This edition of BTB's draft mailbag returns to our resident draft expert Longball's sweet spot: the offensive line. Member 1Bullseye writes in to ask: about some lightly-touted O-line prospects, the kinds of guys who, when they are picked--as Norm Hitzges exclaims, "ohhhh, that's a gooood pick!"--have mere draft mortals like the rest of us scratching our heads and running to our draft guides.
Well, here's your chance to wow your friends and impress girls with your seemingly endless fount of draft knowledge: more info on the bouncing behemoth ballet, the dancers in the trenches. I've taken snippets from some of the leading draft pundits to preface Longball's sage analysis. But, before you move on to this cornucopia of draft punditry, I would be remiss were I not to remind you that, should you have a burning draft-related question for Longball or any of BTB's front-page writers, you should send it to BTBmailbag@gmail.com.
And now, on to the show:
1Bullseye: How do you rate these OL prospects, why, and what round do you see them being taken in?
1. OT (OG?) Derek Newton, Arkansas State:
National Football Post: A nice, long, lean kid who has some good range. But, lacks great strength potential through his hips and doesn't seem much more than a late round/FA type developmental guy.
Pro Football Weekly: Can clock on and steer defenders out of the hole. Can anchor and hold ground in pass protection. Appeared athletic moving through positional drills at the Combine. Works hard, plays hard and is motivated to succeed.
Longball: Newton is one of my "dark-horse" favorites and has the length that James Carpenter lacks to match with good footwork. The competition in the Sun Belt Conference has improved – he will probably be available in the 5th round and with development, will be a solid OT on either side of the line.
More O-line dark horses after the break...2. OT (is he an OG?) David Mims, Mount Union:
NFP: Physically the guy has the size, strength and athleticism to play in the league and is dripping with upside. Is going to take some time, but is an ideal later-round developmental guy who could really catch fire with some time.
Longball: Quite frankly, I don’t have Mims graded at OG – he will strictly be a ROT and will have to be "coached up" to maintain a low center of gravity with his legs. His first move is straight up, and while he overpowered opponents in the FCS, that won’t cut it in the NFL. Some team may take a flyer on him in the 7th, but he will probably be UDFA.
3. OT/ OG Byron Stingily, Louisville:
NFP: Isn't real physical and doesn't quite seem to have the athleticism to make up for it. Is a guy who I would take a shot on as a developmental tackle.
PFW: Raw, developmental left tackle project who will need time to develop and gain a better feel for the game. Athletic, finesse-type, positional blocker.
Longball: He had an outstanding Pro Day and is obviously a good athlete for a man his size – but that did not always translate to his game tape. I have him graded as a 6th round prospect and would probably look at him at OG – his speed will probably translate more to pulling than it does on his kick-slide against outside rushers.
4. OT Willie Smith, East Carolina:
NFP: Is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Possesses an excellent frame, is a gifted athlete and bends extremely well for the position. Needs some time to develop, but I definitely see this guy with starting ability if he continues to improve.
PFW: Appeared very athletic and light on his feet moving through positional drills at the Combine. Plays with good knee bend and balance. Alert to stunts and games. Smart with good work ethic and solid character. Has a passion for the game.
Longball: Another one of my "dark-horse" favorites, Smith could be a better LOT than ROT – I like his footwork and East Carolina passed the ball a lot. Once again, he will either be a 7th round flyer or have to go through the UDFA process, but he might be a prospect worth developing.
And now to a guy who can't really be considered a dark horse:
5. OT James Carpenter, Alabama:
The Sporting News: Carpenter has uncommon strength to compete for a starting left tackle spot at the next level. If he improves his hand usage, Carpenter eventually could be a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
ESPN: Blocks through the whistle and can get under defenders' skin. Flashes a mean streak and not just a wall-off blocker but not a traditional mauler that brings it on every down either.
PFW: A fairly athletic, positional wall-off blocker who has shown well in the post-season and improved his draft standing by showing that he could handle playing left guard or tackle. Has starter potential and versatility is a plus.
Longball: I have Carpenter graded as a 3rd round prospect – he has the footwork to play LOT, but not the length you like to see. I see him as a ROT and think he would be an outstanding OG.
Rabble: The National Football Post reports here that Carpenter has eight visits scheduled with NFL teams; with that level of interest, I doubt he'll last much beyond the Cowboys third round pick (# 71).
It seems like there are two general profiles for late-round linemen: less athletic guys from major conferences (see: Sam Young) or more athletic guys with injury histories, bad tape or small-school backgrounds. While I certainly see the benefit of drafting players with starting experience against elite competition, guys like Young are closer to their ceiling when they are drafted, so the team that drafts them is much more likely to know what it's getting. You can't say that about any of these guys, except probably Carpenter.
However, one of these guys just might end up being this year's Jahri Evans--a small-school dude (Evans went to little-known Bloomsburg) who, judging by his 2010 Pro-Bowl recognition (and subsequent mighty contract), has a much higher ceiling than the Sam Youngs of the world. The late rounds are a high-risk venture anyway. Give me high-risk with an opportunity for high reward.