California C Alex Mack (Pac10Rivalry.com)
As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, we here at Buffalo Rumblings will continue interviewing bloggers and consulting outside sources in putting together detailed scouting reports on some of the Draft's most noteworthy prospects - concentrating, of course, on prospects that could pique the interest of the Buffalo Bills. This post continues a series in which I'll rank prospects at each position; ultimately, this project will roll itself into the "Buffalo Rumblings Big Board", which is exactly what it sounds like - the same type of big board NFL teams keep handy on draft day.
We've already ranked the tight ends and linebackers. Full rankings of those positions, as well as all positions, will be made available prior to the draft, which is a little over three short weeks away. What follows is a ranking of the draft's best interior offensive line prospects - an area that is still a huge concern for the Bills.
SECOND ROUND PROSPECTS
1. Max Unger, Oregon: Unger is exactly the type of interior lineman that you can plug into the lineup as a rookie and roll with - he's smart, athletic enough and versatile. Far more importantly, he's a good blocker, particularly at the second level. He's a great fit in Buffalo's blocking scheme, and could start at either left or right guard from day one in Buffalo.
2. Alex Mack, California: One of the better finishers and overall run blockers available inside this year, Mack is a little too stiff and lacks the athleticism to be considered the best, particularly when evaluating him as a guard. But the kid still ranks highly because of his leadership and intangibles. He'll start for a long time at the NFL level.
3. Andy Levitre, Oregon State: Though he played tackle in college, the 6'2", 305-pound Levitre will shift inside in the NFL based on size concerns. That positional versatility is valuable, however. Levitre isn't an overwhelming athlete, nor is he particularly dominant in any one area, but he's smart, plays with great technique (particularly footwork) and, again, fits the blocking scheme well. He's another plug-and-play starter right out of the gate.
THIRD ROUND PROSPECTS
4. Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas: One of the better athletes in this area, Luigs excels at getting to the second level. He's not the most physical player, but he's aggressive, tough and technically sound. I love the kid's experience, and he's helped pave the way for some elite rushers in his day. Again, this a center prospect who I think will be a far better guard, particularly in a scheme like Buffalo's.
5. Eric Wood, Louisville: Wood is considered a center by most, but I think he'll be a better guard at the NFL level because he doesn't have the anchor abilities of a solid center prospect. This is another boring interior lineman that won't overwhelm you when you look at him or watch him, but he's a tough, smart player that just gets the job done.
6. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma: In terms of pure talent, Robinson is at the top of the list. He's huge (6'5", 329), powerful, and has shown an ability to dominate in the run game. Most folks I have talked to mention his "immaturity", however, and liken him to a guy like Derrick Dockery - talented, but his motor runs hot and cold and he never really realizes his full potential. He can start in this league, but he's got some proving to do behind the scenes before it happens.
Four more names for y'all to peruse appear after the jump.
FOURTH ROUND PROSPECTS
7. Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin: This guy is a tough, physical run blocker that offers some positional versatility as a potential right tackle prospect. But he's limited athletically, particularly in getting downfield, and that's not going to do him any favors, particularly in Buffalo. He has starter ability, but he needs a little polish to get there.
8. Antoine Caldwell, Alabama: Yet another center that can play guard, and probably should play guard. Caldwell ranks below some of his peers, though, because he needs to improve his overall strength before he can be a starter. He'll be a pretty valuable reserve as a rookie, but he needs to spend some serious time in a strength program before he can be anything more.
9. Herman Johnson, LSU: Easily the most impressive physical specimen of the lot. The guy is just big - not fat, not tall, just big (6'8", 375). But he's pretty limited athletically; he's right tackle size, but reserve guard material athletically. He's a nightmare in the run game, but he needs a lot of technique work if he's going to be a starter in the pros.
10. Tyronne Green, Auburn: Another pretty talented player that's lacking in intangibles and a killer instinct. Green is an impressive athlete, but his shoddy technique limits his effectiveness. He's got the potential to not just start, but be a high-quality starter in the NFL. But he's green, and there are some questions about his drive.
This is just my opinion, folks. These are the top ten guards in the draft by my book, but probably half of them are starter-worthy as rookies. If the Bills are planning on starting a rookie at guard, they'll need to move relatively quickly. If you think I've made a grievous error in these rankings, let me know. If you think I've got some sort of hidden agenda, I'd love to hear about it. If you're itching to re-shuffle my rankings, let it rip. Consider this an open forum on 2009 NFL Draft guard/center prospects. Go.