Draft Position Preview: Interior OL

Finding a guard or center ranks fifth on our list of the Packers' draft needs. Guard Mike Iupati and center Maurkice Pouncey are possibilities to go to the Packers at No. 23, and several mid- to late-round prospects are on the team's radar.

Packer Report continues its position-by-position looks at the NFL Draft with the interior offensive linemen.

Packers position rank by need

Fifth of 13.

State of the Packers

Scott Wells is back at center after one of his finest seasons in the NFL, and right guard Josh Sitton has quietly become an upper-echelon player at his position. Barring a trade, it will be Daryn Colledge vs. Jason Spitz as the starter at left guard. Evan Dietrich-Smith, an undrafted rookie last year, has some potential. Assuming whoever emerges at left guard plays better than Colledge did there last season, the Packers will be happy with their starting trio.

Forget about ...

All options are on the table.

Possible targets

— It's more likely than not that Idaho's Mike Iupati (6-5, 331) will be off the board at No. 23, but in such a wide-open draft, all bets are off after the top 15 or so prospects. A consensus All-American as a senior, Iupati answered scouts' questions with a dominating Senior Bowl week. When Iupati was at his customary spot at left guard, he was just unbeatable. Naturally strong and surprising athletic, Iupati has the earmarks of a 10-time Pro Bowler. He's a mauler as a run blocker and his long arms and strength keep defenders at bay in the passing game. He's training with Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, just in case his new team wants to give Iupati a shot at left tackle.

A more likely option at No. 23 would be Florida's Maurkice Pouncey (6-4, 306), who is one of the top center prospects to come along in years. Pouncey opened his career at right guard and could go there to start so Wells can remain at center. He's got a nasty streak, is athletic enough in pass protection and made all the line calls in Florida's cerebral offense. He might be the safest pick in this draft.

No. 13: Quarterbacks
No. 12: Specialists
No. 11: Wide receivers
No. 10: Tight ends
No. 9: Nose tackles
No. 8: Running backs
No. 7: Defensive ends
No. 6: Inside linebackers

— Last year's group of centers was fantastic. This year, not so much — but Baylor's J.D. Walton (6-3, 300) and Boston College's Matt Tennant (6-5, 300) look like future starters as third-round prospects. Walton earns the distinction of being the second center off the board after outplaying Tennant during Senior Bowl week. Walton won the Rimington Award as the nation's top center. Both players need to get stronger but both have the agility to play in a zone blocking scheme.

— Guys like Notre Dame's Eric Olsen (6-4, 306) North Carolina State's Ted Larsen (6-3, 304), New Mexico's Erik Cook, UNLV's Joe Hawley (6-3, 297), USC's Jeff Byers (6-4, 301) and East Carolina's Sean Allen (6-3, 308) all would be the type of center-guard combo that the Packers desire with their backups. Olsen and Larsen top scouts' lists from that group as possible fourth-round picks, with Larsen being the best fit for Green Bay. The others are all late-rounders/undrafteds. Hawley led the centers at the Combine with 35 reps on the bench press. Hawaii center John Estes (6-2, 302), with 54 consecutive starts, also could play guard but has the athleticism, intelligence and pass-blocking skills that the Packers like in their centers. A source, in fact, said the Packers like Estes a lot. A source also said the Packers like Weber State's Kyle Mutcher (6-3, 300), an FCS All-American who has played guard. And why not take a seventh-round flier on Texas A&M's Kevin Matthews (6-3, 298), who is a cousin of Clay Matthews III and the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews?

— Following Iupati, the second-ranked guard is Illinois' Jon Asamoah (6-4, 308), who has the athletic ability to excel in a zone-blocking scheme. A three-year starter at right guard, he was an Academic All-American as a senior. Probably a better pass protector at this point than Iupati, and his ability to attack linebackers in the run game would make him a good fit for the Packers in the second round.

— Utah's Zane Beadles (6-5, 310) was a superb collegiate left tackle who would move inside. The four-year starter isn't athletic enough to handle edge rushers in the NFL but he seems perfectly suited to be a zone guard. Exceptionally smart and gives 100 percent on every snap. He could be a target in the third round.

Another tackle-to-guard prospect is TCU's Marshall Newhouse (6-4, 319), who could be a target in the fourth round. Probably a better athlete than Beadles and, like Beadles, is a high-character player. His uncle is former Cowboys fullback Robert Newhouse.

— Arizona State's Shawn Lauvao (6-3, 315) played guard and both tackle spots for the Sun Devils but doesn't have the arm length to play left tackle in the NFL. Like Beadles and Newhouse, Lauvao has the quickness to excel at guard in a zone scheme. Will battle Newhouse to be drafted in the fourth.

— As a late-round possibility, Colorado's Shelley Smith was the quickest guard at the Scouting Combine and appears to be a perfect fit in a zone scheme. A source said the Packers like the three-year starter. James Madison's Dorian Brooks (6-2, 306) also is an athletic three-year starter who has been eyed by the Packers. Texas' Charlie Tanner (6-4, 305) caught the Packers' eyes at his pro day, where he showed surprising athleticism. He started three years at left guard.

— Mississippi's John Jerry, who was superb at the Senior Bowl, Alabama's Mike Johnson, who started 41 consecutive games at every spot but left tackle, Arkansas' Mitch Petrus, who showed Herculean strength at the Combine, and Virginia Tech's Sergio Render are mid-round prospects who aren't athletic enough for the Packers' zone scheme.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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