By Dave Te Thomas
Cream Of The Crop | Best Of The Rest | Most Underrated | Most Overrated
First Day Possibilities | Second Day Possibilities
There are quite a few teams looking for new blood at center and this could be the draft that fills those needs. While players such as Andre Gurode and P.J. Alexander have experience at this position, they will more than likely play offensive guard at the pro level. That leaves LeCharles Bentley seeing his stock continue to rise. So much so, he could sneak into the end of the first round.
The second day pickings will be headed by Scott Peters, who put on the most impressive performance of any lineman at the Combines in the weight room. Small college standout Jason Ball continues to impress, especially after adding needed bulk in the off-season. Thodse looking for a solid pass protector are keeping track of Jason Scukanec, but his frame needs some more muscle refinement. Brandon Miller has good pass protection agility, but a possible military commitment (Air Force) and a lack of ideal strength could keep teams away from him until later in the draft.
Curt McGill has proven to be a solid drive blocker and has greatly improved his power over the last two years. Andy Eby was a former receiver who simply kept on growing during his career at Kansas State. Few have the foot agility that he possesses, yet, he seems to lack the pass protection skills that one would like from a pivot man. Mountain men Kyle Benn and Zach Quaccia look like they belong eating flapjacks with Paul Bunyan, but both have proven to be very experienced at protecting the quarterback.
With a name like Butkus, you'd expect him to be killing centers, but unlike his uncle, Luke protects the QB from characters like Dick. His fellow Big Ten Conference pivot man, Craig Osika, is the fastest center in this class, having grown into that position from tight end. The rest of this crop looks like a free agent fill-in crowd, but keep an eye on Jon Rutherford and Brandon Ludwig, as both are certainly not starting material, but could wrest a roster spot as they have experience at offensive guard.
MAKING THE GRADE…B…Solid blue-collar types, with only Bentley being considered as a potential pick in the first two rounds.
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Has a solid frame, with a thick chest and hips, muscular calves and long arms, with the ability to add at least 25 pounds with no loss in quickness…Has a quick, short power step coming off the snap…Gains movement off the ball with his hand explosion and hip snap…Works best in closed quarters, performing well with the guards to deliver the combo blocks…Uses his lower strength as he drives with his legs and sinks his hips properly to anchor up and sustain his pass blocks…Has the functional upper body strength to deliver the short hand jolt into the defender's chest…Has the short area speed to effectively get out and pull on sweeps.
Negatives: Very moody type who easily loses his composure (could use anger manage-ment classes. Almost charged after breaking a teammate, Walter Tyson's nose, in a fight during 2000)…Stands too narrow based when making contact, causing him to lose balance at times… Can angle and adjust with effectiveness, but constantly struggles to reach and connect moving upfield…Drops his head when engaging, which causes him to struggle when trying to shift his weight and redirect…One-punch "Judy" type who does not maintain hand contact after the initial hit to wall off properly…Despite his power, he lacks the leg drive to consistently anchor up and sustain in pass protection…Struggles with his feet placement when trying to recover from his initial move.
An All-American and Outland Trophy candidate, the veteran lineman is a tough, hard-nosed competitor who played through a painful back injury as a junior…An intelligent, hard working player who puts it all on the line every game, LeCharles has started at both guard and center during his Buckeye career…An ironman in the trenches, the Rimington Award winner performed in every offensive snap as a senior.
REMINDS YOU OF… Olin Kreutz, Chicago Bears. Fast, aggressive and a sound technician, much like Kreutz.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Even if Andre Gurode was projected as a center, the Colorado lineman's poor workouts for scouts are enough to convince them that this Buckeye is the best you will find here. Tennessee is hoping that Bentley is around in the second, but they may have to move up several spots to take him.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Versatile, with the ability to play center or guard…Shows quickness coming out of his stance, clearing defenders off the ball with his leg drive, hand jolt and explosion…Has an aggressive nature…Clamps on tightly to ride the defender wide… Physical drive blocker who simply runs over people…Effective trap blocker with ease-of-movement agility adjusting in space…Can anchor down with force in pass protection and extends his arms properly to contain the bull rush…Hard worker in the weight room… Known for his ability to get inside the frame of a defender to rock him back with a jarring hand punch…Mirrors double moves well, due to his fluid lateral agility.
