Author’s Note: Writing this article altered several of my opinions I’d held about Pittsburgh’s current offensive line, as well as my views on the best ways to improve it. Please read the piece with more than the usual care. The material deserves some fine tooth comb debate down in the Comments.
Mansfield to Webby to Dawson,
Hartings, and on to Pounce.
When you’re a Center in Pittsburgh,
You play a position that Counts.
Faneca yields to DeCastro,
And now we need someone new.
It’s not the same as the Centers,
But the Guards have been great too.
But as for Offensive Tackle,
Where other teams give their all,
In all of Steelers history
There’s not even one in the Hall.
THE CURRENT ROSTER OF GUARDS AND CENTERS
- Left Guard = James Daniels. 6’3⅜”, 306 lbs. with 33¾” arms and 9½” hands. 25 years old. Chicago’s Round 2 pick in 2018, he came over to Pittsburgh as the prize 2022 free agent and earned every penny. He was the best player on the line last year, and is still growing as a pro. He breath the air of a Faneca or DeCastro, but with one more step he’ll be starting to sniff it. The 2022 version would eventually earn a pro bowl or three, and if he gets better… oh boy. A solid B+, and angling up.
- Right Guard = Kevin Dotson. 6’4”, 321 lbs. with 33” arms and big 10½” hands. 26 years old. Dotson gyrates from really good to abysmal. His Dr. Jekyll moves unwilling men in directions they don’t want to go, and he does it reliably. That is job #1, and you can check it right off. But his agility and mobility are average at best, and the decision-making is outright poor at times. Dotson’s Mr. Hyde version has a furnished apartment in the Tomlin Doghouse, wallpapered with his sea of red flags. Coach Meyer called him “solid” if he can cut down on those problems. Let’s just say he isn’t solid yet.
- Center = Mason Cole. 6’5”, 298 lbs. with 32⅛” arms and 9⅝” hands. 26 years old. “Solid” is the very definition of Cole’s play. But “Mansfield to Webby to Dawson…”? No. Has the ability to also play Guard, but he isn’t as good in that spot and likes it less.
- Backup G/T = Jesse Davis [UFA]. 6’6”, 309 lbs. with 34⅜” arms and 9¼” hands. 32 years old. Davis has started 80 games and played every OL position but Center. In 2028 he earned a 3-year, $15 Million extension to be Miami’s RG where he earned a low C grade. The Vikings signed him to a 1 year, $3 Million deal for 2022, and then traded him to Pittsburgh for a conditional 7th that probably wasn’t earned. Could he be resigned cheap? Quite possibly, and maybe Coach Meyer’s extra-aggressive approach would help since he supposedly lacks a little on the nastiness side. A great backup, but a barely acceptable starter. Also a free agent.
- Backup Center = J.C. Hassenauer. 6’2”, 295 lbs. with 32⅝” arms and 10½” hands. 27 years old. Does okay as a backup, but the lack of size shows against the AFC North’s mammoth NT’s. The size problems get even worse when he tries to play Guard.
- Backup G/C Kendrick Green. 6’4”, 315 lbs. with 32¼” arms and 10⅛” hands. 24 years old. A Round 3 pick in 2021 who played Guard in college but was selected to be the heir to Maurkice Pouncey. He failed due to a combination of slow hands when snapping the ball, poor balance, and what Ben Roethlisberger called a Guard’s emotional approach to the game rather than a Center’s analytical one. Competed with Dotson for the Right Guard job in 2022, lost, and then spent the rest of the year on the 53 without a helmet. Could he have matured into a viable lineman? Sure. 24 is hardly ancient. But we outsiders have no evidence one way or the other.
- Practice Squad C/G = Ryan McCollum. 6’5”, 300 lbs. 24 years old. A 2021 UDFA for Houston, who has now landed in Pittsburgh. The draft profile basically amounted to “not quite big enough, strong enough, technical enough, or athletic enough, but with enough potential to be a viable backup if he can master his technique.”
One factor we haven’t considered enough is the fairly astonishing level of youth all the way across the line. 25, 26, 26, 32 [UFA backup], 27 [another backup], 24, 24. They’ve also had just one year together, one year with their new QB, and one year under Coach Pat Meyer. Adding more young talent may not be as smart a move as I thought when I first began this article. It’s certainly a question to ponder.
