Offensive tackles who protect the quarterback’s blind side and work to defeat edge defenders not only receive most of the attention when it comes to offensive linemen, their value is higher than that of most centers and guards when it comes to salaries and contractual agreements. Make no mistake about it – this group of men must achieve continuity. Playing well together is the common goal, along with protecting the quarterback in passing situations up the middle, but these anchors up front also must dominate the inside running game.

The center position represents the brains of the front five. For the center position, these players must have a high football IQ. In most, though not all, offenses the center will have the responsibility of calling out the middle linebacker, protections, zone and man blocking schemes, and checks as well as alerts. With that being said, a lot of NFL offensive coordinators are assigning some of those responsibilities to the quarterbacks. The OC (offensive center) must not only be smart, he must have strength at the POA (point of attack), explosion, strong UOH (use of hands) and carry the girth to anchor vs. larger nose tackles or gap defenders aligned head up.

The OG (offensive guard) is viewed differently in certain schemes, which vary from team to team. Several teams like one side of the line to have a power guard and an athletic one. While this is a slightly old-school train of thought, having smart, powerful, explosive guards surrounding the center is the key to solidifying the middle of the offensive line, and they should be interchangeable. These players need girth, strength and lower-body explosion for drive-blocking capability, and athletic ability to pull and adjust in space on run plays and screens to attack defenders in space. I blended both centers and guards in the top interior offensive linemen.

INTERIOR LINEMEN

Critical Factors

Character: Leader in the locker room, community involvement, off-field issues (arrests, drug abuse, assaulting women, guns, tickets, etc.).

Football Intelligence: Student of the game, film study, playbook memorization, ability to process and regurgitate information with recall.

Leadership: Natural-born leader, vocal, quiet, leads by example.

Competitiveness: A clutch player with a win-at-all-cost attitude, with a high level of intensity. He is at his best under adverse situations. He is confident in himself, and his teammates have confidence in him.

Toughness: A nasty inline blocker who consistently delivers under pressure and refuses to be defeated. Has the ability to play if injured or hurt when the team needs him.

Production: Produce under pressure in critical situations as a blocker in tight or in open space.

Athletic Skill Set

Blocking: Attitude and temperament; three points of contact; strength/explosion; aggressiveness; willingness; flat back, runs feet to finish; works well with other offensive linemen on combination and zone blocking schemes; effort; physical toughness; balance; finish, pin and pancake; upright wall to shield, inline thumper.

Inline: Quickness off ball; initial strength and explosion; collision blocker; ability to sustain; foot and hand quickness; balance; cut-off; reach; seal; scoop, drive, fold, wall off.

Second Level: Quickness to linebacker and downfield blocking skills; ability to locate and attack target on the move.

Pass Blocking: Foot quickness to slide and remain frontal of defender; hand punch replace, strike and recoil, quickness to pass set; solid anchor; base/leverage; ensure balance; knee and ankle bend; play lower than defender; finish.

Explosion: Uncoil; pad level; hip sink and snap, ankle flex.

Adjust/Recovery: Position and turn defender; maintain contact; quickness to re-position.

Durability: Stamina; endurance; injury history for position and the ability to play hurt.

Pull/Trap: Short-area quickness; body control; long; mobility in space; adjust on the run; ability to attack target in space with production.

Recovery: Regain position to cut off inside charge; inside move; mirror; outside move; foot quickness.

Strong UOH (use of hands): Steer, stab and punch; double arm bar; single arm bar; twist and cork screw.

Football Intelligence: High football IQ; football instincts; awareness; read reaction quickness on the move; recognition of stunts and blitz packages.

Deep Snapper: Point after/field goal and punt snap ability.

Strength: Functional strength and explosion; weight room numbers.

Jonathan Cooper OG North Carolina 6’2-311 33 10 1/4 Interior offensive lineman with excellent athletic movement in tight and open space. An inline blocker with power, technique and finish. Good athlete who pulls and traps with strong, flexible base to bend, snap and strike target on the move with great balance; footwork to restart and redirect with chop production in space. Good FBI (football instincts), and has awareness to defeat blitz packages, stunts and games. Good combo blocking with OC & OTs. Good run blocker with quickness out of stance; has very good strength and explosion with strong UOH (use of hands), grabbing breast plate to steer and walk defenders with double and single arm bar technique. Smooth movement to sift through to second level, locating and attacking defenders’ numbers or chopping and rolling with production. Pass blocker with wide base, stout anchor with bent knee and lateral slide to mirror defender. Great balance, base and feet with bent knee and hip flex, with power to lower center of gravity. Will need to gain and maintain girth, as well as further develop strength and explosion through weight room development. Best suited for a zone blocking scheme, but can play in either zone or man. Is an Immediate starter his rookie season. Aligns in both two- and three-point stance at the OG position. First-round talent/first-round pick.