Negatives: Despite his power, he still tries to finesse rather than maul…Has had a series of injuries that cost him considerable playing time over the years…More comfortable working in space than as an in-line blocker…Injuries have taken away some of the leg drive he displayed earlier in his career…When he gets over-aggressive, he tends to lean into the defender, causing them to slip past his blocks.
This consummate team player has capably filled in at several positions during his Tennessee career…Recruited as an offensive guard, he moved to defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman, only to move back to offense guard the following year before taking over the center position as a junior and then back to guard for his final campaign…Battled back from 2000 injury woes to garner All-American honors in his final season…Started 25 of 47 games he's played in for the Volunteers.
REMINDS YOU OF… Todd Washington, Carolina Panthers. Like Washington, he has the size and experience at a variety of positions to entice a team to use a first day pick.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Jets are all eying Weary as a potential third rounder.
Positives: Big-framed with large, thick muscle development…Uses his leg drive to wall off and turn the defender while maintaining position…Gets good movement off the snap for the running game, showing quickness in the short area…Uses his hands properly to set, pop and stop the bull rush charge…Has good knee bend and flexibility, staying low to anchor…Plays flat-footed, making good body adjustments in his lateral slide to gain movement…Tough lineman who will compete and challenge defenders…Smart and very instinctive, making all of the calls at the line, rarely making any assignment mistakes… Hard worker in the weight room…Very explosive coming off the ball…Has the wide leg base to keep his balance dropping back in pass protection…Does a very nice job of incline blocking, adjusting to stunts on the move…Can also handle short snapping duties.
Negatives: Inconsistent getting to the second level, lacking the speed needed to be effective working in space…While he has a good hand punch, he will overextend, causing him to not sustain blocks for long…Relies more on strength, as he is not known for being light on his feet… Trips over his feet trying to get out to neutralize the linebackers…Has an effective hand jolt, but will still revert to catching the defender rather than rocking him back…Must learn to play at a lower pad level, as he gets too upright in his stance…His lack of consistent explosion could see him shift to offensive guard.
One of the top linemen in the country and a finalist for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's top center…Emotional team leader with a very aggressive attitude in the trenches…Began his collegiate career as an offensive guard, moving to center as a sophomore…Started 43 consecutive games for the Sun Devils.
REMINDS YOU OF… Mike Gruttadauria, Arizona Cardinals. Peters may be the best pass protector in this group.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Certain to be gone by the fourth round, but his impressive showing in the weight room could elevate him one round.
Positives: Solid drive blocker who works hard to sustain and finish…had the change of direction skills and balance to make blocks moving upfield…Active working in space, showing the lateral agility to redirect quickly…Stays on his feet and maintains balance when firing out to neutralize the linebackers… Uses his hands properly and shows good foot slide retreating in pass protection…Resets his hands quickly after getting the initial burst off the snap…Superb snapper operating in the shotgun formation.
Negatives: Lacks explosion coming out of his stance and seems to stay stationary until he snaps the ball…This causes defenders to get into his chest quickly to rock him back on his heels…Push and shove type who has no explosion upon initial contact…Does not hit on the rise while drive blocking, showing little hip roll in his motions…Seems to get caught up in his foot movements when having to move upfield…Overextnds at times in pass protection due to his lack of suddenness coming off the snap (tries to compensate for the delay)…Has very short arms and small hands, to go along with a frame that appears to have no room for further growth.
REMINDS YOU OF… K.C. Jones, ex-Bronco. Just too light and too weak to play at the next level.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Sure, he has great foot speed, but with his lack of power, he'd only be running away from defenders, or trampled upon.
First Day Possibilities
Positives: Very dedicated athlete with the body control and leg drive to make the reach blocks moving up field…Shows a sudden burst off the snap and proper hand usage to gain leverage on the defender…Engages pass rushers with force, using his leg strength to quickly ride the opponent wide…Very agile on the move, keeping his hands on the defender as he sustains contact…Positions and walls off his man with consistency on drive blocks and plays until the whistle sounds…Shows classic arm extension and fluid retreat skills setting up in pass protection…Can control his man with a punishing hand punch and rarely loses his balance when moving downfield to neutralize the linebackers… Slides and adjusts with ease when picking up the blitz…Works the combo blocks with his guards with extreme efficiency and is very adept at picking up the stunts…Has shown steady improvement in the weight room.
