In Part IV of the National Football Post's position analysis, we take a closer look at the nation's top offensive and defensive linemen. Since we started this series by ranking players No. 1 through 5, we resume our breakdown with prospects currently ranked 6 through 15.
6. Cecil Newton, Tennessee State (6-foot-2, 300 pounds)
7. Edwin Williams, Maryland (6-2, 308)
8. Blake Schlueter, TCU (6-3, 290)
9. A.Q. Shipley, Penn State (6-1, 304)
10. Alex Fletcher, Stanford (6-2, 297)
11. Jon Cooper, Oklahoma (6-2, 291)
12. Rob Bruggeman, Iowa (6-4, 293)
13. Brett Helms, LSU (6-2, 286)
14. Robby Felix, UTEP (6-3, 302)
15. Ryan McDonald, Illinois (6-4, 298)
In what's considered one of the better center classes in years, this group not only has significant talent toward the top end of the NFL draft, but also an intriguing bit of depth as well. Tennessee State's Newton was an absolute dominant small-school blocker who has the combination of athleticism and power to develop into a starter. However, no center possesses the athletic attributes of Schlueter, who posted some jaw-dropping numbers at TCU's pro day, running his 40-yard dash in the high 4.7 range. He looks like an ideal zone-blocking scheme lineman who can pull outside and consistently reach the second level.
Williams is a fluid, long-armed center who possesses the reach (34½ inches) of an offensive tackle. His combination of length, hand placement and quickness off the snap makes him very difficult to beat in the pass game. Bruggeman is a decent athlete, but he's also a natural bender who, like most Iowa offensive linemen, is technically sound. He moves well in space and possesses a strong upper body to punch and anchor at the point of attack.
Rounding out the group are several undersized linemen who lack the ideal height/weight numbers but rely on their instincts, technique and overall grit. Cooper, Helms and Fletcher all fit that description, but no one fits it more accurately than Penn State's Shipley. Shipley's body type is less than ideal – he's undersized with short arms – but he snaps and steps as quickly as any center in the class and does a great job getting under defenders and turning them out of plays. He won't warrant much interest early, but he has the capability of finding his way onto an NFL roster.
6. Tyronne Green, Auburn (6-2, 309)
7. Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin (6-5 328)
8. Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee State (6-4, 332)
9. Seth Olsen, Iowa (6-5, 306)
10. Jaimie Thomas, Maryland (6-4, 323)
11. Greg Isdaner, West Virginia (6-4, 325)
12. C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh (6-2, 308)
13. Roger Allen, Missouri Western (6-3, 326)
14. Ray Feinga, BYU (6-4, 337)
15. Matt Slauson, Nebraska (6-6, 313)
Green ranks sixth on our board and displays one of the nastiest punches and strongest initial surges of any guard in the county. He comes out of his stance low and consistently drives defenders off the ball. His technique is sloppy to say the least, but he'll continue to develop with NFL coaching. We ranked Wisconsin's Urbik lower than most scouts because of his inability to win a battle outright. He has a long, strong frame and does a nice job consistently getting his hands on defenders, but he struggles moving his feet once he's engaged and always seems to struggle staying in front of defenders. Lewis is considered a mid/late-round offensive tackle prospect on most boards, although I think his best chance might be inside at guard. He's a long, physical lineman with great base strength and smooth feet. He doesn't possess the quickness or redirection skills to play left tackle, but he should be able to handle the inside rush just fine.
Olsen is a tall athletic lineman who plays with impressive bend and flexibility for his size. He does a nice job sliding laterally in space and is a real technician for the position; he will take to NFL coaching very quickly. Rounding out the group are in-line blockers Ray Feinga and Matt Slauson. Feinga possesses a massive frame with good lower body strength and can consistently drive defenders off the ball. He's very smooth for his size and is best suited for a power-run scheme. On the other hand, Slauson is as mean and nasty as they come. He plays with a lot of pride and loves to finish his blocks. He displays a strong anchor, and once he gets his hands on you, the battle is over. He isn't a real laterally gifted lineman but relies on his length, power and grit to get the job done inside.
6. William Beatty, Connecticut (6-6, 307)
7. Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma (6-8, 332)
8. Fenuki Tupou, Oregon (6-6, 314)
9. Jamon Meredith, South Carolina (6-5, 304)
10. Joel Bell, Furman (6-7, 315)
11. Xavier Fulton, Illinois (6-4, 302)
12. Lydon Murtha, Nebraska (6-7, 306)
13. Gerald Cadogan, Penn State (6-5, 309)
14. Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech (6-7, 304)
15. Augustus Parrish, Kent State (6-4, 303)
Beatty climbed draft boards as a senior and possesses the length, body control and foot speed to play on the left side in the NFL. He displays a quick kick-step and can consistently reach the corner vs. speed rushers. Expect to see his name come off the board during the latter portions of Round 1. Right tackle prospects Loadholt and Tupou possess long, massive frames with good overall power. Loadholt has done a nice job working on his footwork since the Senior Bowl, where he was exposed because of his lack of fluidity. But he looked good during position drills at the scouting combine in Indianapolis and at his pro day, and I expect him to develop into a solid right tackle. Tupou is a more fluid athlete than Loadholt but doesn't play with the same type of power or length. He needs to learn to use his reach better in pass protection.
