DraftWatch: Bears and left tackles
I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. I'd like to see TWO of these guys on our roster after the draft.
LINK to the article DraftWatch: Bears and left tackles The Chicago Bears' decision to release offensive lineman Chris Williams earlier this week was so anticlimactic that I hardly addressed it on the blog. Williams, the No. 14 overall pick of the 2008 draft, hadn't started a game since Nov. 13, 2011, and had been a healthy scratch in the Bears' two most recent games. It was a matter of when, not if, Williams departed the organization. However, the move prompts a fair question as the Bears prepare to face the Detroit Lions' active defensive front Monday night at Soldier Field. Should the Bears take another swing at finding a long-term left tackle in the 2013 draft? Or are they on their way to establishingJ'Marcus Webb in that role? [+] Enlarge
J'Marcus Webb, right, has only given up one sack since a distastrous Week 2 performance against the Packers.
As we noted in our Bears bye week update, Webb has settled down after a disastrous Week 2 performance against the Green Bay Packers. Our friends atPro Football Focus have debited him one sack in the three games since then, all Bears victories. But there is a difference between getting by and being a fundamental building block of a team. Webb's contract doesn't expire until after the 2013 season, so the Bears don't have to make a big decision this winter if they don't want to. But by that time, new general manager Phil Emery will have had a full calendar year to evaluate Webb and decide whether this crucial position needs an upgrade. To that end, I reached out to Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench, who spends the fall evaluating college prospects as part of ESPN.com's year-round draft coverage. Keep in mind that it's way too early to start posting mock drafts, but the initial thought in the scouting community suggests there might not be an elite Jake Long/Joe Thomas left tackle prospect in the 2013 draft. The Bears don't figure to have a top-10 draft pick, anyway. So I want to pass along Steve's assessment of a few prospects who could develop into the kinds of players who might be available to the Bears in the first few rounds of the draft. (How's that for a few qualifiers?) Again, we really can't know how the Bears will assess Webb's 16-game performance. So just bookmark this post and keep it in mind as the weeks and months pass by. It's never too early to think draft, after all.
http://media.al.com/sports_impact/ph...4234-large.jpg http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/...o/7920025.jpeg Dallas Thomas, Tennessee Muench: He's a three-year starter and the top tackle on our board. His balance and initial quickness are above average. He appears to have strong and long arms on film. Possible placement: Fringe first round
http://image.cdnllnwnl.xosnetwork.co...0809223312.jpg Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M Muench: He doesn't always cover enough ground with kick step but he's quick and balanced enough to recover more times than not. He rarely gets beats inside and he does a nice job of recognizing/picking up pressure. Possible placement: Fringe first round
http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto...37987344_n.jpg Justin Pugh*, Syracuse Muench: He missed the first four games with a shoulder injury and his stock has likely taken a hit because of it. Also on the lighter side right now but we identified him as the best pass-blocker at offensive tackle heading into the season. Possible placement: Late second or early third round
http://media.scout.com/Media/Image/92/923942.jpg Brennan Williams, North Carolina Muench: Upside is substantial. His footwork needs to be crisper and can give up the edge at times but he has the initial quickness and length to improve. Possible placement: Late second round
http://a.espncdn.com/media/motion/20...wan_120803.jpg Taylor Lewan, Michigan Muench: He's probably a better fit on the right side because he's an average athlete. I do think he’s underrated though. He's an aggressive run-blocker and he shows good technique/strength in pass protection for the most part. Possible placement: Late second round
http://predictionmachine.com/Images/...rginia-tcu.jpg Oday Aboushi, Virginia Muench: I like the way he uses his hands and he rarely loses once locked on. He slides feet well enough to keep defenders in front of him. Possible placement: Day 2 pick
2013 NFL Draft-- Center Rankings
Here are some of the highest rated centers for the 2013 draft. Centers go relatively cheap in the draft. Rounds 2-4 can land you a rock-solid center.
Barrett Jones, C/OG/OT, Alabama
Draft Projection: Top 15
Draft Grade (out of 100): 95.5
Player Comparison: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
size, strength, and athleticism
zone blocking ability
needs to improve his run blocking
Does not get a constant push
needs to improve his explosion off the snap
Does not use his hands well
Short arms for a tackle
Final Word: Jones is an extremely versatile linemen and is well accomplished. His versatility and talent will propel him to the top half of the first round next year. I believe he is a center or guard at the next level.
Wisconsin's Travis Frederick, 6-4 - 338 lbs.
Career Recap: Frederick made some history for the Badgers in 2009 when he started the season-opener as a true freshman, the first time that had been accomplished in school history. That is saying something considering Wisconsin has been a factory for NFL offensive linemen. Even legendary offensive tackle Joe Thomas was unable to break into the starting lineup that quickly.
Frederick ended up starting four games as freshman - two at center and two at guard - but was mainly a backup. He started the first two games of the year at center for the injured Peter Konz, and two games at the end of the year at guard after John Moffitt moved to center when Konz had another injury.
