Jeff Faine (ND) is clearly ‘top dog' at the OC position and has entered the draft as a 4th year junior having been told by the NFL Advisory Committee that he rates as a likely 2nd round choice. He has enough size – listed at 6'3", 300lb's – to battle against the big DT's, the strength to match them and the quickness to get out on LB's and downfield on screens. Indeed, he is one of the few OC's I've seen in recent years who actually pan-cakes the MLB with any degree of frequency! While pass protection is a question mark because of the Irish offensive scheme, he seems to move his feet pretty quickly and holds his ground well against a bull rush too.
I think he rates on a par with last year's top OC LeCharlesBentley (selected 44th overall) and it wouldn't surprise me if he went at the bottom end of the 1st round with an exceptional workout and he appears to be an immediate starter with true Pro Bowl potential. He has experience at OG too so has the versatility the Giants desire as well. However, we are unlikely to invest that high a pick anytime soon on any interior OL while Ernie Accorsi is the GM and there are far greater needs elsewhere clearly defined.
Al Johnson (Wisconsin) is well-known as a prospect but I don't believe he is quite the player the hype surrounding him makes him out to be. He appears rather flabby in build but is a big guy at 6'4", 293lb's and could be a lot bigger with some weight room dedication. Watching him earlier this year against Iowa, it was obvious that he can control and dominate even the bigger DT's – the 315lb Colin Cole got very short shrift both against the run and on passing downs matched up one-on-one – and gets excellent movement in the running game. I don't remember seeing him show the range to consistently get out on LB's or make blocks up the field on screens though. I also didn't really see him having to come off of his man to pick up the blitz and I know that has been a bug-bear of the Badgers offense for the last two years so whether he can react in time, I'm not sure. I'll see him in action at the Senior Bowl, but with blitzing not allowed in that game, I'm not likely to be able to get a much better read on him and I don't know that he has the versatility or mobility to fit the Giants. Right now, I see him as a 3rd round pick though he may sneak into the bottom end of the 2nd round with a strong Combine performance.
At 6'2¼", 288lb's Dan Koppen (Boston College) lacks a little height and has short arms for a lineman (31.5") but is wide-bodied, strong and experienced. I've seen a number of BC games over the last few years (including against Miami and Notre Dame in 2002) and it has to be said that, whilst not an out-and-out dominator I've rarely seen him beaten even against top quality opponents. Already used to pull and lead plays to the outside from his OC position as well as trap, I don't think there is any doubt that he has the athletic ability to also play OG in our system and he also does an excellent job of firing out on LB's and making blocks out in the open on screen passes. He can also get his man turned to open holes for the inside running game, influencing his opponents out of the way. He also does a very nice job in pass protection applying a physical presence to the middle of the line, working well in tandem with his OG's to form a solid pocket. Unlike former BC stud Damien Woody (Patriots), he makes the shotgun snap with ease!
He reportedly played OG for some time at the Senior Bowl practice sessions but reports are conflicting on how he fared there so I prefer to go with what I see more than what I've read elsewhere. He won't excite teams at the Combine and his short arms may even hurt his stock but were the Giants to take him in the 4th round or slightly later I would have a big smile on my face as I think he could be a pro starter fairly quickly, maybe even as a rookie if called upon as I believe would fit like a glove into the Giants offensive scheme. Certainly, he'd add quality depth.
Jim Nelson (Iowa) may be a little undersized by NFL standards at 6'4¾", 289lb's but that would fit right in with the Giants current line-up and he still has some room to add a few pounds. I got to watch him closely working in tandem with top LG prospect Eric Steinbach against Wisconsin and came away impressed with his play and his professional attitude, playing to the whistle and not letting up. On most plays he had a big NT over him so it was hard to say for sure that he has the range to get out on the LB's consistently but when he had the opportunity to get up the field on screens he didn't appear to have trouble doing so. However, he was able to get his man turned in the running game at times (though normally with the help of Steinbach) He also did a good job in pass protection and held the line strong in the middle, working with his line-mates to pick up stunts.
At the Senior Bowl, he was auditioned at both OG spots and reportedly held his own there so he offers the versatility that the Giants love. I need to see more of him to decide where he rates overall as a prospect but I'm looking forward to seeing him in the near future against Penn State and their tough front seven.
Brett Romberg (Miami, Fla) reminds me a great deal of his former team-mate Martin Bibla in that he gets a lot of press because of who he plays for but does not in my opinion project anywhere near as highly as his reputation suggests. Similar in many ways to Koppen but maybe a little smaller (he's listed at 6'3", 289lb's but looks both shorter and lighter on the field), he can handle quickness but he doesn't blow big guys off the line, better at firing out on LB's. I'm also not sure he has much upside to his game as his technique may be as good as it will get. He also doesn't strike me as having the frame to add the weight necessary to battle the 300lb'ers on an even keel. In essence, I can't see Romberg being taken on the first day of the draft despite his winning the Dave Rimington trophy as the Nations top OC. I can't really see him being taken until the 5th round though I can see him earning a starting job in the NFL due to the lack of quality players at that position in the league.
Austin King (Northwestern) is considered a prospect on many draft sites but at a listed 6'4", 280lb's he is a little undersized though he should have room to add some weight to his frame. Coming from a ‘spread' offense, he should have the mobility required by the Giants if not the versatility. Unfortunately, I haven't studied him at all at any time in his career and I'm not sure whether he has attended any of the All-star contests that I have tapes of (thanks for those YatQB). If he isn't on those tapes, I won't see him play at all so those with knowledge of him please feel free to post your thoughts on the message board.
Ben Nowland (Auburn) has received a little positive press recently whilst attending the Senior Bowl but the last time I watched him was as a junior when he was absolutely whipped by a rampant Jarrett Johnson (Alabama) for 3 sacks! Needless to say, he's not one I had short-listed in my mind heading into the season as a draft prospect!!! At 6'1 ¾", 293lb's he has good enough size and does a decent job in the running game but pass protection didn't appear to be his forte and with the Giants that is something that a player must excel at due to the nature of the offense. I've got a few Auburn games to watch though so he may yet change my opinion of him.