewhat of an overachiever given his lack of brute strength but he's a cerebral player who uses his technique effectively. He likely fits best as a center at the next level and as a consequence is unlikely to be selected in the first two rounds.AJ Young
is the editor of Down at the One.