NFL Draft

Top 10 interior offensive linemen in the 2019 NFL Draft:

After talking about the best running backs and linebackers available last week, we move into the trenches in our positional draft rankings. For this edition, I combined offensive guards and centers because the necessary skill-sets are very similar and many of these prospects played both positions during their collegiate careers. While their value might differ depending on offensive scheme, I like to evaluate them as one group.

There are definitely no generational-type prospects like Quenton Nelson on this list, who I had as my number two overall player, but this group has about a dozen quality names. As the league moves more towards wide-open offenses that throw the ball out of shotgun and try to get it out quickly on a multitude of screens, mobility and pass-protecting are becoming more important, but there is still a lot of value of what interior offensive linemen can do for you in the run game. Obviously each team will evaluate these prospects according to their scheme, but for the purpose of this list, I am looking for complete players, who will help my offense move the ball.


 

Garrett Bradbury

 

1. Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State

This kid came to Raleigh as an excellent high school tight-end. He redshirted his first year at campus and after an injury he moved to guard, where he played as a reserve in 11 games. Bradbury would go on to start 26 straight games at left guard and earned honorable mention All-ACC accolades as well as the team’s award for their unsung hero in 2017. The national recognition however came as a senior, when Bradbury was a first-team All-ACC member and was the won the Rimington Award trophy for best center in the nation.

That athleticism catching passes in high school shows in Bradbury’s mobility to reach defensive tackles, climb to the second level and pull around. His snap-to-step quickness is off the charts and Bradbury displays excellent leg-drive on zone schemes, where he almost forces the guy next to him to get moving a little more. The ground he covers on outside zone schemes is incredible and he ends up reaching 3-techs in the process at times. Bradbury runs himself into to position to climb, is smooth at moving up to the linebackers and plasters onto those blocks at that second level. He continues to turn his hips and drives to give the running back a clear path behind his back. While Bradbury has the reputation of being a finesse blocker due to his agility, I have even seen him land on top Clemson’s Christian Wilkins. When he feels his defender trying to work across because the RB is in range, Bradbury flips his hips and forces that guy to go right through him, He has no problem whatsoever reaching defensive tackles lined up in the A-gap straight-up and even if he gets pushed back he has such body-control that he can re-set his feet and continue to turn pads,

In pass pro he immediately gets his eyes up and his feet ready. Bradbury might need to add some sand to his pants, but he has the lateral agility to stay in front of guys and that also allow him to get in the face of linebackers. When he can help out from the side on a rusher, he really helps negate some great defensive linemen in the ACC. Bradbury can easily handle protecting one gap and he has such active, quick feet that he moves right along with spin- and other counter-moves. He keeps head on a swivel and is very alert for any types of stunts and blitzes, while showing the lateral agility to cover some of the miscues of the guards next to him. Bradbury has enough core strength to withstand charging linebackers if he has time to prepare. On 1513 pass-blocking snaps during his career with the Wolfpack, Bradbury has allowed just 36 total pressures,

At just over 300 pounds, Bradbury is slightly undersized and has some anchor issues against the really powerful big guys. He got put on his back on the first one-on-one pass rush rep of the Senior Bowl week, even though he continued to fight and won the majority of his battles going forward. Bradbury has to give up some ground at times to gain it back when left one-on-one in the zone game, is not the strongest pure drive-blocker on gap-schemes and has to lean quite a bite when really trying to create movement that way. He will probably better suited to play in a sliding protection offense, where he is not left on an island.

With hips like Shakira, outstanding intelligence, reactive quickness and being technically sound with footwork and hand-placement make, Bradbury is my number one center and overall interior offensive prospect. I expect him to be a Pro Bowl level starter for a decade plus and he will open up the offensive play-calling to running schemes most teams can’t execute. Bradbury only solidified that at the combine, when he ran a 4.92 in the 40, put up 34 reps on the bench press, recorded the fastest three-cone drill of O-linemen and looked incredibly agile in on-field drills.

 

Chris Lindstrom

 

2. Chris Lindstrom, Boston College

Coming from the BC bloodline, Lindstrom walked in the footsteps of his father, who is enshrined in the school’s Hall of Fame as a lineman. His uncle played for the Golden Eagles as well as his brother, who is a redshirt sophomore there right now. Lindstrom started the final nine games as a true freshman at right tackle. He split time between right guard and tackle as a sophomore, earning second-team All-ACC honors, before sticking on the inside last season and being named first-team All-Conference.

