Finny’s 2012 Thumbnail Guide to the Draft: Interior Linemen
The Steelers haven’t had premiere talent at OG since Big Red, Alan Faneca, left after the 2007 season. During the Tomlin tenure, a series of fat, slow, and stupid players have taken a ride on the starter role carousel, but Chris Kemoeatu was both mainstay at LG and template for the OG/RG under Tomlin. I dubbed these players “rhinos,” although in fairness rhinos move a heck of a lot faster.
The ignominious list of Steeler OGs who have started since 2007 includes Trai Essex, Darnell Stapleton, and recently, both UDFA Doug Legursky and UDFA Ramon Foster have manned spots on the interior. In fairness, Legursky has shown that he’s a solid backup at both OG and C, and Foster has probably been the best RG under Tomlin, but that’s damning with faint praise. The IOL desperately needs someone better than a backup, and someone with better dancing ability than Foster.
Again, background, from Finny’s 2011 IOL Draft Guide (maliciously deleted by that fucker Penso):
Intelligence and awareness. OL players tend to score higher on the Wonderlic than other positions because they have to be able to see a few chess moves ahead. They’re the guys who have to pick up blitzes and stunts, who have to be aware of where they’re going when pulling and trapping. They need to be able to take in a lot of info, process it, and translate it into pure nasty bitch-slapping meanness. I don’t want a guy who can turn on that attitude. He also has to have strength to work against NTs, DTs, and rushing LBs. Since IOL tend to be slightly smaller (not always, but usually) than OTs, I don’t expect to see as many guys with 35” arms, but I do expect IOL to clear 25 reps, with 30 as optimal.
Part of the IOL guy’s strength is how he uses his hands. Bench pressing is one measure, but hand strength is one thing to watch for with both IOL and DL players. As mentioned, the frame for IOL tends to be smaller, and sometimes smaller collegiate OTs have to slide inside. In a game of inches, if you can’t reach the pass rusher on the outside, it’s going to be taken advantage of. OGs typically measure out around 6’3” – 6’5”, from 300# on up, and you assume guys are going to add to their frame once in strength and conditioning programs. I do flag guys who are too hefty, because it affects their speed. OCs can be a little smaller, but you don’t want a guy who can’t hold his own against NTs. One problem with the Steelers’ rhinos is their speed, and while they don’t have to be LT-fast, sub-5.20 is optimal, sub-5.30 is acceptable, and over 5.40 is a flag. 10-yards splits over 1.85 spell a guy who’s slow off the mark, while sub-1.8 shows superior speed.
Under Tomlin, the Steelers have drafted Cameron Stephenson, Kraig Urbik, and Keith Williams, hardly a stunning crop. Aside from the selections of C Mike Pouncey and OT Marcus Gilbert, the entire OL has been treated with shameful neglect. It’s no wonder Ben Roethlisberger gets absolutely murdered every year. Two quick notes on the OT and C slots. First, Pouncey has been a key contributor from his rookie season, but has finished each of the last two years injured. Both years, the Steelers had sub-par post-season performances, and I consider the relationship causal rather than correlational. The idea of drafting a C this year might be worth considering, because as good a backup at C as Legursky is, the idea of having a premiere C as backup who can also be a starting OG would be a nice upgrade.
Second, and I’ll try to be brief, is the fucking mess that has been the OT situation. I’ll address that in the OT guide, but Marcus Gilbert should upgrade Colon at RT, Colon should upgrade Foster at RG, and Foster should be a backup like Legursky. Gilbert’s ceiling at RT is about that of Max Starks. Depth at the position is nonexistent. And none of this will change the fact that we’re going to see Gilbert and Colon man the edges. We could fix two starting positions with one switch, but it would require drafting a LT, and the ripple effect is that both
OG spots need a talent injection. The fortuitous part is, OG traditionally offers better draft value, so we could literally find one upgrade early and another later, especially in a year that looks pretty deep at OG. Won’t fix the issues at OT, but hells.
So here we go. OG with a few C mixed in. Not wasting a lot of print on Cs unless they can really be solid at both spots, so no R7 diamond in the slop C from Bucktooth U.
