Brown, Thomas, Blalock set to reverse trend

Updated: September 19, 2006, 5:13 PM ET
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

The NFL draft has experienced a shortage of premier offensive linemen recently. There never has been immense value placed on interior offensive linemen, so it's no surprise that over the course of the last three drafts the center and guard positions have maxed out at one first-rounder each. What is alarming, however, is that no more than two offensive tackles have been selected in the opening round in that same three-year span.

INSIDE THE NFL DRAFT
With the college football season under way, NFL scouts are hard at work evaluating prospects for the 2007 draft. Our Scouts Inc. draft specialists are no different. DraftTracker 2007 already is loaded up with in-depth scouting reports on nearly 250 college seniors who are on the NFL's radar, and our guys are filing updates each week as the prospects perform on the field.
• NFL DraftTracker 2007
There's good news on the horizon, though. That downward cycle should shift in the next draft, as senior tackles Levi Brown (Penn State), Joe Thomas (Wisconsin) and Justin Blalock (Texas) all project as first-round talents. Thomas seems to have the best pro potential of the three, but he faces the challenge of rebounding from a right knee injury suffered in the Badgers' Capital One Bowl victory over Auburn in January. Brown has the athleticism to handle the speed rushers that left tackles face at the next level, but he still has some technique issues that must be addressed early in his NFL career. Blalock, on the other hand, is a massive road-grading type that projects better on the right side.

There are also a few promising youngsters who could emerge as competition atop the 2007 draft board. The best of the eligible underclassmen in my opinion are Sam Baker (USC), Jake Long, (Michigan), Kirk Barton (Ohio State), and Barry Richardson (Clemson).

As far as offensive guards are concerned, Manuel Ramirez (Texas Tech), Samson Satele (Hawaii) and Kasey Studdard (Texas) are three potential Day 1 picks. However, Josh Beekman (Boston College), Doug Datish (Ohio State) and Tim Duckworth all could creep into the fold with strong senior seasons.

At least early on, the 2007 crop of centers looks to be stronger than most years. Kyle Young (Fresno State) seems to be getting all the early publicity in this group, but I think he's a bit overrated. Ryan Kalil (USC) still needs to improve his bulk, but he is far more athletic and explosive than Young. Another prospect who will compete with Kalil and Young for top center honors in next year's draft is Leroy Harris (NC State), a hard-nosed mauler entering his fourth year as a starter for the Wolfpack.

Very few interior offensive linemen make themselves available for the NFL draft as underclassmen. Last year, for example, only two guards (USC's Fred Matua and Tennessee's Rob Smith) and no centers left school early -- and Smith was not drafted. That trend is unlikely to change in 2007, but Kirk Elder (Texas A&M), Adam Spieker (Missouri) and Will Arnold (LSU) are a few who could be faced with a difficult decision after their junior seasons.

Finally, not as many "sleepers" exist in this year's crop of linemen, but two names to remember are Donovan Davis (Grambling State) and Tucker Peterson (New Hampshire). Davis is a massive (6-5 5/8, 337) offensive tackle with sloppy technique but good potential, while Peterson is a more polished but squattier (6-2, 308) guard prospect.