THE STEELERS COULD TARGET ANY OL SPOT EXCEPT RIGHT GUARD
These pages have seen a lot of debate about the best way to improve the offensive line. Interestingly enough, we seem to agree on most of the basics. The Steelers need to add some depth to the Tackle room, and have two starters that could both be improved. Dan Moore Jr. earns the most ire because he hasn’t “arrived” yet, but he’s also the better run blocker of the two, and can boast clear endorsements from everyone in a position to have a responsible opinion. Ben Roethlisberger called him “the Tackle of the future for this football team.” Coach Meyer, has said he is pleased with Moore’s progression. Retired OL’s like Max Starks and Craig Wolfley have sworn up and down that Moore has “it,” and are totally confident that he’s eventually going to be a good bit more than solid. And you can add in our own Steelers Depot film watchers. That’s powerful stuff.
On the other side, Chuks Okorafor has matured into an above-average pass blocker and below-average run blocker. He’s solid enough to be dead average, but “average” is also “improvable,” and his contract pays him at full retail value.
The current state of the Centers and Guards is described above. Suffice to say it is also improvable, and could really use a star at any position, but depth is less of a concern than at Tackle. The only real opening at the moment would be for a more reliable starter to take over the Left Guard duties from Kevin Dotson. But what kind of player would they be looking for?
WHAT OL SKILL SETS WILL THE STEELERS LOOK FOR AND AVOID?
There are lots of good linemen who’d fit quite well on one team but not on others. The classic example is seen with gap/power teams versus outside zone units. Players who would excel in both systems are Round 1 talents almost by definition, and after that we start to see ever sharper lines dividing big-and-strong from fleet-and-athletic. Pittsburgh now faces a new wrinkle because Coach Pat Meyer’s approach to blocking has some unusual features. These are bound to alter the sort of player our team will want to target.
Alex Kozora has been doing his best to explain the details that Coach Meyer looks for, and I urge you to go back and reread the quasi-series. It starts with a February, 2022 article on basic philosophy; and then includes a March, 2022 article on Meyer going to Daniel Falale pro day. Then there’s a May, 2022 article about James Daniels’ explanation of the Meyer pass protection philosophy, Alex’s August, 2022 follow up article on the basics, and most recently a February 8, 2023 video on “what is a chase-down block,” with a February 9 follow up article on how often the Guards are asked to slide out to protect the Tackles’ against inside counters. Having just come back from that very journey, I think draft watchers should emphasize the following points:
- The Steelers ask their Tackles to establish wide pockets by using aggressive sets, with the Guards to routinely sliding over to protect those Tackles against the inside counters that take advantage of over-setting. Those moves leave the Center manning what could be a lot of open ground where a linemate used to be.
- All OL’s are expected to make first significant contact, using independent hands to deliver the strike. This is a core principle.
- Aggressive sets are a big deal because they lead to that first contact. This includes short sets, where the OL steps into a charging pass rusher rather than slowly retreating in pocket formation, and the wide/deep sets mentioned above.
- Aggressive sets have a downside, however, which can show up in the form of an uneven pocket.
- OT’s must have either unusually excellent feet or unusually excellent reach to do the job. A giant like last year’s Faalale or this year’s Dawand Jones might fit particularly well, since the assistance from IOL’s will diminish the danger of inside countermoves. That tends to be the Achilles heel of most colossi.
- IOL’s must have the lateral agility to provide that assistance, so men confined to phone booth action may be poor fits even if they do that task exceptionally well. The team will re-sign Kevin Dotson, penalties and all, if that is the skill set they want.
- Agility in the Guards and Centers also matters to the extent it helps close the holes of a ragged pocket formation.
- There is a standard scouting phrase that criticizes a particular category of players as “catchers more than strikers.” That will be anathema to Coach Meyer. He insists on aggressive play first and foremost; not so much in the sense of being a nasty finisher, but rather as being eager to initiate contact, putting the defender on the defensive.
- Firing off the line (burst) will be another esteemed talent. It is, after all, how linemen initiate first contact in the run game. Note that this is an area where Dotson excels.
- Players who already have the “independent hands” club in their bag will have a leg up. It isn’t the most natural movement, and some players find it extremely hard to master.
- Players with good experience at Meyeresque, extra aggressive sets will also have a leg up.