Andrew Luck was fortunate to have two probable R1 OL guys protecting him at Stanford, including David DeCastro,
[/u] 6’5”, 316#, 5.43, 34 reps, who IMO is a better prospect than OT Jonathan Martin. Decastro, ranked 14th overall by NFLDS (4/3/12), doesn’t have great 40 speed but that proves one important rule about such metrics: they’re guidelines, points of comparison. DeCastro is a beast, and shouldn’t last past the top 15 picks. To my eye, he’s the best looking OG in years, and he’s working his way to the top of my wish list. If he were to slide to the late teens or even the 20s, he’d be worth trading up for.
Don’t see that happening, and frankly I think the mocks that have Martin going before DeCastro have it backwards.
Georgia’s Cordy Glenn
[/u], 6’5”, 345#, 5.16, (1.76 10-yard split), 31 reps, is ranked 22rd by NFLDS, and could be on the board when the Steelers pick. Played some LT for the Bulldogs, but that’s not his pro spot. Could possibly man RT, since he has 35 ¾” arms, but his likeliest pro spot is inside. Mayock has him listed as 5th best OT, but he did have trouble with outside speed against Boise St. and at the Senior Bowl. A mauler with surprising footspeed – seriously, 5.16 at nearly three and a half bills? – Glenn has seen his draft prospects on the rise, if the buzz about FO interest is correct, and on the decline, in my personal estimation of him. He’s got all the measurables you could ask for, and he’s tested well at Indy and the Georgia pro day, but the more tape of him I watched, the more I saw the problem with an OL guy who gets over-extended, loses leverage, and is left twisting in the wind. Perhaps with coaching, his physical skills will overcome these problems, but I’ve downgraded Glenn from a solid 1.24 value to a R2 only pick, against conventional wisdom.
The consensus top C in the draft is Wisconsin’s Peter Konz,
[/u] 6’5”, 314#, 5.16, 18 reps is ranked 49th by NFLDS, although I’ve seen any number of mocks where he’s creeping into late R1. Konz is seen as a prototypical Wisconsin lineman, which is to say, tough, strong, and pro-ready. I don’t like the 18 reps, especially with Konz’s short (33”) arms, and I don’t see him as a strong R1 value or a likely R2 availability.
Konz’s teammate [/u]Kevin Zeitler
[/u], 6’5”, 314#, 5.39, 32 reps, is ranked 37th and is the better prospect in my view. Zeitler will start in the league, but the knocks on his game are that he’s late off the snap and can be beaten by speed rushers. His rush blocking is impeccable, and led the NCAA with 142 career knockdowns. Like DeCastro, he’s a film junkie with a great understanding of the game, and he’s improving his bulk and his comprehension of the game. He looks more pro-ready to me than Glenn, but will need to work on timing and pass-rush counters. A peripheral R1 value, likely to be gone by our R2 pick, Zeitler would be a prime target in a trade-down from 1.24.
Every year there’s some small-school prospect who seems to appear as a R2 OG prospect, and this year’s model is Midwestern State’s Amini Silatolu
[/u], 6’3”, 311#, 5.43, 28 reps, ranked 39th overall. Midwestern State, by the way, is located in Wichita Falls, Texas. Their 2011 schedule featured mighty tilts against the likes of Missouri S&T, Texas A&M – Commerce, Texas A&M – Kingsville, Incarnate Word, Tarleton State, Angelo State, Abilene Christian, Eastern New Mexico, West Texas A&M, and Northeastern State. I kid you not. The good news? The Mustangs won against all these terrifying foes, but lost in the playoffs to Northwest Missouri State. So when I see NFLDS ranking Solatalu so high (his stock continues to rise), and some scout evaluations tagging him a r1 talent, it makes me think two things. One, this guy must have something. And two, he’s going to be in for one hell of an adjustment in the bigs. Haloti Ngata didn’t play for Incarnate Word, for fuck’s sake.
