NFL Draft: Breaking down interior OL prospects

Feb 12, 2013, 8:31 PM | Updated: 9:35 pm

One of the more interesting things to watch unfold come draft day will be how fast the interior offensive linemen come off the board.

Within the internet and fan community there is a belief that Chance Warmack, the Alabama guard, has a shot to be the first guard taken in the top ten of the NFL Draft since 1997.

While I am in total agreement that Warmack is worth a top ten selection, I don’t understand the idea that it is a slam dunk since guards are just not drafted that high.

That being said, the interior offensive line class this year is good, if not slightly top heavy, with a group that should be able to come in and make an impact immediately.

Chance Warmack, Alabama – 6-3, 320 lbs

One of the reasons I have the belief that guards are the most important players on the offensive line is because of the shift defensively that we are seeing, with teams applying interior pressure on passing downs.

Warmack is not just a typical mauler at the guard position, but has the athleticism and elite awareness to pick up different blitzes coming through.

Warmack’s greatest asset is his ability to open up lanes in the running game and win consistently at the point of attack.

Warmack can struggle with bigger nose tackle-type defensive lineman, as he can lose his anchor and be driven backwards in pass pro at times.

Warmack may be worthy of a top ten pick, and hopefully the NFL recognizes that, but I won’t be holding my breath come draft night.

Projection: Top 20 pick

Larry Warford, Kentucky – 6-3, 340 lbs

While others have become enamored with the movement and athleticism of my third-ranked interior offensive lineman, I still like my guards to be old school.

Warford is a throwback power run game guard, with the ability to anchor well in pass pro and stone his defender at the point of attack.

While Warford pulls well, he doesn’t always finish his pulls, and can struggle to maintain and finish his blocks when in space and can spend too much time diving at ankles.

Projection: Second round

Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina – 6-3, 295 lbs

Cooper is part of the new age of guards, with his smaller, quicker build, along with the ability to play in space and get to the next level to block smaller/quicker defenders.

While Cooper is a bit undersized for my taste, he is solidly put together with room to add weight. His ability to move in the run game on pulls, traps and reach blocks makes him a special kind of prospect.

Cooper wins consistently in the run game because of his ability to get off the ball quicker than his defender and initiate contact, which allows him to control his defender.

Cooper will have to add strength to be able to stand up to bigger defensive lineman in pass pro, but that should come with his weight gain.

Projection: Late first round

Barrett Jones, Alabama – 6-5, 311 lbs

Jones is hard to pinpoint position-wise. He has played guard, left tackle and center on three different national championship teams, but looks to be a center at the NFL level.

Jones’ biggest asset is his mental grasp of the game. He was excellent in setting protections for the Crimson Tide all season.

Jones is excellent in the run game, holding his ground against larger defenders, and is adept at working combo blocks to the next level.

He is better in pass protection because he understands how to absorb contact and use it to deter the pass rusher, which is something we saw a lot of in the BCS National Championship game versus Notre Dame and their outstanding defensive line.

Projection: Second round

Kyle Long, Oregon – 6-6, 310 lbs

Young in his development as an offensive lineman, Long has the look of a dynamic, in-space guard prospect.

He moved from the defensive line to offensive line, and despite that is an incredible technician at the position already.

He needs to get stronger and there are concerns about his ability in a traditional style blocking attack, but he should be able to fit in nicely in a zone blocking scheme.

Projection: Second round

Dallas Thomas, Tennessee – 6-5, 310 lbs

Thomas excelled in his first season playing guard for the Vols. The former left tackle had his moments of looking uncomfortable at his new position, but overall came out looking like a guy you can take in round two and feel comfortable with him playing either right tackle or guard in the NFL.

Thomas is a very technically sound, well-built prospect, with good feet and adequate athleticism.

He can struggle versus speed at times, which is why I feel he projects best as a guard at the next level.

Thomas is also an excellent in-line blocker, but he didn’t pull very much at Tennessee so there are questions about his ability to get out and block in space.

Projection: Second-third round

Travis Frederick, Wisconsin – 6-4, 338 lbs

The prototype of a phone booth guard, Frederick played center at Wisconsin in his final season with the Badgers but looks to be a guard at the NFL level.

Frederick is not a great athlete and needs to get his hands on you early, but as the old saying goes, once he does, it’s over.

Frederick is a good fit in a power run game scheme where he is asked to line up and block the man in front of him, but he doesn’t move overly well in space in the run game and isn’t overly adept at moving laterally to pick up blitzes in pass pro.

Projection: Third Round

Alvin Bailey, Arkansas – 6-5, 319 lbs

Many were surprised to see Bailey enter the 2013 NFL Draft, but uncertainty at Arkansas led the junior to forgo his senior season.

Bailey is a massive prospect that has excellent strength and moves well in space for a man of his size.

He is an unfinished product at this time, though, and may not be ready to contribute right away in the 2013 season.

Projection: Third-fourth round

David Schwenke, California – 6-3, 305 lbs

Schwenke was one of the more impressive prospects at the Senior Bowl, and his stock has grown in the internet community, meaning we have finally caught up to what the NFL had thought all along.

Schwenke is equally proficient in the run and pass game as a blocker, and wins because of solid technique and a strong understanding of how to get into his defender and win early.

Schwenke can get moved around by bigger and stronger players at times and doesn’t always anchor well in pass pro, but his ability to set protections along the offensive line is what will make him a solid NFL starter.

Projection: Third-fourth round

Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine-Bluff – 6-4, 310 lbs

A mountain of a man, Armstead played offensive tackle in college but looks to kick down to guard at the NFL level.
Country strong with room to grow, Armstead is one of the more intriguing long-term prospects, and from the games I have seen there is NFL talent — he just needs to harness it and be coached up properly.

Projection: Fifth round

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NFL Draft: Breaking down interior OL prospects