When you watch tape on this 6’4”, 310-pound guy what immediately jumps off the screen is the pad-level he initiates contact with and how he stands up the defender in front of him. Lindstrom has the upper body strength and hand grip to torque pads and turn bodies to open up running lanes, plus he brings the type of feisty attitude and leg drive you want to see from your linemen. He works very well off combo-blocks as that angular blocker, by turning the defender and giving his teammate a chance to get his hips around, while having his own eyes set on that linebacker he is responsible for ultimately. When he is one-on-one with a backer, Lindstrom shows a lot of urgency to get to the second level. The people-mover also does a nice job freeing up his center to pull around by driving nose tackles off the spot and turning them upfield by pinning that near armpit, to keep him as far from the ball-carrier as possible. Boston College used the big man on skip-pulls, where he is like a brick-wall to run into for the opposing linebacker. In the zone run game he tags onto the next blockers to not allow any immediate penetration and create a good flow by continuing to work down the line.

This kid really made an impression on me during Senior Bowl week when I saw him isolated instead of being part of a cohesive offensive line group. BC ran a boatload of play-action, where Lindstrom could step up into the chest of his man and get control off the snap, but in Mobile I really liked what I saw from him in pass rush one-on-ones. He had an impressive pancake in the team drills on day one and was one of the few to stand up against a guy like TCU’s L.J. Collier. Lindstrom displays a super-strong base and steady hands in protection. He has the ability to re-anchor and continue to grab turf with his feet against bull-rushers, while having quick enough feet to mirror athletes. He also shows excellent awareness for twists and gets a strong shove on the primary crosser on to make the job easier for the tackle or center next to him and then he flips his hips to take over that guy’s assignment. When he doesn’t have a direct matchup, he is looking to deliver some punishment and puts quite a few rushers on the ground. On the backside of running back screen, Lindstrom is looking for trailing defensive linemen before shifting his eyes back downfield,

While being an excellent athlete for the guard position overall, Lindstrom doesn’t quite have the foot quickness to get around those penetrating 3-techs. I see him extend outside his frame and overshoot some targets in space, forcing him to lose balance. With those tight splits and limited amount of deep drops in the passing game, Lindstrom wasn’t as challenged in protection, where defenders could just pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. Most of his projection in a true dropback system comes from what we saw down in Mobile.

Lindstrom really got into it with Christian Wilkins in that Clemson game last year and he did not back down an each against a potential top-15 pick. He also made Miami’s Gerald Willis give up on several plays when facing him during the season. With the work he did in pass pro at the Senior Bowl to go with the way he opened up holes to run through, Lindstrom has me believing he can protect in a more pass-heavy offense. He might not fit every scheme and will be more valuable on an offense that is built around pushing people around with their rushing attack, but the BC guard is definitely worth an early day two pick.

 

Elgton Jenkins

 

3. Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State

A Mississippi native, Jenkins has been a versatile performer for the Bulldogs for all four years. He started three of eleven games played between left and right tackle as a freshman and then five between left tackle and guard the following season. However it wasn’t until his junior year when he moved to center that Jenkins really got attention from the scouting community and his stock really rose his final year with MSU, when he was the integral piece of an offensive line that was responsible for the SEC’s highest number of total rushing yards and yards per attempt.

At 6’4”, 310 pounds with 34-inch arms, Jenkins has more tackle size. He might not be the most physically imposing run-blocker, but he puts a hat on a hat, winning by torqueing opposing pads with glue-like grip and bringing his hips around to seal defensive linemen. He does not let having aggressive nose guards right over him bother his snaps, putting the ball right on the money every single time. Jenkins continues to move his legs and bring through his hips into initial blocks, while showing awareness of when he can climb to the second level by feeling his teammate coming around and eyes on that second defender- He looks comfortable at putting hands on linebackers in open space and often times even beats those guys to the spot.

In protection Jenkins pops out of his stance with square up pads and awaiting eyes. He makes it look easy to move laterally with rushers with rapid, controlled, short steps and a quick punch, as he rarely gets out of position. While his pad level gets pretty high on occasion, he has a strong base to anchor and the agility to recover after over-setting first. Something you feel like he is in pretty bad position to be pushed back, but the center somehow finds a way to recapture his balance. Jenkins stays ready for looping defensive linemen on different stunts and twists if he is originally uncovered and has no blitzer to pick up. He helps his fellow linemen secure their responsibilities when not being matched up against somebody and I have even seen him make up for his guards whiffing in protection by flipping his hips and driving that defender off the spot to give his quarterback room to step up. Overall the Bulldog center surrendered just six total QB pressures in all of 2018.

