VIKINGS OFFENSIVE TACKLES – Bryant McKinnie, Marcus Johnson, Mike Rosenthal, Adam Goldberg, Sean Bubin, Mark Wilson.
2006 POSITIONAL DRAFT NEED – The Vikings are always looking for depth and that may be the case again this year. Mike Rosenthal was asked to restructure his deal to avoid being cut and Bryant McKinnie will be approaching free agency down the road, so having depth may be a concern on draft day. Still, don't expect to see the Vikings make any quick moves on draft day with their first three picks at the OT position, unless somebody should fall to them. With questions at right guard and possibly center, tackle may have to be put on the back burner on draft day this year.
POSITION OVERVIEW – The one name that jumps out at you in this year's class is D'Brickashaw Ferguson. There is no chance he will make it out of the top five picks and there is a decent chance that he will go in the top three. Beyond Ferguson, however, the class doesn't have a lot in the way of dominating tackles. There may only be two that go in the first round, but if that is the case, there will likely be double that going in the second and third rounds. Most teams never have enough tackles and for good reason – they keep pass-rushing DEs off their quarterback. With so many teams having needs at tackle, it wouldn't be surprising to see 10 or more tackles go off the board in the first day.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia, 6-6, 305 – Fourth-year senior…Arrived at Virginia weighing just 245 pounds…Played his entire career at left tackle, starting 49 of 51 potential games…Missed only two games due to injury…Graduated with a degree in religious studies…Has good size already, but has the frame to add 20 pounds or more…Has a strong hand punch…Very good wingspan makes him difficult to get around…Plays with a mean streak and beats down opponents…Made potential first-round DE Mathias Kiwanuka look really bad during the Senior Bowl practices…Has outstanding footwork and is light on his feet for a big man…Has a strong upper body and can muscle DEs at the point of attack…Has added 10 pounds since the Senior Bowl and hasn't lost any agility…Very coachable…Needs to add some lower body strength to handle bull rushers…Vulnerable to double moves…Not as dominant as a run blocker as he is in pass protection…Ran a 5.07 40 at the Combine with 26 reps of 225 pounds, a 30-inch vertical jump and a 8-11 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Ferguson has been touted as the best pure left tackle to come out of college since Orlando Pace almost a decade ago. His flaws are few and his upside as being a potential Pro Bowler for the next several years makes him a lock to go very early in the draft, perhaps as early as the Saints at No. 2, but almost assuredly no later than the Jets at No. 4 – or whomever is picking at No. 4 on draft day.
Winston Justice, USC, 6-6¼, 320 – Fourth-year junior…Three-year starter at right tackle – protecting Matt Leinart's blindside last year…Has a laundry list of off-field issues, including being arrested for soliciting a prostitute, being put on three years probation for brandishing a realistic-looking pellet gun in a parking lot fight and being suspended from school in 2004 that took away what would have been his junior season…Has ideal size and has the ability to get bigger…Has very good upper body strength to move defenders in the run game…Has long arms and a good base, forcing pass rushers to take the long way around to get the QB…Is only 20 years old and doesn't have a lot of wear and tear on him yet…Still viewed as a raw talent that will need some refining of his technique…Did not come off as remorseful at his interviews at the Combine and turned off some teams…Has some trouble with speed rushers…Showed incredible strength at the Combine, doing 38 reps with a 5.03 40, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: If you went solely on his Combine numbers, you would say he's a top-15 pick – dominant right tackles are hard to find. But with his litany of off-field problems, he becomes an iffy pick at best too early and, while he should go somewhere around the middle third of the first round, he could be a player that slips to the end of the first or even early in the second.
Marcus McNeill, Auburn, 6-7¾, 334 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his true freshman season and has started ever since…Was the primary left-side blocker for 2005 first-round picks Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams…Has a body defect called stenosis – a narrowing of the spine – that may be a red flag for some teams…Excellent burst off the snap and gets to the second level of the defense extremely fast…Is enormous on the lines of a Bryant McKinnie/Orlando Pace type and has very long arms…Has very strong hands and a good hand punch that neutralizes most pass rushers…Strong character and well-respected by his coaches and teammates…Needs to improve run blocking technique for the next level…Has had fluctuating weight issues, which scare some scouts…Can wear down at the end of games because of a lack of commitment to conditioning…Ran a 5.07 40 at the Combine with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 8-2 broad jump – he opted not to lift at the Combine.