Top 30 Senior Offensive Line Prospects
Rnk Prospect, Pos, School Height Weight
1. Levi Brown, OT, Penn State 6-4 325
2. Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin 6-6 1/2 310
3. Justin Blalock, OT, Texas 6-4 330
4. Doug Free, OT, Northern Illinois 6-6 3/4 306
5. Manuel Ramirez, OG, Texas Tech 6-3 3/8 329
6. Aaron Sears, OT, Tennessee 6-4 338
7. Samson Satele, OG, Hawaii 6-2 1/4 294
8. Ryan Kalil, OC, USC 6-2 1/2 285
9. Ryan Harris, OT, Notre Dame 6-4 1/2 295
10. Kasey Studdard, OG, Texas 6-2 300
11. Leroy Harris, OC, N.C. State 6-2 3/8 296
12. Kyle Young, OC, Fresno State 6-5 350
13. Mike Jones, OT, Iowa 6-4 7/8 296
14. Josh Beekman, OG, Boston College 6-1 5/8 314
15. Dan Mozes, OC, West Virginia 6-2 1/2 287
16. Andrew Carnahan, OT, Arizona State 6-6 7/8 297
17. Doug Datish, OG, Ohio State 6-3 7/8 291
18. Mark Fenton, OC, Colorado 6-3 1/2 295
19. Corey Hilliard, OT, Oklahoma State 6-5 315
20. Tim Duckworth, OG, Auburn 6-3 1/8 312
21. Daniel Inman, OT, Georgia 6-7 313
22. Brian Daniels, OG, Colorado 6-3 7/8 298
23. Dustin Fry, OC, Clemson 6-2 5/8 324
24. Herbert Taylor, OT, TCU 6-3 1/2 282
25. Kyle Tatum, OT, Alabama 6-6 7/8 302
26. Lyle Sendlein, OC, Texas 6-3 300
27. Drew Mormino, OG, Central Michigan 6-2 3/4 300
28. Stephon Heyer, OT, Maryland 6-6 320
29. Cory Niblock, OG, Florida State 6-3 3/8 307
30. Ben Grubbs, OG, Auburn 6-3 302

Top 10 Potential Early Entries
Rnk Prospect, Pos, School Height Weight
1. Sam Baker, OT, USC 6-5 311
2. Jake Long, OT, Michigan 6-6 3/4 310
3. Gosder Cherilus, Boston College 6-7 320
4. Barry Richardson, OT, Clemson 6-6 7/8 341
5. Kirk Barton, OT, Ohio State 6-6 5/8 323
6. Kirk Elder, OG, Texas A&M 6-4 5/8 309
7. Will Arnold, OG, LSU 6-3 3/8 319
8. Adam Spieker, OC, Missouri 6-1 5/8 307
9. King Dunlap, OT, Auburn 6-7 1/8 321
10. Duane Brown, OT, Virginia Tech 6-5 290

Day 1 Offensive Linemen in 2006 NFL Draft
Rnk Prospect, Pos, School Team Round (Overall)
1. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, Virginia Jets First (4)
2. Davin Joseph, OG, Oklahoma Buccaneers First (23)
3. Nick Mangold, OC, Ohio State Jets First (29)
4. Winston Justice, OT, USC Eagles Second (39)
5. Deuce Lutui, OG, USC Cardinals Second (41)
6. Daryn Colledge, OT, Boise State Packers Second (47)
7. Marcus McNeill, OT, Auburn Chargers Second (50)
8. Ryan Cook, OC, New Mexico Vikings Second (51)
9. Andrew Whitworth, OT, LSU Bengals Second (55)
10. Chris Chester, OC, Oklahoma Ravens Second (56)
11. Jeremy Trueblood, OT, Boston College Buccaneers Second (59)
12. Charles Spencer, OG, Pittsburgh Texans Third (65)
13. Eric Winston, OT, Miami-Fla. Texans Third (66)
14. Paul McQuistan, OT, Weber State Raiders Third (69)
15. Jason Spitz, OC, Louisville Packers Third (75)
16. Rashad Butler, OT, Miami-Fla. Panthers Third (89)

Three-Year Tally

The following is a graphic representation of the number of offensive linemen (tackles, guards, centers) selected in each round of the previous three NFL drafts. Most NFL teams use this type of chart to study position trends when setting up their respective draft boards each year.

Offensive Tackles
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 1 2 2 1.7
2 5 4 1 3.3
3 3 2 2 2.3
4 4 3 3 3.3
5 4 5 3 4
6 2 5 5 4
7 4 3 7 4.7
Total 23 24 23 23.3

Offensive Guards
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 1 1 1 1
2 1 0 2 1
3 1 3 2 2
4 3 4 1 2.7
5 2 1 2 1.7
6 4 4 1 3
7 5 1 1 2.3
Total 17 14 10 13.7

Centers
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 1 1 0 0.7
2 2 1 1 1.3
3 1 1 1 1
4 0 2 1 1
5 0 5 0 1.7
6 2 0 3 1.7
7 2 1 4 2.3
Total 8 11 10 9.7

ALSO SEE