OL Draft Update #3

Ceri Dovey takes a closer look at the OLT prospect Mike Pearson. Will he become a New York Giant and join the line, or will they pass if he's available?

OLT prospect Mike Pearson (Florida) had some obvious weaknesses last year and if he were to be the big-time prospect some draft sites have projected him to be and have any potential to be the answer at OLT that the Giants either are or aren't looking for (dependent on whether you buy into the organisational talk that they are happy with the OL's they have), I wanted to see him improve on all of them as only then could he be capable of stepping straight into a starting role in the NFL.

Watching him against Georgia and Tennessee, he showed some improvement on his sophomore season – he no longer got bull-rushed to the ground by smaller men – but continued to show the same inability to anchor and keep his man in front of him against a bull rush he's always had and when you consider we are talking about 255lb college DE's rather than the 270lb guys of the NFL that is very worrying. He didn't anchor well at 295lb's (the weight he played at), giving up too much ground and getting pushed all the way back to his QB who was then forced to either step up into a sack by the RDE – as happened against both Georgia & Tennessee – or flushing them into the teeth of the pass rush from the other end as happened frequently and with many sacks and big hits resulting against Tennessee.

It wasn't just the bull-rush that beat him either against Tennessee's active DL depth. On a few occasions, he short-set the RDE but got knocked off balance on initial contact, pirouetting on his left leg as his opponent used him for a turnstile to the outside! It was very noticeable that after allowing a sack against the Vols that Florida then kept a TE in to block on his side for the next two series but the ORT was struggling even more and the TE swapped sides again! All in all, I counted 1 sack and 5 hits allowed directly by Pearson against the Vols but he was responsible for allowing at least half a dozen additional pressures, 3 of which resulted in sacks by other players and plenty of big hits. Sure, Florida threw an awful lot of passes and DL's know pretty much they can pin their ears back on every down and rush the passer but it wasn't the sort of performance you'd expect from a top prospect in a game that knocked the Gators out of the SEC Championship race.

Recently, he's weighed in at 305lb's and it's quite possible that the extra weight and added strength as he fills out his frame – he's only 21 if I remember rightly so has plenty of growing to do – could allow him to resolve his problems anchoring but only the coaches/scouts working him out now will know whether that is the case. I can only go by what I see and that is a guy not ready to play in the NFL just yet. The NFL is all about match-up's and winning the Division and I'm very doubtful he could stop the onslaught of a Hugh Douglas at any time soon.

The one thing I do really like about him though is the way he deals with the outside speed rush, getting off the all quickly and delivering a solid hand punch to knock his man wide then moving his feet to slide back into the rush lane and jolting him again. He simply doesn't get beat around the corner by speed alone and shows he can adjust his feet to an inside move. He's also intelligent enough to pick up blitzers off the edge when the line slides to the left to combat the extra rushers from his side and shows a mean streak, kicking one guy on a stunt (!) and he blatantly cut a rusher from behind once beaten around the corner. He also does a decent job of drive blocking on the backside to allow the RB to cut back if necessary, though he isn't dominant in that regard by any means.

From a purely Giants perspective, Pearson is not an ideal fit as versatility is a requirement of our linemen – could it be insurance in case fail initially at their projected position? i.e. William Roberts moved with great success to OLG having played both OT spots and Luke Petitgout has been solid since moving from OLG to ORT – and were he to fail at OLT he probably doesn't have another position he could play, lacking the strength to play inside and the size to play ORT. I think that will downgrade him on the Giants value board and it wouldn't surprise me if they rated Marc Colombo (Boston College) a lot higher because of his added size, power and proven ability to play both OT spots.

In summary, BBWC columnist Painter and I disagree greatly on Pearson's ability and value but while I would be very uncomfortable recommending him even if we were to trade down, I think Painter may be right that he eventually goes in the top 25, maybe even top 20 because of the fact that there are only 5 top OT prospects and at least double the number of teams in need of help at the position. Simple economics – demand outstripping supply – means he'll go higher than he should but it doesn't make him a better prospect because of it.

One of the more versatile interior OL's in this draft is Fred Weary (Tennessee) and I got to watch him in action at OLG against each of Georgia, Alabama and Florida and he impressed greatly in each game, showing consistency in his play and an awful lot of power. The most impressive part of his game is his drive blocking strength and his effort with the 225lb bar at the Combine (34 reps) confirmed that the strength he shows on the field is mirrored in the weight room. He's an excellent in-line presence, the man the Vols consistently run behind on short yardage plays because his initial explosion is excellent, knocking his man back most times. He also creates innumerable cutback lanes for his RB by continuing to push his man sideways when they take an angle to get into the lane at the point of attack, many big runs being broken because of this in each game. Power-wise I'd say he was comparable in-line to the likes of Fonoti and Gurode on first contact but his footwork isn't as quite as good, sometimes lunging and falling off blocks against quicker opponents who stay on their feet going backwards then sidestep him to fill the hole.

Not just a straight-ahead run blocker, he also made some nice kick-out blocks on the short pull or trap and though laboured in his running, he does get downfield on screen passes too. He was also pretty much faultless in pass protection, tying his man up at the line and out-muscling them as well as working very well with his line-mates on double-teams, in passing men off to pick up blitzers and in helping them to finish blocks when he was freed up. He does lunge at times but he never got beat early enough to even allow a QB pressure so it's hard to be critical of him in that area.

At 6'4", 308lb's he certainly has the size to play any of the 3 positions in the NFL though I wouldn't recommend him as guard in a system where that player is asked to long pull and lead plays over the right side. He's got average speed (5.37) and tends to lumber downfield though he will make blocks once there. In the Giants system he could be either an OC or ORG and I'd love to have him at OC – Ziegler would happily move outside – where I think he'd make Ron Dayne much more effective as an inside runner as well as solidifying what is sure to be a young line. If he were to still be available at ‘bargain' status in the 3rd round I'd imagine the Giants would find it hard to pass him over (unless there is a problem in his medical history not made public) but I think he'll be gone a round earlier than that though he's not a top 50 pick in my view and that should rule him out of being considered by the Giants in the 2nd round as we pick 46th.

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