Draftnik's Corner - Interior OL Draft Update #1

OC Al Johnson (Wisconsin) didn't work out at the Combine but may have gained mixed reviews at the Badgers Pro Day when he was only able to bench press 18 reps of the 225lb bar...

I haven't seen enough of the top players to write an article on each position so have amalgamated a few things together here. With the Giants having already lost starting ORG Jason Whittle to Tampa Bay bearing in mind he was the back-up OC last year too, depth is certainly needed inside and drafting a guy to step in and start at ORG isn't out of the question.

OC's
Al Johnson (Wisconsin) didn't work out at the Combine but may have gained mixed reviews at the Badgers Pro Day when he was only able to bench press 18 reps of the 225lb bar, far below what was anticipated of a player who was considered a strong man in the middle. On the other hand, he scooted 40 yards in 5 seconds which for a 305lb guy is pretty impressive and he excellent athleticism in the 20 yard shuttle run. I still don't consider him a potential 2nd round pick of the Giants but I can see a team taking him around that point in the draft.

Bruce Nelson (Iowa) got his weight up from 289lb's at the Senior Bowl to 301lb's at the Combine but didn't lift that well (20 reps) or participate in the other sections of the workout but news from the recent Iowa Pro Day suggests he has the athleticism required to be a future NFL starter. It's interesting to note though, that as a taller OC, he doesn't have long arms. However, I still haven't got around to watching him against Penn State though so I'm not sure whether he would fit into our scheme. The consensus of opinion appears to be that he rates as a late 2nd round pick but whether that may be too early for the Giants to consider him. However, he has a reputation as a good pass blocker and having performed well at RG in the Senior Bowl practices, he may draw a long look because he has the versatility factor we're looking for…

Dan Koppen (Boston College) had a pretty solid overall workout at the Combine and continues to look like a solid 4th round choice to me. Like Nelson, he offers the versatility to play anywhere on the inside (he played LG at the Senior Bowl). With Whittle now having left the fold for Tampa Bay, the Giants do need an OG/OC and he is one of those that fits the bill. He is shorter and with shorter arms than the Giants like though as most of our OL's are around the 6'5"+mark but he has the strength (27 reps of the bench press at the Combine) to make his mark anyway.

Brett Romberg (Miami, Fla) was totally exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Ohio State's dynamic DT's in both pass protection and as a run blocker and would have seen his ‘stock' plummet accordingly. He's one I certainly don't want the Giants to draft and I can see him hanging around in the late rounds unless a team is desperate for help at OC's and the better prospects go off the board sooner than expected.

Austin King (Northwestern) probably worked his to free agent status with a poor showing at he combine. For a guy who came from an offense that required athleticism from it's linemen, clocking near 5.5 seconds at under 300lb's won't have cut much ice with the NFL scouts. I'm not sure he will get drafted at all but if it is it will be late on.

I've seen Ben Nowland (Auburn) a couple of times this season already – against Georgia and Penn State – and he has done a decent job without looking like he will be capable of stepping up his game any further. He has improved in pass protection but going against top DT's like Kennedy and Sullivan he clearly couldn't handle them with any consistency one-on-one and they were both able to make some big plays against the run going right through him.

OG's
Eric Steinbach (Iowa) now appears certain to be drafted as an OT and after blistering the track at the Combine (ran a 4.96 over 40 yards at 298lb's), it's very likely that he will be taken amongst the top 20 picks overall and be expected to start on the left side immediately for the team drafting him. Like his team-mate Nelson, he also has shorter arms than you'd expect from a tall guy but his footwork should enable him to protect the outside against speed rushers anyway.

Torrin Tucker (Southern Mississippi) is highly rated but while it was easy to see what NFL teams may like about him in the game against Oklahoma State, he is far from the finished product and clearly came off second best in his marquee match-up with Kevin Williams. Tall, mobile, with long arms and the versatility to play both OG spots (he is the strong-side guy so switches sides quite often), he was asked to pull and trap frequently in both directions. Those attributes would fit in nicely with the Giants requirements. He was also willing to leave his feet to make a kick-out block and appeared smooth and in control if not particularly fast in leading, though he didn't always make great contact. As you'd expect of a big man, he has some power at the snap and created some movement in-line but he didn't sustain particularly well and got off balance a few times though he didn't go to ground that often.