Negatives: Still needs to refine and improve his upper body power (hampered earlier in his career in this area due to shoulder surgery)…Needs to develop a more powerful hand punch to consistently rock the defenders back…Can control and sustain, but his marginal hand punch causes defenders to slip past his blocks at times…Has to become more physical in his initial engagement with his man.
Hard-working player with a tremendous work ethic…A leader by example, he has not allowed a quarterback sack in his last three years…Took over center duties in his redshirt freshman year, despite having practiced at that position for only ten days before being handed the starting job…A model of consistency, he started every game (44) that he's ever played in for Maryland.
REMINDS YOU OF… Jeff Hartings, Pittsburgh Steelers. Don't be fooled by his lack of foot speed, this kid can get to the second level with no problem.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Certain to go in the second-third round, with the Jets and Washington both hoping to latch onto one of the top pass protectors out there.
Positives: Has a frame that can carry additional weight with no loss of speed…Shows excellent quickness as a snap-&-step center, getting a strong surge when making initial contact…Shows the body control and foot agility to quickly move off the snap…Makes all the line calls, reacting instinctively as he easily spots the stunts…Active, tough competitor who always gives that second effort…Has great work habits, sacrificing time to make himself better…Shows proper knee bend to gain position, anchor and sustain…Drives with force coming out of his stance, staying with the defender while keeping a wide leg base to maintain balance…Excels at pulling to trap when uncovered, cutting off on the front side of the gap…Moves well in the box, showing good range… Has a fluid drop-&-set with his head on a swivel, displaying good footwork in pass blocking… Adjusts well in space and does a nice job either in one-on-one situations or combining with his guards to shut down the inline rush…Has the lateral quickness and sudden movements to get position on the linebacker moving downfield and shows the slide ability in both directions when angle blocking…Can make the shotgun snap.
Negatives: Not much of a striker coming off the ball, relying on his speed to get the surge…More of a grab-&-steer type of blocker who needs to show a stronger hand punch and better usage of his arms…Needs to develop better leg drive and knee bend, as he appears a little rigid in his angle blocks…Lacks proper weight distribution, which causes him to go to the ground too much… Does not show enough power hitting on the rise, but does play at a good pad level…Uses his shoulders and forearms too much to lean into blocks rather than steering the defender with his hands.
Tough, durable athlete who started 50 consecutive games (including bowl) during his time with the Aggies…Only the fifth center in NCAA Division 1-A history to start every game in a career (joining Bryan Stoltenburg of Colorado, Courtney Hall of Rice, Chris Lorenti of Central Florida and Matt Hancock of New Mexico State)…Also excels in the classroom, earning Academic All-American honors…Carried on the family tradition of starring for Texas A&M, as his brother, Jason, was a standout offensive lineman for the Aggies (1994-97) and now stars for the Indianapolis Colts…Set a school record with a 401-pound power clean lift.
REMINDS YOU OF… Kevin Mawae, New York Jets. His foot speed is just like the Jets pivot man-blazing.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… With two McKinneys already on their offensive line, in a perfect world, Seth joins the Houston Texans and the McKinney's form their own Wyatt Earp presence in protecting franchise QB David Carr.
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Mentally and physically tough player with the explosive first step needed to gain advantage coming off the snap…Shows good hand technique and punch to rock the defenders back…Plays at the proper pad level on traps, hitting with force on the pull…Loves to mix it up with linebackers in the open, taking good angles to get to the defender with a head of steam… Stays active and keeps his feet flat when sliding back to pick up the blitz…Smart player who makes all the blocking calls upfront…Can also handle deep snapping duties in an emergency.
Negatives: Shows some stiffness in his lower body when trying to position…Tends to slide off blocks after the initial hit…Lacks the lower leg drive to wall off and seal on running plays…Gets overextended, at times, when engaging the larger defenders in pass protection.
True warrior who plays with a "take no prisoners" approach to his game…Moved into the starting lineup as a freshman and has dominated the action in the trenches ever since… Started every game (35) he's ever played in for the Wildcats.
Positives: Has the initial burst off the snap to get to the second level quickly…Does a nice job of extending his arms to seal and sustain…Comes out of his stance with his hands right into the defender's chest…Shows good hip explosion to neutralize the double team… Moves his feet and has the hip snap needed to wall off while maintaining position…Takes proper angles and makes the right body adjustments when getting to the second level to neutralize the linebackers…Shows good knee bend and the proper leg base in pass protection…Keeps his balance when redirecting and moves his feet to mirror the defender's moves…Has a sudden lateral slide…Plays with an aggressive attitude and will not hesitate to confront teammates who blow assignments.
