By Brent Foshee, Fanteractive Scouting Contributor
In the NFL good offensive lines are paramount if a team expects to be competitive on the field. While Left Tackles have long been one of the premiere positions that teams consistently look for early in the draft, in recent years Right Tackles and Guards have also seen their stock rise. With many different systems at play in the NFL, the value on a single prospect can vary widely. Typically the elite players are elite because they fit into any system well. Still basic guidelines do exist from which one can evaluate offensive linemen for their potential.
Offensive linemen almost always need to pass the “eye test” Natural size is extremely important and should be noted as a positive.
Typically good offensive linemen finish the play. If you see a lineman consistently putting his assignments on the ground, he’s doing his job well.
Successful offensive linemen rarely get moved against their will.
Center - The center is the quarterback of the offensive line. He must know the blocking schemes, responsibilities of every blocker on every play, and be able to quickly diagnose a defense and make adjustments when needed, therefore intelligence is a key aspect of any center. Because of their responsibilities centers are rarely expected to match up in one on one situations with defensive tackles so size is less important. Size. Not strength. A center absolutely must be able to hold his on at the point of attack at the outset of a play. Shorter and stockier players are preferred because of the confined space in which they play. They need to be agile enough to move to the second level and block a linebacker and strong enough to hold up when blocking down on trap and pull plays.
Key Attributes: Intelligence, Strength, Compact Size
Guards - Offensive guards need to have girth as they are the focal point of the running game. They have to have the size to move defensive linemen and the quickness to position themselves with leverage. Most teams ask their guards to pull outside on running plays and move upfield to block linebackers and safeties so agility is also important. Strength is the most important aspect for a guard to have as they will frequently be matching up with the strongest and largest defenders on the field - the defensive tackles. While some teams will sacrifice agility for strength, few teams are willing to do the opposite anymore. Guards absolutely must be able to hold their ground in passing situations and must get movement in running situations. They are called road graders for a reason and many of the largest players in the league are guards. A guard needs to be able to finish his blocks with a nasty disposition regardless of the system he plays in and a physical mentality is a necessity.
Key Attributes: Size, Strength, Finishing Ability
Tackles: Tackles need to be the most athletic of all of the offensive linemen. While strong maulers are still a prized commodity on the right side the left tackle must have the speed to get out wide and contain linebackers and safeties blitzing from a stand up position while at the same time having the strength to hold up against the power rushes from larger defensive ends and tackles. While leverage is important in every collision in football it is especially important for offensive tackles to play with good leverage by bending at the knees and not the waist. Maintaining their balance will allow tackles to thwart pass rushers on a more consistent basis. Many times left tackles are among the best athletes on the team. Length has, in recent years, become a popular buzzword when rating players at key positions.
Key Attributes: Length, Athleticism, Strength, Balance