Silatoludoes have two very important things going for him, aj’s Weird Name Theory, and being Polynesian, although it’s sort of a two-for-one when you’re the latter. But Solatalu is going to struggle with the speed of the game, period. I also flag his academic problems (could not jump from JUCO to Boise St.), and his unevenness at the combine. Maybe he adjusts, but I think it’s going to take him a year or two to develop. He does play with some meanness (against very low LOC), which is probably what is showing up on film, but IMO R2 is a round or two too early for a developmental prospect who’s a little on the smaller side. Most boards have him at R2, but put him later for me, say R4.
Unless I’m way off, he’s the most over-hyped IOL prospect this year.
A slightly smaller leap from big school to the pros can be made from Miami (Ohio). There is some famous NFL alum of Miami (Ohio), whose name escapes me at the present, but Brandon Brooks
[/u], 6’5”, 346#, 4.99, 36 reps, is going to have an easier transition both due to his size and the smaller leap in LOC. Brooks, ranked 113th a little over a week ago but having made a leap to 62nd as of 4/3/12, is compared by NFLDS to Ramon Foster. In size? Sure. Foster came out at 6’5”, 328#, so nearly 20# lighter than Brooks. He also ran a 5.57, not a 4.99. Brooks needs to refine his technique and keep his weight under control, but he’s very strong, and can anchor the POA better than anyone besides DeCastro. Most outlets have been giving Brooks a R3-R4 grade for some time now, but I’ve had him second overall behind DeCastro and I think popular opinion is catching up to that. I give Brooks a mid-R2 value, making him a prime draft target in R2 if other OGs like Zeitler and Glenn go earlier.
Another guy with plus size and measurables is Iowa State’s Keleche Osemele,
[/u]6’6”, 333#, 5.36, 32 reps, ranked 66st overall. That puts him close to our R2 pick, but I’ve seen a few mocks that put Osemele in R1, presumably because his size would allow him to play some RT as well. NFLDS compares him to Michael Oher, but an NFL scout quoted at Pro Football Weekly has a different take:
"(Iowa State OLT) Kelechi Osemele has everything you want physically. He's got 35-plus-inch arms and looks just how you'd draw (the prototype) up. I wish he did not play so lazy. He flashes, but he has never been consistent. I don't know if he is wired the right way. He has some Tony Ugoh in him. I'm sure he'll get looks early — just look at where Phil Loadholt went — but someone is going to have to swallow hard before they pluck his name off the board. There are just too many MAs (missed assignments) every game."
Like Cordy Glenn, Osemele has the physical ability to dominate inside, and possibly the speed to play outside at RT. Osemele has a higher ceiling than Brooks, but also a lower floor. He’s got nearly an identical frame and measurables (uncannily so) to Marcus Gilbert, and like Zeitler he’s more bruising as a run blocker than a pass blocker. He’s third in a tight cluster including Brooks and Zeitler, but just a bit behind them at present. A solid R2 value with upside.
Another small-school guy is Troy’s James Brown,
[/u] 6’3”, (306# combine/314# pro day), (5.30 combine/5.03 pro day), 24 reps. Ranked 94th overall, NFLDS nevertheless notes: “Doesn't currently have the weight or girth to hold up at guard and could be regarded as a tackle/guard tweener without a natural position.” That’s about right. Has a lot of teachable skills, but looks to have a lot to overcome in terms of frame and technique. Has an impressive motor and a lot of lower LOC knockdowns , but I think the Godfather may find a home in a ZBS scheme, and will get drafted earlier than the R5 value I have on him.
Miami (FL)’s Brandon Washington,
[/u] 6’3”, 320#, 5.25, 28 reps, is ranked 98th overall, I see a guy who’s got a smaller frame and who may be a better fit in another system. Good on the move, might fit in a ZBS, but has too many technique problems. Described as “stout-framed,” Washington looks like a very uneven player who will need some work to get to be a pro starter, and frankly his inability to recognize blitz schemes gives me the unwelcome premonition that Washington is just a Mini-Me Kemo. Pass.
Pitt’s Lucas Nix
[/u], 6’5”, 317#, 5.43, DNL, is a scrappy puncher who has worked better inside than out, but who has had knee issues and might lack the anchor versus superior NFL talent. Plays too upright and winds up on the ground a lot. NFLDS ranks him 167th overall, or R5, but I’m not sold. I think there are better mid-round talents and better late-round values. Pass.
