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Thread: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

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    Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Auburn tackle Greg Robinson stands out in talented lineman class
    Bob McGinn | On the Packers


    Green Bay — Devotees of magnificent offensive line play have been waiting patiently since 1997 for the next franchise tackle to be drafted.



    On Thursday, Auburn's Greg Robinson could bring back the echoes of the five cornerstones — Willie Roaf, Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones — who arrived in the mid-1990s to revolutionize the tackle position.


    "He's so heavy-handed and so athletic, I think he's going to be the next Orlando Pace," said an executive in personnel for an AFC team. "He's got a chance to be a Hall of Famer some day."


    In a Journal Sentinel poll asking 20 personnel people to name the best player in the draft, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney easily carried the day, but Robinson did tie for second place with two votes.


    Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, the other leading man in a draft chock full of tackles, also received a vote.


    "I do," Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff replied to the idea that one or more of the tackles could become one of those "dancing bears" of the past. "The top end for tackles is very good this year.


    "Greg is a massive man with top-notch athleticism for the position. He's got a lot of natural ability with the arrow definitely pointing up."


    Roaf (11 Pro Bowls) already has been inducted into Canton. Ogden (11), Pace (seven) and Jones (nine) probably will some day, and Boselli (five) was headed there, too, before injury cut short his career after seven seasons.


    The last Pro Bowl appearance by the big five was Jones' in 2008. Since then, Cleveland's Joe Thomas (seven seasons, seven Pro Bowls), the No. 3 selection in 2007, has been the most consistent and probably the NFL's finest tackle, but he seldom dominates like his predecessors did.


    As Robinson (6 feet 5 inches, 329 pounds, 4.91-second time in the 40-yard dash) prepares to be a single-digit selection, it's instructive to look back at how the greats entered the league.


    Roaf (6-4½, 307, 5.01), the No. 8 pick by New Orleans in 1993, started four years at weak-side tackle for Louisiana Tech and was overpowering.


    "I don't see any negative right now," said the late John Butler, then GM of the Buffalo Bills. "He has almost natural pass pro ability."


    Boselli (6-7, 323, 5.12), another four-year starter, was rated Southern California's best tackle since Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, who ran 4.9 at 285 coming out in 1980. Boselli went No. 2 to Jacksonville in 1995.


    "Mike Kenn's a better pass blocker but not as physical as this guy," Miami scouting director Tom Braatz said. "He's great."


    Ogden (6-8, 318, 5.05) went No. 4 to Baltimore after starting for 3½ years at UCLA.


    "Has all the tools in the world but, unless he becomes a more physical and aggressive player, he will never become as great as he can become," the late Joel Buchsbaum wrote in his 1996 Pro Football Weekly draft guide. "Is a better athlete than Tony Boselli, (John) Hannah and (Mike) Munchak were. Has unlimited, Anthony Munoz-type potential."


    In 1997, the debate for No. 1 tackle raged between Pace (6-7, 328, 4.97), a third-year junior from Ohio State, and Jones (6-5, 303, 4.70), another underclassman who played merely one season at Florida State.


    Of Pace, who went No. 1 to St. Louis, Saints GM Bill Kuharich said, "He just toyed with people. The amazing thing was, in all the games I saw he was on the ground maybe once or twice. He'll play well forever."


    Of Jones, who went No. 6 to Seattle, New England scouting director Charley Armey said, "He's the best player in this draft. Two years from now he'll be an all-pro for 12 straight years. He's better than Pace. More athletic, and quicker."


    Make an evaluation. Exercise a pick. Get one end of the line shut down for a decade.


    Players of that ilk made personnel work seem so simple.


    Since then, disappointing tackles drafted high in the first round litter the landscape. As the college game moved away from pro sets to spread formations, it became more difficult for scouts to identify NFL-caliber ability.


    The frustration level reached its peak five years ago when tackles Jason Smith went No. 2, Andre Smith went No. 6 and Eugene Monroe went No. 8.


    Jason Smith is out of football, Andre Smith has been an average right tackle in Cincinnati, and Monroe was traded from Jacksonville to Baltimore last fall for a pair of mid-round draft choices.


    No one doubts Robinson's prowess as a run blocker. He drives defenders off the ball.


    Of course, Robinson had a ton of practice doing it at Auburn, where the Tigers rushed 63% of the time in 2012 and 71.9% in '13.


    Depending on which team selects Robinson, he probably can expect just the opposite ratio next season given the proliferation of passing in the NFL. And, as one would expect from a third-year sophomore from Auburn, pass blocking is the weakest part of his game.


