Here is a look at the top senior offensive tackle prospects in next April's NFL draft, according to league scouts.
1. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, 6-foot-7, 305 pounds: He started out as a sleeper but has been a fast-riser this season as scouts have descended on Mount Pleasant. He has the frame, flexibility, athleticism, feet and reach to play left tackle in the NFL. Fisher is a solid pass-protector and a pretty good run-blocker. If he has a solid Senior Bowl, he can cement his spot as the top offensive lineman in the draft and a mid first-round pick.
2. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin, 6-5, 325: He is a left tackle in college who could be best at right tackle in the pros, but Wagner is both a fine run-blocker and pass-protector. He is a better athlete than Gabe Carimi, whom he succeeded at Wisconsin, but not as powerful.
3. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee, 6-5, 305: He has some position flexibility and could be either a guard or tackle in the NFL. Quite a few teams are projecting him inside, but Thomas isn't the most physical blocker. He is athletic, with flexibility and balance. He has the reach to deal with edge rushers.
4. Brennan Williams, North Carolina, 6-7, 315: He is a little bit of a wild card because of a shoulder injury that ended his season. Williams is a good pass-protector with quick feet, long reach and a strong punch. He uses his hands well. As a run-blocker, he tends to be too erect and isn't the most powerful. He is probably best suited to play right tackle. He also could be considered at guard, but may be too tall.
5. Oday Aboushi, Virginia, 6-5, 295: He probably isn't long-armed enough for left tackle, but Aboushi has the toughness and competitiveness to be a fine right tackle. He is a powerful run-blocker and decent pass-protector. Guard also is a possibility for him.
6. Brian Winters, Kent State, 6-5, 310: He plays left tackle in college but a lot of teams are projecting him to guard because he does not have great length. Right tackle also is a possibility. Winters is an efficient run-blocker with ability in pass protection. He is a little stiff and does not power defenders, but he is tough.
7. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma, 6-6, 305: You know he is athletic because he is a converted defensive end who also played tight end and quarterback. Johnson has good feet and plays hard. He has come on strong this year. Johnson has good intangibles, as he is tough and competitive. He still is developing and learning, and needs better strength. In time, he can develop into a starting left tackle.
8. Xavier Nixon, Florida, 6-5, 314: Nixon is a good athlete who does his best work in pass protection. His run-blocking is below average and he lacks lower body strength. He could be a backup in the NFL unless he develops.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com.
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