2011 NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 Offensive Linemen

Last Updated: April 21st, 2011 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)
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Over the next two weeks, Bankroll Sports will provide you an in-depth look on the NFL Draft, examining the top prospects at each position. Today, we look at the top ten offensive linemen for the 2011 NFL Draft.

1. Mike Pouncey C/G (Florida) – Due to the lack of an elite offensive tackle along the lines of an Orlando Pace, Joe Thomas, or Jonathan Ogden in this draft, Pouncey is our No. 1 overall offensive lineman on the board. Despite struggling mightily in his first few games as a center with Florida, he rebounded nicely at the end of the year and established himself as the top interior lineman in this draft class. Pouncey is buoyed by the success that his twin brother Maurkice had with the Steelers as a rookie last year and has the potential to have the same impact. He can play either guard or center, though he prefers guard, and should be a mid first-round pick.

2. Tyron Smith OT (USC) – Thanks to a fantastic performance at USC’s pro day, Smith has rocketed up the draft board and is now projected to go as high as ninth overall to the Dallas Cowboys. Smith has phenomenal speed and feet for a big man, being one of the only offensive tackle prospects to run the 40 yard dash in under 5 seconds while also impressing scouts with his times on the short shuttle and three cone drill. Smith is a fantastic pass blocker and although he is raw, has tremendous upside as he is only 20 years old.

3. Anthony Castonzo OT (Boston College) – Castonzo’s frame is what scouts look for in a franchise left tackle. The 6’7 311 lb senior could stand to gain a little weight, but dominated against some of the best defensive lines in the country. Castonzo has the leadership that teams are looking for in a young talent, being the team’s captain in 2010 and also has the smarts to succeed after scoring a 41 on the Wonderlic test. He is not an elite prospect, but has the potential to be a solid pro for years to come. Castonzo should be a mid to late first round selection.

4. Nate Solder OT (Colorado) – Having only played the offensive tackle position for three seasons, Solder’s size and athleticism gives him amazing potential for becoming a fantastic left tackle in the NFL. Last NCAA football wagering season, Solder was a consensus All-American and helped provide stability to the mostly anemic Buffaloes offense. Solder is a mountain of a man at 6’8 319 lbs and his incredible 81-inch wingspan is enough to shut down defensive ends at the next level. He is projected to be a late first round pick.

5. Gabe Carimi OT (Wisconsin) – Wisconsin seems to be an offensive tackle factory and looks to have produced another gem in Carimi. Carimi was a four-year starter in Madison and replaced standout LT Joe Thomas as a redshirt freshman and responded by being named All-Big 10 first team twice. Carimi was the rock behind one of the best rushing attacks in the country over the past few years and secured an Outland Trophy as the nation’s premier offensive or defensive lineman. Carimi looks to be a late first-round pick in the draft.

6. Derek Sherrod OT (Mississippi State) – A two time All-SEC selection, Sherrod has gotten it done in the toughest conference in the nation despite being surrounded by marginal talent. Sherrod was a four-year starter at Mississippi State and was a big reason why Bulldogs HC Dan Mullen was able to turn the program around in such a short amount of time. Sherrod is 6’5 321 lbs but didn’t impress anyone at the combine with an average 40 time and a pedestrian performance on the bench press. Still, he is considered a late first to early second round pick.

7. Danny Watkins OG (Baylor) – At 26, Watkins is an old man in a draft full of 22 and 23 year olds. Watkins graduated high school and was a firefighter for four years before giving football a chance. Watkins didn’t play football until studying at a small college in California and quickly turned enough heads to get a scholarship offer to Baylor. He replaced standout Jason Smith and more than held his own despite his limited playing experience. Watkins is seen as a late first to early second round pick and has tremendous talent despite his age and newness to the game.

8. Rodney Hudson C/G (Florida State) – Hudson is one of the best interior offensive linemen in this draft and can play center as well as both guard positions effectively. He doesn’t have elite size, with only a 6’2 290 lb frame, but is a fantastic technician and learned from one of the best in FSU OL coach Rick Trickett. Hudson was the anchor of the Seminoles’ offensive line during most of his time in Tallahassee and will make an excellent pro no matter what position he plays. Hudson is seen as a second round pick.

9. Benjamin Ijalana G (Villanova) – Ijalana is a huge question mark in this draft due to his injury situation and his FCS resume. Ijalana has failed to work out at either the combine or the Senior Bowl due to hernia surgery, but did dominate at the lower level of competition, starting all four seasons he was a Wildcat. At Villanova, he played left tackle, but will likely be moved to guard in the NFL. Ijalana is projected to be a second round draft pick.

10. Marcus Cannon OT (TCU) – A 6’5 358 lb tackle with amazing strength, no offensive lineman at the combine lifted more than Cannon did. Cannon put up 33 reps on the 225 lb bench press and ser numerous workout records during his time as a Horned Frog. Cannon struggled with fast defensive ends and will need to work on his footwork if he intends to succeed at the next level. With his measurements and strength though, Cannon is definitely worthy of a high draft selection. He is projected to be a second round choice.

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Posted in NFL Football - Last Updated on Thursday, April 21st, 2011 @ 12:01 pm (EST)
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