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Combine Watch List: The top five offensive tackles

Doug Farrar
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Russell Okung (Oklahoma State): The memory many have of Okung is a relatively unimpressive performance in the Cotton Bowl, but it's important to note that a practice-related knee injury may well have been a factor. In truth, Okung is ranked by most as the top lineman of the 2010 class. He's got all the moves -- he's able to take that first kick-step and fan out in pass protection against a speed rusher; he can pinch inside against a penetrating defender; he can fire out effectively in run blocking, and he can execute the tackle pulls he'd be required to do in a traditional zone-blocking scheme. At 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds, he's not a power guy in the Jake Long(notes) or Michael Oher(notes) mold; D'Brickashaw Ferguson(notes) might be a better example. Pass pro is his specialty -- in 826 regular-season snaps in 2009, he allowed one quarterback sack and two quarterback pressures. Through Okung's Combine and Pro Day, teams will most likely want to focus on his strength and ability to block downfield.

Bryan Bulaga (Iowa): The fastest riser on the board. Medical concerns abound surrounding the thyroid condition that forced him to miss three games last season, but barring any further complications, it's all systems go for Bulaga. He handles the bull rush exceptionally well, but is vulnerable to the outside speed rush and spin move -- Michigan's Brandon Graham exploited these weaknesses and showed what Bulaga's future NFL team might have to correct. But with a split of spread-style former tight ends and less mobile pounders, people are coming around to Bulaga's toughness, intensity, and ability to develop. For Bulaga, anything and everything involving short-area speed and agility will be the focus at the Combine.

Anthony Davis(notes) (Rutgers): Davis might be the best pure pass-blocker in this bunch; an enormous asset to a league going more and more to the aerial game. Davis makes life very difficult for pass rushers -- he gets a wide base, backsteps very well, and gets into position with the ability to keep his head on a swivel. The questions lie in the power stuff -- he's inconsistent in drive blocking, and he can be beaten even in pass-blocking after a hand strike separates him from a defender. Davis won't be walked back to the quarterback, but defenders will slide around him. He was a 368-pound freshman, and though he's reduced to 325, teams will want to know about weight issues and overall technique. You'd like to see a bit more of a mauler at his size.

Trent Williams (Oklahoma): In 2008, the Sooners had the best offensive line in college football. After that season, four of the five starters were gone, and Williams was the only one left. He moved from right to left tackle in 2009 to replace Phil Loadholt(notes). He improved as the season went along, helping the Oklahoma offense go though injuries to Sam Bradford, and this may have increased his draft prospects more than anything. In pass protection, Williams doesn't have the "fan-out" moves common to the elite left tackles, but he does a good job of getting to the end's right shoulder and using his strength to protect. Run blocking is where he really excels -- he would be an ideal right tackle in the NFL for that reason.

Charles Brown (USC): Beats Bruce Campbell of Maryland to the end of this list because of Campbell's injury history. Like St. Louis' Jason Smith(notes), last year's highest-drafted tackle, Brown is a converted tight end known more for his finesse moves than his raw power. What you notice right away about Brown is his pop off the snap when executing sweeps and tackle pulls -- he gets to the outside or downfield defender in a hurry and he's definitive in his blocks when he gets there. As an in-line power-blocker, however, he looks very much like the tight end he used to be. Brown is probably best-suited for the kind of zone-blocking scheme that does not require tackles to plant and deflect bull rushes; he's better suited to combination blocks and other schemes that take advantage of his agility in space. As Smith did occasionally with the Rams in his rookie season, Brown would benefit from a shotgun-heavy offense that would allow him to remain relatively upright and use his speed off the ball.

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