Chance Warmack OG Alabama 6’2-317 34 3/4 9 1/4 Inline run blocker who flashes dominance in play and has all the tools to become a great player at the next level. His DNA (film) displays power and strength in the running game. Has good zone- and man-blocking skills set. Warmack has good feet and natural movement skills on pulling, trapping and turning up and attacking target at the second level;pulling outside box is not very effective, and production is spotty to sideline, his motor and production fades outside box. Will get caught flat-footed at times, but recovers. Long arms work as forklifts. A pass blocker with feet that slide laterally with ease, he redirects and reacts with good COD when threatened. Will wiffs on movement vs hit and spin. Has wide base with strength and power to anchor, strong UOH (use of hands) to grab outside cloth to steer and drive defender, or double arm bar to bench press, creating good separation. When beat, works to regain leverage with hand replacement inside; pad level rises, however, and is walked backward. This player has very good size, girth and length for the position. Motor will idle at times, though. As a professional, this player will need to work through and beyond his comfort zone during offseason workouts, conditioning and throughout the entire game. First round talent/first-round pick.

Brian Winters OG Kent State 6’4-320 32 3/4 9 3/4 Many teams project Winter’s as a right tackle prospect. If he fails on the edge, though, move him inside to either OG position, where he will be a natural. I love this player’s competitive nature, temperament, toughness and his willingness to finish defenders off on every play. Inline blocker with quickness out of stance; flat back and rolls hips with UOH (use of hands) to double arm punch and pancake defenders. Short arms are not a negative for this blocker. Good combo blocking to advance to second level, locating target with chop production. Very good inline production when down blocking; seal, drive and foot quickness and balance to hook EMLOS (end man on line of scrimmage). Good athletic movement on pulling and locating target with production in space. Pass blocker with good feet to kick slide, but his anchor tends to slightly rise upright in movement as he works to regain leverage. Boasts good feet to mirror and redirect vs. edge player. Has nice two-step bounce to defeat bull rush, but will need technique development on step balance and hand replacement. Will duck head to attack defender and falls off blocks; however, he works to recover. Flashed nastiness with head slap, club and cork screw of defender. I hope the left shoulder history of dislocation is not an issue for this young man. Upside is huge for this player. Second-round talent/second-round pick

Kyle Long OG Oregon 6’6-313 33 3/8 11 Long’s athletic skill set and temperament doesn’t fall far from the tree. Kyle is the son of Howie Long, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long. He took a different path, but has ended up on the right road, in my opinion. He has exceptional length to go with an excellent, athletic skill set, which jumps off the screen when studying his DNA (film). Moreover, he is highly competitive, tough and aggressive, with a good temperament. Inline blocker with good initial quickness out of stance and explosive collision to lead with helmet, head-butting defenders each and every time he comes out of his stance with double arm punch. Excels in a zone-blocking scheme, with strong UOH (use of hands) to grab outside cloth and steer defenders, or wall off and position. Inconsistent vs. big on big or man blocking to root defender out of position; ends in a stalemate too often because his pad level rises, and he loses leverage. Good combo to sift through to the second level, locating and attacking target on the move with drive production. Good jump skip to pull with redirect quickness, plus balance and body control to locate and attack defenders in tight and open space. Pass blocker with feet to slide and mirror, and hand punch and replacement to keep separation. Nice feet to redirect and adjust, but will get narrow-based and fall off defender. Works well with OTs and OCs in blitz and stunt pick up. Good FBI (football instincts) and awareness. Still raw, Long is not completely technique-sound at the OG position. A one-and-done player at the FBS level of competition, Long has huge upside. The former baseball player at Florida State and defensive end at Saddleback Community College has everything in place except experience at the position. I spoke with Kyle at length at the Senior Bowl, and he came across as a very focused and mature young man who spoke very highly of his former head coach, Chip Kelly, and his Oregon teammates. Will need to further develop overall strength and explosion through weight room development. Has the length and athletic movement to play on the edge at OT. Second/third-round talent, late second-round pick

Barrett Jones Alabama OC 6’4-306 34 1/4 10 1/4 The most versatile offensive lineman in the 2013 draft class. There is plenty of film to see Jones at left tackle, guard and center, and he played all five spots for the Crimson Tide. Having earned the 2011 Outland Trophy, 2012 Rimington and three BCS championships in the last four years, Jones’ resume is stout. Good FBI (football instincts), awareness and intelligence; one can see him directing traffic on all films viewed when playing the OC position. Aligns as a shotgun snapper (blind) and traditional. Good quickness to snap out of stance and get out on screen; locates well in space and works to attack target, though is not explosive to push and finish. Inline blocker with snap, step collision; UOH (use of hands) to grab and steer defender. Good combo blocking in tandem with OGs to squeeze and walk defenders. Can snap and sift to second level; locates and locks on, but inconsistent to finish and disengages. Pass blocker with wide base, stout anchor with bouncing balance to remain frontal of defender, UOH to grab outside cloth. Several sources say Jones is a natural-born leader. After watching his DNA (film) dating back to 2009, I don’t think he is an OT at the next level. Some teams may start him at RT (right tackle) and let him compete on the edge. If he fails, then you could always move him inside. To me, however, that would be a waste of time; align him as OC, and let him develop into a Pro Bowler. Second-round talent, second-or third-round pick.

Others to Watch:

Larry Warford Kentucky OG

Alvin Bailey Arkansas OG

Khaled Holmes Southern California OC/OG

Travis Frederick Wisconsin OC

Edmund Kugbila Valdosta State OG

Brian Schwenke California OC/OG

David Quessenberry San Jose State OG