- Older prospects coming from a different philosophy may get a discount because it would take them time to unlearn before they can relearn. Note: One wonders if that unlearning process was behind last year’s slow start, and how much worse (or better) it will be for rookies?
PATTERNS IN THE 2023 CLASS OF IOL PROSPECTS
The only IOL prospect worth a 2023 Round 1 pick is Peter Skoronski, who would provide extraordinary value at #17. Skoronski is usually described as a Tackle, and for very good reason. He is the most technically adept edge blocker in the class, and it isn’t particularly close. But Peter Skoronski looks more like a Guard or Center, particularly when it comes to length, and no one seems to doubt that he has DeCastro/Pouncey potential on the inside. With extra versatility that neither of them enjoyed. He played Center all through high school, meaning he is that rarest of breeds: the true 5-position offensive lineman. Adding this young man to Pittsburgh’s OL room would challenge Moore, Okorafor, Dotson, and Cole all at the same time, which would be a happy occurrence indeed. “Let the best man win! (With the odd man out serving as exceptional depth).”
Please note that I’ve included both Paris Johnson and Broderick Jones on the list because they have the physical talent to play Guard, but don’t be fooled. Both of those young men would be picked with the Tackle position in mind and Guard as an emergency fallback.
The heart of the IOL class is in Rounds 2-4. The most notable feature is a very odd cluster of Size XL Centers who would be equally adept as starting Guards. Not just “able to play Guard in a pinch,” but actually just as good in either spot. This is an appealing idea because it would give the team a free swing at the next great Center, add depth, and also give a potential Center some seasoning by letting him start his career at Guard. Note that Pittsburgh has done in the past with reasonable success. Both Hartings and Dawson began their careers at Guard before moving in to the pivot.
The names to watch in that dual-purpose category include John Michael Schmitz, Cody Mauch, Joe Tippmann, Ricky Stromberg, Steve Avila, and Emil Ekiyor Jr. Like I said: a much bigger pool than usual.
Then there are a few pure Guards to look at. These come in basically three flavors: giant people movers, athletic college Guards, and college Tackles projected to move inside at the next level.
There are two really nice prospects in the people-mover group: O’Cyrus Torrence in Round 2, and Anthony Bradford in Round 3. We need to have a serious discussion about how well each of these would fit the Pat Meyer blocking scheme. It may be a case where both of them should be off our board due to the limits on their lateral agility, plus the fact that Kevin Dotson (a proven people-mover) is already on the team.
The athletic college Guards are headlined by Andrew Vorhees. Heck, they may be limited to Andrew Vorhees. And to Skoronski, of course.
The convert-from-Tackle types include young men like Matthew Bergeron, Henry Bainvalu, and McClendon Curtis. This last category also has several players who would offer very solid value with the Round 4 pick because they combine Round 2 abilities with either a discount for lack of size, or relatively severe flaws in their technique.
My research pretty much ends at that point, so ll input and suggestions for Day 3 talents would be greatly appreciated. We’ve identified several promising boom-or-bust Tackles that could fall to Round 7, and it would be very nice to know if the same is true for the Guards.
