By Dave Te Thomas
For the first time in memory, the depth at offensive tackle is non-evident. Most of the linemen brought into the Combines were guards and centers, as only fourteen tackles received invites. Still, the marquee linemen expected to go in the first few picks reside here. A furor developed at the Combines when several team doctors put the red flag on Mike Williams due to anterior cruciate ligament problems. Despite showing up thirty pounds over his playing weight, he is regarded by some as the premier lineman in the draft. Not if Bryant McKinnie has his say. McKinnie has had less than awaesome workouts back on campus, but anyone that reviews the film on this kid can see that he is blue chip all the way.
Chester Pitts is a physical drive blocker who elevated his stock in the off-season. Along with Langston Walker, they are the best tackles among the West Coast crowd. They will probably be joined by Reggie Coleman as tackles going at the end of the first day.
The draft's second day will feature the likes of Matt Hill, a lighter than ideal pass protector with a large wingspan. One of the best right tackles in the game, Joaquin Gonzalez, was mysteriously not invited to the Combines, but is still expected to go in the mid-rounds. Michael Collins saw his stock take a dip with a less than stellar week in practices at the Blue-Gray Game. Artis Hicks was another tackle that did not fare well in post-season competition, but his leg drive will keep him in the mid-round picture. Scouts feel that both Hicks and Gonzalez are better suited for offensive guard.
Later in the draft, Tyson Walter, Kyle Kosier, Konrad Dean, Kurt Vollers and Doug Kaufisi will all hear their names called. Former defensive tackle Mike Aderle and Jon Erickson could be priority free agents with strong chances to make the grade in the pros.
MAKING THE GRADE…B-…If not for Bryant McKinnie and Mike Williams, this position's overall grade would have been failing.
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Outstanding athlete with long arms and tremendous quickness for his size… Natural knee bender who backpedals fluidly in pass protection, taking full advantage of his big chest, powerful arms, wide hips and thick thighs to easily wall off the defender…All-out battler with a solid work ethic…Rolls his hips and slides his feet well retreating in pass protection…Shows the explosion off the snap to easily seal the corner…Smooth making contact when firing upfield to neutralize the linebackers…Has the speed to get into second gear and excels at cutting off the linebackers upfield…Very active going after other defenders after the initial block…Will deliver the crunching hand punch to keep defenders on their heels and has excellent lateral agility…Focused drive blocker who simply knocks over defenders with true aggression…Shows impressive agility redirecting to the inside… Generates movement, firing low to take the defender off his feet… Knows how to extend his arms and take proper blocking angles to prevent the bull rush.
Negatives: Needs to maintain his weight, as added bulk in the past caused lateral agility problems…Will overextend and lunge at the opponent sometimes when blocking inline (generally vs. the smaller, quicker defenders)…Needs to play at a lower pad level to get more explosion off the snap, but has the foot agility to compensate for his high stance… Not always quick to pick up stunts, but has good recovery skills…Has good, but not brute strength (365-pound bench press) and could use additional time in the weight room.
Considered by many to be the best offensive lineman in the nation…The transfer from Lackawana Junior College has simply dominated the competition in his two years stationed at the demanding left tackle position…Holds the distinction of never allowing a quarterback sack since beginning to play football in high school.
REMINDS YOU OF… Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore Ravens. If for no other reason than he's made the reach block an art form.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… For my money, he's the best prospect in this draft at any position, but hey, what do I know, right? The teams are spending too much time overanalyzing his recent workouts rather than watching this human blocking machine on film. To truly appreciate his awesome ability, pull up the Syracuse game and see the way he simply engulfed All-American Dwight Freeney. 'Nuff said.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Wide-body type with a thick chest and big arms…Has that quick twitch movement ability coming out of his stance, showing nimble feet and good hand rise & explosion…Hits the defenders instantly coming off the ball, delivering power behind his arm swipes…Gains position and sustains blocks with a wide leg base and arms extended…Has the leg drive to steer and pin block the defender…Shows very good knee bend for a player his size…Shows the agility to pull and accelerate at the point of attack… Uses his hands properly to turn the defender and makes smooth adjustments in space to cut off and wall off the linebackers…Very quick to set and extend his hands, delivering a forecful punch and jab on the pass rusher…Has the lateral slide needed to recover when changing direction…Competes and works hard in the weight room…Works well with the offensive guard in picking up stunts with ease…Shuffles his feet well setting up in pass protection.
