By: Chris Terlop
With Aaron Rodgers set to sign a record setting contract, a run game that has struggled to get going, the Packers can’t go wrong drafting an offensive lineman early this year. It is a line that does not have a lot of sure fire studs. The Evan Dietrich-Smith experiment is still going on to see if he can be the anchor this line needs. Josh Sitton and TJ Lang are locked up for years to come, but we are yet to figure out if their occasional struggles this past season were due to the mix and match line that was patched in around them. Bryan Bulaga’s season was cut short due to a hip injury, Marshall Newhouse did an admirable job at LT and nobody really knows what to expect from Derrick Sherrod. Bottom line, if you give up the most sacks in the NFL and struggle to consistently open lanes for a run game, there is always room to bring someone in to help.
OT Luke Joekel, Texas A&M
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 306 lbs 40: 5.25 Bench: 27 reps
Notes: Luke Joekel has settled in as the top offensive line prospect and the best overall prospect in the whole draft. The athleticism and talent that allowed him to start every single game of his college career and led him to the Outland Trophy and helped freshman Johnny Manziel win the Heisman trophy this past season. He has the body, the skills, and an exceptional understanding of what ends and linebackers are trying to do, before they make their move. He will be a Pro Bowler and possibly a Hall of Famer when all is said and done.
Projected: Top Five Overall
G Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 307 lbs 40: 5.12 Bench: 22 reps
Notes: Pugh was first team All-Big East at Left Tackle the past two years, despite missing four games this past season. Even though he played LT in college, he projects to be a better fit at guard in the NFL, though he could play tackle if the Packers needed him to be a “swing player”. Pugh has a high ceiling and is not a career backup, he could push Sitton and Lang if either struggle. One thing we learned this past season, is that you cannot have enough “swing” lineman, especially when it comes to protecting #12.
Projected: Late 1st to Second Round
OT Menelik Watson, Florida State
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 310 lbs 40: 5.25 Bench: 19
Notes: One of the most interesting offensive line prospects in the whole draft. As athletic as Joekel, Eric Fisher, and Lane Johnson, and his on-field performances have flashed that ability. What is holding him back from being a top of the draft tackle? He has only played football for two years. He played basketball in prep school before coming to the states and playing a year of football in Junior College and a year at Florida State. He has shown the growing pains you would expect from anyone doing something for just the second year, but has shown great strides and great passion to learn the game he physically excels in. He is not a candidate for the swing position like Pugh and Barrett Jones, he is a tackle, can play left or right in the NFL. He, like Pugh, is destined to start. He could lock down one of the tackle positions this season, beating out Newhouse, Sherrod, and Don Barclay and start opposite of Bryan Bulaga. That depends on his growth and ability to learn the zone blocking scheme in Green Bay. At worst he takes a year to learn and develop further, can start if there are injuries and locks down the left side next season.
Projected: Middle First to Second Round
C Barrett Jones, Alabama
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 306 40: N/A Bench: 27
Notes: Barrett Jones has done nothing but drop down draft boards since the season ended. It is hard to imagine a player who won the Outland Trophy as a left tackle as a junior and the Rimington Award as a center as a senior, falling down draft boards. He is being projected as a center at the next level, but could play guard, tackle would be a stretch, but not completely out of the question if needed to fill in for a game or two. He is still recovering from a foot injury and will not be cleared to run until May; he has been hurt most of his career, but has been able to play through those injuries. He is a player that is not flashy, he will not blow anyone away with elite athleticism. Instead, he is technically sound and very cerebral. Jones’ effort is unmatched, he is the kind of player that would fit in perfect with the Packers. Best case scenario, he wins the starting center job and masters all calls in the scheme. At the very least he will be a very good swing lineman to fill in at either guard and center position. If the Packers take him, they have the first scenario in mind.
Projected: Second to Third Round
Also look for: OT Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, OT Kyle Long, Oregon, C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
You can hear Chris Mondays-Fridays on Sportsline 4-6pm and Saturdays at 8 am, follow him on Twitter @ChrisTerlop