It appears as though offensive lineman may be in high demand early in the 2013 NFL Draft because skill position talent is thin at the top of the draft. The safest bets may be the big uglies on the line. In a college football season where a freshman won the Heisman Trophy and Manti Te’o took second, there don’t appear to be franchise changing skill position players in the 2013 draft.
With question marks surrounding many of the other positions, lineman may dominate the combine and the first 10 picks of the draft. The best college running back entering 2012, Marcus Lattimore, destroyed his knee and the best quarterback, Matt Barkley, separated his shoulder. The highest graded receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson, had yet to take an FBS snap entering 2012.
National Champion Alabama’s offensive line was led by guard Chance Warmack,
who along with Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker paved the way for Eddie Lacy all year. A college interior lineman has not been drafted in the top ten since Chris Naeole in 1997, but an exception may be made for Warmack. He weighed in at a “small” 317 pounds on the opening night, but has come up large for Nick Saban against high caliber SEC competition. Warmack displayed tremendous explosivity with a 9’2″ broad jump at the combine. NFL Network draft maven Mike Mayock was clear on his opinion of Warmack.
“Chance Warmack from Alabama is the best football player I saw on tape this year.”
All-American offensive tackle Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M may beat Warmack off the board. Joeckel spent the last two seasons keeping Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel clean. Joeckel’s 6’6” 306 pound athletic frame and 34 1/4 arm length give him the measurables that NFL executives and coaches love in pass blocking tackles. Joeckel put up the fourth best three cone drill score (7.4 seconds), showing his agility and quickness. Without a franchise quarterback in the draft, Andy Reid may build the Chiefs offensive line around Joeckel.
Eric Fisher is the third offensive lineman to garner attention as a possible top ten selection. Fisher was only a two star recruit out of high school and ended up at Central Michigan in the Mid American Conference. In four years as a Chippewa, Fisher blossomed into a top NFL prospect. His 6’7″ height and 306 pound frame give him the prototypical size for an NFL offensive tackle.
Fisher’s top score in the 20 yard shuttle (4.44 seconds) and second in the broad jump (9 feet 8 inches) at the combine plus his 27 repetitions on the bench press show that Fisher has the fast twitch ability and strength to protect quarterbacks from speed rushing ends and outside linebackers.
As much as fans love franchise quarterbacks, high profile receivers and blazing running backs they simply are not in this years draft pool. In this years draft, Chance Warmack has a chance to be the highest drafted interior offensive lineman in a generation. With the importance of containing rush ends, tackles have been a popular commodity in recent drafts. Many of them like Tyron Smith, Russell Okung and Matt Kalil have been successful, though there is always a Jason Smith (second overall 2009) in the bunch. The draft is always a bit of a crapshoot, but some of the safest bets this year appear to be offensive lineman.