NFL Draft buyer beware: Offensive Line

DeMarcus Love (Getty)

The Cardinals need help along the offensive line but may need to stay clear of a select group of prospects.

It happens every year The team scouts spend every waking minute evaluating talent, attending games, watching film and checking their lists twice, sort of like a football Santa Claus Then, the Combines roll around, coaches, scouting directors and general managers are out in full force with stopwatches in hand The three day "underwear workout" commences, those out of the scouting loop (coaches and GMs) become enamored with agility figures and march off en mass to Pro Day There, they continue their little "love fest" with a player's athletic ability, but along the way, seem to forget that victories are generated by production, by consistent performance and NOT how good a kid looks running 40 yards on the track

What all of this leads up to is a totally different draft board than the ones the scouts have prepared The general manager is the decision maker and all others are there to offer input Coaches have their "guy" they want the GM to take, despite claims from their scouting department that have spent the better part of the year finding the "warts" not shown on the player's professional resume With that in mind, here is a look at that one player at each position who will either make a general manager look like a genius, or have that guy on the unemployment line a year later

OFFENSIVE CENTER
KRISTOFER O'DOWD, University of Southern California Trojans, #61, 6:04 1-304

O'Dowd comes with a fine high school and early college career resume, but he might be a medical risk, as his knee woes will scare away a few teams, despite his triumphant return to the gridiron in 2010 In 2007, he suffered a dislocated right kneecap vs Washington, missing the next three games He also had surgery to remove torn cartilage, sitting out three more contests before returning to the lineup vs Arizona State

In 2009, O'Dowd sat out May camp after undergoing left shoulder surgery in January to repair a torn labrum He later suffered a dislocated right kneecap during the first series of a mid-August scrimmage, missing the season opener vs San Jose State He started the next five games, but lingering knee issues and a shoulder sprain forced him back to the sidelines for three games He returned to see limited action vs Stanford before he sat out the next week vs UCLA

O'Dowd has above average foot quickness, but there are concerns about his balance He has good athletic ability, change of direction skills and lateral movement The thing you notice on film is his acceleration getting into the second level on screens and pulls However, he frequently falls off the snap and overextends, especially when blocking in space

The center has adequate lateral movement and change of direction agility He used to show ease of movement redirecting in either direction, but after his 2007 knee injury, he did not look athletic (appeared stiff) when changing direction He is effective locating the safeties and linebackers working in space, but has only adequate slide

The center has the ability to stay on his feet and block on the move His foot speed allows him to get out front on sweeps, but he needs to generate more leg strength in order to sustain He is not used much in this area in the USC system He is a hustler, showing the ability to get on the linebackers in the second level However, he will go to his knees and lose his sustain ability when facing up to the larger defenders His problem arises when he has to stop and redirect, as he will sometimes trip over his feet

Compares To: ERIC GHIACIUC-Miami Ghiaciuc's athletic deficiencies have seen him play for seven teams since entering the NFL in 2005 Unless O'Dowd is fully recovered from knee woes and learns to sink his pads and move quicker laterally, he faces the same travails during his professional life He also shows the ability to come off double teams and get to his blocks and sustain, but will revert to bending at the waist rather than his hips He has a good pass set and quick hands to get on the defenders with proper hand placement, but will catch rather than punch most of the time

OFFENSIVE TACKLE
James Brewer, Indiana University Hoosiers, #73, 6:06 2-323

Brewer has a tall frame that makes him look leaner than he actually is He has a big upper body frame with good muscle definition in his arms He has a big waist, good bubble, thick thighs, knotted calves and solid muscle tone in his lower frame His tall frame could add more bulk with no loss in speed He is also high-cut with narrow hips With his strength, he can be explosive coming off the snap, but sometimes negates his anchor because he will stand too tall and appear erect in his stance His stiffness prevents him from dropping his hips properly to anchor

Brewer has just adequate explosion coming off the ball in the passing game, and can be shocked and rocked back on his heels vs a strong bull rush He has some foot speed and agility to gain advantage when he stays low in his stance, but he needs to work on his footwork, as at times he will skip a step coming out of his stance, causing some balance issues He has marginal lateral movement and feet to move on pulls and get up field He is sluggish to redirect and must learn how to play at a lower pad level

