12

March

2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking the Interior Linemen

Alabama OG Chance Warmack

Alabama OG Chance Warmack

Typically, offensive guards are not drafted very early in the first round. In last year’s draft, Stanford guard David DeCastro was thought to be one of the “safest” picks in the entire class, but he fell all the way to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 24th overall pick.

This year, Alabama’s Chance Warmack has a chance to crack the top ten. Warmack (6-2 317) is a throwback who will help a team immediately as a rookie.

He could go as high as No. 7 to the Arizona Cardinals, so it’s unlikely that he’ll endure a DeCastro-type fall. But either way, Warmack is a surefire first-round pick.

Behind Warmack, the next-best interior offensive linemen in this year’s draft is Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina. Cooper is more athletic than Warmack but isn’t quite as physical. His versatility could help him on draft day, as he also has the ability to play center.

The center position lacks a true can’t-miss guy at the top.

Alabama’s Barrett Jones, Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick and California’s Brian Schwenke all figure to be drafted at some point on Day 2. Jones is the most versatile of the bunch, Frederick is the most physical, while Schwenke is the most athletic.

Warmack and Cooper will likely be first-round picks, but the depth at offensive guard doesn’t stop there. Larry Warford (6-3 332) of Kentucky is viewed as a starting-caliber guard, as is Syracuse’s Justin Pugh (6-4 307) who some prefer as a right tackle.

The Packers’ offensive line has been heavily debated. Aaron Rodgers may very well be the best quarterback in football, but he was sacked more than anyone else in the league. Rodgers deserves some of that blame along with the offensive line.

At guard, the Packers are set with T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. Adding depth is always a possibility, as is bringing in a center, whether Evan Dietrich-Smith returns or not.

1. Chance Warmack, Alabama – OG (6-2 317)

  • Draft stock: Early-Mid 1st
  • 225-pound bench: DNP, Arm length: 34.68, 10-yard split: 1.83
  • Three-year starter at left guard.
  • The last time an offensive guard was drafted in the top ten was 1997 when the New Orleans Saints took Chris Naeole out of Colorado. Leonard Davis (2001) and Robert Gallery (2004) both have had long NFL careers at guard, but both players were drafted as tackles. Warmack is a guard, without a doubt.

2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina – OG (6-2 311)

  • Draft stock: Mid-Late 1st
  • 225-pound bench: 35 reps, Arm length: 33.08, 10-yard split: 1.73
  • Four-year starter at left guard.
  • Cooper was a Consensus All-America Selection as a senior by Walter Camp, FWAA, AFCA, AP, ESPN.com, SI. He was a first-team All-ACC selection last season after being named second-team All-ACC in 2010 and 2011. He was the winner of the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2012.

3. Justin Pugh, Syracuse – OG (6-4 307)

  • Draft stock: 2nd Round
  • 225-pound bench: DNP, Arm length: 32.08, 10-yard split: 1.67
  • Three-year starter at offensive tackle.
  • Pugh started 34 games for the Orange but looked like a natural on the interior of the offensive line at the Senior Bowl. He’s a candidate to creep into the back end of round one, given his versatility.

4. Larry Warford, Kentucky – OG (6-3 332)

  • Draft stock: 2nd Round
  • 225-pound bench: 28 reps, Arm length: 33.28, 10-yard split: 1.92
  • Three-year starter after appearing in 10 games as a freshmen as a reserve guard.
  • Big and physical. Warford is of Samoan descent. He received All-SEC Honors every year at Kentucky, including the All-Freshman team in 2009. He was selected as a third-team All-American in 2012.

5. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin – C (6-4 312)

  • Draft stock: 3rd Round
  • 225-pound bench: 21 reps, Arm length: 33.08, 10-yard split: 1.85
  • Two-year starter that also started four games a freshman in 2009.
  • The Big Foot High School alum is the latest in a long line of successful Wisconsin offensive linemen. He’s a natural center but also started 13 games at left guard during his time with the Badgers. Second-team All-Big Ten in 2011 and first-team All-Big Ten in 2012.

6. Brian Schwenke, California – C (6-3 314)

  • Draft stock: 3rd Round
  • 225-pound bench: 31 reps, Arm length: 32.08, 10-yard split: 1.68
  • Three-year starter, played in 48 of 50 possible games at Cal.
  • Probably the best athlete of all centers in this year’s draft. He started games at three different positions in college, making 16 starts at left guard, 12 at center and eight at right guard. Could be on the Packers’ radar on Day 2 of the draft.

7. Barrett Jones, Alabama – C (6-4 306)

  • Draft stock: 3rd Round
  • 225-pound bench: DNP, Arm length: 34.18, 10-yard split: DNP
  • Four-year starter, played center as a senior.
  • It seems like “draft guys” like Jones more than scouts do. He is the definition of versatile but benefited from playing on a dominant line at Alabama, in my opinion. During his career, he started 25 games at right guard, 11 at left tackles and 13 at center.

8. Brian Winters, Kent St. – OG (6-4 320)

  • Draft stock: Late 3rd/Early 4th
  • 225-pound bench: 9 reps, Arm length: 32.68, 10-yard split: DNP
  • Four-year starter, set a Kent St. record by starting all 50 games of his career at tackle.
  • Winters stopped after nine reps on the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine with a pectoral injury. He sat out the rest of the combine and would probably fit best with a zone-blocking team at the NFL level. He’s another versatile guy who could play guard or right tackle.

9. Alvin Bailey, Arkansas – OG (6-3 312)

  • Draft stock: 4th Round
  • 225-pound bench: 27 reps, Arm length: 34.68, 10-yard split: 1.74
  • Three-year starter, declared early for the NFL Draft as a RS Junior.
  • In 2011, Bailey blocked for the Razorbacks as they had a 1,000-yard rusher and 3,000-yard passer for the first time in school history. Big and physical player, who probably would have been wise to return to Arkansas for another season.