GUARD AND CENTER PROSPECTS IN THE 2023 DRAFT
|1:10||T/G Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio St. (Junior). 6’6”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. 21, turns 22 in July. A 5-star athlete all day and every day, the only complaints would be that his technique (the punch in particular) and gut-level understanding of the position need work. Tyler Wise’s gif-supported Depot scouting report shows a huge man who moves as smoothly as many TE’s, and maybe even most TE’s. Special stuff. Also has experience at both RG and LT, which bodes very well. Came in at #14 on Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 list.|
|1:10||T/G Broderick Jones, Georgia (RS Soph). 6’4”, 315 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. 21, turns 22 just before the draft. The anchor OL for a dominant team, with plenty of power and experience, plus the 5-star athleticism to become truly special. Superb ability to mirror, match, and ride speed rushers beyond the pocket. May not “hit” right aways because he needs to work on his hand fighting (clapping habit in particular) and would benefit from building to superior play strength instead of just good; but those are typical complaints and also highlight the fact that he has room to improve. Michael Rochman’s gif-supported Depot scouting report is darned close to a rave review. Came in at #15 on Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 list. Projects as a good, long-time starter within a year or two according to Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile.|
|1:10||G/T/C Peter Skoronski, Northwestern (Junior) [Mtg. at Combine]. 6’5”, 310 lbs., with ___” arms and ___” hands. 21, turns 22 in July. The most intriguing OL in the draft, Skoronski comes from the same program that trained up Rashawn Slater and has everything you want in an OL but pure size and length. Came in at the #6 overall player on Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 list. His technique is extraordinary for a college player, his foot speed and agility are special, and his hand fighting technique looks like it’s straight from an Ip Man teaching session. He is also as versatile as they come: a Center all through HS, a day one LT all through college, and built like a speed oriented OG. What will he be as a pro? The NFL.com scouting report by (OL coach’s son) Lance Zierlein sees a safe, high floor Tackle who may be capped at the very top by his length limitations, but a first year starter and future all-pro at Guard. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report would agree with that assessment. Both end in solid, early- to mid-1st grades.|
|1:25||OC/G John Michael Schmitz (Senior). 6’3⅜”, 306 lbs. with very short 32¾” arms and 9⅝” hands. Turns 24 in March. One of the best interior offensive linemen of the draft, and he’s even got C/G versatility! Big and strong enough to handle even AFC North NT’s, and excellent at reach- and other forms of angled, get-in-the-way blocks. Not crazy mobile like Pouncey or DeCastro, but still above average. Schmitz was probably the single best player at the Senior Bowl regardless of position; he looked like a pro playing against college kids. Some have compared him to draft favorite Creed Humphrey from 2021. Indeed, the main knock against Schmitz would be that he’s actually a few months older than Humphrey, who would be entering his Year 3 while Schmitz is a rookie. Jon Heitritter, in a particularly good gif-supported scouting report, prefers a comp to the Titans’ Ben Jones, who got picked in Round 4 but has severely outplayed his draft position. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile could have been cribbed from Jon’s, describing Schmitz as a rare plug-and-play prospect with a skill set reminiscent of (you guessed it) Ben Jones. This goes to a Senior Bowl interview with Jonathan Heitritter.|
|2:01||T/G/C Cody Mauch, N. Dak. St. (Senior). 6’4⅞”, 305 lbs. with very short 32⅛” arms and 9⅝” hands. Turned 24 in January. A good college Tackle who would fit better in the NFL as an IOL because of both his issues (short arms) and his assets (mobility, skill at reaching defenders on the second level, sound pass protection technique, effortless lateral mobility, white-hot motor, and very impressive aggression in run blocking). Yes, that is quite a list of assets! Kevin Colbert would have frowned hard about the small school background, but that is one of the assumptions that Omar Khan and Andy Weidl may upend. Began his college career as a 221 lb. Tight End. A real character with long red hair, missing front teeth, and a Brett Kiesel beard, Mauch would quickly become a fan favorite. Came in at #45 overall on Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50, and that grade would have only gone up with his Senior Bowl performance. This thorough December scouting profile from PFN reached a similar grade, emphasizing that Mauch is “an elite athlete on tape with a rare mix of corrective agility, explosiveness off the line, and range in space.” This goes to a Senior Bowl interview with Tyler Wise. His skill set seems to fit well with the movement oriented duties of Pat Meyer’s blocking scheme even though he lacks the length that Meyer prefers. Chandler Stroud’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a fringe-1st grade based on his “extremely hot motor” and “unheard of” flexibility, quickness, and versatility. Don’t go too far, however. Stroud also warns that good bull rushers have been known to get into his chest to take advantage of the short arms, and Mauch has an unfortunate tendency to end up on the ground. The NFL.com scouting profile by OL-coach’s son Lance Zierlein ends with a solid Round 2 grade, describing him as a “scheme-versatile tough guy” whose “inconsistent footwork in pass protection and below average arm length could foreshadow a move inside to guard.” This solid-looking February scouting profile from a Giants POV ends in a late-2nd to early-3rd grade. This February OL big board from Sports Illustrated lists Mauch with a Round 1 grade. This briefer scouting profile agrees with that grade. Here are two pre-Senior Bowl interviews, one from a Bears-oriented POV and the other a more general interview from TDN.|
