Championship winning teams are built from the inside out, focusing on strong offensive and defensive line play. This adage is what fuels the belief that the Packers could use some upgrades along both the offensive and defensive line. Yesterday, Tex looked at some ways the Packers could build the defensive line in the first or second round of the draft. Today, I’m going to bring you some options for the offensive line; specifically, I’m going to look at the interior of the offensive line.
First-Round Candidates (26 overall)
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
This one may be a pipe dream, but there always seems to be one guy who slips much farther than people expected. Cooper may be that guy if teams focus solely on the defensive line talent in this draft. Cooper is a four year starter who has the athleticism that zone blocking teams (like the Packers) love. His physical stature and nasty attitude points to his more natural position being guard, but he many believe he has the football IQ to move to center as well. It would be a surprise to see him slip past Chicago at #20, especially considering their upgrade at OT in free agency, but if he is there expect him to get a long look from the Packers.
Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
This may just be the second coming of Mark Tauscher. Frederick is a kid from Wisconsin who plays for the Badgers and then has a long career with the Packers. That’s the dream of many children here in America’s Dairyland. Frederick has a high football IQ and has good blocking technique. He should be able to read defenses and recognize the different scenarios given to him. It also doesn’t hurt that he is coming from a school known for developing top end offensive line talent.
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Another smart player with good fundamentals, Jones is often the top ranked center available. CBSsports.com’s Rob Rang raved about Jones’ smooth feet which allow him to easily move back in pass protection as well as get to the second level with run blocking. However, Rang also notes that Jones may not have the athleticism needed to "blow defenders off the ball with pure strength" which may lead to him struggling at the NFL level.
Possible Second-Round Candidates (55 overall)
Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
Warford has many good attributes for a pass protecting interior lineman. He has a "short squatty frame…making him difficult for defensive tackles to slip past," good lateral agility, and strong hands for holding on to the defenders chest plate. The problem here is that he is too slow and does not carry his weight evenly (too much around the middle). This makes it difficult for him to get to the second level in run blocking.
Brian Schwenke, C, California
Schwanke has all the physical tools you could want in an interior offensive lineman. He has a naturally low center of gravity and powerful legs to help him get leverage against defenders. He also has quick and powerful hands in order to get a good punch. Schwanke combines this with a good attitude, routinely finishing off blocks and holding blocks till the whistle blows. The main problem that has some dropping him down is inexperience. Schwenke played only one year of center in college. During this time he was able to make all the line calls, but struggled with some low snaps out of the shotgun.