Negatives: Needs to get his weight to the 340-pound area in order to maintain stamina…Relies more on power than technique, lacking the true explosion you would want from someone his size coming off the snap…Needs to improve his footwork a bit, as he seems hesitant redirecting to inside moves…Will punch and jab at defenders rather than trying to push off…Has good trap block ability, but has not been used much to pull…Overextends at times, but has the quickness to recover.
Physical, athletic and intelligent lineman who developed into one of the nation's premier offensive tackles in 2001…Dominating blocker who is unbelievably light on his feet for his size…"The sky's the limit for Mike and he has a chance to be one of the great ones," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said…Moved into the starting lineup at right tackle in the later part of his sophomore year…Has allowed only two quarterback sacks in 28 career starts.
REMINDS YOU OF… Leonard Davis, Arizona Cardinals. As impressive as Davis was in 2000, Williams actually outplayed his former teammate.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Too much is being made of his knee injury. Even more stink is being made over his massive frame, but look at the job Leonard Davis did. This guy is a clone.
Positives: Massive player with a very long arm reach…Flashes a quick first step out of his stance…Shows explosion on the rise and impressive lateral agility for a player of his size…Works his hips properly to put the defender away in the chase route…Gets good movement heading upfield and keeps his feet flat-footed to maintain position at the point of attack…Shows excellent kick, slide and mirror capabilities as a pass protector…Keeps a low base, displaying proper knee bend to seal off the outside rush…Knows how to use his hands forcefully to control and lock out the defender…Despite his frame, he recovers quickly when beaten.
Negatives: Very soft around the midsection and needs to dedicate himself to a better conditioning program and improve his eating habits than he has done in the past…Even with his foot speed, he appears sluggish getting to the second level…Lacks a strong finishing move and struggles to recognize stunts…Gets too high in his stance when trying to drive block, narrowing his base in the process…Needs to get his weight in check, as he could lose more than twenty pounds in order to increase stamina.
One of the biggest offensive linemen in the country, he made a quick recovery from a broken ankle suffered midway through the 2000 season…A rededication in the weight room and on the nutrition front has seen him greatly increase his strength over the past few years…Vocal leader who did not allow a quarterback sack since early in his junior campaign.
REMINDS YOU OF… Willie Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals. Much like Anderson, Walker possesses those sudden moves off the snap and shows tremendous foot speed for a player of his size.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… People tend to look at Cal's sorry record this year and think that Walker was to blame. The fact is, he was the lone bright spot on a team filled with misery.
Positives: Large-frame lineman with broad shoulders, long arms and the frame to carry at least 25 pounds more without a loss of speed…Plays very physical and is known for his nasty nature…Has the size needed to cover up and sustain the pass rushers…Keeps his balance on the move and appears fluid working in space…Shows patience vs. the pass rush and has the upper body power to maul his opponent…Plays flat-footed with a smooth lateral slide…Comes off the snap quickly with hands extended to grab and push (has a Conrad Dobler mentality, will cheat to gain advantage).
Negatives: Personable, but has that "California surfer" mentality…Struggles to gain advantage after delivering his initial moves, for despite his size and power, he seems to prefer leaning into the defender rather than attacking with aggression…Plays too high coming out of his stance, quickly losing leverage…Needs to work on his blocking angles, as he does not always adjust when on the move…Will over-extend when attempting to get to the linebackers at the second level…Has problems bending his knees, negating his wide leg base, resulting in the quicker edge rushers getting by him…Must learn how to use his hands better, as he lacks the punch needed to jolt and sustain.
Two-year starter who began his career as a defensive end…Shifted to offensive guard as a redshirt freshman before moving to tackle the following year…Impressive-looking lineman whose added experience helped him have an impact with the Irish…Boasts the size and potential to continue his development as solid offensive-line prospect at the next level.
REMINDS YOU OF… Edward Ellis, San Diego Chargers. Has impressive size, but is more of a looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane type.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Notre Dame linemen generally peak in college. He has not reached that state yet, but his lackadaisical attitude leaves me wondering if he will ever apply himself.
First Day Possibilities
Positives: Tough, very aggressive player who was the unquestioned team leader…Has that sudden burst out of his stance needed to gain instant leverage on the defender…Shows great leg drive and hand extension, delivering a crunching hand jolt to get under the defender's pads and sustain…Drives forward with force, consistently moving the pile…Demonstrates excellent arm extension, walling off his man while keeping his feet flat and his base narrow…His quickness and leg drive allow him to engulf linebackers as he fires out to the second level…Follows through with his hand punch to insure the defender will not make the play…Shows the lateral agility and slide to be very effective leading on sweeps…Quick in his retreat, showing proper wingspan form to pick up the blitz…Works well with the guards to pick up the stunts…Has an almost "Hunter Hearst Helmsley" attitude with the way he wrestles defenders to the ground…Has the recognition skills to easily pick up the moving targets off the edge.
