The players listed below might end up being the best performer in the draft by the time all is said and done with the NFL careers. They might not be the first taken at their respective positions, but if I put a team on the field, they need to be "Tough as Nails" as this starting unit.
If you missed Part 1, click here.
Owen Marecic, Stanford
Marecic is a throwback to the leather helmet days, and perhaps every woman's dream in a mate – as he's what Susan Sarandon was looking for in the movie "Bull Durham" – a 60-minute man. Playing fullback and linebacker for the Cardinal, Marecic toils on all three special team units.
It was perhaps fitting that this versatile performer became the recipient of the inaugural Paul Hornung Award in January. Marecic even drew praise from one of the National Football League's most famous "Sixty-Minute Men" in Chuck Bednarik, who started at center and linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949-60. "That's football," the Pro Football Hall of Famer said. "This two-platoon stuff is pussycat. It's not worth a crap."
On offense in 2010, Marecic paved the way for a rushing attack that ranked 17th in the country, posting 213.77 yards per game on the ground, as Cardinal runners racked up 2,779 yards with 34 touchdowns behind the fullback's punishing blocks. Defensively, he captained a unit that placed 19th in the nation vs. the opponent's ground game, as Stanford allowed just 120.85 yards rushing per contest.
Compares To…Ahmard Hall, Tennessee
Both players are well-built athletes with a nice blend of speed, strength and natural hands. Marecic plays with a "take no prisoners" approach as a blocker, as he simply explodes out of his stance to get into the rush lanes as a lead blocker. He is a good route runner who is used mostly on controlled routes, but has the vision to locate the soft areas in the zone. He rarely gets an opportunity to carry the ball, outside of short-yardage situations, but he adds to his resume with his tackling ability and will not only provide reserve depth at middle linebacker but be an asset on special teams.
Teams Showing the Most Interest: Baltimore, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and New York Giants
The Ravens appear to be making plans for life without Le'Ron McClain and look like they will be the first team to draft a fullback, more likely in the fifth round. With Hall a potential free agent, Tennessee could opt to replace him with a similar player. Tampa Bay has been looking for a physical back since B.J. Askew failed to recover from injury woes after the 2008 season. The Giants were in the same situation as Tampa Bay, as injuries wiped out most of the 2010 season for Madison Hedgecock, and were forced to use H-backs at the position last season.
Jason Kelce, Cincinnati
One look at Kelce's size and he does not exactly fit the mold of big, bruising men in the pivot that will regularly face massive nose guards. Just don't judge a book by its cover, for despite his lack of great size, there is no question that Kelce is one of the most gifted athletes in the draft at his position – and tough, to boot. Just how tough?
At the NFL Combine in late February, Kelce dazzled professional scouts and coaches with what many regarded as the best performance of any offensive lineman in attendance. He was one of just two linemen to run under 5.0 in the 40-yard dash (4.89), as he recorded the best dash times (1.70 10-yard; 2.83 20-yard), top broad jump (9'2"), 20-yard shuttle (4.14) and three-cone drills (7.22) of any center at the event.
What made that performance even more impressive was that he ran the drills with what doctors first thought was a bad case of the flu. Upon arriving back home, it was discovered that Kelce performed in the agility tests with a burst appendix, undergoing surgery on March 9.
One of the most explosive offensive linemen in the collegiate ranks, Kelce's initial quickness and hand placement skills, along with his impressive strength and leg drive, helped him compensate for a lack of ideal size for an interior offensive lineman. The three-year starter joined the program as a walk-on, but his tireless work ethic earned him a starting job at left offensive guard for two seasons before returning to his more natural position at center for his final campaign.