    "He's really fundamentally (sound) with his feet but we have not got his hands where I want them yet," said J.B. Grimes, Robinson's line coach in 2013. "And if there is one thing we have got to fix — if I had a chance to do that — it would definitely be his hands, especially in pass protection."


    Largely because of the uncertainty regarding Robinson's pass blocking and the widespread certainty about Matthews' overall game, Robinson had just a slight edge over Matthews in a Journal Sentinel poll asking 18 national-type scouts to rate their five best offensive linemen regardless of position.


    A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place was worth four and so forth.


    Here were the first-place votes: Robinson, 11; Matthews, 6; and Zack Martin, one.


    Here were the point totals: Robinson, 80; Matthews, 76; Taylor Lewan, 48; Martin, 43; Cyrus Kouandjio, 11; Xavier Su'a-Filo, seven; Joel Bitonio, three; and Ja'Wuan James and Spencer Long, one.


    "Matthews isn't Jonathan Ogden in dimension, but he's got the genealogy and the durability," said Phil Savage, who helped draft Ogden as the Ravens' director of college scouting. "He may not end up being as spectacular as Greg Robinson, but Day 1 he's closer to being ready to play."


    The offensive line connoisseurs would settle for greatness from even one of them.


    ***


    UNSUNG HERO
    John Urschel, G, Penn State: Last month, he won the Sullivan Award as the country's top amateur athlete. Scored 43 on the Wonderlic. Taught math classes at Penn State last year. Two-year starter at right guard might have a better chance at center. On the small side (6-3, 312) but loves the game and wants to play badly before pursuing his promising academic future.


    SCOUTS' NIGHTMARE
    Chris Watt, G, Notre Dame: Three-year starter at left guard. Typical blue-collar grinder. Played strong, smart and aware. Then, at the combine, he measured at just 6-2½ and ran a slow 5.5 40.


    PACKERS' PICK TO REMEMBER
    Syd Kitson, G, Wake Forest: Third-round pick in 1980. Undersized but a top-notch athlete. Injuries ruined his first three seasons, but he started nine games at guard in 1983 and entered '84 as a starter. New coach Forrest Gregg, however, preferred more robust blockers, so Kitson was waived after seven games to make way for guard-tackle Keith Uecker.


    QUOTE TO NOTE
    NFL personnel man: "Everybody jokes about the Big Ten now. But when I look at offensive linemen that's the first place I look because they still play football in the Big Ten. It's still the Hayes-Schembechler mentality to a degree. Some of those other teams have changed things around. But you take Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. They still take pride. They don't run around you. They try to go right through you."


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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Largely because of the uncertainty regarding Robinson's pass blocking and the widespread certainty about Matthews' overall game, Robinson had just a slight edge over Matthews in a Journal Sentinel poll asking 18 national-type scouts to rate their five best offensive linemen regardless of position.

    A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place was worth four and so forth.

    Here were the first-place votes: Robinson, 11; Matthews, 6; and Zack Martin, one.

    Here were the point totals: Robinson, 80; Matthews, 76; Taylor Lewan, 48; Martin, 43; Cyrus Kouandjio, 11; Xavier Su'a-Filo, seven; Joel Bitonio, three; and Ja'Wuan James and Spencer Long, one.
    There are two things that stood out to me about this section.

    One, likely due to his athleticism and upside, Robinson takes the top spot. But the point total difference between he and Matthews is negligible; out of 270 total points represented there, Robinson has 29.6% and Matthews has 28.1%. That's pretty darn close, and seems to support what Nick Wagoner said in his recent chat about a choice between the top two tackles being one in which you're splitting hairs.

    The second thing worth noting, and which kind of aligns with my personal viewpoint, is the dropoff from Robinson/Matthews to Lewan (who had 17.8% of total points). Lewan is a fine prospect and would make a nice consolation prize if the Rams can't get Robinson or Matthews. But there's been recent talk, mostly from Kiper, about Lewan being ranked over Matthews, and I just find that rubbish, and it seems these scouts would agree.
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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    The one knock I've heard on Matthews is arm length. At OT you need to be longer armed than inside. Despite that, I wouldn't object to Matthews for his pass protection skills. I feel confident that Boudreau can raise his skill level for run blocking too. It's all good.

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Greg Robinson may or may not live up to his athletic potential. He is without doubt, the most physically gifted O-lineman in the 2014 draft. That said, I can’t help but feel extremely nervous about drafting him, given that we have (IMO) a better option.