|2:12||C/G Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin (RS Junior) [Mtg. at Combine]. 6’6”, 317 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. 22 years old as of March. The TDN scouting profile describes him as follows: “Tippmann projects as a day-one starting center for multiple NFL offenses and schemes. Tippmann is a scheme-versatile blocker that impresses on both running and passing plays.” And then it somehow ends with a Round 3 grade. Huh? Has played both Guard and Center, earning the constant description of a “mauler” at every stop. Also gets points as the “iron sharpens iron” practice opponent right across from Keeanu Benton. Came in at #22 on Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 list, which made him the clear IOL1 of the class. The NFL Draft Buzz scouting profile adds that Tippmann was the #28 Feldman Freak based on, “a terrific combination of strength (635-pound back squat and 455-pound bench) and athleticism, clocking a 4.31 pro agility time and a 1.65 10-yard split, which would’ve been faster than any O-lineman at the  NFL combine.” Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile compares Tippmann to the Packers’ good young Center Josh Myers, who was picked at 2:62. “Tippmann’s size, strength, smarts and athleticism should help him become a starter in the NFL.” Critical evaluations point to some balance concerns, and complain that he doesn’t maintain his blocks as well as he should. Hand placement could use work, he has a habit of dipping his head before making contact when he’s on the chase in open space, and he needs to be more consistent getting off the ball, but those are common issues for college players, and he’s also unusually young.|
|2:12||G O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida (Junior). 6’4⅞”, 337 lbs. (down from 347 in college) with 33⅞” arms and huge 11¼” hands. Turned 23 in January. Very solid at the Senior Bowl. Imagine a really good NT in reverse: he prevents any bulge in the middle when they attack you, and creates a bulge when you attack them. That’s what you get with Torrence, a two trick pony who is good at both. An enormous man with gigantic breadth, he fires off well and plays nasty, which makes him a people mover par excellence, but has limited range for pulling and other movement-oriented jobs. (Could he lose 20 pounds and get quicker?) Has a tremendous anchor to keep the middle of the pocket solid, though he can sometimes be outquicked by DT’s with exceptional agility. The descriptions remind you of Kevin Dotson when things are clicking. May have issues with the movement oriented duties of Pat Meyer’s blocking scheme. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a fringe-1st grade and what looks like an apt comparison to Larry Warford, a Round 3 pick who was similarly huge, with similar assets when it came to moving people, and limitations when it came to working in space. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile ends with a similar grade, seeing “a future starter for downhill offenses who covet size over athleticism.”|
|2:24||G Andrew Vorhees, USC (RS Senior) [Mtg. at Combine]. 6’6”, 320 lbs. with 32⅜” arms and 9¾” hands. Turned 24 in January. Tough, strong, nasty, and about as good a Guard prospect as you get short of the unicorn types. Plays like a wrestler in the good sense; i.e., with very good balance, taking advantage of opponents’ errors in balance and movement, and with surprising agility. Would be an even finer prospect if he learned how to use his hands well enough to wrestle without holds, and had no lapses in his anchor. Alex Kozora put up this brief video back in January, and then this gif-supported scouting profile. Seems to fit exceptionally well with the movement oriented duties of Pat Meyer’s blocking scheme. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile sums him up this way: “there are things to clean up, but he has enough polish and strength to start early on.” He sees more limitations than concerns.|
|3:01||G/C Steve Avila (RS Senior). 6’3⅛”, 332 lbs. with short 32⅝” arms and 9¼” hands. 23, turns 24 in October. Team captain. Played Guard in 2022, has right/left versatility, and is equally competent at Center. A particularly good inside zone blocker, and equally good in gap/power, but outside zone is not his game. Mess with this young man in a phone booth and it could get ugly. Get him on the move and he’s much easier to deal with. Came in at #36 in Daniel Jeremiah’s initial Top 50 list. This goes to a Senior Bowl interview with Ross McCorkle. Seems to fit well with the movement oriented protection duties of Pat Meyer’s blocking scheme, but Ross McCorkle’s gif-supported Depot scouting report (Round 3 grade) expresses serious concerns about Avila’s ability to pull and/or catch players out in space. “Lumbering” is a kind word for some of those gifs, though it must be said that other scouting reports do not show that as a pattern. The NFL.com scouting profile from Lance Zierlein uses Chris Kemoeatu as the player comp, concluding that “Avila is likely to start right away as a Day 2 draft pick and should have a solid NFL career as either a guard or center.”|
