- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Levi Brown is about domination. His daily goal is to bury the defensive linemen he faces and take away their will.
But the Penn State offensive tackle is an interesting mix of brains and brawn. Unlike some football players who leave school without a degree, Brown went overtime in his education. He graduated, and then decided to get a second degree in psychology, giving him more ammunition to defeat his defender.
"You can tell when a guy's starting to give up and things like that," Brown said.
Brown certainly isn't going to give up on his brewing battle with Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas, who might go as high as the second pick in the draft. Thomas is considered one of the best left tackle prospects to come out in years, a Walter Jones-Jonathan Ogden type of talent.
Unfortunately, Brown can't line up against Thomas in drills because they play the same position, but he wouldn't mind. Brown is trying his best to catch up to Thomas and challenge to be in the top five of the draft.
"A competition, huh?" Brown said. "Joe Thomas is a great athlete. He deserves all of the recognition he is getting. I think we both do a lot of things well at the left tackle position. If he's taken first I'll congratulate him. I hope if I get taken first he'll congratulate me."
The competition began Saturday at the combine and Thomas, who checked in at 6-foot-6½ and 311 pounds, still has the edge. His arm length was very good (33¼ inches), and posted the second best 40-yard dash time in his group (4.92 seconds). Brown worked out well with the agility drills, but ran a subpar 40 (5.4). He hoped to have run a 5.0 or 5.1, so Brown still has a little work to do to catch up to Thomas.
Drafting a left tackle may not be the sexiest choice for fans, but the position is vital. Finding the athletic type of blockers who match up against faster, quicker defensive ends is tough. Such is the reason left tackle is one of the most expensive positions in football, and very few good ones ever hit free agency.
The good news is teams that draft left tackles high in the first round are rarely disappointed as most go on to successful Pro Bowl careers. Most scouts believe Thomas and Brown will be the Pro Bowl left tackles of the future.
"You see just about every offensive lineman who's been picked in the top five, top 10 in the last few years has gone on to start and start for a long career," Thomas said. "You can't say that about quarterbacks or running backs or receivers or any of those positions. They talk about a guy as a bust in the top five as an offensive lineman, he might've been a five- or six-year starter but he didn't make the Pro Bowl and they call that a bust. Whereas you're a bust as a receiver only if you get cut after three years."
At the combine, Brown is trying to be a salesman. Ask him who should be the first tackle taken and he will give his name over Thomas'.
"I'm a great athlete," Brown said. "I love to play the game. I have the ability to dominate anybody. I do plan on making it to a lot of Pro Bowls in my career."
Along with ruining the psyche of the defensive ends he will face.
"I definitely love run blocking more than pass blocking," Brown said. "I like to run into a guy, knock him on his back, talk a little mess on the way down and help him up, make it look good. Pass blocking you keep the guy away from the quarterback, just try to dominate all game."
Thomas isn't considered a dominator. He's a perfectionist. He can dominate with technique and skill.
"I think I'm a technician," Thomas said "I think I'm a guy that won't settle for anything less than perfection when it comes to all aspects of my game."
Robert Gallery and D'Brickashaw Ferguson were the last left tackles with ratings similar to Thomas and Brown. Ferguson was an instant hit with the Jets last season. Gallery has struggled so far with the Raiders.
"I think we're different players first of all," Thomas said. "I also think Robert's situation with three different offensive line coaches in the first three years, that's a really hard situation for anybody, especially coming into the NFL. Everybody's going to want you to do things a different way, and I think that's part of the reason why he's struggled so far."
For Thomas, Saturday was a smooth day. He's still the No. 1 tackle and possibly the No. 2 pick in the draft. But that doesn't mean Brown will stop trying to catch him.
Notes from around the Combine
• Giants' general manager Jerry Reese delivered a little bit of a bombshell Saturday claiming Bills' running back Willis McGahee is available in a trade. The Giants lost Tiki Barber to retirement and would consider acquiring McGahee to pair with Brandon Jacobs. McGahee is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is looking for a new deal. With most of the free agents being complementary backs, McGahee is an interesting feature back who could attract some interest.
• Place-kickers were a little disappointing with their workouts Friday. Colorado's Mason Crosby is considered a first-day draft pick, but his kickoffs weren't great and he missed four of 15 field goals. The most impressive special teams player was Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda, who was booming the ball.
• Participation was excellent among the offensive linemen at the scouting combine. A total of 43 of 50 linemen ran. The rest each had medical issues.
• Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he will look to use wide receiver Anquan Bolden as a quarterback in gadget plays, like he did with Antwaan Randle El in Pittsburgh. Bolden played quarterback early in his college career. He's also one of the best receivers in the game. Whisenhunt is one of the most creative offensive minds in football and loves to have four or five gadget plays at his disposal during games.
• Cardinals general manager Rod Graves has left the door open for free-agent tackle Leonard Davis to return, but most people believe he's gone. The 49ers and Cowboys are supposedly two of the most interested teams in Davis, who could play tackle or guard for a team.
• Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said the team is working with the agents for Jamal Lewis to restructure his contract, in order to keep him with the team. Lewis is due at $5 million roster bonus next month and the Ravens can potentially save $8.333 million of cap room by cutting him. "Both side seem to want to get something done," Newsome said. Newsome claims a 50 percent chances exists of a deal being worked out.
• The Ravens are prepared to lose linebacker Adalius Thomas, right tackle Tony Pathos and defensive tackle Jarret Johnson, if they get big contract offers in free agency. Newsome knew since last year's training camp he could lose Thomas, who could go to San Francisco, Cleveland or Green Bay. "It's a similar situation to last year," Newsome said when the Ravens lost several top free agents in the first week. "The way we approach it is we come to a threshold of what a player's value is in Baltimore. When the player goes beyond that we don't mind letting them go out the door." Newsome has great confidence in his college and pro scouting staffs to find new starters.
• With Kyle Boller entering the final year of his contract and starting quarterback Steve McNair being 34 years old, the Ravens are looking for a quarterback who might be able to start in 2008 and 2009. "We don't know how long Steve is going to play," Newsome said.
• Florida inside linebacker Brandon Siler is a borderline first-round pick, but he doesn't just have football on his mind. Siler is also looking at a potential acting career. "I want to act, I want to be on stage, I want to be on TV," Siler said. "I have a passion for it and I love it." He was a lead actor in his high-school drama department.
• San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan hasn't named an offensive coordinator to replace Norv Turner. He's talked to five coaches currently on the staff, along with outside candidates, but didn't sound too optimistic about the outside candidates. Most have contracts, and it will be impossible to get them out of those deals. Don't be surprised if receivers coach Jerry Sullivan gets the nod. He's a specialist with the passing game.
• Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, viewed by many as the best athlete in the draft, may have lost out on some money with the Brown winning Friday's coin toss for the No. 3 pick in the draft. The Raiders, Lions and Browns aren't expected to take a receiver, leaving Johnson a likely target of the Bucs at No. 4.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Joe Thomas is expected to be the first left tackle selected, but Levi Brown is determined to change that, writes John Clayton.