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Tackles, by the ton
T Russell Okung, Okla. St. (Courtesy Oklahoma State University)
|2010 Draft Preview Series|
Most players, and especially offensive linemen, go to college with the intention of growing into NFL prospects. Anthony Davis actually shrunk during his career at Rutgers.
“Coming into Rutgers, I weighed 366 (pounds),” Davis said at the NFL scouting combine. “After that, I’ve been trimming down ever since.”
But when his weight limit last summer was 315 pounds and Davis showed up at 320, “I had to suffer the consequences,” as he put it. That included being demoted to second team for the week.
“Of course it hurt me to see somebody in my spot,” he said. “It was just a lesson to be learned.”
And just how does one shed 50 pounds, without losing the strength and stamina needed to still play? “Strict diet and exercise,” he said. “At Rutgers, I got up every day at 5:30 in the morning for two years. … When you’re losing the weight, it’s like you hit walls. To get back to 360, I would have to force-feed myself.”
Davis, even in his diminished capacity, is just one of the intriguing tackles in this year’s draft class. One of the more lasting impressions from the combine was the overall fitness and athletic ability of a group that also includes Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung, Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga, Maryland’s Bruce Campbell and USC’s Charles Brown. You also can add Idaho guard Mike Iupati to the list, because all could be first-round picks.
It started when the 6-foot-5 Williams stepped to the podium, and had to duck under the TV monitor that was supposed to hang over his head – not in the way of his head. It continued as Campbell put up some staggering combine numbers: 36½-inch arms, to go with his 6-6 3/8 frame; 34 reps with 225 pounds in the bench press; a 32-inch vertical leap; and times of 4.78 and 4.81 seconds in the 40-yard dash. It also played out at Pro Day workouts, as the big boys were the big attractions for the scouts and coaches in attendance.
|More on the 2010 Class|
The word: One of the lasting impressions from the scouting combine in February was how impressive the top-rated tackles where – physically, athletically, articulately. Like Campbell. He was measured at a notch less than 6 foot 7 and had 36½-inch arms. He then ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds, did 34 reps with 225 pounds and had a 32-inch vertical leap. But will it allow him to jump over some of the tackles rated ahead of him?
“He’s probably a little like (Jahvid) Best at Cal, similar style. Like Joe McKnight at SC,” Turner said. “Those three guys are as explosive as you can be around. They’re big plays just waiting with those guys.”
That’s good news for teams that are in the market for a tackle, like the Seahawks.
Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network, is projecting that as many as four tackles could be selected in the first nine picks, with seven possibly going in the first round.
In his latest mock draft, Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, has seven tackles being selected in the first round: Okung at No. 4 by the Redskins; Williams at No. 5 by the Chiefs; Bulaga at No. 6 to the Seahawks; Campbell at No. 8 to the Raiders; Davis at No. 17 to the 49ers; Indiana’s Rodger Saffold at No. 27 to the Cowboys; and Brown at No. 31 to the Colts. Rang also has Iupati (No. 15 to the Giants) and Florida center Maurkice Pouncey (No. 30 to the Vikings) going in the first round.
Charley Casserly concurs that an early run on tackles could push even more into the first round.
“Most offensive tackles who play in the Pro Bowl are left tackles and they were high draft picks.”
That certainly was the case in the AFC last season, as all three Pro Bowl tackles played the left side and were first-round draft choices – Ryan Clady (2008 by the Denver Broncos), Joe Thomas (2007 by the Cleveland Browns) and D’Brickashaw Ferguson (2006 by the New York Jets). In the NFC, however, Jason Peter entered the league as a free agent in 2004, but was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles last year to play left tackle; and while David Diehl also plays left tackle, he was a fifth-round choice by the New York Giants in 2003.
Here’s a closer look at the top-rated tackles in this year’s draft class:
Okung (6-5, 307): Started at right tackle as a true freshman in 2006 before moving to the left side, where he started 39 games the past three seasons – allowing one sack and two pressures on 336 pass plays last season. Okung did 38 reps with 225 pounds at the combine.
Okung has impressed scouts and coaches with his toughness and an on-field demeanor that has been described by some as tenacious and by others as nasty, even if he isn’t as athletic as some of the other tackles in this draft class.
“To me, he’s a starting left tackle and a Top 10 pick,” Mayock said.
Bulaga (6-6, 314): Started five games at left guard as a true freshman in 2007 before moving to left tackle the past two seasons. He missed three starts last season because of a thyroid condition. “The illness I was faced with at the beginning of the 2009 season made me realize how important football is in my life and how quickly it can be taken away,” he said.
Bulaga has short arms (32½ inches), but blockers from Iowa usually are more pro ready than those from many other schools.
“His technique is tremendous,” Mayock said. “He’s been coached very well. He’s a tough kid. He’s smart in both the run and pass game. So I think he’s ready to start.”
Williams (6-5, 315): Played left tackle last season after spending the previous three on the right side, including splitting time as a true freshman and sophomore. In his final two seasons, according to coaching staff stats, he registered 369 knockdowns and 36 blocks that resulted in touchdowns.
“He has the potential to be a Top 10 pick in this draft,” Mayock said. “He can start tomorrow at right tackle. However, on tape it sure looks like he can play on the left side.”
Davis (6-5, 323): Weight issues aside during his three-year stay at Rutgers, Davis allowed 6½ sacks and eight pressures on 699 pass plays, according to numbers compiled by the coaching staff. Despite being recruited by USC, Miami, Notre Dame and Ohio State, the New Jersey native opted to stay in-state.
“He may be a little bit immature. He may be a little inconsistent,” Mayock said. “But he’s got the talent to play on the left side Day One.”
T Bruce Campbell, Maryland (Photo courtesy Greg Fiume, Terps Sports Photography)
Campbell (6-7, 314): He certainly looks the part, with his 36½-inch arms and cut torso. But he never started a full season in three years at Maryland.
“He’s a junior that should have stayed in school,” Mayock said. “He’s a very good pass protector, but not a great run blocker (because) he’s not an aggressive kid.”
Brown (6-6, 303): Recruited to USC as a tight end, Brown made the conversion to tackle during his redshirt season in 2005. After backing up eventual first-round draft choice Sam Baker, Brown moved in as the starter at left tackle the past two seasons – and in 2009 was voted Pac-10 offensive lineman of the year by the conference’s defensive linemen.
“It was real smooth,” Brown said with a smile when asked about the transition from pass-catcher to pass-blocker. “I wasn’t getting separation from the linebacker (as a receiver), so I knew that was the next thing for me.”
What motivates these already successful players? Who better to weigh in on that question than Davis?
“Just knowing that I’ve been blessed with a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a gift to be able to play something that I love for a living. There are a lot of people who would give up a lot to be in my shoes.”