The Indiana offensive tackle has adequate balance, but needs to open his hips quicker He will get over-extended at times, but generally plays on his feet When he reverts to lunging, he will generally fall to the ground He compensates for a lack of lateral agility by using his size and strength to sustain blocks, but needs to move his feet quicker in order to get out in front on pulls and traps

Brewer has good natural strength and the ability to knock defenders off the ball coming out of his stance with arms extended When he stays low in his pads, he creates movement and uses his body mass to lean into and get underneath the defender to sustain However, he tends to grab defenders rather than catch in attempts to steer the pass rusher wide He needs to generate better pop and explosion in order to be effective here

On running plays, Brewer comes off the snap with his back flat, but needs to do a better job of rolling his hips With his strength, you would think that his hand punch can dominate and drive the defender off the line of scrimmage, but he will revert to grabbing in attempts to steer the defender He may overextend some and lacks the balance to recover when he gets too erect coming off the line of scrimmage

You can see on game film that Brewer has marginal flexibility and will get sloppy with his footwork at times But, when he uses his hands, he can stun the pass rusher with his punch He has long arms, but sometimes is not quick to reset his hands He's like a dancing bear moving back in pass protection, playing too high to redirect But, when he keeps a wide stance with a good base, he can adjust to the speed rush

Compares To: KHALIF BARNES-Oakland Brewer will overextend and lunge some on run plays, lacking the balance (fails to open hips) to quickly recover He has good feet on contact in the running game, but gets too narrow with his hips, causing him to look slow-footed when he attempts to get up to the second level and cut off from the backside It is rare to see him flash aggression, as he prefers to grab rather than use his hands with force to stun with his punch In pass protection, Brewer shows a decent kick slide, but at times, he will pivot to recover and miss blocks when he plays straight-legged He uses his size to his advantage in pass protection, as he has the long arms needed to lock out, but must work on getting proper hand placement to ride out the wide rusher

OFFENSIVE GUARD
DeMarcus Love, University of Arkansas Razorbacks, #65, 6:04 3-315

Love is a big, strong-body type that does not always play to his weight room strength He lacks good agility and is limited by poor hand placement and a slow rise off the snap Because of his lack of suddenness, I doubt if he can be an effective pro tackle, as he is too stiff and erect in his stance to effectively redirect He struggles when having to change direction and despite decent foot speed, he lacks quickness and urgency to get into the second level and attack linebackers on sweeps

While Love has good weight-room power, he looks too top-heavy (most of his weight is held in his chest) and this makes him appear a bit sluggish getting off the snap He gets too erect in his stance to gain leverage off the snap, but does use his massive body to gain position and sustain He is limited in space, and cannot redirect and recover When he stays low in his pads, he can adjust and drop his weight to gain movement

Love struggles with lateral movement and the speed rush as his body stiffness prevents him from getting a good anchor When he gets erect in his stance, he will overextend and lose body control He does show good intent to finish, but he does not have the feet to get to his drop point in pass protection

The Razorback will sometimes delivers a strong hand punch, but he lacks consistency and aggression when shooting his hands, preventing him from getting total impact behind those hits When focused, he shows some power in his play and looks to finish, doing a very good job of using his size to lean in and push the defender off the ball, but fails to generate anything more than a marginal burst off the snap due to being a slow-twitch type

Even for a big body-type, Love does show good feet and can adjust working in-line He is a bit stiff, but does manage to generate enough of a slide to make adjustment blocks and recover He struggles to anchor on the edge due to marginal foot speed Because of poor hip snap, he looks uncomfortable and un-athletic in the open field

Compares To: TONY UGOH-Detroit Love is a big-framed lineman whose struggles with speed and lateral agility will force him to shift inside to guard at the pro level Off the snap, he shows enough quickness with his hands (just doesn't shoot them with consistency), but lacks foot speed When he manages to get his pad level down, he can drive block His feet go dead when he has to pull or work to the second level He gets too erect in his stance to gain proper leverage One thing you notice on film is that when he has to move up field, not only does he appear slow-twitched getting off the snap, but labors to gain acceleration and gets his head down, which prevents him from spotting targets to hit He can anchor down in pass protection, but is slow to get to his drop point and has no agility to get to the edge, making him a liability at left tackle

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