The NFL Combine began its television coverage Friday morning with the offensive linemen taking the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. After three days of tests, interviews and being poked and prodded like pieces of meat, the men, finally, got to step on the field and showcase some of their skills.
As I wrote the other day, the offensive line will be interesting aspect of this draft for the Green Bay Packers. Depending if T.J. Lang comes back to Green Bay, we could see the Packers make an early selection or they could wait to add some depth in the later rounds. I think this is an overall solid class that will see a big run of players be taken at the end of round two or beginning of round. The weakness of the class is that there aren’t any elite prospects but there should be a few that could make an immediate impact if Lang heads elsewhere. So, the Packers will have to jump early if they want one of the top prospects.
The top prospect is Alabama tackle Cam Robinson. I’m sure I’ll get blasted by some of the Wisconsin die-hards for putting Robinson number one over Ryan Ramczyk but Robinson is better prepared at this moment to join the NFL. Robinson stepped foot on the Alabama campus as a true freshman in 2014 and took over the left tackle spot and never looked back. He only gave up three sacks in his 861 snaps for Alabama. His size, speed, strength and athleticism are above any other prospect at this time and will make whoever drafts him very happy.
He struggles with his balance at times in his blocking, especially in his pass sets. While he did well most of the time against the SEC pass rush, the NFL is a different animal and he could get exposed early on. This is a habit that can be corrected but may lead to him being a better guard than tackle right away. For some reason when I watch him, I see similarities to the Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin. I see someone grabbing Robinson in the mid first round.
Next up is Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk. While I put Robinson as the most prepared at the moment for the NFL, I feel Ramczyk has the most potential of the group. Ramczyk has the size, speed and athleticism to play early at left tackle for whatever team drafts him. He’s a relentless run blocker whose technique makes him excel in both zone and gap systems. His technique gets him in the position to pickup any blitzes or other games the defense is playing and gives him the ability to make changes on the fly and still finish plays.
His biggest weakness is that he’s only played one year of FBS college football. While it may be a weakness it also gives the promise of growth. Ramczyk is only scratching the surface of his potential right now. A hip injury may hurt him a little as he wasn’t able to participate fully at the Combine or the Wisconsin Pro Day. He also needs work on making his pass sets deeper in the NFL and the hip injury will have a lot to deal with that development as well. While I have him rated number two, someone could make him the first offensive linemen drafted based purely on potential. Look for him to go in the middle to late first round.
Number three for me is Western Kentucky tackle Forrest Lamp. Due to his size, Lamp will be a guard or center at the NFL level but is another extremely athletic prospect. He leads his blocking with his feet and then delivers a mean punch once he gets in position. He found his way onto the scout’s radar after playing LSU in 2015 and holding Freshman All-American Arden Keys in check for most of the game. He really garnered attention last season against Alabama when he didn’t give up a sack against the Tide’s vicious outside pass rush. I see someone reaching into the last few picks of the first round or early second to grab Lamp.
A high risk and possible high reward pick could be Utah tackle Garett Bolles. Bolles was the most athletic lineman overall and could see his draft stock raise quite a bit. Bolles is an interesting story of a kid who made some bad choices in his teen years, including a drug problem, run-ins with police and being kicked out of his house by his father. Bolles was able to turn his negatives into strengths and began playing football at a junior college in Utah. He used his athletic ability and badass attitude to get a spot on Utah’s roster and now he’s looking for his chance in the NFL. He could fit well with a team that needs some depth and will let him develop for a year or two. Bolles is a little older than most, as he turns 25 in May, but someone might get a steal on his potential in the second round.
That is a short list of the players that will hear their names called sometime on day one or two of the draft. Like I said earlier, this draft is going to see an influx of names in the mid-to-late rounds. A couple names to keep an eye on in the later rounds are:
Pat Elfein, Center/Guard from Ohio State. Elfein displayed very good technique and skill set in the combine. He has been lauded for his work ethic and has decent height at 6’3 but has been knocked on his length. As a center, he should be able to work around that deficiency. Watching him at the combine reminded me of Corey Linsley. Could get picked up in round 4-5.
Antonio Garcia, tackle from Troy. Garcia has some nice attributes to just by looking at him. He’s 6’6 with good length to his arms and his most talked about attribute is his mean temperament on the field. Garcia does have questions about his weight, as he has been back and forth between 280 and 300 in the past few months. He’s another great athlete that is very raw. Will be a good project for a team willing to wait on him. I see him picked in round 6 or 7.