Long's consistency, dominance make him top 2008 OL prospect
By Todd McShay
Scouts Inc.
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Draft prospects like OT Jake Long make scouting look easy. Long was the top offensive lineman on our initial top 32 list back in August, is the top offensive lineman on our board today and will be the top offensive lineman selected in April's draft. Thankfully for my job security, very few college players are as consistently dominant.

Long is not as athletic as last year's top tackle prospect, Joe Thomas, who excelled at left tackle for the Cleveland Browns as a rookie in 2007. However, Long has more than enough range to play left tackle in the NFL, and he is bigger, stronger and more physical than Thomas was coming out of Wisconsin. Long grades out slightly lower than Thomas, who went at No. 5 overall last year, but Long could come off the board earlier in what projects to be a weaker overall class.

As it stands right now, Chris Williams, Jeff Otah, Gosder Cherilus and Sam Baker are the four other tackles jockeying for consideration in the bottom half of the first round. Baker began the season not too far behind Long, but an injury-riddled senior campaign and a lackluster showing at the Senior Bowl have considerably damaged his stock.

The annual draft trend is for one guard to sneak into the first round. Logan Mankins (Patriots, 2005), Davin Joseph (Buccaneers, 2006) and Ben Grubbs (Ravens, 2007) were the past three guards to hear their names called in the opening round, and Branden Albert is the top candidate in the 2008 class. Albert and Chilo Rachal are the lone underclass additions at guard. It's no coincidence Albert and Rachal are expected to be the first two guards selected in the upcoming draft.

Of the 48 offensive linemen invited to this year's combine, 34 spent the majority of their collegiate careers at the tackle position. While that percentage seems unusually large, I project at least 11 of those college tackles will move inside to guard in the NFL. That group includes Heath Benedict, Mike McGlynn, Eric Young and Drew Radovich, who started on the same line as Rachal at USC last season.

Benedict, who starred at offensive tackle for the Newberry Indians, is one of the top small-school prospects in the 2008 draft class. The Division II product should come off the board early on Day 2 but likely will make the move inside to guard, where he can be better protected in the NFL. Other small-school prospects to look out for in the later rounds include OG Chad Rinehart (Northern Iowa), OT Demetrius Bell (Northwestern State), OG Kerry Brown (Appalachian State), OT David Hale (Weber State) and OG Mackenzy Bernadeau (Bentley).

Finally, Mike Pollak, Steven Justice and John Sullivan are the best available players in a relatively weak class of centers. Pollak and Justice are best suited to play in zone-blocking schemes in which they can use outstanding mobility and technique to overcome subpar size and strength. On the flipside, Sullivan is battle-tested with enough size, initial quickness and power to emerge as a starter at the next level. However, he lacks ideal athleticism for the center position, which is why the Notre Dame standout likely will slip to the middle rounds.
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Top 25 OL Prospects in 2008 NFL Draft

Prospect               School          Position    Height    Weight    Speed
1. Jake Long           Michigan        OT          6-7       309       5.30
2. Ryan Clady          Boise State     OT          6-6       317       5.15
3. Chris Williams      Vanderbilt      OT          6-6 1/8   320       5.35
4. Jeff Otah           Pittsburgh      OT          6-6       339       5.30
5. Gosder Cherilus     Boston College  OT          6-6 5/8   315       5.10
6. Sam Baker           USC             OT          6-4 1/2   308       5.30
7. Branden Albert      Virginia        G           6-7 1/4   317       5.35
8. Carl Nicks          Nebraska        OT          6-4 7/8   343       5.21
9. Chilo Rachal        USC             G           6-4 1/4   313       5.23
10. Anthony Collins    Kansas          OT          6-6 1/4   310       5.06
11. Mike Pollak        Arizona State   C           6-3 3/8   299       5.05
12. Roy Schuening      Oregon State    G           6-3 5/8   308       5.35
13. Duane Brown        Virginia Tech   OT          6-4 3/8   314       4.95
14. Steven Justice     Wake Forest     C           6-3 1/4   289       5.05
15. Tony Hills         Texas           OT          6-5 1/4   303       5.25
16. John Sullivan      Notre Dame      C           6-3 3/8   284       5.20
17. Heath Benedict     Newberry        G           6-4 3/4   321       5.10
18. John Greco         Toledo          OT          6-4 3/4   302       5.30
19. Michael McGlynn    Pittsburgh      G           6-4 3/8   309       5.20
20. Eric Young 	       Tennessee       G           6-4 	     309       5.25
21. Drew Radovich      USC             OT          6-4 3/8   302       5.30
22. Kirk Barton        Ohio State      OT          6-4 3/8   303       5.25
23. Cody Wallace       Texas A&M       C           6-4 1/8   290       5.35
24. Barry Richardson   Clemson         OT          6-6 3/8   331       5.20
25. Chad Rinehart      Northern Iowa   G           6-5 1/4   317       5.40