Compares To…OLIN KREUTZ, Chicago
Kelce might lack great size, but he shows good explosion off the snap and does a very nice job of locking on and jerking down defenders coming out of his rise. Kelce does a good job of extending and anchoring vs. the inside pass rusher. His anchor is strong and firm vs. the bigger opponents, and he has enough punch and slide to stay with his man shooting the gaps. He shows good hip sink to prevent the taller defenders from pushing him back, but could use more strength in his anchor. When he plays in control and does not try to lunge, he is perfectly capable of sustaining and riding out the rusher. He showed in 2010 improvement in attempts to keep his weight back, stay square and slide and adjust. He can anchor vs. the bull rush and shows great alertness to tricks. The thing you notice on film is that when he keeps his hands inside his frame, he can slide and mirror defenders, using his hand placement to defeat swim moves. H Teams Showing the Most Interest: Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami, New England and New York Giants
Both Atlanta and Jacksonville like quick, aggressive zone blockers from their pivot performers. The Falcons' Todd McClure is one of the most underrated blockers in the game, but he will be 35 next year and has been in the league 13 seasons. Jacksonville's Brad Meester has had injury issues, along with seeing his performance drop-off noticeably the last three years. It seems that ever since Tim Ruddy retired that Miami has been on an endless search for a center. Signing Jake Grove last year proofed foolhardy, as he was cut before the season got under way. New England's Dan Koppen has been in the pivot for nine years, but the Pats, with a slew of draft choices, are looking to upgrade depth for the interior line and Kelce's ability to play guard could fill the void created by Steve Neal's sudden retirement. The Giants are greatly concerned that Shaun O'Hara will never return to the player he was after several surgeries to repair leg woes and fill-in, Rich Seubert is needed more at left guard. If he's forced to shift to center in 2011, the team could opt for a left tackle and slide David Diehl over to guard.
Orlando Franklin, Miami
It is fitting that he plays like a true warrior in the trenches, as tribal tattoos snake up and down his massive right arm. Last season, Franklin was the man most responsible for protecting UM quarterbacks, as no defensive lineman managed to record a sack vs. the Hurricanes blocker. The team's former offensive guard found a home at left offensive tackle late in his junior season. He used that two-game audition in 2009 to give him experience to develop into a dominant drive blocker during his final campaign, where he registered sixteen touchdown-resulting blocks. He not only sealed off countless edge rush attempts, but led a young offensive line that allowed only sixteen quarterback sacks in 2010 after giving up 35 the previous season and 29 more in 2008.
Franklin would go on to start 40-of-51 games for the Hurricanes. During his junior season, the Hurricanes amassed 5,199 yards in total offense, which rank fourth-highest in school history. With Franklin taking over left tackle duties in 2010, Miami generated 5,477 yards, the second-best season total in UM annals. He produced 122 knockdowns combined, as a junior and senior, coming up with 29 touchdown-resulting blocks during that span.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Whether he is placed at left tackle or moved back to his original position of left guard, a team will have a classic mauler in their trenches. Franklin is best when driving forward to knock defenders off the ball for the ground game. When he uses his hands properly to engage, he has good success in attempts to maintain inside leverage. He uses his size well to lean into and push defenders out of the way and if staying in the short area, he has enough power to widen the rush lane. He is not the type that can get out and cut at the second level, but once he gets a piece of his man in closed quarters, the battle is soon over.
Some teams feel that he lacks the ideal foot speed to play on an island at left tackle, but with his ability to quickly recoil and reset his hands after initially locking on to the opponent could see him earn a starting job quicker at right tackle at the next level. The thing you see on game films is that he is an explosive hip roller, as he shows good body control to generate movement and is best when driving forward to knock defenders off the ball for the ground game.
Teams Showing the Most Interest: Indianapolis, Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit and Buffalo
Everyone from their franchise quarterback to the water boy will tell you that the Colts greatly miss Tarik Glenn, their perennial All-Pro left tackle that retired several years ago. Tony Ugoh proved to be a bust and left offensive tackle is a prime need for the Colts. If they opt to bypass one in the first round, Franklin could get the call in round two, allowing Charles Johnson to shift to his more natural right tackle spot. Chicago is in the same situation as Indianapolis, as failed performances by Orlando Pace and Chris Williams leaves them again searching for a left tackle. Green Bay might be best served to continue revamping the offensive line and Franklin will be a perfect fit as a right tackle tackle. Detroit needs to replace aging Jeff Backes, and Demetrius Bell might show promise, but Buffalo can't afford him spending any more time in the trainer's room rather than the football field.
