Consistently, the offensive linemen entering the pro game have improved athletically. The speed and quickness are drastically improved, while the players have added weight and strength. Once believed to be a weakness heading into the 2003 College Player Draft in late April, the players at the offensive line positions have made a statement about the overall talent level of the positions since the Senior Bowl in January.
Jordan Gross, the outstanding offensive tackle from Utah has been regarded as the top-rated left tackle entering the draft. Utilizing tremendous athletic ability enhanced with good size and strength, Gross is being viewed as a prospect that will hold down the left tackle position for a team for the next decade, according to one player personnel director that spoke with The Insiders.
"Jordan Gross is one of those kids that you can plug into the lineup and let him play. He has very good skills, quick on his feet, mobile, strong, and very intelligent. He is not receiving the fanfare that Bryant McKinnie received last season, but we believe that he will be as solid as McKinnie," the director said. "What we believed to be an average group of players is quickly turning into a deep area and there will be some bargain selections in this draft at the offensive tackle spot."
The quality of players and depth has been a common statement since more than a few offensive linemen declared for the draft. While none of the players come with the hype of notorious offensive linemen from years past, the issue of quality and depth can not be ignored.
In brief discussions with numerous NFL scouts, it is believed that three offensive tackles are locks to be drafted in the first round of the draft, and as many as five within the first 40 selections of the draft. The names that top that list are Gross, Kwame Harris from Stanford and Eric Steinbach from Iowa, with Brett Williams from Florida State and George Foster from Georgia a level below the top three.
"While Gross is receiving the deserved respect for his talents and play, the Harris kid and Steinbach from Iowa are two players that actually may end up being better offensive left tackles. That is not a knock on Gross, it just tells you how solid this position is, much more solid than we previously scouted," one evaluator said. "With the state of the league right now, offensive line prospects are at a premium, I wouldn't be surprised to see three or four of these kids go in the first round. This is a talented bunch."
If there was ever a year that teams wanted to upgrade their left tackle position, the 2003 draft may be the ticket for success.