The tall center is quite dependent on his upper half in the run game, extending outside his pads a little early on and can be more of an “arms-bocker”. He barely drives people off the spot by himself and might be limited to zone-based run schemes. As a pass-protector his hands can get a little wide and I think needs to tighten his base some. Too often he is taking a blow early on, looking to catch the rusher, and is forced to recover, which he won’t able to do at such a high rate against savvy NFL defenders.

Jenkins Had a pretty strong Senior Bowl week and the problems I saw from him on tape look very correctable. He gave up an early sack to Quinnen Williams in the Alabama game, but overall he more than held his own versus a strong Bama D-line, even though he might not have been left one-on-one a lot. Every year there seems to be a center that moves up into the late first round and I think that could be Jenkins or the next guy on this list.

 

Erik McCoy

 

4. Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

While not being the most highly recruited athlete coming out of High School, McCoy made most of the scholarship he got from Texas A&M. After redshirting his first year at College Station, he went on to start all 39 games with all but two of them coming at center. He was part of an offensive line that called themselves the “Maroon Goons”, which was the engine for 219 yards and 5.3 yards per attempt in the ground game last season.

At 305 pounds, McCoy is powerful and athletic run-blocker with good girth and thickness throughout his frame. He gets a tight grip on defensive linemen and steers them through the whistle, staying linked to his initial landmarks of the defender. He continues to ride his blocks down the line in the zone rushing attack and has a good feel for when to get to the second level to secure linebackers. As that angular blocker McCoy gets the arm underneath the side of the shoulder-pad to turn that defensive lineman. If that guy in the gap stunts out of it, the 6’4” center quickly re-set and finds the next target and when there’s a blitzer coming in with speed, McCoy simply drives him that way to open a cutback lane for his back. He is effective at sealing the backside and also has excellent footwork and loose hips to come around D-tackles in the A-gap and reach them, as well as playing the lead-blocking role on skip pulls pretty well.

McCoy has a strong base with wide thighs in pass protection to absorb bull-rushers and control them with hands inside the frame of his man. He plays with sticky hands and arms that reposition themselves constantly. The three-year starter also displays active feet and feels counters coming from the defender in front of him. When somebody does get a step on him, McCoy turns and rides that guy away from his quarterback. He Is looking for work in protection when he doesn’t have a direct matchup. Altogether he allowed just six total pressures on over 900 snaps last year. McCoy has a lot of experience getting out in front and putting hands on people in the screen game, where he shows crafty “releases” from his original, who he leads upfield and uses as an extra push to get on the move, before pushing another guy around in space.

Overall I think McCoy’s style of play is probably a little too grabby for NFL referees and he will have to learn his lesson early on. He also leans a little too far outside his frame in pass protection and with how wide his feet get he might be vulnerable to push-and-pull moves by savvy NFL defensive linemen. I also thought he was a little late at picking up stunts at times and his head has to scan the defensive front a little better to avoid free rushers. His upside might be more limited than the guys ahead of him because he simply isn’t as athletic in space.

McCoy could be an excellent addition for an offense that is looking for an aggressive run-blocking center with experience as a three-year starter against top-tier competition in the SEC, who can more than hold his own his pass protection. I thought he had a great Senior Bowl week, lining up against a multitude of bodies and excelling in team- as well as positional drills. Nothing about him physically will blow away scouts, but he is a rock-solid football player who has a good feel for the game.

 

Ben Powers

 

5. Ben Powers, Oklahoma

This Kansas native started his collegiate career at Butler Community College before staying in the Midwest by joining Oklahoma. Powers immediately received recognition, being named honorable mention All-Big XII when starting the final ten games of 2016. He was a second-team All-conference performer in 2017 and earned first-team accolades as a senior as part of a Sooners offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s top front-five.

Lining up primarily at left guard, Powers really improved in the run game over his time in Norman. Still having a chip of his shoulder after he had to spend that one at community college to convince scouts, Powers says himself that he loves “taking a grown man’s dreams and crushing them”, as he plays through the echo of the whistle. While he has gotten more powerful and plays with consistently excellent pad level, he also has the mobility to take over nose tackles on outside zone plays and his ability to get to several spots with the appropriate angles on gap and option schemes is outstanding. When he is pulling around to kick out the defensive ends, he doesn’t just deliver the blow to open up space, but rather he continues to guide them around the back of the play to give the running back even more room. Oklahoma ran some very unique schemes, where he would first seal the backside five-tech and then work up the linebacker on one play and Powers made it work.