Washington’s Senio Kelemete,
[/u] 6’3”, 307#, 5.52, 21 reps, rated 115th, has the frame issues, and 21 reps is weak. Versatile collegiate OL player better suited to ZBS than our scheme. Pass.
Illinois’s Jeff Allen
[/u], 6’4”, 307#, 5.28, 26 reps, is ranked 122nd, and is often listed as an OT and is getting some buzz as a sleeper LT. Like the other ZBS-type OGs listed above, I have a difficult time fitting Allen here at OG. He’s a fundamentally solid player, and has the skill set to work as an undersized LT (Marvel Smith?), but I can’t see him winning a spot anywhere on our line, in our system. Pass.
Ohio State C Michael Brewster,
[/u] 6’4”, 312#, 5.35, 29 reps, is ranked 109th, but his value would be enhanced as a possible backup at C. Problem is, Brewster’s scrappy but not stout at the POA, and would have a difficult time against NLF NT talent. Plays too upright, and looks too lanky to be an interior anchor. Pass.
Let’s move away from the smalls.
Colorado’s Ryan Miller
[/u], 6’7”, 321#, 5.27, 32 reps, has the size, strength and ability to bend that make his natural position OG rather than OT, where he struggles to mirror. The guy’s a baller, but that height can sometimes work against him in leverage matchups. Some will question whether Miller is too
tall, but like former Bengal and Brown OG Eric Steinbach (6’6”, 295#), I think he’s way under-rated at NFLDS’s 198th overall ranking (~R5-6), and I would see him as a solid R4 value, especially as a punishing RG.
Utah’s Tony Bergstrom
[/u], 6’5”, 313#, 5.27, 32 reps, is sometimes listed as an OT, but with 32” arms and smallish (9”) hands, not to mention some lack of bulk, he’s going to find a more comfortable time as an OG. Ranked 114th overall, Bergstrom is yet another guy I see as fitting better in a ZBS due to frame concerns. Also, he turns 26 this year (LDS mission), so he’s an older prospect already. Pass.
Cal OT Mitchell Schwartz,
[/u]6’5”, 318#, 5.45, 23 reps, is also a guy who I think will be viewed more a an OG. Brother Geoff was a R7 pick of the Panthers, and has been solid if unspectacular. See Mitchell the same way, though I would echo frame concerns of Bergstrom here and see Mitchell as possibly being over-drafted. Steady, sturdy, unspectacular R7 value.
Quick-fire round: SMU’s LT/OG Kelvin Beachum
[/u], SMU’s OG Josh LeRibeus
[/u], Cal (PA)’s Rishaw Johnson
[/u], Rutgers’s Desmond Wynn
[/u], Virginia Tech’s Jaymes Brooks
[/u], Wake Forest’s Joe Looney
[/u], Temple’s Derek Dennis
[/u] all come to the same grade based on frame, LOC, injury issues, etc. How many ways can I say “no?” Nerr, nerl, gnerl, uh-nerr, nerr-again, naughty-knot nerr nerr, and ugnow.
Clemson’s Antoine McClain,
[/u] 6’6”, 329#, 5.57, 29 reps, ranked 267th overall, is a fringe prospect based on measurables, but has Marcus Gilbert type size, is an SEC starter, and has notched 148 career knockdowns. Could be worth a R7-FA look-see.
South Dakota RT/OG Tom Compton
[/u], 6’5”, 314#, 5.11, 20 reps, ranked 168th overall, has some of the same skill set measurables and game flaws as Cordy Glenn, and thus becomes this draft writeup’s official “poor man’s version of” a more notable prospect. Is going to take a lot of work, and is probably over-rated in R5 based off measurables, but would be a solid R7 pickup.
R1, trade-up – David DeCastro, Stanford
R2 –Brandon Brooks, Miami (OH); Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin; Kelechi Osemele, Iowa St.; Cordy Glenn, Georgia
R4 – Ryan Miller, Colorado; Amini Solatalu, Midwestern State
R7 – Mitchell Schwartz, Cal; Tom Compton, South Dakota; Antoine McClain, Clemson