PROJECTION: McNeil is an enormous specimen, who might be the second OT off the board on draft day. His spinal condition might be a red flag for some teams, but he has a good chance of going off the board late in the first round or, in a worst-case scenario, early in the second round.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Eric Winston, Miami, 6-6¾, 310 – Fourth-year senior…High school All-American as a defensive end and tight end…Played his freshman season as a tight end and moved to left tackle as a sophomore…After starting the next 16 games, his junior season was cut short with a torn left ACL…Came back to start all 12 games for Miami last year…As a former tight end, he has a lot more agility than most tackles…Good footwork…Hard worker who gives his all until he hears a whistle…Has very good speed…Has short arms and can get caught up with speed rushers…Could use a little improvement in both his lower-body and upper-body strength…Most scouts believe he will end up playing right tackle in the pros…Has not been nearly as dominant since tearing his ACL in 2004, but has shown steady improvement…Came off as cocky and dismissive with some teams at the Combine…Improved his stock with the second fastest 40 time among offensive linemen at the Combine (4.94) to go along with 22 reps of 225 pounds, a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Winston is just the latest in a long line of players from "The U" that are heading to the pros – many of whom have had outstanding careers. Concerns over the serious knee injury he suffered as a junior may turn some teams off – as will his bad attitude at the Combine – but he won't last long on draft day and is a solid contender to be the Texans' first pick in the second round.
Daryn Colledge, Boise State, 6-4½, 299 – A sixth-year senior…Only played three years of football in high school in Alaska and weighed just 235 pounds when he was a greyshirt in 2000 heading to Boise State…Became a starter in his first game as a redshirt freshman and started all 52 games of his college career…Had surgery before his junior season and a screw inserted in his right foot…Holds school weightlifting records for the power clean (409 pounds) and the clean hang (429 pounds)…Already graduated and is married…Has very strong upper body…Didn't allow a sack in his final three seasons…Technically sound…Good quickness off the snap…Durability is a big plus…Showed well against the top competition at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine…Needs to add about 25 pounds of bulk, which, with all the weight training he's already done, may be a tough challenge…Doesn't have the size and long arms to be a prototype tackle…Gets beat on inside pass rushes and will likely need guard help at times…Came from a small school, so some will question whether he'll get overwhelmed at the next level…Performed well at the Combine with a 5.04 40, 21 reps, a 35½ inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: His small-college status will play against him, as will his size. But his durability is not in question. Has a chance to be a starting right tackle because of his ability to neutralize rush DEs. He could go anywhere from the middle of the second round to the end of the third round, but will make some line coach with dreams of building a monster very happy.
Andrew Whitworth, LSU, 6-7, 334 – Fifth-year senior who was a high school All-American…Never missed a game, making 50 consecutive starts at left tackle…Had 81 pancake blocks in his final three seasons…Good in the weight room and bench presses 500 pounds…Married…Allowed just three sacks his final two seasons against some of college football's top competition…Very muscular…Big hands that can neutralize bull rushers at the line…Moves the pile as run blocker…Does a solid job in pass protection…Will get beat when a DE gets a step on him on the outside…Not a natural athlete…Struggles to get to the second level of the defense in run blocking assignments…Ran a 5.15 40 at the Combine, with 28 reps of 225 pounds, a 30½ inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A durable, experienced tackle in college, Whitworth will likely have to move to right tackle to become a starter in the NFL. He will need time to make that adjustment, so he'll probably still be on the board in the third round.
Jonathan Scott, Texas, 6-6, 322 – Fifth-year senior…Started seven games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman before moving to left tackle – where he started the final 38 games of his college career…Was an anchor blocker for both Cedric Benson when the Longhorns were a run-dominated team and Vince Young when Texas went to a passing offense…Has a monstrous 82-inch wingspan from fingertip to fingertip…Has good playing speed…Very good upper-body strength…Has experience as a long snapper…Good character…Sloppy technique makes him too inconsistent…Not strong at natural blitz recognition and pickup…Some scouts have called him soft…Doesn't play with a mean streak and plays too docile at times…Didn't finish the week at the Senior Bowl with a leg injury and didn't look too good prior to being hurt…Ran a 5.32 40 at the Combine with a 24½-inch vertical jump and a 8-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He didn't help himself at the Senior Bowl or the Combine with a hideous vertical jump, a slow 40 time and his decision not to lift – which could have been his Combine calling card. As a result, although he has the talent to be a Day One selection, he could slip into the second day.
