POSITION OVERVIEW: Offensive tackles are rarely noticed in the NFL, but always seem to dot the first round of most drafts because, aside from the quarterback, they are the most important single position on most offenses. This year's draft sees a quick talent drop after the first two go off the board — Miami's Bryant McKinnie and Texas' Mike Williams. Both could be gone in the first five picks, but if one is still on the board when the Vikings pick, it could be too tempting for them to back away from because offensive tackles at the top of the draft rarely disappoint.
However, after those two go, there may well be just a handful of OT's that go on the first day of the draft because the talent level slides quickly and teams rarely want to take a chance on such a critical position — either you get the stud you want or you wait until the following season to address the problem.
THE TOP OF THE HEAP
Bryant McKinnie, Miami, 6-8, 340 — Nicknamed "Mount McKinnie" because of his massive frame...Never played football before his senior year of high school and spent two seasons at junior college in Pennsylvania...In two years at Miami, he was All-Big East twice, All-America last year and won the Outland Trophy, given to college football's best offensive lineman...Had knee surgery in December to take some bone chips out, but still played in the championship Rose Bowl game...Claims he has never given up a sack in his life...Compared favorably to Ravens All-Pro Jonathon Ogden...Unbelievable size and arm length...Dominates DEs at the point of attack...Very difficult to move...Has good quickness and maneuverability for a man as huge as he is...Doesn't have a mean streak like a lot of linemen and has been criticized for not pounding on players like he should...Not interested in hanging out in the weight room and didn't lift or do any running or jumping at the Combine. PROJECTION: Despite a limited football background as compared to many of the other linemen in the draft, McKinnie could easily be an All-Pro for years to come and could go as early as No. 4 to Buffalo or No. 5 to San Diego.
Mike Williams, Texas, 6-6, 370 — Fourth-year senior and two-year starter for the Longhorns at right tackle...Allowed just one sack in those two years...Huge player who isn't fat despite playing anywhere from 360 to 375 pounds...Depending on what the offense wants, he could stay at his current weight or drop down to 350 pounds...Will have a lot of time to play in the NFL, since he only turned 21 last November...Surprising mix of size and athletic ability, he is light on his feet and can throw people around...Very strong in his legs...Isn't as solid in pass protection as he is in run blocking...Shared 2000 Offensive Lineman of the Year honors at Texas with Leonard Davis, who went to Arizona last year and is now playing guard...Coaches at Texas think Williams could be even better than Davis...Usually played around 365 and surprised some scouts by showing up at 370 at the Combine...Not a weight room warrior, but did have 29 reps with 225 pounds and a 30-inch vertical jump at the Combine...Some teams were very concerned about looseness in his knee, which they think could be a partially torn ACL in the right knee. PROJECTION: Some experts think he will go before McKinnie to Buffalo. He is a right tackle who most think will eventually make the move to left tackle. However, if drafted for such a position, he may take some time. If Buffalo doesn't take an OT, he could make it to the Vikings.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Levi Jones, Arizona State, 6-6, 312 — Didn't come to ASU on a football scholarship, but is a fifth-year senior who went from walk-on to hot draft commodity...Played defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman...Started at guard as a sophomore and left tackle the last two seasons...Two-time All Pac 10 selection at left tackle...Has good wingspan and strength to control defensive ends...Viewed as the most athletic tackle in the draft, but didn't help his case by not lifting at the Combine...Had a tremendous week at the Senior Bowl under the watchful eye of NFL coaches and scouts...Doesn't always seem to play with the same intensity from one game to the next...He has all the qualities a scout looks for in a LT on paper but lapses in play could be a problem. PROJECTION: Several teams may have seen doubts about him go away with his performance at the Senior Bowl, and he is almost assured of going in the first round and perhaps as high as No. 13 to New Orleans in their effort to replace Willie Roaf.
Mike Pearson, Florida, 6-7, 304 — Fourth-year junior...Three-year starter who was a Freshman All-American and two-time All-SEC...An intelligent player who graduated in December...Has a mean streak and looks to enjoy punishing defensive ends...Very heady player who makes up for lack of mass and bulk by using leverage and blocking schemes to neutralize defensive ends...Is one of the better pass blockers in this year's crop...Has strong upper body, but lean lower body for a LT...Did just 25 reps at the Combine, but had a 30-inch vertical jump...Size is the main concern — if he were 30 pounds heavier, which may not be possible to add to his frame without being mostly fat, he would be right up there with Williams and McKinnie. PROJECTION: A guy some people see as going late in the first round, where others, because of his lack of size by comparison to many OTs, see falling into the second round and possibly to the Vikings.
Marc Columbo, Boston College, 6-8, 308 — Fifth-year senior who was a two-year starter — at right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior...Missed parts of three games with a strained MCL in his right knee last year...Is exceptionally tall and has great mechanics...A mean player who enjoys abusing defenders...Is excellent in pass coverage because he has the feet to stop speed rushers and long arms to get them off their stride...Isn't a huge roadblock like a lot of left tackles and his tall frame has diminished much of his lower body strength to be a top-notch run blocker...Did 30 reps at the Combine. PROJECTION: Will likely succeed in the NFL, but it's uncertain whether the team that drafts him will view him as a right tackle or left tackle. He may be able to play both equally well but will likely have to be put at one spot and kept there to be a success at the next level.
Victor Rogers, Colorado, 6-6, 335 — A fifth-year senior who plays right tackle...Missed time as a redshirt freshman with ankle and knee injuries and as a sophomore with dislocated patella...A two-year starter who won All-Big 12 honors as a senior...According to school officials, wasn't called for a single penalty all last year...Raised some red flags because he had seven knee and ankle surgeries over 16 months in 1998-99 and shoulder surgery too...The shoulder may still be a problem, since he was able to do just 20 reps at the Combine, the lowest total of any top OT at the Indianapolis showcase...Improved a lot last year and turned some heads with the way he can pass protect and run block. PROJECTION: Injuries are the main concern here. He will likely be a third-rounder and some speculate he may have to be moved inside to guard to be effective, but if he can stay healthy he has a chance to be a good NFL player. It's going to be the team with the guts to pull the trigger that will decide how high he goes.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Chester Pitts, San Diego State, 6-4, 316
Reggie Coleman, Tennessee, 6-5, 308
Joaquin Gonzalez, Miami, 6-4, 296
Langston Walker, California, 6-8, 340
Matt Hill, Boise State, 6-6, 300
Kurt Vollers, Notre Dame, 6-7, 320
Kevin Shaffer, Tulsa, 6-5, 290
Matt Anderle, Minnesota, 6-6, 315
Jeff Hatch, Pennsylvania, 6-7, 296
VU Draft Profiles: OT
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