Combine Offensive Linemen Observations

Former pro scout Tom Marino checked out the NFL Scouting Combine's offensive lineman workouts on Saturday. Who impressed him? Who didn't? And what two offensive linemen are the most overrated? Get the details inside...

On Day Two at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine there were some strong performances and there were few surprises in either Group 2 or Group 3.

As expected, Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long was the clear standout of the offensive line group. A physically imposing athlete, aside from his 37 bench press reps, I was very impressed with his running form and body control. During his bench press, he appeared to bounce three to four and didn't appear to lock out on two or three others. Now the big question is just how quickly do you pull the trigger on a right offensive tackle?

Nebraska's Carl Nicks really impressed me at the Senior Bowl workouts. The absolute best run-blocker in this year's draft, I don't believe Nicks' problems are on-the-field related. Some scouts have questioned his commitment and practice habits, others question his ability to process information, and still others wonder about his stability or judgment as he's a twenty-five year old divorced father of two.

Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah is a giant of a man, who barring injury is going to play a very long time.  But although he moves extremely well, he is not even close to being considered a knee-bender.

You won't have much of a chance to draft Vanderbilt's Chris Williams unless you lost a lot of football games last year. The only chink in his armor appears to be his lack of upper body strength.

Rutgers' Jeremy Zuttah worked out a good deal better then he played during the 2007 season. I like centers Kory Lichtensteiger and Steve Justice a great deal, but although both are skilled and athletic, they looked acutely undersized in the land of the giants. Virginia Tech's Branden Albert has come a very long way in the past three seasons and in my mind is clearly the top offensive guard prospect in this year's draft.

Looking for a couple of offensive line sleepers in this year's draft? My choices are Northern Iowa's wide bodied, 343-pound tackle Brandon Keith and Louisville's Breno Giacomini. Brandon, an Oklahoma transfer, is one of the very best athletic big men I've seen in some time.  But many of my friends in the scouting profession question his intensity and toughness. Louisville's Breno Giacomini was a nationally recruited basketball player who started for the first time this past season.  He needs work on his pass sets and also lacks some upper body strength, but this guy has a chance to become something special down the line.

In my 13 years with the New Orleans Saints, we would classify our sleepers as "Rubies" and the players we looked upon as being overrated as "Fool's Gold". Well, this year's candidate in the latter category is shared by two individuals  -- Newberry College OG Heath Benedict an absolute workout wonder who may have been the most disappointing player I viewed in 2007.  And OT King Dunlap from Auburn, a "king-sized" player who lacks intensity, core strength and balance.


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