This is a date that has the potential to be a great day for the future of the Dallas Cowboys. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, they will be playing football like they do most fall Saturdays; however, on this particular day, five of the top offensive line prospects will share the same field. After the jump, I will take a look at four of them. In all likelihood, one of them will be a top five pick so he will be out of reach for the 'Boys. The team does have a shot at drafting the other four men, so we will focus on them.
First up is new BTB favorite Barrett Jones. The redshirt senior is probably the best all-around offensive lineman in this year's draft. During his career at Alabama, he has seen game action at all five line positions and started at three of them. His first two seasons for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide saw Jones start at right guard. During spring ball before his junior season, the Tide struggled to find a starter at left tackle so Saban turned to Barrett, who filled the role for 10 games. This year, Barrett Jones moved back inside to play center.
Due to his 6'5", 302-pound frame, Jones will play either guard or center in the NFL. Not only is the 2011 Outland Trophy winner a naturally talented player, he is also a very intelligent one, both on and off the field. In the classroom, Jones carries a 4.0 GPA and completed his accounting degree in three years. This spring he will graduate with his masters degree and take the CPA exam. On the field, Coach Saban claims that Jones is the type of player who insists on knowing the how and why of not only his job, but the entire offense. This bodes well for him becoming the signal caller of an NFL line.
Next to Jones on the Alabama line is the man who Todd McShay says is the best pure guard since Steve Hutchinson. His name is Chance Warmack. At 6' 3" and 320, the senior is in his fourth year as the Tide's starting left guard. In return for his efforts last year, Warmack was selected as an honorable mention All American by Pro Football Weekly and he is an SI preseason 1st team All American for this year. During the first three years of his college career, Chance helped block for 16 100-yard rushing efforts and helped lead two different running backs to serious Heisman Trophy consideration, including one winner of the award. According to Coach Saban, for the first part of his career, Warmack quietly flew beneath the radar but by the end of the year he will be talked about as much as David DeCastro was last year. McShay has a similar opinion. His most recent list of pro prospects has Chance Warmack listed as the 2nd best player in the country behind only LSU's Barkevious Mingo.
Alabama also features a top notch right tackle who is likely to come out this season. 6'6" and 335-pounds redshirt junior D.J Fluker already has the size and ability to start in the NFL. As a freshman, he started 9 games for the Tide and missed 4 more starts due to a groin injury. The injury was not enough to keep him from making the SEC All Freshman team that year. Out of high school he was one of the top prospects in the nation, but the South Alabama country boy chose to stay close to home even though as the number 8 OT in the country he had his choice of programs. Saban says that Fluker is a perfectionist on the field and that he demands the same from his linemates. He also adds that the young man plays the game with the enthusiasm of a little kid. The best indication of Fluker's growth is the once quiet young man has grown into the vocal leader on the 'Bama offense.
Not to be outdone, the Texas Aggies will arrive in Tuscaloosa with the two best starting tackles in the country. Luke Joeckel could be the first overall pick in the draft, so unless Jerry and Stephen pull a bigger deal than last year, he is out of the question. If we finish the season in a position to take him, it will not matter to us because BTB will have gone the way of Jim Jones cult members. On the other hand, the right tackle has the potential to wear the star.
Jake Matthews is the son of Hall Of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews. He may be the best natural strongside tackle in the country this season. At 6'5" and 305, Matthews will have to add some weight to play tackle in the NFL. He already possesses the strength and physicality to handle the position. He is a dominant run blocker for the Aggies and last year was a cornerstone of an offensive line that allowed only nine sacks in 13 games while also setting a school record for passing yards. He is considered too heavy-footed to make the transition to the left side, but with some additional weight, he is a prototypical strongside tackle. After both his freshman and sophomore years, Matthews was named honorable mention all Big 12 and this year he is a 3rd team all SEC preseason selection. Right now it is unclear if he will return to College Station or forgo his last year of eligibility.
All told this SEC match-up will put half of the top ten offensive linemen on the field at the same time. I know that here at BTB we will be thrilled to hear the Cowboys call any one of their names come draft day. In a best possible case scenario, I would love to hear Jones in the first and Matthews in the second round. In fact, there is a good chance that most of us would need a 12 step program for Koolaid addicts if that were to happen.
Jerry, make it so.