Negatives: There are few flaws in his game, but he could be a devastating blocker if he can add and maintain at least twenty-five pounds on his frame…Opens his hips a little too much when attempting to anchor…Tends to lean into defenders late in the game (stamina), staying too upright in his stance…Must increase his short area power in order to handle the larger NFL linemen…Needs to increase his lower body strength.
Athletic offensive lineman who took over leadership on a line that lost three starters to graduation prior to 2001…Two-year starter with the versatility and skills to play either tackle position…Did not allow a quarterback sack in twenty games as a starter.
REMINDS YOU OF… Steve Wisniewski, ex-Raider. I know Wisniewski is a guard, but Colombo has the same aggressive "balls to the walls" type of attitude.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… I love McKinnie, but if I was a general manager, I'd take Colombo over any other lineman outside of the Hurricane terror.
Positives: Physical Versatile in-line drive blocker who has the leg drive to generate movement off the snap…Uses his hands well to turn his man…Shows the quickness to seal the corner…Plays with good knee bend, anchoring firmly vs. the rush…Picks up stunts well & redirects fluidly… Works to finish & maintains balance vs. the power charge…Shows the ability to fire out low, generate movement & swing his hips around to seal…Battles with excellent leverage and powerful leg drive…Very active away from the play, showing excellent angle awareness…Tough pass protector with quick feet and superb hand usage…Protects his outside well, displaying the lateral agility to fire out and sustain blocks…Extends his arms and bends his knees properly when riding an inside move past the quarterback.
Negatives: Lacks ideal bulk…"Short arms" at times, as he is inconsistent on his hand set and punch…Will impact on the edge, but needs added upper body strength in order to dominate when turning his man…Shows good kick and slide movements off the snap, but appears a little sluggish changing direction when working in space.
A redshirt junior, who graduated with a degree in Business Administration (12/2001), he established himself as one of the nation's premier offensive tackles last fall…Received the offensive unit's leadership award in 2001…Two-time Southeastern Conference Academic Team selection…Played in 33 games, starting 31 contests while performing in 2547 snaps.
REMINDS YOU OF… Kenyata Walker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like his former team- mate, patience is a virtue here, as he will need time to adjust to pro life.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Pearson has a lot of promise, but getting thrown to the wolves as a rookie could hamper his progress. Just look what happened to Walker.
Positives: Has a good frame with big muscle development in the upper chest and arms…Gets off the line quickly to gain advantage…Comes off the rise with a strong initial jolt, using his hands properly to redirect…Shows sudden force with surge…Maintains position on the defender, generating movement to sustain his blocks…Has the foot agility to kick and slide in pass protection…Stays up and has the foot agility to take out the linebacker when reaching the second level…Shows ease-of-movement and quickness playing down the line to deliver the trap block…Delivers a crunching hand punch that almost always gains him separation.
Negatives: Vulnerable to the outside loop on stunts, as he tends to slide inside too long… While he delivers a good hand punch, he needs to do it on a more consistent basis…Will over-set at times.
Two-year starter with a tremendous work ethic…One of the best trap blockers in the game, he did not allow a quarterback sack in 21 games as a starter…Could also play offensive guard…Had originally joined the team as a walk-on…Intelligent athlete who also excelled in track…Registered fifteen touchdown-resulting blocks in his last two seasons.
REMINDS YOU OF… Bob Whitfield, Atlanta Falcons. Self-made player who will run down field as far as he can go, just to get a piece of the defender.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If moved inside to guard, he could be a Pro Bowler within a few years. More than makes up for a lack of true tackle height with his tenacious play.
Positives: Hard worker with a sturdy lower body frame…Hits explosively and creates movement off the snap…Stays with the play well, showing proper arm extension and foot shuffling ability… Bends his knees and has a wide leg base, displaying a fluid retreat setting up in pass protection… Maintains balance and gets his hands up quickly to sustain and gain leverage vs. the bull rush… Does a nice job of using his size and arm power to redirect…Flashes the ability to sustain and slide his feet in pass protection.
