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NFL: Panthers Draft Preview – Offensive Line

By: Danny Guy (For the Mac Attack)
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Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

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Ed note: With the rapid rise of former Mac Attack Intern turned NFL draft savant Josh “Casper” Norris, we’re at it again. This time, former Mac Attack intern/draftnik Danny Guy will be covering the lead up to the NFL Draft for the show here on WFNZ.com, with a focus on the Panthers specific needs and breaking down the draft class by position. Have any questions, ask in the comments or interact with Danny on twitter: @danny_g13]

Grading the 2013 Draft: Offensive Line

One area for the Panthers that stood out in a negative way last year was the offensive line.  Some of the problems were unavoidable with their best lineman, Center Ryan Kalil, being sent to the IR,  however, the play of both Guards, as well as Left Tackle Jordan Gross left a lot to be desired.  For this reason, I fully expect the Panthers to try and address the position through the Draft, where there are a number of early round prospects who could help them.

Guards

Chance Warmack – 6’2” – 317 lbs – Alabama: Perhaps the best overall player in the Draft, Warmack reminds me a lot of the Panthers first rounder last year.  That is to say, like Kuechly, Warmack is regarded as one of the safest picks in the draft; the guy you know is going to be a high caliber player for a long time.

Strengths

Strength: Incredibly strong on the offensive line, punching opponents out of his stance knocking them backwards.  Rarely loses the leverage battle against the opposition.  Anchors incredibly well with a strong lower body.
Mobility: His frame may not suggest it, but Warmack has great mobility for the position.  Looks natural trapping, and pulling down field when asked to.
Technique: Extremely sound.  He may not be the quickest, strongest, or biggest, but he is solid in all of these facets and when you combine that with his exceptional technique he rarely gets beat.
Attitude: Plays with a mean streak, violently drives the opposition back, and crushes Linebackers and Corners when pulling.
Dominance: He was the best player on the best team’s offensive front.  Had his way with some of the best defensive lineman in the nation.

Weaknesses

Too Vertical: At times he can get too vertical out of his stance, making it harder to maintain leverage against the best Defensive Tackles.  This doesn’t happen consistently enough for it to be a major concern, and honestly is a bit of nit picking.
Quickness: In the screen game he has shown to have difficulty locating and blocking his man at times.  He also doesn’t possess the short burst needed to attack defenders in space.
Inexperience Pulling: While he has shown the ability to when called upon to do so, Warmack was not asked to pull on a regular basis.

Projection: Warmack’s stock is difficult to project.  If he was a Left Tackle who played at the level he does he would without a doubt be the number one pick, and the gap between him and the second pick would be pretty large. He plays Guard, however, a position that is not valued as highly in the NFL.  With that said he is still arguably the best player in the draft, and a decade or longer starter in the NFL if healthy.  I expect Warmack to be drafted no later than fifteenth overall.

Jonathan Cooper – 6’2” – 311 lbs – North Carolina – Perhaps the only thing stranger than one Guard being one of the best players in the class, is a second being there with him.  Cooper has a good combination of strength, athleticism and size that make him a likely instant impact player at the next level.

Strengths

Athleticism: Fluid quick feet, great balance, and explosive off the line.  Shows great ability to move in space, and get to the second level.
Strength: Has good upper body strength that he uses well to win the leverage battle at the line.  Anchors well with a thick lower body.  Punches his opponent off the snap, and when needed can give that extra bit of nastiness at the line.
Recovery: When blocked down he shows great agility, and effort to get back up and put himself back in the play.
Effort: Makes the effort plays you hope to see, getting downfield as a puller, and working to stay between his man and his Tailback.

Weaknesses

Size: His height isn’t elite for the position, and he needs to bulk up a bit too consistently handle opponents at the next level.
Attitude: At times he shies away from physicality, and he doesn’t play with the consistent mean streak that a player like Warmack does.
Ability to Overpower: Despite good upper body strength, you rarely see him overpower his man.  Needs to do this to reach his potential.
Projection: Like Warmack, plays one of the undervalued positions in the NFL which is why he may not be drafted as high as he should.  He is easily a top ten prospect in terms of ability, but his position will make him drop somewhere in the fifteen to twenty five range in my opinion.

Larry Warford – 6’3” – 332 lbs – Kentucky – Warford is a massive run blocker, who also has shown quickness in his feet in pass protection.  He also has a mean streak that Guards in the NFL must play with to succeed.