Though widely considered a better pass protector than run blocker, I didn't see much evidence of that! Used his size to stop a bull rush but struggled with Williams' powerful hands and quickness and was knocked sideways too easily, left balancing precariously on one foot on more than one occasion as his QB was flattened by his man and was called for an obvious takedown late in the game when beaten badly. Didn't show a mean streak in his play – seemed to ease up too early, too often. He also didn't seem to use his hands to punch that well but when he locked on he was able to use his feet to stay in front of his man consistently.

I'm not sure that he won't make a better OT in the pro's where his feet and long arms can be put to more use but I got the feeling he needs to turn the intensity up a bit. A solid showing at the Combine seems to have his ‘stock' firmly entrenched in the 2nd round but that would be more on ‘potential' as he doesn't look ready to play right away. I wouldn't consider drafting him before the 3rd round for the Giants.

While Tucker had a hard time, Derrick Dockery (Texas) did a much better job against Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams in their match-up and also played pretty well against Kansas State. A versatile player, he played most of the 1st half at RT in both games and was playing pretty well there before switching inside to RG (though the broadcast didn't say whether the switch was planned or due to injuries elsewhere). As you'd expect of a guy with his size – he weighed in at 347lb's at the Combine and had the longest arms of any player attending – he showed great power in-line blocking for the run, generating instant movement. He also showed good mobility, getting out in front of plays and driving his man out of the play from his OT spot and showing he could lead the sweep and adjust on the move from his RG spot. He showed better balance than I remembered him doing last year as he stayed on his feet more often after making contact.

In pass protection, at ORT he missed one blitz off his side altogether (was forced to choose between blocking the LDE and the blitzing OLB but was clearly confused and hit no-one as both hit the QB) but showed he could slide his feet adequately and extend his arms to push his man around the corner though he did let up too soon at times. From his OG spot, he gave up a sack early on to Williams and another hit when he couldn't handle his combination of size, power and quickness, he changed his tactics and surprised the hell out of me by proving a proficient cut blocker (big guy usually flop like beached whales), able to take his man down repeatedly at the snap. Against his other opponents, he stayed on his feet and most times the play was over for them the moment he got his hands on them. However, he was surprisingly driven back like on skates by a bull rush a couple of times in the K-State game against a short stocky guy who clearly got under his pad level.

The big worry about him is whether he will keep his weight under control as it looks like he has the athletic ability, size and strength to be an immediate NFL starter. Some reports from the Combine – where he was listed officially as an OT – suggest that he showed up woefully out of shape but that opinion does not appear to be shared throughout the internet rumour mill and, as he didn't work out in full, we really don't know. From what I've seen, though not the finished product, he has made a big improvement in his game and is a player I would be interested in drafting, certainly for RG. I do wonder whether he has great instincts though as it's not the first time I've seen him look confused on stunts over the years He actually fits our scheme pretty well and he could be a player the Giants like but until he works out in full, his off-season shape won't be revealed and he could slip from a likely mid-late 2nd round pick, into the second day.

Garry Johnson (Arkansas State) probably didn't impress the pro scouts as much as expected when he worked out at the Combine. Measuring in at under 290lb's, he didn't prove to be the stud athlete the hype surrounding him suggested he was and he clearly lacks the strength (just 17 reps on the bench press) to play the pro game immediately. He looks to be a project with some tools but appears size-wise to be a better prospect at OG. Having never seen him I've no idea whether he's one that the Giants may consider in the mid-late rounds.

I've seen a number of sites places where Vince Manuwai (Hawaii) is rated as a 2nd round pick but I didn't see that against Alabama and while he flashed good tools at the Senior Bowl, the consensus is that he is still very much a work in progress who has a whole lot to learn about blocking for the run, something he never really had to do in school. The Combine seemed to have been very successful for him though as he proved his strength, speed and athleticism and he impressed again at Hawaii's pro day recently. As a pure OG, I can't see him rating as highly on the Giants board but scouts from every pro team were in attendance at the Hawaii Pro Day – though hopefully the Giants rep was there solely to check out the OLB Tinoisamoa – and he could well end up in the 2nd round despite the reservations I have about him.

Montrae Holland (Florida State) didn't run at the combine but did not compare well with the other prospects – particularly the top ones at his position who chose to work out – in either the shuttle or cone runs. He'll need to prove he has enough speed to get to the next level at the FSU Pro day or else he could find his stock slipping from it's present position where the consensus seems to be that he is a late first day pick. Despite his height, he doesn't have short arms and he proved he's strong enough (30 reps on the bench press) to battle with big DT's in the NFL. I'll watch him again against Georgia before deciding on where I see him being drafted because the level lf competition is a lot higher than when I saw him against Louisville and that should clearly show whether he has the speed to get into LB's at the next level.


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