In pass pro he keeps a tight grip on defenders and has a strong base to swallow power rushers by getting wide with his feet. Powers uses a well-placed, powerful punch straight at the chest of his rusher and stonewalled Texas’ Charles Omenihu time and time again when they squared up against each other last year. He also showed the ability to anchor and keep his hands inside the chest of the opposing guy early on in one-on-ones versus the D-line at the Senior Bowl. Powers doesn’t stop his feet late in reps and likes to throw people to the ground at the end. He was almost right there with his All-American teammate Orlando Brown in 2017, allowing just 12 QB pressures, and played even better overall last season. Powers is excellent at faking the run on play-action, where steps the same way he usually would, while quickly turning his hips to stay in front of the guy in his gap, as well as securing the edge as a puller coming across. In addition to that, he is very fluid at switching assignments on twists with the tackle next to him

It is never good to be the third- or fourth-most athletic player on your offensive line, but that was the case for Powers. There is some stiffness in his hips and I wouldn’t say he explodes out of his stance. Powers is built a little top-heavy and doesn’t particularly have the longest arms to re-position his hands if his rushers gets a hand into his chest. He was also put on the ground when sliding Alabama’s Quinnen Williams way in the Orange Bowl and let him penetrate a couple of times, but that guy is a freak and overall he held him own against power.

Powers was very consistent protecting the passer and creating movement in the run game all Senior Bowl week long. While there are some athletic limitations that keep him from being the top guard prospect in this class, his tenacious mind-set and technique are what made him a dominant player in the Big XII. He will have to prove that he can continue this at the next level against all those freakish guys, but I believe in this kid.

 

Michael Deiter

 

6. Michael Deiter, Wisconsin

Coming to Madison as an All-State selection from Ohio, Deiter set a school record with 54 consecutive career starts split between left tackle, guard and center. These last two years he received consecutive first-team All-Big Ten honors and was voted the conference’s Lineman of the Year in 2018, as he played left tackle the year before and then stuck at left guard.

Deiter is a mean physical road-grader in the run game, who rolls his hips into contact and keeps a tight grip on the defender in front of him. I love how he continues to turn his hips and keep his legs moving to create a clear running lane, seemingly feeling where his running back is behind him. I also just like the way he understands what is needed of him for that specific play, whether that is washing down the play-side or just being an obstacle to take away backside pursuit. Deiter buries some defensive tackles under him when he comes from the side on double-teams. He does an excellent job standing up his man and continuing to move his feet to get his body in-between the defender and the ball-carrier and is very successful at reaching 1-techs by cutting at the inside knee of the defender and forcing them to at least get back on their feet and step over Deiter. I also think he shows surprising quickness when climbing to the second level directly. Deiter has experience executing a variety of gap and zone schemes, as he was asked to block down, reach, power pull, skip-pull and kick out the end-man.

In protection he stays active with his shuffle and keeps his rusher squared up with the hands tight to that guy’s chest. He uses a well-time and -placed, effective punch and even is he ducks his head every once in a while, he somehow finds a way to keep his body in front of the rush. , While some defenders can get a good initial push against Deiter, that guy seems to catch himself anyway and somehow give his quarterback that space he needs to step into his throw. He keeps his eyes up in protection consistently when he doesn’t have a clear one-on-one matchup  and is smooth at passing on assignments on stunts and twists. Deiter also does a nice job letting his man get to one shoulder and then driving him that way to open up space on draw plays.

Well-schooled defenders can use his forward lean against him in the run game and pull the big man off themselves. Deiter will give up ground quickly against powerful bull-rushers and he has quite a bit of an issue flipping his hips to recover if his guy gets a step on him in protection. If he can mirror his man the entire way he is successful, but once he gets out of position it is tough for him to get back into it against counter moves and he gets a little wide with his arms for my taste. Deiter struggled in the 2017 conference championship game versus Ohio State’s vaunted D-line in 2018 and in one-on-one pass rush drills on day one at the Senior Bowl, but he improved as the week went along and opened up some big holes in the run game.