Strengths

Size: Has a large body, and he knows how to use it to create leverage.  Out of the snap he is very hard to move backwards.
Quickness: Lacks explosion off the snap, but he shows natural foot quickness in pass protection.  Has the ability to adjust to defenders who get through gaps.  Shows the ability to get outside of the Tackle and pull up field when called upon.
Hustle: Makes hustle plays, whether it be pulling, or getting downfield in normal situations to block for tailbacks.
Attitude: Plays with a bit of a mean streak, punches his man out of the snap with violent power at times.

Weaknesses

Explosion: Because of his massive size, he lacks explosion off the snaps.  At times can lose the leverage battle before it really begins due to this.
Reaction: Struggles to react to quicker defenders.  Has trouble keeping opponents off his legs.
Straight Line Speed: Doesn’t show a consistent ability to get to the second level.

Projection: Warford is a very solid Guard.  He has a good combination of size, attitude, and just enough quickness that would make him a solid pickup for teams needing an interior protector.  I expect Warford to be a solid second round selection.

Sleeper

Alvin Bailey – 6’3” – 312 lbs – Arkansas – One of the guys I like that should be able to be had in the bottom of the first half of the draft is Alvin Bailey.  Bailey is an athletically gifted Guard who showed versatility to play on both sides of the line, as well as flashing strength to pop men off the ball.

Strengths

Versatility at Guard: Played both Right and Left Guard at Arkansas, moving from side to side to exploit match ups.
Athleticism: One of the most athletic interior blockers in the draft.  Moves well in space, and looks at home pulling up field into the second level.
Explosion: Has an excellent first step, snapping off the line and into his man.  When he wins the leverage battle off the snap has flashed the ability to dominate his man through the play.
Anchor: Anchors well for a player who is more of finesse Guard.  When he gets his feet set he’s hard to move.

Weaknesses

Pad Level: Has shown a tendency to play with high pad level, resulting in loss of leverage off the snap.  Will need to be corrected to be successful.
Instincts: Has trouble anticipating where his man is going, often reacting too late and putting himself out of position.
Mobility: For someone so athletic, it’s worrisome that he has trouble moving side to side in pass protection.  Feet look clunky and sluggish when sliding in protection.

Projection: Bailey has physical tools that could make him an excellent pulling Guard; however he has several technique concerns that need correcting.  He also will have to learn to anticipate movements in order to be an exceptional Guard at the next level.  With that said, I still expect Bailey to be an early fourth round selection based on his physical gifts.

Tackles

Disclaimer: Made the decision not to include Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, or Lane Johnson in my Tackle write up because I don’t see any scenario where any of the three are on the board at 14.

Menelik Watson – 6’5” – 310 lbs – Florida State – Watson is an interesting Tackle prospect in this Draft.  He’s extremely raw, but his ceiling at the Tackle position may be higher than anyone not named Lane Johnson.  Combine that with his rare athletic ability, and you get a Tackle prospect that has been flying up the Draft boards.

Strengths

Size: Has ideal size for a Left Tackle at 6’5” and 310 pounds.  Also possesses great length with 34” arms to keep Defensive Ends at bay.
Athleticism: He has rare athleticism for his size.  He gets into the second level routinely, and can evade players diving at his legs well.  Shows good foot quickness, and looks natural when pulling and working as a lead blocker down field.
First Step: Great explosion with his first step, firing off the snap.  Engages his opponent quickly, and has good level of power in his initial punch.

Weaknesses

Inexperience: Lacks experience playing football after growing up in England.  Played multiple sports before finding Football.  Only one season of Division 1 Football experience.
Age: Will be 25 years old in his rookie year, and with limited experience this raises concerns about how old he will be when he reaches his potential.
Technique: As one might expect, Watson’s technique needs a good deal of work.  His base is too narrow, he needs to improve his consistency with his feet as well as his hands, and he has shown a tendency to grab and hold defenders due to inconsistent technique.

Projection: Watson is an intriguing guy for a lot of reasons.  He’s raw, but because of that he’s still moldable.  His athleticism is through the roof, which makes him a great project for Left Tackle, and his size is prototypical for the position.  With all of these factors he has an incredible ceiling, but also a pretty low floor.  Still even with that uncertainty and the flaws he has, I don’t expect him to last past the end of the first round.

Terron Armstead – 6’5” – 306 lbs – Arkansas-Pine Bluff – If there was a player at the Tackle position that won the Combine, it was Armstead.  He showed a good level of strength with 31 reps on the bench press, and at 306 pounds ran a blistering 4.65 second 40.  But is Armstead all flash, or is there some ability to go with all that sizzle?

