Pro Football Weekly Draft Prospects OL
Texas OLT Leonard Davis has 21 brothers and sisters, or half brothers and half sisters, yet he does not exactly look like food was scarce very often in his household. Davis may be overly big at 6-5½ and 360 pounds, but he really is not sloppy fat. However, he could probably really be special if he got down to about 335 and improved his stamina and endurance. Davis is huge, but instead of having trouble moving his feet, he moves like a dancing bear and has extraordinary quickness for a man his size. He moves so well that he may be able to continue to play left tackle at the next level. A former part-time starter at defensive tackle as a freshman in 1997, Davis moved to offensive tackle a year later and shared time before starting the past two years. His agility, athletic ability and ability to move, adjust and slide his feet are remarkable for one so large. He also is huge and massive from head to toe and a strong, powerful individual who can anchor and hit a very heavy blow with his hands. However, being a former defensive lineman, he does not have a great feel for angles and position on the offensive line and has a tendency to be slow to recognize some stunts and blitzes, which will get him in trouble at times. His technique is raw and needs refining, and there are times when he seems to get in trouble because of sloppy footwork and technique, which costs him balance and body control. Abilitywise, he has the size and strength of the Lions’ Aaron Gibson but is a much quicker player with better overall athletic skills. Like Gibson, however, he does tend to wear down and at times will look for the easy way out.
When asked to describe Davis, one expert called him "a planet person and a top 10 pick." By that he meant there are very few human beings on this planet that big and athletic who can play football, and his unique combination of skills is almost certain to make him a top 10 pick in the draft.
However, another said he could fall in the first round like Gibson did unless he goes to the Senior Bowl and shows everyone that he has the work ethic to live up to his enormous potential. "The things that trouble me about Davis are that he seems to look for the easy way out at times, does not seem to push himself when he gets tired and does not seem to have a great feel for playing the offensive line," said the scout.
With one week at the Senior Bowl, he could go a long way in dispelling those fears and make himself a lottery-type pick.
Penn State’s Kareem McKenzie may not have quite the upside of Davis, but if he goes to the Senior Bowl and convinces scouts that he can continue to play the OLT position at the next level, he could be the second offensive lineman drafted. McKenzie started nine games as a guard in ’98 and has started at tackle the past two years. He is a good athlete with superb size who can set, slide and adjust. He will flash explosive qualities at times and is light on his feet for one so large. However, there still is a lot of inconsistency in his overall game, and up-and-under moves have been known to give him a lot of trouble.
Michigan could have three offensive linemen who are among the first 65 or so players taken in the draft. OG Steve Hutchinson is a former defensive lineman who, after redshirting in ’96, has started the past four years on one of the best offensive lines in college football. As a team captain, Hutchinson is a leader and competitor with a mean streak and a very physical run blocker who will generally work to finish his blocks. His run blocking is his top asset, but he also has become a pretty good inside pass blocker, though he will struggle at times when he gets on the edge and does not always show a lot of recovery ability as a pass protector.
Hutchinson’s sidekick, OLT Jeff Backus, probably will have to be a right tackle or guard on the next level, but he is a really good football player who, like Hutchinson, is a fifth-year senior and four-year starter. He is a tough, durable player with good but not really exceptional skills whose intangibles, competitiveness and feel for position help him cover up the fact he is not a really good athlete.
Perhaps the best athlete of the trio is ORT Maurice Williams, who also is a converted defensive lineman and fifth-year senior. But unlike the others, this is his first year as a full-time starter. Williams needs to continue to improve his strength and techniques, but he is a tough, efficient player who has really been getting the job done this year. As one scout says, "You rarely see his man making any plays."
Purdue’s Matt Light may not be a gifted enough foot athlete to remain a left tackle in the NFL, but he may play as well as any senior offensive lineman in the Big Ten and should have a pro future at either OG spot or right tackle. Light is a very efficient and competitive player who has a mean streak and works to finish his blocks. He is an aggressive player who plays with a wide base and has a good feel for angles and position. He hits a heavy blow and generally plays the game on his feet. However, when his footwork is not textbook, speedy finesse rushers can beat him.
At Washington, Chad Ward gets the All-America notice, but scouts would not be shocked if Elliot Silvers is drafted ahead of him. Ward is a guard-tackle who will have to be a guard in the pros. He is a great competitor with tremendous weightroom strength, strength in his upper body and workout numbers, and he can be overpowering and maul defenders if he gets his hands on them. However, Ward is on the stiff side, does not bend very well and does not play to his stopwatch speed. He also appears to have rather short arms. Silvers is a 6-6½ left tackle who could be huge when he is done growing. He is not as physical, competitive or nasty as Ward, but he is a better athlete with a lot bigger wingspan. Like Ward, he tends to play too upright and needs work on bending his knees. If he can learn to bend and break down better, he may be able to play the OLT position at the next level.
Some of the players who looked like possible first- and second-round picks going into the season no longer look as impressive after scouts put them under the microscope. Coming into this year, some were comparing Illinois’ Marques Sullivan to Brad Hopkins. Sullivan is about 6-5 and 320 pounds, moves well for a big man, has quick feet and has started at left tackle the past two years after starting the previous two years on the right side. However, he has not gotten better recently and, if anything, has read too many of his press clippings and regressed. He either is not flexible enough in the hips to bend his knees or is too lazy to and generally bends at the waist, which makes it tough for him to recover. He often seems to be looking for the easy way out, tends to play soft and gets sloppy with his technique. He also seems to have concentration lapses.
Georgia Tech’s Chris Brown is a four-year starter who has played left tackle the past three years. At 6-5 and 315 pounds, he has the size the pros look for. However, while he normally plays well vs. Florida State, he was used as a turnstile by the Seminoles’ Jamal Reynolds, who beat him with speed all game. Brown looks the part and has the measurables, but he needs to do a much better job of using his hands and arms. He must really become a much more technically sound player.
Everything is positive about North Carolina State’s Jarvis Borum until you turn on the tape. He is a huge man with a good 40-yard-dash time and a very large wingspan. However, he never seems to play the game with much of a sense of urgency, tends to bend at the waist and does not do a very good job of using his size and natural strength to his advantage. Boren just may be too nice to be a good football player.
Inside at guard, Notre Dame’s Mike Gandy is a good athlete who moves well with size and girth. However, he is a former tight end who does not always seem to maximize his talent, although he does try.
Northern Illinois’ Ryan Diem has great size and workout numbers but does not translate that onto the playing field and often looks unathletic and stiff.
When Kentucky’s Omar Smith lines up inside, he looks like a really good athlete. But when he plays at left tackle, he lets speed rushers run around him. Smith shows power as a pass protector, but he seems to be as soft as a marshmallow as a run blocker.
A possible sleeper at center is Texas A&M Kingsville’s Robert Garza, a four-year starter and NCAA Division II shot-put champion. Garza does not have a huge frame or body, but he is very strong for his size, is smart, dedicated and a good athlete. He needs to improve his first-step quickness, however. Coming out of his stance, Garza does not show much foot quickness, but once he is upright, he looks like a different athlete.
Wisconsin’s Casey Rabach is a durable four-year starter who has generally played center in the past, but he’s spent most of this year at right guard because of injuries and NCAA-related suspensions that have caused some of his teammates to miss time. He is not a very good athlete but plays well when inside at center, where his limited athletic ability is less evident.