Deiter is an extremely technically sound and smart offensive lineman. He understands blocking schemes and anticipates defensive movement very well. His athleticism is not quite up to par with some of crazy defensive tackles we have in the pros, but it’s good enough to hang in there, especially in a sliding protection scheme. He also brings the versatility to be flexed out to tackle if really needed as well as having experience at center and he has been part of one of the very best O-lines in the country these last two years.

 

Connor McGovern

 

7. Connor McGovern, Penn State

This former high school All-American and Pennsylvania Mr. Football award finalist was one of the top center/guard prospects in the country, McGovern started nine of 13 games as a freshman at right guard as a true freshman before moving to center for his entire second year. He started all but one game back at that right guard spot in 2018 and earned third-team All-Big Ten honors in a loaded group of offensive linemen

McGovern shoots out of his stance in the run game and washes D-tackle down to create room on the inside by rolling his hips and driving his legs. Once contact is initiated, his hands get attached to the pads of defenders. McGovern attacks defensive linemen at an angle to set up his teammates before climbing to the linebacker level, which he just devours on several occasions as a pancake specialist. At Penn State he was used to pulling around and kicking out defensive ends to open up freeways for his backs to run through. With the power and leg drive he displays, he probably fits gap- and zone-schemes, where he shows the ability to catch and carry that double-team defender he and his teammate are engaged with.

The 6’5”, 310-pound guard is very patient in his pass sets and consistently is first to land his hands. He showcases a sturdy base to absorb bull-rushers and is almost impossible to get away from once he lands inside the frame of the defender. McGovern good enough lateral agility to mirror spin moves the other way and stays active with re-positioning hands. If his man does get to one shoulder, McGovern simply drives him into the middle of the pocket and neutralizes the push that way. He has recorded some kills getting hits on a defender from the side when he has nobody to engage with directly.

McGovern might have saved his worst performance for the last game versus Kentucky, routinely being late to pick up stunts and twists. He is not the most naturally fluid athlete. McGovern leans over his toes a little too much to start reps and when defenders swipe away his hands on that initial punch, he struggles to recover and get in front of those guys because he doesn’t have that post-leg ready. There are too many opportunities for inside counters with how far he sets to the outside, which will be taken advantage of at the next level.

Looking at the big guy on tape and at the combine, McGovern has NFL-ready body with the strength and athleticism to be a long-time starter. He will definitely need some agility work and clean some technical flaws in protection, but he has a lot of potential to improve. The experience at center and guard gives him some versatility and he will be one of those candidates to really shine from year two on, once he is a little fundamentally sound and has experience against NFL competition.

 

Nate Davis

 

8. Nate Davis, Charlotte

This kid made a name for himself during Senior Bowl week. Nate Davis was an all-state prospect from Virginia and after spending a year on becoming academically eligible, he stepped into the starting lineup for final ten games of 2015. He continued to excel at right guard the following two seasons, earning consecutive honorable mention All-Conference USA accolades. Davis was flexed out to tackle his senior year, where he was named second-team all-conference despite playing in only eight games due to a suspension.

Davis has the desired wide, thick frame for a guard prospect at 6’3”, 315 pounds. He uses an extremely low stance and fires out of it with good bend throughout his body, delivering a strong initial blow in the run game and usually determining where the defender will go. He creates great movement as that angle-blocker on the backside of zone run plays and buries some of those guys, plus if he has to progress to a linebacker he has fluid hips to open and put hands on that secondary defender. Davis has no issues whatsoever reaching guys on his outside shoulder and completely turns the defensive linemen inside, to the point where he would have to go right through Davis. He has also shown excellent mobility to pull out in front and push around linebackers in space, as well as act as lead-blocker on plays, where he arrives at his target with some thump but also pretty good hand-placement. He continues to push around defenders through the echo of the whistle and wants to land on top of them.

The small-school standout has a good shuffle in pass protection to square up his target. While playing tackle he put that inside arm towards the inside shoulder pad of the D-end to force him to really run the arc and he understood when to just drive his man upfield beyond the quarterback. Inside at guard he uses the same principle to some degree when the rusher is coming up the B-gap, to not make himself susceptible to counter moves. Overall Davis displays great balance and body control to re-set his feet, square his shoulders and re-anchor.  What I really like is how active he is with his hands and his feet to control the rush. He was used as a puller on some protection schemes as well.