Strengths

Athleticism: Armstead is an incredible athlete.  He has great straight line speed; he accelerates down field well, and has good leaping ability for his size.  He looks fluid getting into the second level, and in some cases could probably be used as a Tackle eligible receiver along the goal line.
Explosion: Shows an ability to be extremely explosive off the snap.  At times launching out of his snap into the defender.  Shows an ability to punch with great power on initial contact.
Pass Protection: Keeps his arms extended away from his body well to keep pass rushers off of him.  Is light on his feet, and has good lateral movement allowing him to handle speed rushers, as well as stunts at the line.

Weaknesses

Power Rush: Has shown a tendency to have trouble dealing with a powerful bull rush.   He has trouble anchoring against these more powerful rushers.
Run Blocking: Is not as good of a run blocker as he is a pass protector.  At times he keeps his head down and instead of engaging opponents he lunges at them.
Level of Competition: Did not face elite level competition while in the SWAC conference.  However, he performed well at the Senior Bowl against prospects from BCS schools showing he can stand his ground against better opponents.  Consistency will need to be proven.

Projection: Armstead is one of my favorite offensive line prospects in this Draft outside of the big five (Joeckel, Fisher, Johnson, Warmack, Cooper).  He has tremendous upside with incredible athleticism, and sound play in pass protection.  He has great size for the Left Tackle position, and took the first step in proving himself at the Senior Bowl.  I do think he needs to spend a year in an NFL conditioning program before he can be truly effective, but with that said I have him graded as a solid second rounder.  In my opinion he could be an excellent choice as a future successor to Jordan Gross with the 44th selection.

Kyle Long – 6’6” – 313 lbs – Oregon – Kyle Long like Armstead, is another potential future Left Tackle for the Panthers in my opinion.  The difference in the two though, is that Long can also play at Guard this year if the Panthers choose to select him.  Also, if that name sounds familiar, it should as the Oregon Duck is the brother of Rams standout Defensive End Chris Long, and son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long.

Strengths

Size: At 6’6 and around 310 pounds he looks like an athletic Left Tackle.  His long arms are prototypical for Left Tackles, allowing them to extend will and keep rushers off their body.
Athleticism: Long is an exceptional athlete, he moves well laterally, and looks great pulling as a blocker into the second level.
Attitude: At times Long shows a fierce intensity on the field.  He doesn’t back down from a physical challenge, and has shown the ability to explode out of his stance and punch the opponent with great power.
Bloodlines: Like I mentioned above, Long comes from the right family.  His brother has been a standout (and a Pro Bowl snub) for the past three years, and his father is in the Hall of Fame.  Not only does Long understand the NFL business, but he knows the kind of work ethic, and dedication you need to succeed at the next level.

Weaknesses

Inexperience: After attending Junior College Long went to Oregon where he only played for one year.  He also doesn’t have a great deal of experience at one position, after spending time at Left Guard, and Left Tackle for the Ducks.
System Player: In the Ducks system offensive lineman are not asked to maintain their blocks for a long period of time.  An adjustment period may be needed.
Technique: Because of his lack of experience, Long’s technique is still very raw.  He shows a tendency to hit his opponent off the snap, rather than punch and lock them up.   His technique also creates difficulty with hand placement, where he may be exposed to holding penalties at the next level.

Projection: Long has been a player on my radar ever since the early part of the 2012 season.  He’s got exceptional size, and athleticism while at the same time playing with great attitude in the trenches.  His bloodlines are something that can’t be ignored, as he knows the ins and outs of the NFL game.  There are several concerns that in my mind, make him more of a developmental player for Left Tackle (the position I feel he’s a natural fit for).  However his experience at Guard allows you to play him on the interior until he’s ready to play on the blindside.  Overall I have Long as a solid second round selection, and somebody who the Panthers could seriously look at with pick 44.

Overall, this is a very good offensive line class.  The top is loaded with day one starters, including three Left Tackles who in my opinion could be gone by the fifth overall pick.  There are two can’t miss Guards, who could both go before pick 20, and another two Tackles who will likely not make it to the 25th pick.  In the second round there are at least three potential starters at Left Tackle.  The draft also has depth with future starters to be Cherry Picked for either position as late as round six in my opinion.  Due to its elite top end talent, as well as outstanding depth, I’m grading the 2013 offensive line class an A-.

Previously from Danny Guy:
NFL Combine Standouts: Panthers Edition
Panthers Draft Preview: Defensive TacklesPanthers Draft Preview: Defensive Ends
Panthers Draft Preview: Linebackers
Panthers Draft Preview: Cornerbacks
Panthers Draft Preview: Cornerback Sleepers
Panthers Draft Preview: Safeties

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