10. Khaled Holmes, USC – C (6-3 302)

  • Draft stock: Late 4th
  • 225-pound bench: 13, Arm length: 35.08, 10-yard split: DNP
  • Three-year starter at USC, started at center his last two years on campus.
  • Holmes was the starting right guard as a sophomore with the Trojans, earning Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 that season. Attended Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, CA along with quarterback Matt Barkley.

Current state of the Packers’ C and OGs: With T.J. Lang at left guard, Evan Dietrich-Smith at center and Josh Sitton at right guard, the interior of the offensive line was the strength of the unit by last season’s end.

Backing up Lang and Sitton are undrafted second-year players Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten. Barlcay filled in admirably at right tackle after Bryan Bulaga’s season was cut short, but he’s probably a more natural fit on the interior of the line.

As of right now, the team’s situation at center is a little cloudy.

Incumbent starter Evan Dietrich-Smith, a restricted free agent, has been slapped with the lowest possible tender. It was a surprising move considering the Packers would receive no compensation in return if any team signs him to an offer sheet. With Dietrich-Smith’s future in doubt to a certain degree, the Packers could be looking elsewhere for a starting center.

When might the Packers address C or OG in the draft? The Packers are unlikely to draft a guard early in this year’s draft. They have their starters in place with Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. Perhaps the Packers would consider adding some depth at guard late on Day 3 of the draft.

Center is a different story. If there were a first-round caliber center available in this year’s draft, the Packers could look that direction with the No. 26 pick.

Barrett Jones is a big name from a top-tier college program. So as a result, some have projected Jones to the Packers in round one. I’d be shocked if that’s the case.

Currently, I have the top three centers (Jones, Schwenke and Frederick) ranked very closely. The earliest I think any of them should go is in the middle of round two, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of them come off the board at the end of the third round.

The Packers could very well be in the market for a center on Day 2.

As of right now, the decision to give Dietrich-Smith the lowest possible tender raises some eyebrows. Perhaps the team has its sights set on a particular draft center in this year’s draft.

Of the top three, Cal’s Brian Schwenke seems like the most logical fit for the Packers. ALLGBP.com’s Thomas Hobbes did a terrific job with his player profile on Schwenke last week, and he would be a welcome addition to the team at the end of round three.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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14 Responses to “2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking the Interior Linemen”

  1. Scott 1956 says:

    You guys can keep saying it all you want, but the interior of the line was bad, very bad. You said at the end of the year. You mean the soft part of the schedule? When they played the big boys at the start of the year, they were terrible. I know that Saturday was starting, but EDS is just a guy. Sitton is great. The others just aren’t very good.Lang? I’m tired of watching him get pushed into the backfield. But TT paid him a lot of money, so we’re stuck with him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

    • Marques Eversoll Marques Eversoll says:

      Among 82 guards that played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, Sitton came in at No.6 and Lang came in at No. 32, according to Pro Football Focus.

      I personally think they’re fine at guard. The jury is still out on EDS.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • Stroh says:

        Scott just likes to state his “opinion” as fact even if its far from true. Lang probably won’t make a pro bowl but he’s a solid starter.

        If Cooper falls Dont be surprised if they take him and move him to center. He is really good and could be the piece that makes the OL great.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

        • Scott 1956 says:

          You want to go down that road again, stroh?
          Try actually watching football. Lang was getting pushed into the backfield a lot! He’s just a guy. You guys sure put a lot into PFF and other sites. I just watch the games. And Lang doesn’t pass the eye test. Neither does EDS or Newhouse. Newhouse is a swinging door.
          I’m sure stroh will come back and state all these sites that will say that these are good players. But an Offensive Line that’s 2nd worst in giving up sacks, and 26th in rushing is NOT good!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

          • Stroh says:

            I watch as closely as anyone… Thank YOU! I don’t need you to tell me to watch it! I didn’t need to see PFF to know Lang was playing good! Not too long ago I was a little critical of PFF, so I don’t use them as anything more than a guide. Maybe you should watch a little closer?…

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

            • Scott 1956 says:

              You watch so closely that you think if they get a center that they’ll have a great line! HAHAHAHA!

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

              • Stroh says:

                All it takes is one missing link so the others are having to compensate. But you wouldn’t knoe how teamwork makes the sum greater than parts would you?!

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

              • Scott 1956 says:

                The left side is terrible, but all you want to do is pick a fight, right little man?
                Why don’t you go out for center, I mean you’re a missing link, right little man?

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

              • Stroh says:

                Can’t come up w/ a comeback comment that makes sense so you go to name calling again?

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. Tarynfor12 says:

    When Wells left for STL,I was all for EDS starting even when Saturday was signed but,EDS will need to draw to much aide from Sitton and Lang and thus leaving Newhouse suspect along with Bulaga if not healthy.
    We need a pure Center in the draft and I’m all in on Swenke.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Marques Eversoll Marques Eversoll says:

      I’m with you on Schwenke, seems like the most logical rookie center fitting in with the Packers.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Stroh says:

        I also like Holmes a round later if we miss on Schwenke. Both seem like they might be versatile enough to fill in at OG if needed. And given a year of experience and learning the offense might be able to supplant EDS. Definitely take Schwenke over Holmes, just get the feeling someone takes him before we get the chance in the 3rd.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

        • Marques Eversoll Marques Eversoll says:

          Definitely possible, Stroh.

          These top three centers are so close in terms of ability. Depending on the offensive scheme, a compelling case could be made for Jones, Frederick or Schwenke as the top center in the draft.

          All three could go mid-2nd or fall to late 3rd. Definitely a position to watch on draft day(s).

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