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NFL Draft 2014: The offensive linemen
Click on one of the countless mock drafts out there and the chances are pretty good that they have the Seahawks selecting an offensive lineman with the final pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on May 8.
UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is the projected pick by ESPN’s Todd McShay, NFLDraftScout.com’s Dan Brugler and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks. SI.com’s Doug Farrar opts for Stanford guard David Yankey and Yahoo.com’s Shaun King likes Tennessee tackle Antonio Richardson for the Seahawks with the 32nd pick. NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang switches sides of the line and goes with Minnesota defensive tackle RaShede Hageman.
But you get the picture. The O-line is the focus by draft pundits when it comes to the Seahawks because it was the unit hit hardest by injuries in 2013 during their run to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship – as four starters missed a combined 19 games – and also because right tackle Breno Giacomini and versatile Paul McQuistan are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents Tuesday.
And it’s a good year to be in the market for offensive linemen, starting at the top of the first round with the tackle trio of Auburn’s Greg Robinson (pictured above), Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan projected to go in the Top 15, if not Top 10; and continuing through the opening round with Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin, Yankey and Su’a-Filo.
“I thought those three offensive tackles were spectacular,” NFL Network and NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock said after seeing the workouts by Robinson, Matthews and Lewan at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. “I think all three of those tackles are probably better than the tackles as a group that we had last year.”
That is saying something, since Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson went 1-2-4 last year to, in order, the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles.
“So it’s a different draft class,” Mayock said. “But in my opinion those three tackles are Top 10 talents.”
Mayock also felt Su’a-Filo “looked really good,” and Yankey “looked good.”
Here’s a closer look at all five, based on Mayock’s position rankings; with analysis on each from Rang and also a few words from each at the Combine:
OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Mayock’s ranking: No. 1 among the tackles
Rang’s take: “Remarkable combination of size (6-5, 332 pounds), power and body control. Owns a prototypical frame for playing offensive line in the NFL, including broad shoulders, long arms, a relatively trim waist, thick bubble and tree trunks for legs. … Where he needs to improve is in his consistency, as his lack of long-term experience as an offensive lineman will show up in key areas like footwork and hand use. If he can put it all together, Robinson has the physical gifts to be one of the best at the next level.”
Robinson’s take: “I look at it as in run blocking you can be really as aggressive as you want, as long as you get a good piece of your body on your defender. When I come off a run block my main focus is to just get myself in a position to block and just use my lower strength to make the best out of the block. On pass protection, you’re a little more cautious because you don’t want to be too aggressive because that’s how you get beat.”
OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Mayock’s ranking: No. 2 among the tackles
Rang’s take: “Jake proved early on that he was worthy of the hype, solidifying the Aggies' offensive line once he entered the starting lineup in week six of the 2010 season as the team battled injuries up front. Despite starting just seven games as a true freshman he was recognized by the media as an honorable mention all-conference performer in 2011 and 2012, and most recently received First-Team AP All-American honors. Matthews could have joined (Luke) Joeckel as a high first-round choice a year ago but elected to come back to College Station for his senior campaign. In making the switch to left tackle in 2013, his stock could end up even higher.”
Matthews’ take: “I’d like to think I wasn’t grandfathered in. I hope I earned my way here. It is special, the family I came from and the relationships I have with my dad (Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews) and cousins (Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews) and brothers (Kevin, who played for the Aggies; and Mike, who plays for the Aggies) and all the people who have gone through this process. So that’s really special and something (where) I can look to them to ask what it was like, what their experience with it was. So far it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it.”
OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Mayock’s ranking: No. 3 among the tackles
Rang’s take: “With good height (6-7) and length, he looks the part and has the frame to play on the left side at the next level, adding nearly 50 pounds since his senior year in high school. … His biggest areas of needed improvement are in technique and instincts, as his reaction to opponent movement will appear unnatural and a bit mechanical at times. But with better technical coaching in an NFL environment, Lewan certainly possesses the raw tools that if combined with better technique and instincts, could lead him to long-term dominance at the tackle position.”
Lewan’s take: “That’s the biggest trap question I’ve ever heard in my life (when asked how he would sell himself as the best of the tackle trio). Both of those guys – Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews – are great players. I’ve seen them play and they are awesome. As far as selling myself as a player – I’m a consistent player, regardless of if I am injured or whatever, I am going to play through it no matter what. Anything that happens, I am here to play through it. I am a team player through and through.”
OG David Yankey, Stanford
Mayock’s ranking: No. 1 among the guards
Rang’s take (he ranks Yankey No. 2 among the guard): “He has terrific feet, mobility and overall movement skills with the natural power and understanding to make it look easy – sometimes makes it look too easy and needs to compete with more controlled urgency and grit on every snap. Yankey still has some technical issues to iron out, but has the physical traits to develop into a plus starting blocker in the NFL.”
Yankey’s take: “I’m going to bring a physical demeanor. I’m going to play with that mentality that we have at Stanford and also bring a lot of athleticism and natural football intelligence – just understanding the game and being able to play fast.”
OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
Mayock’s ranking: No. 2 among the guards
Rang’s take (he ranks Su’a-Filo as the No. 1 guard): “Su'a-Filo earned the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's most dominant offensive lineman despite playing much of the year out of position at left tackle due to injuries to teammates. This versatility and toughness could be especially valued. … Powerfully built. Very good initial quickness, hand placement and impressive upper body strength to gain the initial advantage on defenders. Due to his core strength and flexibility, Su'a-Filo anchors very well against bull-rushes and shows lateral agility and balance in pass pro. Perfect match in UCLA's drive-blocking scheme, but has the athleticism to fit in a zone-blocking scheme as well.”
Su’a-Filo’s take: “I started playing football in seventh grade. I thought from seventh to ninth grade that I was going to be a fullback, tight end, whatever. And then my dad and my coach got a hold of me and said, ‘If I wanted to play, I was going to be a lineman.’ And I never looked back. I played tackle all through high school and college. My love for the game of football has been the same since I was little and it’s continuing and I don’t think it will ever end.”