Frederick redshirted in the 2010 season. Not because he was injured, but because the Badgers had so many returning starters that they wanted to save eligibility for Frederick to play in 2011-2013. He saw it was best for the program and agreed.
Frederick replaced Moffitt as the starter at left guard last season. The redshirt sophomore had a phenomenal year as a dominant run blocker for Wisconsin. Frederick, Konz and left tackle Ricky Wagner worked extremely well together as running back Montee Ball had one of the most prolific seasons in college football history.
Frederick started two games at center last year while Konz was injured. One of them was the Badgers' victory in the Big Ten Championship. Frederick was dominant in every game with the exception of those versus Michigan State. He had some rough stretches in both games against the Spartans. Frederick had his share of wins as well. Overall, he was one of the better guards in college football in 2011.
2012 Season Outlook: Even though Wisconsin has lost a lot from its 2011 squad, Frederick should have a dominant season. Briefly, the Badgers lost: Konz, guard Kevin Zeitler, right tackle Josh Oglesby, fullback Bradie Ewing, their offensive line coach, their offensive coordinator, quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Nick Toon.
Despite those losses, Frederick has talent around him as well as Ricky Wagner playing next to him at left tackle. The duo should spring many holes for Ball and running back James White, two excellent college running backs.
The Big Ten lacks the speed and high level of competition of the SEC, but Frederick will battle two potential first-round picks in Purdue's Kawann Short and Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins. Illinois' Akeem Spence should provide another formidable opponent. Those will be the key matchups for Frederick to prove himself to NFL scouts; otherwise Wisconsin plays a lot of cupcakes that he should dominate.
Skill-Set Summary: Just like Moffitt and Zeitler, Frederick is a road-grading run-blocker who is a physical force at the point of attack. He has the sheer power to push defensive tackles aside or drive block them straight out of their gap. The redshirt junior could suit up for an NFL game tomorrow and be an effective run-blocker.
Frederick has more mobility than one would expect. He does a nice job of getting downfield on screen passes and hitting blocks on smaller defenders. Frederick also has the ability to pull and hit blocks while moving in the box. Wisconsin has prepared him well with great technique. Moffitt took Frederick under his wing as a young player, and Frederick will enter the NFL as a well-developed prospect.
In pass protection, Frederick is a carbon copy of other Wisconsin interior linemen. Bull rushes do nothing against him. His base is simply too heavy and he has too much power to get pushed back. When defensive tackles try to bull rush him, they get stonewalled.
The way to attack Frederick is with speed. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy illustrated that last year. Frederick has to get better at handling the quick gap-shooters. A speedy three-technique could give him problems in the NFL, so Frederick needs to work on his ability to seal the gap when defenders try to jet by him. The battles against Short, Hankins and Spence should provide a good barometer to see if Frederick has improved in this regard.
It will be interesting to see how the Badgers transition from Konz, and if they turn to Frederick at center. Despite playing some center for Wisconsin, he looks like a better fit at guard in the NFL.
Frederick has gained 10 pounds this offseson; he was listed at 328 last year. Going up to 338 would probably make Frederick too big and not agile enough for what most NFL teams look for at center. If he wants to play center, he should get down in the 315-325 range. That still is bigger than most centers.
The best scheme fit for Frederick would be a power man-blocking scheme. He is too big and probably not quite quick enough for a zone-blocking scheme. NFL sources have raved to WalterFootball.com about Wisconsin's run scheme and how good a job it does at preparing offensive linemen. Frederick should be an instant starter as a pro.
Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard
http://walterfootball.com/college/Oklahoma_logo.gifGabe Ikard*, G/C, Oklahoma
Height: 6-2. Weight: 295.
Projected 40 Time: 5.30.
Projected Round (2013): 3-5.
10/13/12: Ikard has consistently won his blocks this season and is a well-rounded player.
8/24/12: Gabe Ikard started 11 games as a freshman in 2010. He was selected as a First-Team All-Freshman All-American by numerous media outlets and was named an honorable mention All-Big XII by the AP.
Ikard was an All-Big XII first-teamer in 2011, splitting time between guard and center. Starting center Ben Habern missed multiple games with a broken arm, and Ikard filled in with seven starts at center. He returned to left guard for the final three games. With Habern retiring from football, Ikard should take over at center in 2012.
Center is probably the better position for Ikard in the long term as he is undersized for guard. Ikard has a good skill set, but he needs to add some bulk and power to his game, along with making general improvements from simply gaining experience. Ikard is an Academic All-American and graded out the highest of any of Oklahoma's offensive linemen including Habern and draft pick Donald Stephenson.
Intelligent, versatile, dominating and reliable, senior Gabe Ikard possesses all the traits NFL scouts look for in an offensive lineman. He is coming off a first-team All-Big 12 campaign in which he started six games at guard and seven games at center.
