Here's good news for NFL quarterbacks.
This year's class of offensive linemen looked good in games, great at the Indianapolis scouting combine and should be prominent in early action during the NFL Draft next month.
As many as 13 offensive linemen are rated as first- or second-round picks according to NFLDraftScout.com. That includes six offensive tackles in the first round and three among the top 10 overall.
Best of these big boys figures to be Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, who could be among the first five players taken.
Oklahoma's athletic Trent Williams and Iowa's Bryan Bulaga could follow closely, possibly in the top 10.
Overall, the 2010 class of offensive linemen is both large and one of the most athletic ever.
That was verified at the combine, where 45 of the 46 offensive linemen invited weighed at least 300 pounds and three of those 300-pounders ran faster than five seconds in the 40, led by 314-pound Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell at 4.75 seconds.
As a group, the 2010 offensive linemen had its best combine ever at Indianapolis, recording averages that were records for these big boys in the 20-yard run (2.98 seconds), 40-yard run (5.24) and bench press (27 reps).
These measurables only verified what scouts have been noting all along: that this will be a big year for the big guys in the draft.
Here is a closer look at the top offensive line prospects for the 2010 draft:
1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 307, 1
All-Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy presented to the nation's top interior lineman, Okung has been a key part of the Oklahoma State offense for four years. In 2008 scouts noted his ability to neutralize Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Okung uses great footwork and athleticism that works well as a pass blocker; he allowed only one sack and two pressures on 336 pass plays and helped OSU capture its fourth consecutive conference rushing title (187.77 ypg) as well as finish sixth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed (0.92 per game).
2. Trent Williams, Oklahoma, 6-5, 315, 1
A fluid athlete with a high-rev motor, Williams is especially impressive handling quick, finesse type defensive ends because he has the footwork and body balance to stay with them. He validated that with impressive agility and position drills at the combine. While Williams appears to have enough strength to stop bull rushers, he is not always successful because he struggles to maintain a leverage position when attacked head on. The lone returning starter on the front line in 2009, he moved from right to left tackle and displayed an ability to recognize and react to various blitzes. According to coaching staff stats, Williams registered 369 knockdowns and 36 blocks that resulted in touchdowns in his final two seasons.
3. *Bryan Bulaga, Iowa, 6-6, 314, 1
A competitive, smart, hard working team leader, Bulaga was 2009 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, despite missing three games with a thyroid problem. It was characterized as a short-term issue and most teams seem satisfied by medical reports that validate that. However, the malady helped Bulaga decide to forego his final college year. "The illness I was faced with at the beginning of the 2009 season made me realize how important football is in my life and how quickly it can be taken away," he said. Bulaga uses equal amounts of finesse and force and has the footwork and agility to be an excellent NFL pass blocker, although he also played guard at Iowa and may get a shot there in the pros.
4. *Anthony Davis, Rutgers, 6-5, 323, 1
Despite being 40 pounds lighter than his freshman season, NFL scouts wonder if Davis is willing to do the work to maximize his tremendous raw athleticism. This huge man has the ability to be as good as he wants to be. He has an explosive first step, impressive strength that should be expected at his size and nimble footwork that is better than should be expected of such a large person. He was suspended one game for violating team rules in 2008, benched for a quarter in 2009 for missing a team meeting and demoted to second team after reporting overweight last year. When he did play, Davis allowed only 6.5 sacks and eight pressures on 699 pass plays, according to the coaching staff.
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5. Charles Brown, Southern California, 6-6, 303, 1-2
Brown is a former tight end who made the transition to tackle in 2005, a transition made by many successful NFL linemen. Brown first impressed scouts by protecting the blind side of quarterback Mike Sanchez. He has displayed ample athletic ability to be considered a left tackle prospect in the NFL. However, Brown is still learning the tricks of the trade and will need to fill out his frame in order to handle stronger defensive ends in the pros. He won the Pac-10 Morris Trophy for offensive linemen, which is a considerable honor because it is determined by votes from defensive linemen in the conference.
6. *Bruce Campbell, Maryland, 6-7, 314, 1-2
Campbell was a workout wonder at the combine, adding fuel to his consideration as a high prospect based on promise rather than production. His size and natural athletic ability are obvious, as reflected by his fastest clocking of 4.78 seconds in 40 yards and a 32-inch vertical leap at the combine. But he could have used more experience. Campbell became a starter the last seven games of his sophomore year and last season he missed three games with a sprained left MCL and turf toe. His pass blocking technique is to attack rushers, a tactic that will be interesting to watch against experienced and opportunistic NFL defensive ends.
7. Rodger Saffold, Indiana, 6-5, 316, 2
Despite being a solid starter at left tackle since his freshman year, Saffold had not managed to get a lot of attention from scouts until he became a surprise standout during East-West Shrine Game workouts. Saffold was impressive against active, spinning pass rushers and showed great strength as a drive blocker. He continued to impress NFL teams with a great workout at the combine and then followed up by showing excellent agility in his pro day drills. Before that it seems the most attention he received was unwanted -- seven penalties in his senior season. He was bothered by back and knee injuries in 2008, missing two games. According to coaching stats, Saffold allowed only three sacks and one pressure in his final 440 college pass plays.
8. Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts, 6-5, 332, 2
In three years at UMass, Ducasse was a standout blocker for both the pass and the run. That is particularly amazing considering he knew little about football when, at age 14, he was sent by his parents to the U.S. to get away from the rough street life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He obviously has a rare combination of size and skills, but there is no consensus on where his talent might be best utilized in pro football. At the Senior Bowl, scouts delighted in watching him line up at all the offensive line positions and then even take a shot on the defensive side. His natural strength and athletic ability give him tremendous upside.
9. Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale, 6-8, 312, 2-3
Tall and talented, Veldheer demanded attention at the combine with remarkable workouts that validated his extraordinary play throughout college, where he was the top vote-getter in his region for the Gene Upshaw Award as the top small college offensive lineman last year. At the combine this giant had a 32 1/2-inch vertical jump, 32 reps with 225 pounds in the bench press and a best 40-yard time of 5.06. Veldheer will be the first Hillsdale offensive lineman to be drafted since the great Howard Mudd (1964, San Francisco), who played only a few all-star years before a bad knee forced him into coaching, where he was the longest tenured assistant coach (36-years) in the NFL until he retired as the revered offensive line coach of the Colts last month.
10. John Jerry, Mississippi, 6-6, 328, 3
Jerry began his college career at guard, which is where NFL scouts feel he may settle in as a pro. He is the brother of Atlanta Falcons 2009 first-round pick defensive tackle Peria Jerry. John earned second-team All-SEC accolades in 2008 and first-team honors this past season. He started 46 games, including 12 at right guard as a freshman, nine more starts at right guard in 2007, 13 at right tackle as a junior and lined up at right tackle for the first eight games before shifting to right guard for the final four contests in 2009. Jerry blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons. In the past two years, he allowed six sacks and eight pressures.
|Powerful Mike Iupati is still learning the game. (Getty Images)|
Iupati was born in American Samoa and moved the United States at the age of 14. Idaho grabbed him when other schools were concerned that he would have challenges academically because he was still learning the English language. In 2009, Iupati became only the second non-BSC player to be named a finalist for the Outland Trophy since the award's inception in 1946 and the first Vandal to win All-American honors since Jerry Kramer, who was honorable mention in 1957. Iupati is a massive, powerful, athletic player who can dominate defenders and is just beginning to grasp the game of football. Although Iupati played guard all 34 of his college games, NFL scouts are curious how much of an impact he might have as a defensive lineman or what type of quarterback security he might provide as an offensive tackle.
2. Jon Asamoah, Illinois, 6-4, 305, 2
A three-year starter at right guard, Asamoah's size, strength and excellent mobility project him as a versatile guard who can play either side, man-up inside and pull when needed. According to coaching stats, as a starter he had 267 knockdowns, otherwise known as pancakes. In the past two seasons he allowed only four sacks and four pressures. Coaches and teammates love him for his nastiness on the field and his up-beat personality in the locker room. He wasn't bad in class either, earning Academic All-American honors.
3. Mike Johnson, 6-5, 312, Alabama, 3-4
Johnson was the unquestioned leader of the offensive line that opened the way for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and helped the Tide roll to a national championship. He is a cerebral blocker who adjusts quickly, plays with a high motor and is able to play on either side as a guard or tackle. He started 41 consecutive games, including 26 at left guard, 10 at right tackle, three at right guard and two at left tackle. He set a school career record when he played against Texas in the 2010 BSC Championship Game, his 54th contest for the Tide.
4. Mitch Petrus, Arkansas, 6-3, 310, 3-4
Keeping track of Petrus on and off the field was a significant chore. He was originally a walk-on tight end, then switched to offensive guard then fullback and back to guard in 2007. Oh, and his first name is really Jonathan, but he goes by the short version of Mitchell, his given first name. When he finally settled in at guard, Petrus earned second-team All-SEC honors. But just when it seemed he found his way, Petrus missed the entire 2008 season due to an academic suspension. He returned for an outstanding season in 2009. The former 225-pound walk-on tied an Indianapolis combine record in the 225-pound bench press with 45 reps.
1. *Maurice Pouncey, Florida, 6-5, 304, 1-2
Winner of the 2009 Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation's best center, Pouncey plays with a nasty disposition and delights in putting defenders on their backs, even if he has to run downfield to find a victim. His toughness was reflected before the Sugar Bowl when he had to receive treatment for kidney stones hours before kickoff, but was ready to play. Although he could have used another year in college to prepare for the pros, Pouncey has shown enough to be the top center prospect in this draft. Coaches rave about his field intelligence and ability to make all the offensive line calls while making the shotgun snap for the Gators. He has exceptional quickness and gets into good position to pass protect if somebody is over him and shows excellent awareness helping other linemen. His identical twin, Mike, plays right guard for the Gators and elected to return for his senior season.
2. Matt Tennant, Boston College, 6-5, 300, 2-3
Tennant will be the latest in a long line of offensive linemen Boston College has sent to the NFL, where 11 former Eagles linemen were on somebody's roster last season. A standout since becoming first string as a redshirt sophomore, Tennant started the last 41 games at center and yielded just an assisted sack in his last 27 appearances. He seems lanky for a center and NFL teams will probably want him to add more mass.
Frank Cooney is the Publisher of NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.