On too many occasions Davis drops his head as a run-blocker and will be back-doored or just swiped by playing against NFL defenders if he doesn’t correct that. The lack of length is a concern as you see him truly trying to extend himself with no bend in his elbow at times. Davis displays poor technique as a cut-blocker, slowing down his man for a split-second at best. He missed seven combined games due to injury and suspension during his collegiate career, Even though I thought one of his best tape came against 19th-ranked Kansas State, there is a lack of experience against quality competition.

Watching him go through drills at the NFL combine, flipping his hips and mirroring the rabbit, you see excellent flexibility and lateral agility from Davis. Competition questions were somewhat answered during Senior Bowl week, although he will have to prove that he can do it consistently at the next level. While he isn’t quite as long as you would like him to be, I think this is a kid you pick some time on day three and develop into a quality starter.

 

Lamont Gaillard

 

9. Lamont Gaillard, Georgia

As a top five defensive line recruit out of North Carolina, Gaillard switched to the offensive side of the ball in spring of 2015. After appearing in just two games as a reserve his freshman year, he became a full-time starter the following season at right guard. He finally settled in at center in 2017 on Georgia’s road to a National Championship game appearance and was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior at that spot.

Gaillard headed the powerful Bulldog O-line these last two years, which averaged 250 yards rushing and 5.9 yards per carry during that stretch. Along the way he buried a bunch of SEC nose-tackles, but also showed the agility and appropriate footwork to reach guys in the A-gap or even right over the guard and locking them out to open up easy running lanes. Gaillard continues to drive his legs and roll his hips through contact, while having huge hands to dig into the frame of defenders and a finisher mindset. He displays excellent mobility to make up a lot of ground quickly in the outside zone game. Gaillard brings his hips around quickly on double-teams to allow his guard to pass the initial defender on and head towards a linebacker. The center also puts in excellent work as a drive-blocker to allow one of his teammates to pull, even when lined up at three-tech at times. He smooth climber to the second level ad gets in front of people, beating them to the spot on several occasions.

The former Bulldog quickly gets into his shuffle in slide protection sets and has a strong anchor with trunky legs to withstand charging blitzers as well as 300+ pounders trying to break him. If beaten across his face, Gaillard can hook the rusher and drive him past his quarterback. He has the ability to really sell the run by stepping into a drive block and then flipping his hips back around to pick up a charging linebacker in the gap behind him. Gaillard leeps active eyes and hands when uncovered in the passing game and stays ready with opposite arm if a defender is crossing the face of one of his guard to deliver a stab against other stunters. He also does a nice job peeling off and putting hands on the first guy on the second level on draw plays.

Gaillard doesn’t have the size NFL scouts covet. He lunges over his toes a little too much with that initial punch in pass protection, as more savvy defensive linemen can knock away his arms and throw him off balance at times. He was taken to school quite a bit by Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne in the 2018 National Championship game. At times Gaillard is caught turning his shoulders to help too much and is a little late to pick up the looper and in general he is too concerned with what is happening outside his area, which opens up lanes for delayed blitzes.

The three-year starter already has some veteran tricks up his sleeve when you look at how he releases on screen passes and grabs the pads of D-tackles while bringing his feet around on reach-blocks. Gaillard really improved as a team captain in his second season at center with the mobility, agility and football IQ to be a dominant player in college football’s most physical conference. I really enjoyed watching film on him.

 

Dru Samia

 

10. Dru Samia, Oklahoma

This former top-15 offensive tackle recruit from Sacramento was an excellent four-year contributor on the Sooners offensive line. Samia started nine games at right tackle as a freshman and in the season-opener the following year before moving inside and earning honorable mention All-Big XII by league coaches. He was a second-team all-conference performer these last two seasons and one of three players to receive honors for the conference’s top offensive lineman of the year.

The 47-game starter is a technically sound run-blocker. He has a good initial stab to gain leverage on the defender in front of him and he takes his initial steps the same way even if there is no obvious responsibility, before climbing to the second level. Samia is very active on zone schemes, where he is looking to tag onto nose tackles from the side and lets the linebacker come up before putting hands on him. I like the way he turns bodies at the line and continues to drive them off the spot or even put hands on a linebacker trying to scrape over the tape. At 6’5”, around 300 pounds Samia is an outstanding athlete, which shows in his mobility to pull out in front, where he comes out of his stance explosively and gets balanced before contact. He was used to kick out the play-side defensive end and he does a nice job turning that guy’s pads towards the opposite end-zone after initiating contact, to open up big holes. Overall I really like the nastiness Samia and all those guys on the Oklahoma O-line play with.

