Addressing Needs Through the Draft – Offensive Line

 

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A big need for the Rams this offseason is to address the offensive line. The Rams’ offensive line is considered to be a work in progress with Joe Barksdale, Tim Barnes, and Barrett Jones all having the potential to be solid NFL starters. Barrett Jones is the biggest question mark out of this young bunch because he did not play last season due to injury, but with an offseason under his belt he can potentially contribute to the offensive line. The big question mark is if the club will bring back Rodger Staffold. If Staffold is brought back, then addressing offensive line in the early parts of the draft may not be necessary. Let’s take a look at three or four players the Rams could target on each day of the draft.

Day 1: Round 1

 

Greg Robinson (Auburn): Head and shoulders the most potential of an offensive line prospect in the draft. He’s 6 foot 5, 332 pounds, 35 inch arms, and huge 10-inch hands. On this huge body he was able to register outstanding numbers at the combine, including a 4.92 40-yard dash. Physically, this kid is an absolute monster. As a run blocker, Robinson has essentially no weakness. He’s able to flush out inside defensive tackles and can power block defensive ends and push them down the field. Once he gets his hands on you in the run game it’s essentially over. He has great balance, a powerful base, and can shuffle his hips to stay in front of you. Robinson’s weakness comes in the pass blocking game. Auburn rarely threw the ball so he did not have much time to develop this part of his game. Defenders tend to be able to get around him when pass blocking for more than 3 to 4 seconds. He also struggles to identify the blitz and be able to pick out his assignment when pass blocking. Surely, with his talent he will be able to develop these parts of his game.

Jake Matthews (Texas A&M): If you’re looking for a player to insert into your starting lineup on day one then Matthews is your guy. He’s got the size you would expect from an elite tackle at 6 foot 5 and 308 pounds. Everything about this kid is solid; great stance, keeps his hands moving and active, takes good angles at down field blocks, great at forming a pocket when pass blocking, above average run blocker, and elite pass blocker. Virtually, his only negative would be short arms. He’s showed in his days in the SEC that blocking elite talent is no problem. This kid is a lock to be a superstar at the next level

Taylor Lewan (Michigan): It is almost unfair to say this kid has the most question marks out of the first round tacklers considering the talent level of Matthews and Robinson, but he does not offer as much upside as the first two prospects. He’s got a huge 6 foot 7 frame on with this extra height comes the positive of extra arm length. He’s an awesome pass blocker, keeps his balance very well, and has excellent footwork. He also run blocks well and is a tough guy. Lewan’s biggest problem coming into the draft is his lower body structure. He does not have the most powerful legs which may led teams to think he won’t develop a solid lower body if he hasn’t already done so at Michigan. He isn’t the best at recognizing blitzes and deciding his blocks but that can be worked on at the next level. Lewan has an unstable personality and tends to draw personal fouls and can easily get rattled. What might scare teams the most was his inability to block Jadeveon Clowney his junior year in the Outback Bowl, he had to use a lot of cut blocks and holds to try to neutralize Clowney.

The Pick – Greg Robinson. Even though Matthews would also be a very good pick in this spot, you cannot deny the incredibly high ceiling of Robinson. Robinson may be the best run-blocking prospect we’ve seen in recent years. Even though he is raw as a pass block it is almost a lock that his pass blocking ability will come around. If the Rams trade down the number two overall pick like they are expected to, this kid could be a huge steal at picks 4, 5, or 6.

Day 2: Rounds 2-3

 

Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama): This is another kid that is going to benefit from having a huge frame at 6 foot 7 inches and 322 pounds. Kouandjio is good against the pass as he can flush defenders to the outside and he has the ability to drop anchor and defend against the bull rush, rip, and spin moves. His run blocking is pretty good as well. Kouandjio’s form and footwork is extremely raw. Needs to work on keeping active hands, footwork, and definitely needs to work on his kick step in pass protection. He has a lot of upside.

 

Antonio Richardson (Tennessee): Antonio “Tiny” Richardson did not earn his ironic nickname just for his pure size but also the way he plays the game. His pass blocking technique is similar to running into a brick wall. Even when he has no momentum in his favor and he stops chopping his legs he still has the ability to lock up and hold his ground. He also run blocks well because of his extreme strength (36 bench reps at the combine). The biggest problems that come with Richardson are motivational issues and his reliance on his natural talent. Scouts believe that it could take a lot of time for him to breakdown a playbook. Also needs to work on his hands. Also has a lot of upside.

 

John Urschel (Penn State): Saying that this kid is extremely smart is an understatement. While at Penn State, Urschel earned his masters in mathematics and taught Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry courses as a graduate student. His intangibles as a leader are off the charts and he plays the game with very sound fundamentals. He trap blocks well, gets to the next level in run blocking, and uses his feet well in pass protection. He will have no problem digesting a playbook. Urschel is undersized and has small arms. His weight room strength also does not translate well to the field. When defenders cross his face his short arms come into play and he has trouble engaging defenders. His intelligence will serve him well in his NFL career.

 

Cyril Richardson (Baylor): This kid does just about everything right and if it wasn’t for his tight hips and his inability to open up his stance he could be drafted in the bottom of the first. He has extreme lower body strength and is a very capable pass blocker. One of the few prospects that can actually lock up with NFL defenders and drive them downfield in the run game.

The Pick – Cyrus Kouandjio. This kid has the ceiling of a first round talent. Although, he’s raw right now the payoff could be pretty high. Being from Alabama this kid is going to know how to work hard and be a winner. He could contribute immediately at guard in the run game. Not to mention, this kid has great size. His ability to block against a lot of different pass rushing moves will prove to be the difference in the NFL.

 

Day 3: Rounds 4-7

 

Travis Swanson (Arkansas): Swanson’s best attribute is that he is a battle tested SEC linemen. He’s started all 50 of his career games at Arkansas. Swanson is an above average pass blocker and has shown he can lock up and anchor down against NFL caliber prospects. Although is Swanson is 6 foot 5 inches and weighs 312 pounds, he is a little soft and he needs to hit the weight room and beef up. He is extremely limited and can only play center. He struggles getting to the next level and uses a lot of scrappy techniques to lay his blocks. Even though he is really smart it is going to be hard for him to perform at the next level.

 

Matt Hall (Belhaven): This kid is projected to go undrafted in a lot of drafts and for the life of me I cannot understand why. He measured in at a legit 6 foot 9 inches and 328 pounds. Not only does he have a huge frame but, he is an extremely mean and aggressive player. He plays the game extremely physical. Saying this kid is extremely raw would be an understatement. He has a lean body for his size. His footwork and his stance need to be remodeled and he struggles engaging in blocks in space. At the end of the day, he is probably at minimum a 3-year project.

 

Zach Fulton (Tennessee): Good size at tackle at 6 foot 5 inches and 316 pounds. He’s extremely raw but has developed his talents at Tennessee and has shown that he is extremely coachable. Excellent down blocker and a solid pass blocker. Fulton’s big negative is that he does not translate power from the lower body to his blocks very well. When he locks up with linemen he struggles to sustain the contact. Struggles a lot when trying to pick up blitzing linebackers. Also very limited and will probably play guard at the next level.

The Pick – Matt Hall. At the end of the day you cannot coach the extreme size this kid carries. This kid could easily be picked up in the 7th round and with the proper coaching could be a solid starter at the next level. Even though he would be a long term project, the price is low and the return on investment could be very high.


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