Positional Analysis: OGs

The Vikings will be looking to find a successor for David Dixon and/or add depth along the offensive line. We break down the pros and cons for the top 10 guard prospects coming out of college.

VIKINGS OFFENSIVE GUARDS – David Dixon, Chris Liwienski (moving back to guard), Everett Lindsay, Michael Early, Lewis Kelly (part-time), Lorenzo White..

VIKINGS DRAFT EXPECTATIONS – There is a clear need for depth here. Dixon is 34 years old and doesn't have a lot of time left. Corbin Lacina, a former starter, is also a question to return since he has begun talking with other teams and has been informed if he does return, it would be as a backup. The same is true for Lindsay, who can back up both the guard and tackle spots and is better as a stop-gap reserve than a full-time starter. The good news is that the signing of Mike Rosenthal will allow Liwienski, who spent the last two years at right tackle following the death of Korey Stringer, to move to his more natural left guard spot and upgrade the position. The Vikings hoped to answer their need at guard by drafting Ed Ta'amu in the fourth round last year, but he didn't pan out and is now with Houston. Look for the Vikings to seriously consider using a third- or fourth-round pick here, but, that being said, understand that Mike Tice is a firm believer that interior offensive linemen are built, not created, and that he has the confidence that a player like Matt Birk can be molded into a starter by refining his technique and improving on what he does best.

THE CLASS OF '03 – Guard is one of the toughest positions in the draft to grade because many NFL guards are converted offensive tackles, so players rated as a top-10 college guard on a draft board may actually drop down several notches because of the athleticism for guards. However, it is a position that rarely warrants early-round selection, because, like the Vikings, many teams believe that guards can be taught their job playing in between bookend tackles and a strong center. Eric Steinbach of Iowa is clearly the best in show for this year, but there may be a handful of pure guards that go off the board on the first day.

FIRST ROUNDERS

Eric Steinbach, Iowa, 6-6, 295 –
Fifth-year senior who came to Iowa as a tight end prospect…Suffered through injury problems that shortened his sophomore season (ankle) and junior year (dislocated elbow)…Played all year in '02 and was All-American, All-Big 10 and the Big 10 Offensive Lineman of the Year…Extremely good athlete who is an overpowering run blocker and has the fluid movement in pass protection of a left tackle…Powerful upper body that neutralizes DTs in space…Excellent pulling guard and trap blocker…Has the athletic ability to play offensive tackle in the pros…Is not a real student of the game…Weight is a primary concern, since he's viewed as too lean to be a top-flight offensive tackle…Durability is another concern, since he's played only one full season in his college career…Did not lift at the Combine. PROJECTION: Played offensive tackle during Senior Bowl week and more than just held his own vs. the top defensive ends in the college game. Will likely be the second offensive lineman to go in the draft after OT Jordan Gross and will probably land in the middle third of the first round.

SECOND/THIRD ROUNDERS

Vince Manuwai, Hawaii, 6-2, 304 –
Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter at right guard who also had a couple of starts at right tackle when injuries hit Hawaii's offensive line…Two-time All-WAC selection…Had one of the stronger weeks of any offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl…Has been compared to Bears center Olin Kreutz and Matt Birk – high praise indeed…Is an excellent pass protector…Has very strong lower body…Doesn't have a lot of experience in the running game since Hawaii was one-dimension in the passing game…Arms are little shorter than scouts like in a prototype offensive lineman…Isn't as tall as most coaches want guards to be…Did 27 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine. PROJECTION: While viewed as a little undersized, his toughness, durability and mean streak will be enough for some team to snap him up in the second round and use him as either a guard or center.

Montrae Holland, Florida State, 6-1, 326 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter…Two-time All-ACC selection…Excellent run blocking skills…Beats people up at point of attack…Tremendous upper body strength…A little too short for great pass blocking skills, but has good technique…A little slow and has problems with quick, one-gap DTs…Very wide and has a good base and solid lower body strength…Injuries have been a huge concern – had his left knee scoped twice in 1999, ankle surgery in 2000 and a right knee scope in 2001…Missed time with an ankle injury last year…Has trouble keeping his weight down…Impressed scouts by doing 30 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: A little on the short side, which could drop him out of Round 2, but has the incumbent skills to be a solid pro. Playing for FSU got him noticed by a lot of pro coaches and scouts, which should be a solid selling point.