Tyron Smith, USC
The first thing a scout is taught when evaluating potential draft prospect is the "look test". Does the player measure up? Is he tall enough? How is his frame? Is he carrying too much weight? Does he need more weight? Does he look good in his pads? Can he play a lick of football? All of these aspects form that first evaluation.
There's a phrase out there that coaches use all the time to describe those that pass the look test, but fail where it counts, on the field: "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane". From all appearances when watching film on Tyron Smith, it doesn't take long before scouts can comfortably say that the Trojans offensive lineman can be a big-time football player.
Even though some scouts might have been concerned when they first saw Smith at 265 pounds last summer, his well-built frame showed the ability to fill out to NFL-caliber proportions. By the time he arrived at the Scouting Combine, the USC right tackle measured in at an impressive 307 pounds. December knee surgery prevented him from competing in the agility tests, though.
In recent rehab workouts, the offensive tackle appears to be very fluid moving around with his new 300-plus pound frame, eliminating fears that the added bulk would negate his impressive initial quickness.
Smith appeared in 34 games at Southern California, starting the final 24 contests that he appeared in at right offensive tackle. He registered 172 knockdowns, 15 downfield blocks and 23 touchdown-resulting blocks in his two seasons as a starter. He was the recipient of the Pac 10 Conference's Morris Trophy, given to the league's top offensive lineman.
Compares To…Walter Jones, ex-Seattle
Smith is not the wide body that Jones was, but both have outstanding athleticism. While it is rare for a top-level player to be placed on this team, it was a no-brainer. After all, Smith is the best mauler in the collegiate game, hands down.
Not only does Smith demonstrate above-average quickness, but he positions himself well and gets his hands up quickly on the rise, generating strength with quickness to impact, pop and surge with sudden force. He also displays very good hip and leg explosion, as well as a strong jolt with his hand punch. He plays with good aggression and has the flexibility and power to gain leverage, especially when attempting to create a crease for the ground game.
Teams Showing the Most Interest: Dallas, Kansas City, Baltimore and Cincinnati
It's not like other teams are shying away from Smith, it's just that Dallas has made it known that he is their primary candidate to fill the void created when they dumped Flozell Adams prior to last season. Kansas City would love to snatch up the left tackle, as it would let them shift Branden Albert to left guard or right tackle after two less than inspiring seasons from their present left tackle. Baltimore can do likewise with Michael Oher, who played with a strong base at left tackle last year for the Ravens, but after eight holding penalties, he may be better on the right side, where he won't be left on an island vs. the edge rushers so often.
John Moffitt, Wisconsin
Gabe Carimi needs to give half of his Outland Trophy to his left -side running mate. Without "Moff" doing the dirty work, Carimi might be exposed for the overrated talent quite a few teams deem him to be.
Evidence of Moffitt's value to the team came in the early stages of the 2009 season. The lineman suffered a pectoral muscle strain in August camp that would force him to miss the first two games of the schedule and see just a handful of snaps upon his return in the third contest. With Moff out of the lineup, UW averaged 170.0 yards per game rushing. With Moffitt returning to the lineup for the final ten games, the Badgers would average 210.0 yards and 2.45 touchdowns per game on the ground.
Moffitt sat out part of the 2010 spring camp while recovering from his hernia surgery. He returned to left guard for the 2010 campaign, producing perhaps his finest season of an impressive collegiate career. The All-American first-team choice recorded 13 touchdown-resulting blocks. The Lombardi Award candidate was also credited with 66 knockdowns while leading a blocking effort that saw Badgers quarterbacks get sacked just 14 times.