One of our favorite tackle prospects in the draft class is Furman's Bell, who plays with a nasty streak and showcases the athleticism and quickness to handle speed off the edge. He's a bit unpolished and has a tendency to get upright in pass protection, but all the tools are there, and with a little NFL coaching he has the potential to start in the NFL. Another intriguing tackle is Murtha, who turned heads at the combine with his 4.82 40 time. He's obviously a gifted athlete, but he's had trouble staying on the field because of injuries and has not developed the way many at Nebraska had hoped.
Meredith, Fulton, Cadogan and Parrish are all a bit undersized but exhibit the type of athletic ability to excel in a zone-blocking scheme. Fulton may be the most intriguing of the group as he's only played two seasons on offense after being recruited to play D-line at Illinois. Fulton is a gifted athlete who showcases great footwork and body control on the outside and displays some of the best fluidity in the class. However, he's very raw and still has a way to go from a technique standpoint.
6. Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech (6-7, 266)
7. Lawrence Sidbury Jr. , Richmond (6-3, 266)
8. David Veikune, Hawaii (6-3, 257)
9. Kyle Moore, USC (6-5, 272)
10. Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin (6-5, 266)
11. Paul Kruger, Utah (6-4, 263)
12. Derek Walker, Illinois (6-4, 268)
13. Henry Melton, Texas (6-4, 269)
14. Brandon Williams, Texas Tech (6-3, 263)
15. Michael Bennett, Texas A&M (6-4, 274)
Georgia Tech's Johnson is the sixth-ranked defensive end on our board but has the physical skill set and athleticism to be one of the top prospects in the draft. However, he lacks power in his base and is too easily washed out of plays in the run game. Johnson does possess an impressive first step for a guy his size and you can definitely see some Jason Taylor in his game. Behind Johnson are a couple of intriguing pass rushers who have the athletic ability to get after the passer. Sidbury is a long-armed small-school prospect who absolutely dominated the I-AA level last season. He's looked very explosive and fluid during postseason workouts and produced one of the fastest 40 times and the combine (4.53). Veikune lacks the same type of straight-line speed but exhibits a deceptive first step off the edge and does a nice job getting on tackles quickly. He uses his natural leverage to get under blocks and is sudden enough to shed offensive linemen and close on the quarterback.
Moore and Shaughnessy are never going to be productive sack artists at the next level, but possess the frames and length to hold the point of attack and can possibly mature into five-technique defensive ends. Shaughnessy has seen his first step slowly diminish because of a rash of injuries throughout his college career. However, he showcases great technique and uses his hands to shed blocks as well as any defensive end in the class. Moore does a nice job being physical at the point of attack and definitely has the frame to add 15-20 pounds and make the transition to a 3-4 DE. He plays quicker than his body would indicate and uses his length well to keep himself clean on the outside.
Finally, one guy who has really caught our eye of late is Melton, Texas' other defensive end. Melton, who was the Longhorns' short-yardage running back during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, did a nice job developing into a solid defensive end last season. However, it was his performance at the Texas pro day that really generated buzz after he ran a 4.64 40. Melton is far from a finished product in all areas of his game, but he possesses the athleticism and burst to reach the corner and could develop into a solid pass rusher at the next level.
6. Ron Brace, Boston College (6-3, 330)
7. Dorell Scott, Clemson (6-3, 312)
8. Mitch King, Iowa (6-2, 280)
9. Fili Moala, USC (6-4, 305)
10. Alex Magee, Purdue (6-3, 298)
11. Chris Baker, Hampton (6-2, 326)
12. Roy Miller, Texas (6-1, 310)
13. Corvey Irvin, Georgia (6-3, 301)
14. Terrance Knighton, Temple (6-3, 321)
15. Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman (6-4, 329)
Brace might be ranked and drafted higher than his play warrants, but when supply meets demand for the nose tackle position, you can see why he has such value. He's a physical, thickly built lineman with good base strength and a nasty rip move inside. He won't give you much as a pass rusher but knows how to clog run lanes inside. King couldn't be any more different than Brace in terms of size and style of play. King is an explosive, three-technique player who does a great job firing off the ball and making his way into an opponent's backfield. He does a great job winning initial hand battles and has a motor that runs non-stop. King needs to play in a scheme where he can slant and attack gaps, but he has an ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage at the next level.
Moala and Magee are tall, long-armed lineman who have the ability to add a lot of versatility to a defense on the line of scrimmage. I can see both linemen either playing inside in a 4-3 scheme or possibly making the transition to the five-technique position in a 3-4. Finally, small-school products Baker, Knighton and Hill add depth to the nose tackle position and have the potential to develop into contributors at the next level. They're all thick, wide-bodied defenders who possess the size and length needed to control blockers at the point of attack.
The National Football Post (www.nationalfootballpost.com) is a unique and premier online source of insight about all sides of football featuring professionals with experience in all facets of the NFL.