Top Ten 2014 Draft Prospects: O-Line Edition
Check Out Jake Matthews and Other O-Linemen Who Rocked the Combine
2014 NFL Off-Season
I don’t think there’s an NFL fan in America who enjoys watching his or her quarterback get sacked. I know I pit a fit (sometimes internally, but most often by throwing a soft object at the television…I’ve broken too many cell phones) whenever my Colts’ line allows Andrew Luck to go down. Yesterday, the draft’s premiere o-line prospects showed football nation what they’re made of. Here, we break down some of the best.
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1. Jake Matthews (OT-Texas A&M) - Matthews, of Green Bay’s Clay Matthews’s clan, has football in his blood. Matthews plays like a veteran run blocker; he also has excellent on-field awareness and knowledge of the game. Look for Matthews to go in the top ten overall come draft day. There’s little doubt that we’ll be hearing about him on ESPN come September.
2. Greg Robinson (OT-Auburn) - Among OL hopefuls, Robinson ranked among the top performers in both the 40 and the broad jump. Robinson has exceptional balance and natural athleticism that can’t be learned. If Robinson is willing to do what it takes to hone his raw talent, he could easily become one of the league’s top left tackles.
3. Taylor Lewan (OT-MIchigan) - Lewan’s impressive college record includes starting 48 out of 50 total games. Clearly, Lewan is a durable player who has the potential to enjoy a lengthy, illustrious NFL career. Lewan was a top combine performer in four combine tests: the 40, the vertical jump, the broad jump, and the 3 cone drill.
4. Gabe Jackson (OG-Mississippi State) - In 2013, Jackson became the first ever OL to be the recipient of the Conerly Trophy in Mississippi. Jackson has a keen grasp of football basics, which makes him a smart, effective player. Jackson started in ever game of his college career and was voted captain twice by his teammates. His athleticism, football IQ, and character should help Jackson go in the first or second round.
5. Joel Bitonio (OT-Nevada) - Bitonio absolutely impressed at the combine; he was in the top 10% of performers in all tests but bench press. Bitonio has the ability to effectively play any position on the o-line, which will make him attractive to coaches and, combined with his top-notch character, could raise his draft stock.
6. Zack Martin (OT-Notre Dame) - A two-time captain who holds a Notre Dame record for starting all 52 games, Martin is an extremely solid prospect. Martin already blocks like a pro and was one of few Notre Dame players to actually look good against Alabama in the 2013 National Championship; sorry, Irish faithful, but admitting it is the first step. Certain NFL coaches will probably want to see Martin put on some bulk, but overall, his arrow is pointing up.
7. Russell Bodine (C-North Carolina) - Bodine, originally projected to go in a mid-round, likely managed to raise his draft stock during the combine yesterday; . His 42 reps on bench were No. 1 among all OL prospects. Bodine was also a top vertical jump performer. Bodine’s gruff, gritty on-field attitude is tailor-made for football. Look for Bodine to go as early as the third.
8. Seantrel Henderson (OT-Miami) - Clocking-in at 6’7, 331 pounds, Henderson looks like nothing if not an NFL lineman. Henderson is surprisingly light on his feet and uses his long arms to his advantage on the field. Henderson has some character issues that coaches and other front office officials are sure to have addressed during his combine interviews; the results of these face-to-face talks will have a major impact on where he’s drafted. Talent-wise, he could go in the second or third, but we’ll see if anyone is willing to gamble on him that early.
9. Ryan Groy (OG-Wisconsin) - Groy started all 13 games in 2013 and was granted first-team All-Big Ten honors. Groy’s combine results were impressive (he was in the top 10% of performers in the broad jump, the 20 yard shuttle, and the 3 cone drill), which elevated him to my top ten list. I haven’t seen much discussion about Groy to this point, but he proved he has the physicality to be, at the very least, a strong back-up in the pros.
10. Gabe Ikard (C-Oklahoma) - Ikard posted combine bests in both the 20 yard shuttle and the 3 cone drill. This performance might have been enough to see him ascend to a mid-round when the draft rolls around (70 days and counting, y’all.) Ikard started 50 of 52 games during his college career, so his dependability can’t be questioned. Additionally, Ikard’s strong work ethic and sharp mind may help him turn into a better pro than he is currently projected to be.