Football / Sports

Evaluating offensive linemen for the NFL draft

CREAM OF THE CROP

Player, position, school, height, weight

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn, 6-5, 332

-- Massive, powerful, athletic; raw as pass-blocker; has potential to be something special.

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, 6-5, 308

-- Tough, durable, technique-sound; from great football family; plug-and-play from day one.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan, 6-7, 309

-- Aggressive but athletic; posted better overall combine numbers than Robinson; off-field issues.

Zack Martin, G/T, Notre Dame, 6-4, 308

-- Fifty of his 52 college starts at LT, but could be best guard prospect in this year's draft.

Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA, 6-4, 307

Should be highest-drafted UCLA O-lineman since Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden in 1996.

Don't overlook: Joel Bitonio (G/T), Nevada; Gabe Jackson (OG), Mississippi State; Ja'Wuan James (OT), Tennessee; Cyrus Kouandjio (OT), Alabama; Marcus Martin (c), Southern California; Morgan Moses (OT), Virginia; Antonio Richardson (OT), Tennessee; Weston Richburg (c), Colorado State; Billy Turner (G/T), North Dakota State.

Fun fact: Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio speaks fluent French. (He's a native of the African country of Cameroon.)

Quotable: "I was filmed and asked how many uses you can have for a paper clip inside a minute. I came up with a baker's dozen, probably. I was still going when the minute was up." -- Michigan's Taylor Lewan, on the most random question he got at the NFL scouting combine.

Rating the field: Some teams feel that Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan are better prospects than any of the tackles in last year's draft. But the tackle position isn't very deep. After the first five or six, the quality drops. On the other hand, guard is considered one of the deepest positions in the draft if you include college tackles like Zack Martin who project as guards in the NFL. There are a few centers, including Weston Richburg and Marcus Martin, who should be early-round selections.

Rams' needs: With no guarantee that LT Jake Long (knee surgery) will be ready for the start of the season, and RT Joe Barksdale entering the final year of his contract, offensive tackle is among the team's greatest needs. The Rams are also looking for a starting guard, and at the very least need depth at the position after Chris Williams and Shelley Smith left in free agency.

Local line: Because of his quickness and athletic ability, lots of teams think Missouri's Justin Britt could be an effective NFL guard. He projects as a fourth- through sixth-rounder. Rams have shown some interest.

(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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