In pass protection the athletic guard is looking to deliver the blow and then settles down. His hand-placement is excellent and he has feet of a dancing bear on that OU interior. Not only like the initial strike, but you see the ability mirror and counter with hands as defenders try to knock them away.  Samia keeps active feet when he doesn’t have a direct assignment and is looking to help out one of his teammates. He was pulled around quite a bit to sell play-action as well. Samia did not give up a single sack in 2016 or 2018. During the Senior Bowl game he gave Boston College’s Zach Allen a little shove after he committed a roughing the passer penalty on the quarterback and I like that attitude to protect his guy.

Samia has a little wind-of of his arms at times, which makes it easier for defenders to knock them away and make this whiff. He struggles with long, athletic D-lineman, who can take advantage of his aggressive pass sets by grabbing the back of his pads and arm-overing him. He is also a little late at sliding back over against twists. If there is one position where I would take a gritty, technically sound player over one that is more athletic and talented one it is offensive guard. That is why I would definitely select teammate Ben Powers over Samia, who many love because of the type of athlete he is.

While I do have size and length concerns with Samia going to the NFL after a sub-par Big XII competition, I think he will work out in the league, but he might have to move to center or at least add a couple of pounds through the weight room. I love the movement skills, the competitiveness and technique. He just needs to enter an NFL program and add more functional strength to put it out on the field.

 


 

Just missed the cut:

 

Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama

A former four-star recruit from Iowa, Pierschbacher started 46 games for the Crimson Tide and only a high ankle sprain could keep him out of three contests in 2017. After a redshirt year he immediately stepped into the left guard spot, earning Freshman All-SEC honors. He went on to start all games he was available for the next two years splitting time between both guard spots. In his senior year however he moved to center and excelled in that role as well, earning second-team All-American accolades on his way to a fourth straight National Championship game appearance,.Pierschbacher has a super wide chest and massive thighs. He will run his feet through the defender until the whistle blows and keeps his hands stuck to the target. Pierschbacher twists and turns big men in the run game, making it hard for them to gain vision on what is going on in the backfield and he doesn’t let go off blocks. He uses a good drop-step to reach defensive linemen and continues to get his hips around to shield defenders from the ball-carrier as the play develops. He quickly gets into his pulls and was asked to skip-pull, kick out end-men and seal linebackers. As a pass-protector he steps and shoots quickly to gain control of the guy in front of him and has superglue-type grip on opposing rushers. Pierschbacher is hard to get around due to his broad frame, but he also keeps good posture and has the length to lock out rushers, as well as keeping a very wide base to stay balanced. He is a technically sound pass protector who jumps on the guy in front of him and usually gains control of the him from the get-go. He allowed only four total pressures on 422 pass-blocking snaps last season. The high IQ guy points out blitzers, keeps active eyes and rarely misses looping defenders on twists. However, Pierschbacher looks a little heavy-legged when trying to get on the move and is vulnerable to push-pull moves when he shifts his weight too far forward. At the Senior Bowl he got run over on the first rep of one-on-ones by Texas A&M’s Daylon Mack and rather skipped backwards on the second one as well. He looked pretty solid after that but he is a natural rock to negate powerful guys on the interior. I also think he needs to do a better job re-positioning his hands when his man decides to spin the other way. Pierschbacher Won’t show up on any highlight tapes with monster blocks in space, but he rarely gets out of position and simply gets the job done. He was a great communicator for that Alabama O-line and got everybody into position. Pierschbacher has the intelligence and versatility to play probably anywhere on a team’s front, although guard is his natural fit in my opinion. There are some athletic limitations, but nothing to keep him out of the pros.

 

Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin

Benzschawel followed his brother, father and uncle to Madison as a Wisconsin All-State tight-end and defensive end. The multi-sport athlete redshirted his freshman year to bulk up and went on to start 49 consecutive games at right guard and earn All-Big Ten honors for three straight years, as well as first-team AP All-American recognition as a senior. This young man has excellent thickness throughout his frame. Once Benzschawel initates contact in the run-game, that defender usually doesn’t get away and he keeps his legs churning. He maintains good leverage and throws some guys to the ground when the opportunity is there. When he does get to the second level, Benzschawel usually hits his landmarks and does a good job controlling targets in space due to his grip strength. That is also how he can get under the pads of defensive linemen and torque their bodies, opening up running lanes even if he doesn’t really drive guys. Benzschawel works very well off combo-blocks, where he gets a good bump on that down-lineman and then brings the necessary movement as that secondary blocker on an angle. He has experience reaching 1-techniques, where he does a good job hooking that inside arm of the defender and moving his body in the way. Benzschawel shows impressive anchor strength due to his wide base and good lateral quickness to mirror rushers. As a former tackle, he knows how to mix up his sets with different punches. If he doesn’t have a direct task in protection, the Badgers guard is looking for a target to hit and has that little bit of nasty to him that you want to see. When blitzers come his way he can swallow blows and redirect the charging defenders through good sink of the hips. He plays with his eyes up and stays alert for any twists by the defensive line. Benzschawel surrendered just six total pressure throughout the entire 2018 season according to Pro Football Focus and earned their highest overall grade among all interior offensive linemen. With that being said, the tall guard shows some sluggish movement with that block-like build. Due to his aggressive forward lean, Benzschawel can lose balance at times and get off his feet, but he needs it because he lacks that explosive pop in the run game. More technically sound defensive linemen will take advantage of his pass sets and beat him clean off the snap occasionally, which we already saw a little of in college. The big man lacks some mobility to be as effective as a puller against NFL speed and a large portion of his pulling responsibilities went to center Tyler Biadasz last season because he was just better on the move. You see some defender being able to disengage with him not bringing his hips around and he also slips off some blocks against linebackers in space. At the Senior Bowl Benzschawel had his struggles in one-on-ones with the D-line because of his height allowing opponents to get underneath him and take him off balance early on. Like all Wisconsin offensive lineman, Benzschawel is well-coached and very consistent with his footwork in the run game. NFL teams will look at his agility in tight spaces as a pass-protector, even though questions about his upper body strength will be there. I was a little discouraged by what I saw from him against top competition at times, but he was so consistent during his time at Wisconsin and should have be a starter in today’s pass-happy league.

 

Alex Bars, Notre Dame

With Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey stealing the limelight and both being top ten prospects last April, nobody really looked at the third star along that line a couple of years. Alex Bars comes from a football background with his dad being a former Irish linebacker and his two brothers playing on either side of the line for separate Big Ten schools. After a redshirt year Bars saw some game action as a freshman but had it cut short by ankle surgery. He took over at right tackle once McGlinchey was asked to switch to the left side although he went back to his natural position at right guard in 2018. After logging 30 consecutive start, Bars was lost with a torn ACL and MCL versus Stanford last year. Bars has a fridge-like build with broad shoulders and a wide torso. He typically plays with excellent leverage and leg-drive, Bars uproots defense off their spot and torques bodies at the line of scrimmage to open up paths for his running back. He continuously bringing his hips around, while having the mobility to pull out in front and locking onto targets at the second level or kick out end-men, where he brings some thump at initial contact. He is also an excellent power-blocker, coming around in a tight line and walling of linebackers in space, plus when there is no immediate threat he will find somebody to push around. Bars frees himself up to climb on combo-blocks by staying tight to his teammate’s hip and getting excellent angular momentum on that primary defender to set up his buddy. He does a nice job shielding guys away from the action and doesn’t try to do anything unnecessary, while hooking D-linemen in the zone run game to take away penetration. As a pass-protector Bars delivers an upward thrust to take away the initial momentum of big defensive tackles across from him and sticky hands to hold onto those guys. He has the lateral quickness to square up blitzers and pushes guys into the pile when they get a step on him to the inside. The 2018 team captain is alert for twists and invites his man with a good punch. He utilizes appropriate cut-blocks on quick passes and in space to sweep guys off their feet in space. However, Bars plays with his head too far in front and fails to latch onto targets if they quickly knocks his hands off. He isn’t a natural knee-bender and can get exposed for that by savvy defenders. He gets stood up by some of the more powerful D-linemen and he has some troubles staying late on plays when his opponent pulls him by his pads and he falls forward, while also being caught in the wind-up phase at times and can be eluded by well-school defenders. Although his knee will have to check out fine and the lower body flexibility definitely needs work, I think Bars could be a nice day-three pickup. He has a good understanding for blocking angles and linebacker’s movements, quality experience at guard and tackle and he was part of that 2017 offensive line that earned the Joe Moore trophy for the best group in college football.

 


 

The next guys up:

 

Ryan Bates (Penn State), Hjalte Froholdt (Arkansas), Terrone Prescod (N.C. State), Bunchy Stallings (Kentucky), Michael Jordan (Ohio State)

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