Positional Analysis: OTs

While there might be only three offensive tackles taken in the first round, a number of those remaining for rounds two through seven could be moved inside to guard. That could mean the Vikings would be looking in this crop of 16 for a developing interior lineman.

VIKINGS OFFENSIVE TACKLES – Bryant McKinnie, Mike Rosenthal, Lewis Kelly, Chris Liwienski (part-time) Adam Haayer.

VIKINGS DRAFT EXPECTATIONS – After using a first-rounder on Bryant McKinnie last year and signing free agent Mike Rosenthal, a former starter for the Giants, the need at offensive tackle wouldn't appear to be high on the Vikings' list. However, that doesn't mean they won't go there. Many NFL guards are converted OTs, so just because someone started at tackle in college doesn't mean he will do so in the NFL. For that reason, the tackle position has a little more importance than it might at face value.

THE CLASS OF '03 – This year's crop of tackles includes as many as three or four first-rounders, which is good news for the Vikings, since they won't be looking O-line until the second round at the earliest and more likely the second day of the draft.

FIRST ROUNDERS

Jordan Gross, Utah, 6-4, 300 –
Fourth-year senior…Excellent leverage and strength accentuated by black belt in tae kwon do…Played both tackle spots and left guard during college career…Finalist for the Outland Trophy, given to best offensive lineman in the country…Very smart…Powerful legs as well as upper body strength…Great footwork…Can play any OL position except center…Excellent work ethic…Doesn't have ideal OL size…Didn't play too many big-time DEs in college…Did 28 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine. PROJECTION: Has been compared to former Vikings Todd Steussie and Gary Zimmerman. Will be the first OL off the board, the only question is when? It could be as high as No. 3 to Houston or as low as No. 9 to Carolina, but little chance he makes it out of the top 10. One of the few top picks who did a full workout at the Combine, where he helped his stock.

Kwame Harris, Stanford, 6-7, 310 – Third-year junior…High school All-American who was highly recruited…Started every game the last two years at right tackle…Two-time All-Pac 10…Won the Morris Trophy in '02 – given to the top offensive lineman in the Pac 10…Mammoth size and good leg strength…Good agility for his size, he has a 35-1/2 inch vertical jump…Played right tackle, but projects at being able to play LT in the pros…Doesn't have dominating upper body strength…Did not lift at the Combine. PROJECTION: Should go in the middle of the first round – ideally to a team looking for an immediate starting right tackle.

George Foster, Georgia, 6-5, 331 – Fifth-year senior…Played most of 2002 one-armed after breaking his wrist in a car accident…Huge bookend tackle…Can play either RT or LT…Has the base to overpower defensive ends when he maintains his balance…Has yet to play a full season because of injuries…Did 23 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: He's going to be an interesting pick. Some scouts believe he has the best set of intangible skills of any OT in the draft. However, his lack of playing time leaves him still a little raw. He could be a crap shoot on draft day – a potential All-Pro or a well-disguised bust waiting to happen. Will likely go in the last third of the first round, possibly to Cleveland.

SECOND/THIRD ROUNDERS

Wayne Hunter, Hawaii, 6-6, 311 –
Fourth-year junior who sat out 2000 after playing as a defensive tackle for Cal in 1999 as a true freshman…Played DT for Hawaii in 2001, but missed much of the season with a back injury…Moved to OT last year and started all but one game at left tackle (he missed the final game for a violation of team rules)…Very big, especially in his upper body…Has a mean streak scouts like…Has added 10 pounds since the end of the season and, with his build, he could end up being 330-plus before too long…Not an efficient run blocker because Hawaii was predominantly a passing team…Improved his stock at the Combine as much as any offensive tackle by doing 37 reps. PROJECTION: He's only played one year at OT, which will drop him out of the first round, but his upside is huge and someone will take an educated gamble in the second round.