On 2,915 offensive snaps, the lineman allowed just two quarterback pressures and 3.5 sacks, as he was penalized only twice during his time with the Badgers.
Compares To… Jeff Hartings, ex-Pittsburgh
As an interior lineman, Moffitt's ability to work in unison with other blockers on double teams has been critical. I really like him better as a center, as he has that forward burst and lower pad level to easily defeat a defender lined up over his head. He is effective on traps and pulls working the short areas as a guard. He plays with a strong base and has the loose hips and upper body strength to win most one-on-one battles in the trenches. Moffitt is blessed with good balance, body control, intelligence and leg drive. He is the type that puts forth the extra hours in the weight room to increase his upper body strength and in the film room preparing for opponents.
Teams Showing the Most Interest: New England, Philadelphia, Miami, Pittsburgh and Arizona
The Pats lost Steve Neal to retirement and might have a repeat of the long holdout staged by Logan Mankins last year. With New England also looking to upgrade depth at center, Moffitt could fill both needs. Philadelphia also had interior line issues, especially at right guard, where Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole failed to impress. The Dolphins want a better center than Joe Berger and "Moff" can slide their with no issues, evident of his performance in the pivot in 2009, but a better fit in Miami would be to put him at left guard and shift Richie Incognito into the pivot. Pittsburgh wants tough, aggressive blockers on the front wall and even though they have more pressing needs at tackle, a guard in the mid rounds to add depth is needed. Arizona has come to realize what the Jets did prior to 2010 - Alan Faneca is no longer able to play even at a journeyman's level. With Deuce Lutui a donut shop order away from being on the "Biggest Loser," the Cards need drastic upgrades on their front wall to protect whoever might be their starting quarterback in 2011.
Danny Watkins, Baylor
Remember the credo for being a member of this team? True grit and being a fighter are some of those requirements. Then, it only seems natural that a firefighter is included on this team. Watkins served as a part-time firefighter back home in Kelowna, British Columbia, and playing football never entered his mind, that is, not until 2007. Butte College has been a haven for some players from north of the border and one that didn't quite know the importance of the position he was playing was their new offensive tackle, Watkins, who had enrolled at the school to attend their firefighting academy.
Now a strapping 310-pound lineman, the senior received All-American and All-Big 12 Conference first-team honors in 2010 during his second season as Baylor's left tackle. His stellar blocking thrust Baylor back into the bowl game picture for the first time since the 1994 season. He flattened most defensive linemen that dared to get into his path, leading the league with 134 knockdowns, as he posted 17 touchdown-resulting blocks.
Compares To…LOGAN MANKINS, New England
Watkins is blessed with natural ability with above-average strength levels. He has a wide body, very good knee bend and always seems to get the job done. He has competed against some very good defensive ends and tackles in the Big Twelve Conference and continues to be efficient, even dominant. He is the best pass protector in the Southwest. The thing you notice about him is his intensity. Watkins can be engaged with a defender and still punch to control a blitzing linebacker. He struggles a bit when getting into the second level, but compensates by taking proper blocking angles.
His quick first step off the ball allows him to gain advantage. He has the size and strength to move the larger defenders off the ball and plays with an almost perfect base and pad level. His active hands prove very beneficial when he works them to switch on stunts.
Teams Showing the Most Interest: New England, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Oakland
The list of teams that could find a starting job for a player of Watkins caliber is mostly everyone, but like Tyron Smith with his connection to the Dallas Cowboys, the Pats have a busload of choices and unless a team goes for the Baylor blocker before New England first picks, the folks in Foxboro will have an instant replacement for Mankins or Steve Neal. Kansas City has a more pressing need at left tackle than along the line's interior, but Watkins was a collegiate tackle and there is no question he can play there. Pittsburgh is in the same boat as Kansas City – looking for a tackle first, but like versatility from their front wall blockers. If he slides into round two, look for the Raiders to try and trade up to snatch Watkins, as both starters from 2010, Cooper Carlisle and Robert Gallery are not expected to return to the Silver & Black.
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