When the 20th pick of the NFL Draft comes up Thursday, there is one position most fans would be surprised about the Cardinals selecting — interior offensive linemen.
While there are question marks at right guard and Lyle Sendlein has not necessarily been dominant at the center position, most people would agree there are more pressing concerns that need answering in round one of the 2014 draft.
That doesn’t mean the Arizona Cardinals will not be taking an interior offensive lineman, as general manager Steve Keim has said numerous times building along the offensive and defensive lines is the key to having and maintaining a good team.
Here’s a look at some of the best interior offensive linemen this draft has to offer.
Marcus Martin, C, USC – 6-3, 320 lbs.
A name that has not received a ton of first-round recognition, Martin is a prospect that should intrigue many teams because of his size and versatility.
Martin is a massive prospect for a center at 320 pounds. He carries his weight extremely well and has a thick, powerful lower body.
Martin does an excellent job of getting out of his stance with a pop, delivering a blow and latching on and driving his man.
He’s agile in pass protection, with good side-to-side movement skills and long arms to keep defenders at bay.
He needs to work on staying on blocks in the run game as well as delivering the same type of violent pop in pass protection, as he can be a catcher too often.
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA – 6-4, 307 lbs.
Maybe the mostly oddly-shaped guard prospect, the pear-bodied Su’a-Filo is a menacing, powerful and light-footed guard prospect who has even had some time at the tackle position.
Su’a-Filo moves with a fury off the line of scrimmage and delivers jarringly strong hits against the defensive linemen.
One of the more powerful prospects to come out over the last several years, Su’a-Filo is has a natural strength to his game that shows up on film when watching him in run blocking.
Su’a-Filo can be slightly wild with his blocking at times and he doesn’t use his athleticism well.
In pass pro, he understands hand placement well, and uses his strong hands to negate initial rushes from interior linemen. But he has a tendency to stop his feet after initial contact and get beat on secondary moves.
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State – 6-4, 298 lbs.
The undersized, feisty Richburg is a dynamo in pass protection. He is one of the smartest prospects to come out in years at diagnosing the defensive fronts and calling out protections.
He plays with a great ability to find and get to pass rushers on blitzes as well as a surprisingly strong anchor against head-up rushers. His ability to stay low off the ball and keep his pads square to the line of scrimmage is an offensive line coach’s dream.
In the run game, Richburg is more of a leaner than a driver because he is undersized, but he gets into and turns defenders consistently, even if he doesn’t move them off the line of scrimmage.
He excels at getting to the second level, where he can get into linebackers and is very good at getting contact on players at the second level.
Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman – 6-4, 313 lbs.
Dozier is a thickly-built, powerful former small-school tackle prospect that looks like he should be kicking inside to guard at the NFL level.
Dozier was a bully in the FCS, as he relied heavily on power and the ability to overwhelm opponents at that level.
In the run game, Dozier is a mauler, one who wins with brute strength and the ability to lock onto and drive opponents down the field.
He plays with good leverage and pad level in the run game, but he is very sloppy.
In pass protection especially, Dozier can get lazy with his footwork because he was able to win so easily and consistently against small school opponents.
He has long arms and can use his length well at times, but he doesn’t change direction well and can get really grabby against pass rushers when he feels like he is getting beat.
Trai Turner, OG, LSU – 6-2, 310 lbs.
When you look at Turner, you’ll see a prospect who plays much bigger than his 310-pound frame.
Turner is a short but powerful guard prospect and is an ideal right guard in a power run game scheme.
He fires out of his stance with a mean purpose, latches on and drives his defender down the field and finishes plays.
Turner shows the ability to get to the second level, with an excellent burst off the snap and find his man and hits them while on the move.
While he plays strong, he doesn’t overwhelm as much as you’d like for a power player.
In pass protection, he can be stiff and doesn’t move nearly as well as he does in the run game.
Quick pass rushers will get into his body and can get beat up, but if he latches on, defenders don’t usually get off.
Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State – 6-3, 336 lbs.
The monstrous Jackson was to be this season’s Chance Warmack — a massive guard prospect who could dominate in the run game and was more than good enough in pass protection. But as the season started concerns showed up.
He is excellent in pass protection, with a strong base, long arms and big hands that he uses to steer potential pass rushers away.
He at times has excellent feet, with the ability to move laterally and keep opposing defenders in front of him, but against blitzers he is slow to react and will lunge and get off balance and get beat because of it.
Jackson shows a strong ability to bully the man in front of him on head up or shade assignments in the run game, but is less effective when asked to get to reach blocks or the next level, where his less-than-ideal athleticism shows up.
Maintaining weight could also be an issue for Jackson, who is pushing his maximum at 336 pounds.
• Cyril Richards, OG Baylor
• David Yankey, OG Stanford
• Brandon Thomas, OG Clemson (due to injury only)
• Travis Swanson, C Arkansas