2011 NFL Draft: Top Five Interior Offensive Linemen
If there is truly an all-guts, no glory position in the NFL, it is the interior offensive linemen on any given NFL team. Most fans wouldn’t recognize their favorite team’s starting left guard if he lived next door to them.
But the big nasties upfront provide quarterbacks room to step up into the pocket to make all their big throws. They drive defensive linemen from side to side to create lanes for running backs to make game-breaking runs. Most notably, consider New Orleans’ three interior linemen, who may be the best the NFL has to offer. Without them, there’s no way Drew Brees is given the time to utilize his pinpoint accuracy.
Guards and centers are the backbone of any good offense in the NFL. This year’s draft class gems at each position.
1. Mike Pouncey, Florida (SR, 6’5″, 303)
Remember that game at the beginning of the Florida Gators 2010 season where they had a ton of fumbles because of bad snaps. That was Mike Pouncey. Now how can a guy who made the biggest headline blunder of any interior lineman in many years be the best of this year’s class? Well, the truth is that Pouncey is probably a better fit as a guard, but snapping is something that can be perfected over time anyway. Pouncey’s older brother, Maurkice, is already with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike is every bit as good.
2. Danny Watkins, Baylor – (SR, 6’3″, 310)
Watkins will turn 27 later this year and in spite of that, teams are enamored with his potential. Watkins only began playing football in 2007 after growing up playing hockey and rugby. What the scouts love about him is his toughness and nasty style of play. Every play, he’s looking to put a defender on his back. He’s a natural blocker with above-average technique without having much experience. He was also the fourth pick in the 2010 CFL Draft but obviously chose to stick with Baylor and pursue his chances in the NFL. He is a true mauler inside.
3. Clint Boling, Georgia – (SR, 6’4″, 308)
A true student of the game, Boling makes up his athletic inadequacies with a tireless work ethic. He may be average in height, weight and quickness, but he’s a very durable player with 49 starts in the SEC, where he more than held his own. Boling would likely best fit into zone-blocking scheme where he can keep things in front of him rather than be relied on to play more in space. Scouts love the way he plays to the whistle and has a way of stepping up to challenges both on and off the field. Boling was also named UGA’s team captain in 2010.
4. Rodney Hudson, Florida State – (SR, 6’7″, 314)
A very veratile prospect who has played all three interior line positions. Hudson moves very well in space and does a great job reading defenses and getting everyone in position. A two-time winner of the ACC’s best offensive lineman award in 2009 and 2010. Hudson plays effectively, knowing when to double-team and when to release to block at the next level. There is very little he does not do well on the field and can be the leader for an offensive line.
5. James Carpenter, Alabama – (SR, 6’4″, 324)
Carpenter is a tough player who played through injuries to begin the 2010 season. He needs to learn to play with a mauler’s attitude every-down but there are great flashes of toughness in his game. A great first step helps him stay in position and get defenders off his line. Carpenter has great hands and uses them to his advantage. There is some potential for him to play right tackle, but he really belongs on the inside. At the next level, he’ll need to learn how to take better angles downfield and keep his head on a swivel.
6. William Rackley, Lehigh
7. Orlando Franklin, Miami
8. John Moffitt, Wisconsin
9. Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
10. David Arkin, Missouri State
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