Jeremy Trueblood, Boston College, 6-8¼, 316 – Fifth-year senior…Became a starter as a sophomore and started 36 of his final 37 games…Huge player with extremely long arms and big hands (10½ inches)…Likes to maul defensive ends…Has good quickness, but struggles with speed rushers…Has decent upper-body strength…Plays too high and gets caught under his pads too often and pushed off-balance…Isn't adept at moving laterally and is awkward in blocking at the second level on linebackers…Some scouts thing he's actually too tall and can get re-directed too easily…Ran a 5.25 40 at the Combine with 20 reps, a 27½ inch vertical jump and a 8-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Has the physical tools to be a starting tackle in the NFL and made a good accounting of himself at the Combine, but he doesn't have the athletic acumen to be a left tackle in the NFL and will likely have to move to the right side to be a starter. He has durability on his side and his imposing size will get somebody to bite either late on Day One or early on Day Two.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Ryan O'Callaghan, California, 6-6½, 340 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made 11 starts at right guard as a sophomore and 23 starts in his final two years…Has had numerous injuries, including three separate shoulder surgeries on his left shoulder and one on his right, a broken hand and a serious concussion…Prototype size and bulk…Good lower body strength makes him a top run blocker…Sets up quickly in pass protection…Smart player…Only effective in a short area around the line…Doesn't have big-time hand punch…Struggles badly at the second level…Ran a 5.26 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 26-inch vertical jump and a 8-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A player who could develop into a starting right tackle in the NFL, but he's going to need work and will likely start his career as a veteran backup. As a result, he'll likely stay on the board until very late in Day One or more likely on the fourth round.
Rashad Butler, Miami, 6-4¾, 293 – Fifth-year senior…Didn't become a starter until his junior year, starting at left tackle in place of injured Eric Winston – a likely first- or second-round pick in this year's draft…Moved back to his natural right tackle spot and started all 12 Hurricanes games in '05…Has very good burst off the snap…Stays in his lanes and rarely blows an assignment…Solid in motion on sweeps…Has long arms and uses them well in pass protection…Doesn't have good lower-body strength…Needs to add about 20 pounds of bulk to be effective at the NFL level…Doesn't have a concussive hand punch…Isn't a weight room guy – his 16 reps at the Combine tied for the least of any offensive tackles at the Combine…Ran a 5.30 40 at the Combine, with 16 reps, a 31½ inch vertical jump and a 8-10 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He has the pedigree to be a right tackle in the pros, but his cons outweigh his pros from the eyeball test, which should have him going at some point early on the second day of the draft.
Zach Streif, Northwestern, 6-7¾, 330 – Fifth-year senior…Became a starter late in his redshirt freshman season and started his final 40 collegiate games…Has prototype size for a offensive tackle and loves to get nasty with the player he's assigned to…Has a very powerful hand punch…High character player who is a film study rat…Learns quickly and adapts…Doesn't have a muscular or even in-shape body…Is much better in a short area and loses much of his effectiveness on the move…Has to get in better playing shape to be effective…Needs to strengthen his lower body to play right tackle in the pros…Ran a 5.38 40 at the Combine with 19 reps of 225 pounds, a 21-inch vertical jump and a 7-10 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A durable mauler who got valuable experience playing in the Big Ten, he isn't a natural athlete and will be a long-term project, which should drop him into the middle of the second day.
Brad Butler, Virginia, 6-7¼, 310 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter at right tackle the final game of his true freshman season and started 37 of the final games of his college career…Excellent size and has the ability to add 20 pounds…Big wingspan that makes it difficult for bull rushers to get by him without taking themselves out of plays…Non-stop engine that never lets up…Plays upright and gets tossed around too much…Doesn't have strong upper-body strength and his needs more lower-body bulk for the next level…Played in the shadow of teammate D'Brickashaw Ferguson and, at the college level anyway, might have been better suited to let his speed, size and initial quickness work his favor…Didn't work out at the Combine, but ran a 5.30 40 at his Pro Day.
PROJECTION: Not working out the Combine didn't help him, but the one advantage to playing with Ferguson as an offensive line bookend mate, a lot of scouts over the last two or three years have had a good look at him. His limitations are many and he may have played in a Catch-22 situation at Virginia, but he has some fair upside. Teams with patience and a roster spot open will likely jump on him somewhere in the neighborhood of the fifth round.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Jimmy Martin, Virginia Tech, 6-4½, 306
Paul McQuistan, Weber State, 6-6¼, 312
Troy Reddick, Auburn, 6-5, 334
Joe Toledo, Washington, 6-5½, 332
Guy Whimper, East Carolina, 6-4½, 304
E.J. Whitley, Texas Tech, 6-5, 309
Positional Draft Analysis: Offensive Tackles
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