    Jake Matthews from the time he was a young boy has had continual access to an NFL Hall of Fame O-lineman dad, who was capable of playing every single position on the O-line. We are talking hundreds - more likely thousands of hours of father to son tutelage. Jake's NFL bloodlines are perhaps unsurpassed in NFL history. Talk about a great gene pool, if there is a “plugin and play” guy in this draft, it is Jake Matthews. Should injuries shake up our O-line personnel again this year, Jake M. could play any position on the line. If Jake Long is slow coming back or gets hurt again, and Saffold were not available, who would you rather have at left tackle, Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson, particularly with Sammy B. coming back from knee surgery?

    Maybe Paul Boudreau thinks he can round Greg into shape within a year, who knows? Even so, I’d still give the nod to Matthews. Jake brings techniques/knowledge/intangibles right now that Robinson can only hope to bring several years down the road.

    Think Peyton Manning for a moment; would he have had the early success he did without the tutelage of his dad? My guess is no. Great genes, NFL bloodlines along with years of NFL experience at your immediate disposal on a daily basis can’t be discounted. Peyton’s football smarts started way way back. He had a tremendous head start, and he’d likely say so if asked. Players coming out of college possessing these attributes are few and far between - perhaps once every decade.

    Countless times I have read on this site how this or that member is sick and tired of excuses - we need to win now! If so, would you want to draft yet another project? Is there anyone here that thinks Greg Robinson is more NFL ready than Jake Matthews? I certainly don’t.

    It will be very interesting to see how our draft pans out. I am just a fan, and as such have no reliable info on how Les, Fish, and Boudreau view our O-line at present. It is possible that Greg’s awesome physical attributes are such that we would consider taking him and letting him start at left guard, with the fervent hope J.L. and Saffold stay healthy. I am hoping we take big Jake and solidify a position on our line for the next 10 or 12 years. My two cents ..


    Quote Originally Posted by mde8352gorams View Post
    The one knock I've heard on Matthews is arm length. At OT you need to be longer armed than inside. Despite that, I wouldn't object to Matthews for his pass protection skills. I feel confident that Boudreau can raise his skill level for run blocking too. It's all good.
    It is true that Greg’s arms are one and five eighths inches longer than Jake’s, and long arms are a desirable trait for offensive tackles. That said, I’d say Jake Matthew's combination of football smarts, refined techniques and overall versatility measure a full 10 inches longer than Greg’s ..

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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    The second thing worth noting, and which kind of aligns with my personal viewpoint, is the dropoff from Robinson/Matthews to Lewan (who had 17.8% of total points). Lewan is a fine prospect and would make a nice consolation prize if the Rams can't get Robinson or Matthews. But there's been recent talk, mostly from Kiper, about Lewan being ranked over Matthews, and I just find that rubbish, and it seems these scouts would agree.
    I will really be extremely disappointed if we do not draft one of the top five players in this draft. I don't want a "consolation prize." We were very lucky to end up with the #2 overall pick. We need to make that pick count period. We certainly have the opportunity.
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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    I will really be extremely disappointed if we do not draft one of the top five players in this draft. I don't want a "consolation prize." We were very lucky to end up with the #2 overall pick. We need to make that pick count period. We certainly have the opportunity.
    My sentiments precisely! Despite what I posted earlier about Jake Matthew's arm length, I'm certain he's not the first OT to have shorter arms than ideal. We need to win NOW.

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Still don't like the idea of getting an OL with the #2 pick when we can get one of Clowney, Mack or Watkins. Think the earliest we should look at OL is #13 or even the 2nd round.

    What if you could get Watkins, Donald and then OL Bitano with your first 3 picks ? Would that satisfy everyone's need for an OL if we eneded up with those 2 studs up front. We still lack DBs if we do that which is why I want a trade down.
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    Re: Bob McGinn Draft Series: Offensive Linemen

    Quote Originally Posted by vanillasue View Post
    Still don't like the idea of getting an OL with the #2 pick when we can get one of Clowney, Mack or Watkins. Think the earliest we should look at OL is #13 or even the 2nd round.

    What if you could get Watkins, Donald and then OL Bitano with your first 3 picks ? Would that satisfy everyone's need for an OL if we eneded up with those 2 studs up front. We still lack DBs if we do that which is why I want a trade down.
    If we could do that I would! I like to trade back to get the additional 2nd and whatever else Snead can wring out of the team. Although if we move down even slightly might not get Watkins, but could get Matthews or Mack. If we did get Matthews and Donald could get Bucannon in the 2nd and a Kelvin Benjamin.

    Upgrades the line highly, makes our front four scary good, solidifies the back end, and give us a big target WR.

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