Ikard has started in 25 of 27 games the past two seasons and proven to be a savior for the Sooners up front. He showed his versatility by filling in for the injured Habern at center and earned the highest blocking grades of Sooner interior linemen.
Additionally, Ikard has accumulated an impressive 160 knockdowns in his three seasons (via soonersports.com).
A reflection of his character and intellect is a 4.0 GPA in zoology. This will go a long way for NFL scouts. It shows Ikard is dedicated and hard-working, in addition to being blessed with high intelligence. His skills render him well prepared for tackling the complexities of being an NFL lineman.
Clearly, Ikard is physically and mentally mature and ready to thrive at the next level. That is, after he turns in another successful season in 2012.
USC's Khaled Holmes
Career Recap: Holmes broke into the lineup during his sophomore season. He started at right guard and was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention. Holmes moved over to center as a junior and had an impressive season. He did a good job of opening up holes in the ground game for Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler. Holmes was a fabulous pass-protector for Barkley. The center led the way to keep the pocket clean, helping Barkley to have a fantastic season for the Trojans.
2012 Season Outlook: There is no reason to believe that Holmes won't have an excellent season. USC is bringing back a ton of talent including Barkley and McNeal. The offensive line lost superstar left tackle Matt Kalil, but that shouldn't have a real impact on Holmes' blocking assignments. Overall, he has a workable schedule highlighted by two tough matchups.
It would really help Holmes' stock if he plays well against Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and UCLA tackle Cassius Marsh. Lotulelei is a potential top-10 pick next April, so Holmes will see a tough challenge with the Utes standout. Aside from those games, Holmes has the talent to impress in 2012 and should have a good year blocking for USC.
Skill-Set Summary: There is a lot for NFL teams to like about Holmes. He is a perfect candidate to protect the pocket for a signal-caller in the passing-driven NFL. Holmes' mobility and pass-protection skills are exactly what the NFL is looking for. He can move quickly to get in position to pick up blitzers but also has the skills to fire out of stance and double-team defensive tackles with guards.
Holmes has nice awareness to pick up pass-rushers. It would be helpful if he added more strength and power to his base for the next level. That would help him anchor against zero-technique defensive tackles who line up directly over the center. With some of the heavy and powerful 3-4 nose tackles in the NFL, Holmes ability to stonewall their bull-rushes could be challenged. The redshirt senior should have the height to add some extra bulk to handle the big tackles.
Holmes is quick to the next level of the defense as a run-blocker. He hits blocks on linebackers to help spring his backs for more yardage. Holmes also combo-blocks well with his guards. In the NFL, he would be best as a zone-blocker who can use his speed and athleticism. If Holmes is drafted into a power scheme, he definitely should fill out his frame with another 10-15 pounds.
Centers are a critical position in the NFL for interior pass-protection. Holmes looks like a future NFL starter, and teams that are heavy on passing the ball will like what they see with from the Trojans center.
- http://walterfootball.com/college/Louisville_logo.gif Mario Benavides, C, Louisville
Height: 6-4. Weight: 300.
Projected 40 Time: 5.15.
Projected Round (2012): 3-4.
10/6/12: Benavides has started the season strong. He had an excellent game against North Carolina and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Benavides has been a strong run-blocker and good pass-protector for Teddy Bridgewater.
8/22/12: Mario Benavides enters his senior season having started the past three years at center for the Cardinals. Benavides missed the first three games of last season with a knee injury, but he returned to start the final 10 games. Benavides is experienced, and if he plays well in 2012, he should solidify his stock as a mid-round pick.
- http://walterfootball.com/college/Clemson_logo.gif Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson
Height: 6-5. Weight: 285.
Projected 40 Time: 5.05.
Projected Round (2013): 3-4.
10/6/12: Freeman has started the season strong blocking for quarterback Tajh Boyd and running back Andre Ellington. Freeman had a superb game against Auburn in the season opener and did well against Florida State. He's a good blocker, but is undersized.
8/22/12: Dalton Freeman has started the past three seasons at center for Clemson. He did a good job of blocking for C.J. Spiller as a freshman in 2009 and for Andre Ellington the past two years. The senior Freeman is a mobile center who will need to add some power to his game for the NFL. He has the frame to get bigger.
Freeman is athletic and would probably be a best fit in a zone-blocking scheme at the next level. He did a good job in pass protection for quarterback Tajh Boyd in 2011.
- http://walterfootball.com/college/Illinois_logo.gif Graham Pocic, C, Illinois
Height: 6-5. Weight: 305.
Projected 40 Time: 5.15.
Projected Round (2013): 3-4.
10/6/12: Pocic has played well overall for Illinois. His big tests will come in November when he takes on Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins and Purdue's Kawann Short, both future first-rounders.
8/22/12: Pocic started the past two seasons at center for Illinois. He has some real athleticism. Pocic did a good job of blocking for Mikel Leshoure in 2010. Pocic needs to improve his strength, but he has the height and frame to be able to add more mass.
Braxston Cave | 6'4, 304 pounds | Center | Notre Dame