2006 Draft Preview: Offensive Line

Only nine players from the state of Alaska have been drafted into the NFL since 1971. That number will change this year.

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1971, there have been just nine players who were born or raised in Alaska who were selected in the draft.

That number is likely to hit double digits this year. And the Pittsburgh Steelers could be the team to make it happen.

Boise State offensive tackle Daryn Colledge, who is from North Pole – Alaska, that is – and Anchorage native Chris Kuper of North Dakota are two of the more intriguing offensive line prospects in this year's draft.

The 6-4, 299-pound Colledge was a very productive pass blocker for the prolific Boise State offense that had many opponents feeling more blue than the Broncos' home field.

The 6-4, 320-pound Kuper was dominant at tackle at NCAA Division II North Dakota and could play guard or tackle at the NFL level.

Both would like to represent their home state well.

"It puts a little more pride on it," Colledge told the Associated Press of representing Alaska. "You need to put forth a little more effort because the whole state is watching. You don't have 900 guys coming out of your cities or state. You have two guys. The whole state is watching us."

Colledge and Kuper have some reasonably big shoes to fill as offensive linemen from the great white north. Former offensive linemen Mark Schlereth, who won Super Bowls as a member of the Redskins and Broncos, helped pave the way for Alaskan linemen.

Both are expected to be mid-round draft picks, taken well after the top offensive tackle, Virginia's D'Brickshaw Ferguson is selected.

The 6-5, 294-pound Ferguson is a likely top-five selection. He's considered a complete package at offensive tackle and should be a 10-year starter in the league.

After Ferguson, USC's Winston Justice, whose surname was appropriate considering his many run ins with the law, Auburn's Marcus McNeil and Miami (Fla.) tackle Eric Winston are all possible first-round selections by teams wanting to acquire offensive tackle talent.

Center Nick Mangold of Ohio State (6-3, 296) is a center with first-round possibilities, while Oklahoma's Davin Joseph (6-2, 304), USC's Taitusi Lutui (6-3, 338), Georgia's Max Jean-Gilles (6-3, 358) and Pitt's Charles Spencer (6-4, 338) are four of the top guard prospects and should be no worse than second-round or early third-round selections.

Some draftniks have linked the Steelers to Mangold, but the team may not be as high on him as some think. In fact, the center the Steelers could target if they are inclined to select one would be Minnesota's Greg Eslinger, a four-year starter for the Gophers.

The Steelers have shown some interest in Colledge, who could be a guard-tackle swing man, and Willie Colon (6-3, 320) of Hofstra, another college offensive tackle who could also project as a guard in the NFL.

Both are considered fourth-round talents and the Steelers could take one with one of their three fourth round picks.

Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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