Negatives: For all of his power, he rarely shows aggression…Needs to play at a lower pad level as his upright stance causes defenders to quickly get their hands into his chest…Has to develop a nastier disposition, as he seems to make only passive attempts at mauling his opponent…Has a soft body, despite his strength…Falls off the plays late and is more of a "belly surfer," losing his feet and falling to the ground in his attempts to neutralize the linebackers upfield…Has marginal quickness working in space and struggles to adjust to the defender on the move…Needs to generate a more forceful hand punch, as he prefers to only maintain contact rather than jolt… Does not recognize rip-&-swim moves and falls off some when the defenders twist by…Has to be more conscious of the play developing, as he frequently is called off-sides…Does not have the foot agility to consistently defend the edge.
Two-year starter at left offensive tackle who is one of the strongest players on the team… Has been hampered by nagging injuries during his career, but still managed to start 22 of his final 24 games.
REMINDS YOU OF… Todd Weiner, Atlanta Falcons. Like Weiner, he just comes to play. His lower leg drive is his biggest asset.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Injuries have set him back throughout his career, but when healthy, he's provided excellent pass protection for the Vols.
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Has the frame to easily add more bulk with no loss of quickness…One of the few offensive linemen that you will find with enough quickness to play on the kickoff return unit… Reaches and seals the outside with good technique and is seldom beaten by the pass rush (no sacks in two years on offense)…Plays under control, keeping his leg base wide to maintain balance, working his hips properly to wall off and force the chase route…Gets movement on the double team and can locate and land, pulling with speed in the short area…Gets to the second level with ease to cut off and force the path of the defender…Shows good knee bend as he mirrors the rusher's moves in pass protection… Displays excellent hand punch and recoil, picking up stunts.
Negatives: Will over-set in pass protection at times, but quickly recovers…Plays a little upright at times, but due to his foot speed and balance, he quickly recovers…Needs to add at least twenty more pounds to his frame.
Three-year starter, lining up at offensive tackle the last two seasons after starting at defensive tackle during his sophomore campaign…One of the quickest blockers in the country, he did not allow a quarterback sack in his two seasons on offense…Played in 24 games on offense and 17 contests on defense.
Positives: Thick-framed athlete with long arms and solid thighs…Shows initial quickness in his movements off the snap, getting his hands up with force on his rise to lock into the defender's chest and gain leverage…Makes good use of his arms, taking proper blocking angles to seal and sustain…Gets good leg drive on drive blocks, staying low in his stance to grab and control the defender…Very smooth in his set and slide, mirroring the edge rusher's moves while properly bending his knees and keeping his weight back.
Negatives: Seems to jog and go through the motions moving downfield, as he does not readily adjust in the second level…Lacks awareness in protecting the backside…Needs to show more consistency fighting to the finish with his blocks…Looks smooth and balanced working in the short areas, but struggles at times vs. the speed rush and counters…Needs to work on his body control, as he fails to redirect…Carries a heavy hand and can jolt, but is unable to recover and sustain his blocks.
Two-year starter who missed the 1999 season due to foot and knee injuries…Quiet leader who paced a strong rushing attack, averaging six knockdownds per game in 22 games as a starter.
Positives: Has that initial quickness you look for in a lineman, in order to gain an advantage coming off the snap…Delivers a powerful hand punch and explosive leg drive coming out of his stance…Has the upfield speed and aggressiveness to consistently drill the linebackers downfield…Plays with the patience of a chess master, letting the defender frustrate himself as he mirrors his opponent's moves…Sinks his hips and slides well laterally in pass protection… Effective trap blocker who knows how to open his hips to gain that extra step moving down the line…Changes directions fluidly to counter the pass rusher and has a sharp change of direction to get through the trash.
Negatives: Falls off his blocks early, but has the quickness to recover and cover up the defender…Needs to develop better hand usage as he separates too quickly after the initial hit… Will body block at times, but has the size to wall off the defender.
Exceptionally gifted player who shows true aggression on the field and a gentle nature off of it…Tenacious blocker who thrives on facing up against the best competition the Atlantic Coast Conference has to offer…Has started every game (38) he's played in for the Demon Deacons.
Positives: Well-built with the ability to add more bulk to his frame…Has the functional power needed to gain instant leverage coming off the snap…Makes a solid effort to stick with his blocks…Maintains position, using his leg drive and hand punch to wall off and finish…Has the athletic agility to accelerate to the edge and seal up inside…Shows proper footwork and hand usage dropping back in pass protection…Picks up stunts and blitzes quickly…Sustains his blocks once he engages…Sets with leverage, using his hands to gain separation…Has ideal foot to kick-&-slide while making adjustments in the second level…Keeps his feet moving to follow through as he steps up to neutralize the line-backers.
