2002 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

John Murphy tells us that Mike Pearson out of Florida might be an attractive choice for the New York Giants, who are overhauling their starting lineup from the 2001 season.

Bryant McKinnie, Miami (6-8, 343 lbs., 5.38) -- McKinnie is an excellent prospect with very few weaknesses. He has great footwork, long arms and improving technique, which makes it nearly impossible for defenders to get around him. His flawless performance against highly rated Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney helped him earn the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman. Amazingly he has only played football for short period of time (1996) - having picked it up right before going to Lackawanna JC.

His development has come quickly, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. At his Pro Day, McKinnie had a non-Top-10 workout performance, including only 19 reps of 225 pounds and 5.38 on his 40-time. Technique-wise he needs to develop a better initial punch to allow him time to get into position, but does such a great job of moving his feet that he has seldom been beat. He is more of a straight mauler in run blocking in that he just engulfs defenders and swallows them.

McKinnie was a huge reason why the Hurricanes averaged 5.3 yards per carry this season. When he stays in his stance and plays with solid pad level - he is unbeatable. However, if he takes too much for granted there would be some early bumps on his road to success. You do not become the next Jonathan Ogden (Ravens) or Chris Samuels (Redskins) without paying the price of hard work and desire.

McKinnie seems to have that inner drive and should contribute immediately as a rookie.

Mike Williams, Texas (6-6, 374 lbs., 5.28) -- Williams is plain-and-simple a beast - a man among boys even at the highest level thanks to his natural size, strength and unbelievable footwork and balance for a near 400-pound lineman. He has very good footwork and long arms that make it difficult for defenders to use their quickness to get past him.

The All-American tackle injured his right knee during the season, which showed up on x-rays at the Combine. Team doctors have discussed the idea of having his knee "cleaned out" before training camp, but Williams insists that it is not problem.

His conditioning may become a factor during his career - at nearly 400-pounds (374) his ability to maintain a high level of play for four quarters over a 16-game schedule is still a question that needs to be answered. Were he to slowly shed a few pounds and drop into the 350-360 pound range then his mauling techniques could take on a whole other dimension.

He uses an explosive initial punch to stun defenders at the line of scrimmage, but smart, experienced NFL pass rushers will use his size against him by having him do most of the work at the point of attack. This slowly, but surely slows down players - remember Erik Williams (Cowboys) in the second half of many games - with his hands on his hips or his ever-widening stance - those are called "keys" for defensive players that let them know a pass play is coming.

Williams has every bit of potential as McKinnie, but has less finesse and more power to his game. His knee and weight questions aside teams like Buffalo, San Diego, Minnesota and Jacksonville will find it hard to pass up on choosing him with one of their Top-10 picks. Also, both New England and New Orleans have quietly been inquiring on what it might take to deal up for his services.

Mike Pearson, Florida, (6-7, 304 lbs., 5.18) -- Gators don't come any bigger than Pearson or more polished when it comes to offensive linemen. He has superior upper-body strength and shows impressive footwork when sliding out and picking up edge rushers. His high level of play helped the Gators' offense average 4.2 yards per carry this past season despite using an assortment of running backs.

He comes off the ball very quickly and establishes early in the game that he is in control of the left side of the line. A strong understanding of his position helps him take proper angles against defenders, although he needs to become more of a finisher on his run blocks.

One knock on Pearson is that he might be too much of a thinker and "nice" guy on the field. True be told he is one of the more grounded players available in this year's draft. In fact, Pearson's decision to declare as a junior was directly associated with him getting married this spring. He is a mature, intelligent individual that is goal oriented, but puts the needs of the team in front of his own.

While teammates with Kenyatta Walker (Buccaneers) - he actually stayed at left tackle, while the more-heralded Walker played on the right side. Pearson will need to increase his lower-body strength and could easily handle bulking up to the 320-pound range. Both of those additions would help him fortify his run blocking skills and make him more of an anchor at the line of scrimmage. Minnesota, New Orleans or the NY Giants could all make a move on him if he is still available in the middle of the first round.

Levi Jones, Arizona State (6-5, 304 lbs., 5.21) -- Jones has the combination of size/speed/intangibles that NFL scouts crave out of a college lineman. He is limited in terms of overall experience, but has shown vast improvement in his game over the past two seasons. Amazingly, the All-Pac-10 performer was originally recruited by the Wildcats for his academic achievements and walked-on to the football team.

His technique and consistency are a work in progress, as he tends to wear down and take plays off. During the Senior Bowl practices that was also readily noticeable since he would go two or three 1-on-1 encounters without letting his man cross the line of scrimmage and then whiff on the fourth attempt.

Whiffing in the NFL when you are playing out on an island by yourself leads to two things - your quarterback getting sacked and your backup quarterback getting playing time. To his credit he has very good footwork and once he gets his hands on a defender knows how to keep them at bay, although his "pancake" skills still need more refinement. His lower body strength is terrific, but when he gets worn down he plays too high and without balance or power.

However, despite his fine weight room total of 28 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine he needs to develop better functional upper-body strength on the field. He tends to get over-extended at times and loses pass rushers that have quality double moves.

Overall, Jones is a very athletic lineman with good size, speed and power. He would be able to contribute at either tackle or guard initially and with added experience will be able to play left tackle in the league.

Marc Colombo, Boston College (6-8, 313 lbs., 5.27) -- Colombo has great size/speed/strength that also translate into him being a solid lineman on the field. He has tremendous strength and was a massive blocker at right tackle. His senior campaign included being shifted from right tackle to the left side after the first two games of last year. He knows how to use his hands to his advantage, but needs to develop more lower body strength before he can anchor his side of the line.

One knock on him has been that he might have too "nice" of an attitude, but his game films show quite a nasty streak and desire to finish all of his blocks. He slides well and is not beaten by the speed rush because of his quick feet. A native of Boston, he is a die-hard Boston fan, so can you imagine if the Patriots picked him!

He captained an offensive line that helped running back William Green average nearly six yards per carry. Colombo plays with a relentless approach and out thinks/hustles opposing defenders. He is light on his feet, with a keen understanding of the position, which will allow him to become an effective starter at either tackle spot.

"Sleeper" -- Garrick Jones, Arkansas (6-5, 311 lbs., 5.20) - Jones is a talented pass blocker with the versatility and potential to play any position along the line outside of center. He sat out the 2002 season after withdrawing from school because of differences with then Indians' coach Joe Hollis. His off-season regiment included five days of weight room training combined with an equally strong amount of roadwork.

All of his hard work has paid off as Jones began to impress scouts at his first Pro Day in early March and followed up with another big workout in late March. He has averaged 5.20 on his 40-times, while recording 28 reps of 225 pounds and more importantly scored a 30 on the Wonderlic test. Jacksonville, Buffalo, Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia have all taken an interest in Jones' ability.

On the field, he did not surrender a sack in two years of playing left tackle, which included games against Clemson, N.C. State and TCU. In fact, he did not allow a sack against defensive end Aaron Schobel (Bills), who was selected in the second round of last year's draft.

Jones is a naturally gifted athlete that is light on his feet, possesses good technique and a first-rate work ethic. He maybe drawing enough attention to actually get drafted late on day two, but will definitely be a high-priority free agent if not.

John Murphy, is the editor of www.draft2002.com and Director of Scouting and Evaluation for NL Sports. Be sure to check out the most in-depth, up-to-the-minute 2002 NFL Draft website and you can also email your draft questions to John from the www.draft2002.com website.

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