Derrick Dockery, Texas, 6-5, 338 – Fourth-year senior who saw action in every game of his college career…Three-year starter who started six games at right guard and six at right tackle last year…All-Big 12 last year and an Outland Trophy semifinalist…Huge player who is a mauler in the middle…At his best run blocking, where he tended to dominate one-on-one matchups…Long arms make him an imposing target to get past…Plays a very physical style and has a mean streak…A popular teammate and a coach's dream…Had a problem keeping his weight down…Not in the best shape, he gets tired late in games and wears down…Did 22 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Could potentially play RT in the pros, but more likely to be effective as a guard. Is best suited to play for a team that runs the ball down opponents' throats. Size is a plus, but lack of agility and mobility will likely keep him on the board until late in the second round.

Torrin Tucker, Sourthern Mississippi, 6-6, 328 – Fifth-year senior…Started at right tackle as a freshman and at guard ever since…All-Conference USA as a senior…Big enough to play OT…Has long arms (34-1/2 inches) and good footwork to create mismatches…Very good run blocker who likes to get physical and in-your-face with defenders…Good pulling guard on sweeps and pancake hitter on traps…Compared with Kyle Turley for his short fuse, which often hurts his overall performance…Isn't very consistent from game to game…Did not lift at the Combine. PROJECTION: Has the physical tools to be a very solid pro but needs to harness emotions and grow up to be effective at the next level. Because of concerns on his mental stability, he'll likely hang around until the third round.

DAY TWO PROJECTIONS

Anthony Davis, Virginia Tech, 6-4, 316 –
Fourth-year senior…Played left tackle as a starter his freshman, junior and senior years…In 2001, played situational nose tackle on defense…Very wide base and quick on the snap…Excellent bulk and strength…Has the size to neutralize bull rushers up the middle…Doesn't have a good work ethic and has been accused of wasting his ability by being lazy…Struggles with speed rushers…Does not have a nasty streak…Did not lift at the Combine…Has the skills to be a solid pro, but poor work habits will drop him into the second day and, if he doesn't find a coach to harness his ability, will blow his big chance.

Taylor Whitley, Texas A&M, 6-4, 321 – Fifth-year senior…Also a shot putter on the A&M track team…Started every game the last three years…Good upper body strength…Has good mechanics…Very hard worker…Doesn't have height or footwork to play tackle…Not excellent at pulling or trap blocking…Did 28 reps at the Combine…Is a player who does lot of things well, but doesn't wow scouts or stand out in any particular area, which should drop him into the middle rounds.

Jeff Roehl, Northwestern, 6-4, 300 – Began college career at Notre Dame before transferring…Three-year starter for Wildcats who played both guard and tackle…Solid run blocker…Has aggressive nasty side…Strong hand puncher…Played well in post-season all-star games…Coaches rave about his willingness to lead by example…Doesn't have the size or bulk a lot of NFL teams look for…Will get knocked backwards by bigger, stronger DTs…Did not lift at the Combine…Isn't flashy, but a lunch pail guy on the lines of Corbin Lacina who will earn his money and likely have a decent NFL career as a backup and, if he finds the right position, eventually a starter. He likely won't go off the board until the fifth or sixth round.

David Diehl, Illinois, 6-6, 310 – Fifth-year senior…Had back surgery after a redshirt freshman year in '98…Didn't become a full-time starter until last year…Intelligent player who graduated in 2001 and spent the last year-and-a-half in a master's degree program…Height is a big plus…Has long arms to limit defenders and enough upper body strength to stand tall vs. big DTs…Started at both guard and left tackle…Isn't a mauler like coaches want from offensive linemen…Depends more on technique than brute strength…Doesn't back people up in the running game…Had 22 reps at the Combine…With only one full year of starting experience, he likely will be a project taken in the final rounds but has the size and size potential to become a decent player in the right system.

Alex Jackson, Georgia, 6-4, 356 – Fourth-year senior…Has never played a full season as a starter…Huge frame…Excellent size and power allows him to eat up defensive linemen…Takes up a lot of space in pass protection…Loses quite a bit of his power because he plays too upright…Weight has been a problem, because he has blown up to as much as 375…Did 24 reps at the Combine…The typical sixth- or seventh-round prospect – a guy who could be a gamble on a big return, but, if he doesn't keep his weight down and prove he can play a full season, he may never get his opportunity to show what he can do.


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