Negatives: While he can accelerate upfield quickly, he is not the most gifted athletically, appearing to lack good balance and body control…Makes good contact, but lacks explosion coming off the snap…Better as an incline blocker, working well in limited space…Needs to add bulk to his frame…Shoulder surgery after the 2000 season needs further evaluation.
Two-year starter who has the versatility and skills to play either guard or tackle…Tough, reliable blocker who gets the most out of his ability…Started the last 23 games for the Sun Devils.
Positives: Combative drive blocker who shows good initial quickness and body control, with proper knee bend coming out of his stance…Keeps a wide leg base and spreads his arms to effectively seal off the outside rush…Uses his upper body strength to outmuscle defenders on running plays…Does a nice job of moving his feet and maintaining a proper blocking angle on the defenders…Makes good adjustments on the move…Sets up quickly, bends his knees and delivers a hard hand jolt retreating in pass protection…Stays with the rusher once he makes contact.
Negatives: Needs to show more assertiveness with the physical pass rushers…Gets too upright in his stance at times, allowing defenders to get their hands in his chest…Will shy away from the more aggressive bull rushers…While a good performer in the weight room, he lacks the lower leg strength and drive to effectively maintain position vs. the straight-ahead charge…Quick to pick up the edge rushers, but will overextend at times, causing him to lose balance.
Returned to the gridiron in explosive fashion as a senior after missing the entire 2000 campaign due to a back infection…Versatile blocker with experience at both tackle and guard…Started a school record 49 straight games for the Buckeyes…Three-time member of the Big Ten Conference's All-Academic team.
Positives: Has a big frame with the potential to add more bulk with no loss of quickness… Has the balance and arm rise coming out of his stance to quickly hook the defender… Shows good hand punch on the rise, gaining movement off the line while staying low in his stance…Maintains his wide leg base to sustain blocks and keeps his feet moving properly to wall off and seal when pulling for the ground game…Shows impressive lateral agility for a player of his size…Comes off his blocks with good hand placement…Shows awareness picking up stunts and blitzes…Plays the game flat-footed and has the short area quickness needed to get to the second level…Always looking to cut and seal when adjusting to linebackers upfield…Has proper knee bend in pass protection and flashes the ability to kick and slide to mirror the defender's moves…Pulls aggressively and shows very active hands setting up to protect the edge…Works to finish his blocks and is very fluid in his change of direction agility.
Negatives: Tends to play out of control at times (see 2001 Brigham Young game) and must show more patience, as he tends to overextend, lunge and lean into contact when facing the quicker edge rushers…Needs to be prodded to work in the weight room…Has good knee bend, but will revert to bending at the waist, causing him to narrow his base a bit…Struggles to maintain contact with the defenders on screens, having a hard time locating his target in space…Yields too much ground when reach blocking, but does maintain his aggressiveness…Slow at times to generate pop coming out of his stance, as he does not always get his weight out in front of him…Has a tendency to generate foolish penalties (will head butt at times)…Susceptible to spin moves and counters due to his slow feet…Can be rocked back on his heels when trying to prevent the surge, but does regain his anchor…Despite his size, he is anything but a mauler.
Former defensive end who has been a starter on the offensive line at left tackle since midway through his freshman year…Has a family history with the Utes, as brothers Henry, Jeff, and Jason all played at Utah and another brother, Steve, served as the team's defensive line coach…Signed with the school in 1994 before spending the 1995-96 seasons on a church mission to Florida before playing collegiate football.
Positives: Great athlete with the size, speed and aggressiveness needed to develop into a blue chip pass protector…Gets proper position on his man and shows the agility to fire out to neutralize the defender's spin moves…Spreads his legs and gets his arms up quickly to easily handle multiple rush moves…Has quick feet and good balance moving out to the second level…Knows how to use his hand punch to get into the defender's chest and gain leverage…Uses his size effectively to wall off defenders and displays the foot agility to slide laterally…Superb space blocker who maintains his balance hitting on the move…Stays low in his stance and keeps his feet flat-footed with arms extended to neutralize the edge rush.
Negatives: Still learning proper blocking angles and techniques, as he has only one year of offensive experience…While he slides his feet properly, he looks awkward when moving laterally, allowing his base to get too narrow…Struggles vs. counter moves, as he tends to lean a bit into his man.
Emerging star who found a home on the offensive line as a senior after performing on the opposite side earlier in his career…Matt has tremendous size and strength…The four-year letter-winner was also a member of the Golden Gopher basketball team as a back-up center in 2000-2001.