Negatives: Needs better overall body development, as he lacks muscle tone and is soft around the midsection…Has to stay low in his stance as a drive blocker or he will suddenly lose leverage…Looks like he's off-balance pulling, but quickly recovers his feet.
Two-year starter who also has experience at offensive guard…Very aggressive lineman who excels at picking up the blitz…Since taking over the center position, the offense has gained 11,615 yards in 25 contests, an average of 464.6 yards per game.
Positives: Displays very quick hands for the snap, getting his mitts up in an instant into the defender's chest…Shows good agility moving out to sustain blocks and stay with the defender… Shows suddenness moving down the line to reach the trap…Has the open area speed to get to the second level to neutralize the linebackers…Uses his hands effectively to reset and deliver several counter punches throughout the play…Team leader who easily picks up the stunts… Shows a solid work ethic.
Negatives: While he has good power behind his hand punch, he tends to "short arm" (delivers only glancing blows at times)…Gets overextended trying to reach out for the defender, taking him off-balance…Needs to stand more flat-footed to prevent getting knocked off stride…Holds his ground in drive blocks, but him imbalance will lead him to fall of blocks…Gets out of control and trips over his feet retreating in pass protection… Struggles to slide laterally…Impressive weight room figures do not translate to the field.
Two-year starter who anchored a formidable offensive line…Actually was recruited as an inside linebacker, but as he continued to grow, the team shifted him to the offensive front wall during his redshirt freshman campaign…Including bowl games, he started the team's final 24 contests.
Positives: Well-developed in the lower body…Has the frame that could add at least twenty-five pounds with no loss in foot speed…Very quick off the snap, showing true agility in his body movements…Uses his strong leg drive and explosive momentum to wash out the defensive tackles in isolated coverage…Very effective pulling and leading on sweeps, displaying the speed to easily neutralize linebackers at the second level…Shows good space movement, as he is always looking for defenders to hit down field…Strong up top, getting his hands to rise quickly in order to punch and steer the defenders away… Maintains balance in the open and shows awareness dropping back to pick up the blitz.
Negatives: Has had problems maintaining his weight (has dropped to under 260 during the season)…Relies more on his quickness and hand punch, as he lacks the bulk to explode into defenders on contact…Lacks the power needed to get movement on incline blocks…May be better suited as a blocking tight end, if he can not manage to gain much needed bulk…Has problems anchoring vs. the bull rush, overextending and lunging at defenders to compensate for lack of size…Gets a little narrow with his leg base at times, letting defenders rock him back on his heels…Relies more on positioning, his blocking angles and quickness to turn defenders rather than brute force.
Possibly the fastest offensive lineman in the country, boasting a 4.77 clocking in the 40-yard dash…Extremely valuable to the Wildcats, as his versatility has allowed him to fill in at every offensive line position over the years…Two-year starter who projects to center at the pro level, but his quickness could garner him a look at tight end.
Positives: Barrel-chested with a thick, wide proportionate body…Flashes a strong hand jolt coming out of his stance and shows good leg drive exploding into the defender…Has the hip swerve and foot agility to wall off and seal…Maintains his base and opens his hips properly in his drive blocking technique…Shows good knee bend and lateral slide in pass protection, mirroring the defender's moves…Effective shot gun snapper…Very smart athlete who calls all of the team's blocking schemes.
Negatives: Little late at times coming off the ball, losing advantage when trying to seal…Lacks consistency with his hands, delivering a crunching jolt one play and then getting rocked back on his heels the next because he did not extend his arms to prevent the defender from getting into his chest…Has to play at a lower pad level, as he tends to get too upright, resulting in the defender taking him to the ground…Stays active looking for someone to hit at the second level, but looks lost trying to locate and land in space…Has a narrow leg base, which causes him to lose balance…When he does not deliver a hand punch and tries to catch the defender instead, he takes too many arm swipes and generally will miss…Over-extends at times in his pass set, opening the door for the defender to get to the quarterback due to him being late to slide and contain.
The only returning starter on an offensive line that graduated six seniors in 2000, he has been the front wall's anchor from the center position the last three years…Joined Stanford's Brian Allen as the only players to earn both All-Pac 10 Conference and Academic All-Pac 10 first-team honors in 2001…Has been a major reason for the offense's tremendous success under the Rick Neuheisel era.