John Stinchcomb, Georgia, 6-5, 306 – Fifth-year senior and four-year starter…His brother Matt was a first-round draftee of the Raiders in 1999…Two-time All-SEC pick, freshman All-American and named to several All-America teams as a senior…Very determined worker…Good athletic skills – able to bench press 500 pounds and has a 35-inch vertical jump…A coach's dream, since he works hard to improve on the areas of deficiency in his game…Doesn't have prototype size for an OT in the NFL…Struggled against hard-rushing DEs at times…Did 32 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Won't be a first-rounder like his brother because he needs to add a lot more bulk. More likely to be viewed as a guard in the NFL and should go off the board somewhere in the second round.

Brett Williams, Florida State, 6-5, 315 – Fifth-year senior…High school All-American who was a state shot put champion…Four-time All-ACC selection and two-time winner of the Jacobs Trophy – given to the top ACC offensive lineman…Partially tore his left ACL as a junior…Played LT exclusively his first three years, but played both LT and RT as a senior…Weight room rat who has very strong upper body…Versatile enough to play both tackle or guard positions…Has played through injuries – missed just two games with his ACL tear…Doesn't have a wide base or good leg strength, which hurts his run blocking quite a bit…Has struggled at times vs. bull rush specialists because he doesn't have the best football…Did not lift at the Combine. PROJECTION: The jury is out on Williams. Some project him as the fourth-best OT on the board, while others (like us) see him a bit lower because of his liabilities. Still, he should go off the board late in the second or early in the third round.

Tony Pashos, Illinois, 6-6, 342 – Fifth-year senior…Huge with monster wingspan…Four-year starter who never missed a game, playing his first three years exclusively at right tackle, but seeing time at both tackle spots last year…Intelligent student athlete who earned his degree a year ago…Prototype size and durability standards for NFL scouts…At his best run blocking…Showed off his muscular fraem at the Combine. Can bench press 500 pounds and squat 615 pounds…Did 38 reps at the Combine, more than any other offensive lineman…Doesn't have good footwork and gets overwhelmed by speed rushers at times…Has trouble moving side to side in pass situations…Doesn't play with the same intensity from game to game. PROJECTION: If you go by the Combine numbers and measurable attributes, he's a first rounder. But his negatives are big negatives and will likely drop him into the third round – where he could be a bargain.

Ben Johnson, Wisconsin, 6-6, 329 – Fifth-year senior…Played both left tackle and right tackle…Never missed a game in four years…Has the size requirements to play OT in the NFL…Overpowering run blocker…Long arms allow him to redirect smaller speed rushing DEs…Keeps hitting defenders until they go down…A little plodding with his feet and gets tangled up at times…Needs to work on his pass protection…A backup long-snapper…Did 30 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Could go higher than where we have him rated if a team wants him to strictly be a right tackle. Has many of the desirable qualities coaches want, and his durability and versatility are big pluses that should make him a first-day selection.

Will Ofenheusle, Tennessee, 6-7, 308 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who played both guard and tackle as a sophomore and RT as a junior and senior…Played with a broken wrist much of 2000…Excellent size…Strong upper body to muscle defensive ends and slow speed rushers…Team captain…Has a mean streak when it comes to blocking…Willing worker…Injuries (ankle, shoulder) may worry some teams…Some believe he may actually be too tall to be an effective NFL OT…Not as solid run blocking as he is a pass protector…Did 23 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Weaknesses seem to outweigh positives in some eyes and should drop into the third round as a result.

DAY TWO PROSPECTS

Jordan Black, Notre Dame, 6-6, 314 –
Fifth-year senior…Started as a redshirt freshman before tearing left MCL…Played LT and left guard in 2001, and played LT as a senior…Has good size; run blocking is his strong suit…Has good fundamental skills…Has long arms to hook and redirect defensive ends…Isn't a pure power blocker and doesn't have ideal upper body strength…Did not lift at the Combine…To make it in the NFL, he will have to shift to guard or right tackle – positions of limited experience for him – so he should drop to Day Two and be a one- or two-year project to become a starter.

