Draft Day Target: OT Marcus McNeill

Since the 2005 season came to an end, Cowboys fans have been pointing towards the offensive line as one of the key problem areas of the team.

Without question, Dallas will look towards free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft to address those concerns. And with the 18th overall pick, there should be plenty of quality talent available for the taking.

Leading the way, is Marcus McNeill, one of the biggest offensive linemen available in this year's draft.

The former Auburn Tiger is an intriguing player for the Dallas Cowboys for several reasons.

For starters, his size is unmatched. Standing in at over 6-feet-7.5 inches tall and weighing over 330 pounds, McNeill fits the bill for a prototypical NFL tackle. In addition, his excellent attitude and work ethic will allow him to improve his game under the right coaching.

And even though he didn't have the best Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, his upside is still tremendous.

"McNeill projects well on either the strong side or at left tackle and if he consistently plays on all cylinders, he can be a productive NFL tackle for years to come," notes one NFL scout. "Overall, you'd have to say he has tremendous potential for the next level."

Auburn OT Marcus McNeill talks with a Kansas City Chiefs scout at the Senior Bowl last month.


McNeill's college resume features a long list of awards, including the 2005 winner of the Jacobs Trophy as the top blocker in the Southeastern Conference. He was also named to two All-American teams and four All-SEC teams as a senior and was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy.

In short, he was widely recognized as one of the top offensive linemen in all of college football in each of his last two years at Auburn.

But what happened at the Senior Bowl? How come his stock fell in the eyes of some analysts? Good question, and the answer is more than understandable.

"I actually had a death in the family," McNeill said of his week in Mobile. "My grandmother died so I got in real late that first day. I did a lot of traveling that morning and didn't get a chance to rest. I was up until about 3:45 that morning so it was kind of a difficult time, but I knew I wanted to get down there to the Senior Bowl and compete in front of the scouts."

Despite his slow start, a mid-week practice session finally created a stir among scouts as he began to respond to the 49ers coaching staff.

"Working with professional coaches this week is something that I am going to have up on a lot of the offensive linemen coming into the league next year," he said. "A lot of guys coming from college wouldn't have had that experience, but we got that experience. The North team got it with Tennessee (Titans) and we got it with the '49ers."

So what about the Cowboys? Could McNeill fit into Dallas' draft plans?

Without question.

McNeill is currently rated by Scout.com as the No. 3 offensive tackle prospect in the 2006 NFL Draft, trailing only Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Miami's Eric Winston. Most experts are projecting that Ferguson is destined to be gone by the fifth overall pick, and Winston likely won't make it past No. 15.

That leaves McNeill as the next in line.

And considering last year's struggles on the offensive line, particullarly after the loss of veteran tackle Flozell Adams, that makes McNeill a legitimate option for Dallas this April, should he be available.

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