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Recent posts by Matt Feminis
With premium value being place on pass protectors and the recent release of the feature film The Blind Side, offensive left tackle is becoming a glamour position. And while some linemen would gladly soak up some publicity, the trenches remain a relatively anonymous battleground where flaws and defeat are spotlighted far more often than sound play. Accordingly, draft prospects not considered amongst the elite tackles are usually the least talked about group throughout the process. An overwhelming majority of starting left tackles are scooped up in the first round, but starters at the other four positions can be mined later.
Right tackles David Stewart (Titans), Willie Colon (Steelers) and Ryan Diem (Colts) were all found in the fourth round. Amongst the league's starting centers, Jason Brown (Rams), Shaun O'Hara (Giants), John Sullivan (Vikings) and Todd McClure were all drafted in the fourth round or later (O'Hara went undrafted).
The unheralded guard position rates low in terms of positional value, as evidenced by the fact that they have been left out of first rounds in years past. Often times teams are reluctant to invest big dollars (via draft or free agency) in a position where its inhabitants are typically less athletic and are afforded help on either side, if need be. Accordingly, it's a prime bang-for-your-buck investment. Look no further than Jahri Evans (Saints), who lasted to the fourth round, and Brian Waters (Chiefs), Kris Dielman (Chargers) and Harvey Dahl (Falcons), who all went undrafted.
This year, Idaho's Mike Iupati is a slam-dunk first-rounder, as is Florida's Maurkice Pouncey, who offers versatility to play center or guard, but there are a handful of lesser-known prospects who could ultimately emerge from obscurity:
- C Ted Larsen, North Carolina State: Recruited as a defensive tackle, Larsen did not make the switch to center until 2008, but possesses the quickness and agility to develop in a zone scheme. A natural bender who competes hard, Larsen is able to shuffle, slide and mirror in pass protection. While he lacks the positional savvy that comes with experience, he learns well and should improve with more refined technique. Will have to increase his functional strength, but could develop into a starter down the road.
- OG Jacques McClendon, Tennessee: McClendon is a prospect based on his weight-room strength alone. As a junior, he was told to cut back on his lifting habits after he bench-pressed a school-record 645 pounds. While those numbers make him a possibility for power-running teams such as the Steelers or Cowboys, McClendon also shows nice feet and mobility for a big man and could also fit into a zone scheme. He needs to learn to convert his weight-room strength to the field, as he does not anchor exceptionally well or shock defenders with his hands, but his upside is apparent.
- OG Shelley Smith, Colorado State: A team captain and three-year starter for the Rams, Smith posted nearly 50 knockdowns in eight starts as a senior. A shade under 6-3 and 300 pounds, Smith has a well-proportioned frame and shows the ability to sink his hips and anchor in pass protection. He flashes a mean streak and has enough athletic ability to pull and trap. His 34-inch vertical leap was tops amongst guards. While he is not overly sudden or powerful, at worst he has potential to develop into a functional backup for a zone team.
- OT Chris Campbell and OL Otis Hudson, Eastern Illinois: The I-AA Panthers have not been an elite team of late, but a year after undrafted free agent Pierre Walters made the Chiefs, scouts eyed Campbell and Hudson, who played left and right tackle, respectively. Both are raw developmental prospects, but Campbell looks every bit the part (6-5, 300) with long arms and very large hands. He participated in the Texas vs. Nation all-star game and has picked up some momentum after only starting for one season. Hudson, a Minnesota transfer, started for two seasons at EIU while earning his degree in construction management. As a senior, he protected the blind side of southpaw Jake Christenen (formerly of Iowa). He plays short-armed and was stressed by Murray State's Austen Lane, but possesses the size (6-4 5/8, 312) and enough movement skills to warrant consideration, possibly inside.