Steve Sciullo, Marshall, 6-5, 330 – Fifth-year senior and four-year starter…Started 52 straight games without missing one due to injury…Played right tackle as a freshman and final three seasons at left tackle…Ideal measurables for size…Good power at point of attack…Long arms force DEs to take circuitous route to QB…Team captain…Got some All-American nods last year…Doesn't have footwork or agility to play LT at the pro level…Solid run blocker who has struggled at times in pass protection…Like Black, Sciullo is a college left tackle who doesn't project as one in the pros, which will drop his stock – as did an awful week at the Senior Bowl and a pedestrian showing at the Combine, where he did 23 reps

Jeremy Bridges, Southern Mississippi, 6-4, 301 – Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who hasn't missed a game since becoming a starter the third game of his freshman season…Played exclusively at right tackle, which should be an advantage over players listed above, who have to switch from LT to RT…Durability is a big selling point…Excellent pass protector who has a powerful hand punch…Has good upper body strength…Doesn't have the bulk or leg strength a lot of scouts look for…One of the knocks on him is that he needs to be coddled, which would be a problem if Mike Tice was his coach…Did 25 reps at the Combine…After showing a lot of improvement his senior year, he will likely make the transition from tackle to guard and be a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

Justin Bates, Colorado, 6-4, 304 – Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who played both tackle and guard in 1999 and 2000 before moving to tackle as a junior…Two-time All-Big 12…According to team statisticians, he was not called for a single penalty in 2002 and was credited as allowing just a half-sack all season…Experience playing both guard and tackle will help him in some eyes…Durability also a plus…Smart player who rarely makes mental mistakes…Doesn't have the best footwork or massive bulk for an offensive tackle…Not a mauler like scouts look for in a right tackle or agile like what they look for in a left tackle…Did only 18 reps at the Combine – one of the lower totals for offensive linemen…Will have to move inside to make an NFL roster, so he should still be on the board heading into the fifth round.

Gary Byrd, Clemson, 6-4, 314 – Fifth-year senior who missed second year with shoulder surgery…Two-year starter who played both tackle spots as a junior and left tackle as a senior…Does a solid job in both run blocking and pass protection…Good mauler who frustrates defensive ends…Doesn't have the quickness to play LT in the NFL, so he is projected as a right tackle or a guard at the next level…Had a weight problem in college and had to keep weight off from a high-water mark of 340 pounds…Did not lift at the Combine…Durability and experience will be his biggest assets. He should go off the board in the late rounds but will likely have to move inside to become an NFL starter.

Kareem Marshall, Georgia, 6-5, 342 – Junior college transfer who started five games in 2001 and every game last year – even after incumbent George Foster returned from injury...Enormous size and long arms to hook bull-rushing DEs…Able to swarm and smother smaller defensive linemen…Decent upper body strength…Does a workmanlike job both in pass protection and run blocking…Doesn't have the leg drive coaches and scouts want to see from tackles…Awkward at times with his footwork and has a hard time with big-time speed rush specialists…Did not lift at the Combine…Benefited from exposure after replacing Foster but doesn't have the skills to excel in any one area, so he will likely drop to the fifth or sixth round.

Wade Smith, Memphis, 6-4, 296 – Fifth-year senior...Extremely athletic and viewed by some as the best pure athlete among the OTs in the draft…Good quickness out of the blocks…Solid run blocker…Doesn't have the bulk, size or upper body strength coaches want in an offensive tackle…Has problems with bigger, violent bull-rushing DEs…Only two years as a starter – came to Memphis as a TE – playing right tackle in 2001 and left tackle as a senior…Another player that there isn't a consensus about. Some view him as having the best upside of any of the late-round offensive linemen, while others see him as a project who may never realize his full potential and will go undrafted and be a priority free agent after the draft concludes.



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