|3:01||T/G Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse (Senior). 6’4⅞”, 323 lbs. with 33⅝” arms and 9½” hands. Turned 23 in February. A four year starter on both the left and right sides, he is a fine mover and good technician who will benefit a lot from NFL strength training, and from coaching on all the subtleties of the position. Originally from Quebec. Has played both RT and LT. One of the best performers at the Senior Bowl, where he was nice and steady, proving that he could mirror anyone there, and also looking good when moved inside to Guard. This goes to a TDN Senior Bowl interview. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report sees a Round 4 talent comparable to Dan Moore. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile is much more positive, seeing Bergeron as a Round 2 “eventual plus starter” more comparable to Joel Bitonio.”He’s a dynamic run blocker, able to excel in all three phases (positioning, sustain and finish). He’s just as capable of climbing and tagging second-level linebackers as he is at opening run lanes at the point of attack with leg drive. He’s athletic enough to play tackle, but inconsistent anchor and hand placement could cause concern.”|
|3:01||G/C Emil Ekiyor Jr., Alabama (RS Senior). 6’2¼”, 317 lbs. with 33⅜” arms and 9⅜” hands. Turned 23 in January. Excellent experience at Guard in a very well coached unit against top opposition, played Center when Najee Harris was the RB1 at Alabama, and also played a lot of Center in the Senior Bowl practices, where he looked quite good. Excellent power, agility, and burst along with excellent mobility to pull and to reach second level defenders. Smart and nasty. Extremely aggressive to the point where he can get over his feet and lose his balance. Could use some extra strength. The TDN scouting profile ends in a Round 2 grade. Michael Rochman’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 4 grade, describing Ekiyor as a solid gap/power IOL who’s got nice mobility (though he plays better in a phone booth), with the assets offset by a need to build some strength and make the normal jump from college to professional technique. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile has something more like a Round 3 grade, describing him as “smart and sound” but potentially vulnerable to pure, upper-NFL levels of size and power.|
|3:01||C/G Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas (Senior) [Mtg. at Combine]. 6’4”, 313 lbs. with 33⅛” arms and 9⅝” hands. 22, turns 23 in November. A powerful D-II player with excellent size and an anchor to match, but average athleticism and foot speed when measured on an NFL scale. Chandler Stroud’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes a “smart, athletic center who moves really well [and excels] in both pass protection and the run game… Impressive and technically sound… he does the small things well.” The player comp is no less than Jason Kelce because “they are both guys that move bodies off the line of scrimmage, are cerebral assassins, and climb to the next level really well.” Wow. The TDN scouting profile is nowhere near that complimentary, saying “he’s capable of pretty high-level reps” and holds up “fairly well when tested with power,” but also got regularly beat by the array of Round 1 talent who tested him with extra-special size and/or quickness. This long PFN scouting profile ends in a Day 2 (Round 2-3) grade, and contains some fairly detailed analysis. The NFL.com scouting profile by OL coach’s son Lance Zierlein calls him a “potential starter” despite some waist bending issues. Here is an interview with Alex Kozora during the Combine.|
|3:12||G/T Henry Bainivalu, Wash. (Senior). 6’5⅝”, 312 lbs. (down from a reported 340 in college) with 34¼” arms and 10¼” hands. Turns 25 as a rookie. Built like a classic Right Tackle, he’s already moved inside where he played like an experienced and savvy guard in 2022. Might have the ability to slide out, but that would be an unexpected bonus. Should be able to hit the ground running compared to younger and less experienced prospects.|
|3:12||G/T McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga (Senior). 6’5¾”, 331 lbs. with orangutan level 35″ arms and 10¼” hands. 23, turns 24 in September. Cole Strange came out of Chattanooga last year, and did quite well. This year it’s Curtis. One suspects there is a coach down there who’s got an NFL future. In any case, Curtis is a big boy with big boy power, good balance, and adequate but not special mobility. Probably limited to playing Guard, though he did so well at the Senior Bowl that some now think he can stick at Tackle. There’s reps of him manhandling just about every iDL at the event, including fan favorite Keeanu Benton.|
|3:24||OG Anthony Bradford, LSU (RS Junior). 6’5”, 345 lbs. with ___” arms and __” hands. __, turns __ in ____________. A colossal, human-moving young man who can hold up against anyone in a phone booth, and has enough mobility to pull. Distinctly lacking in lateral agility, however, which could make him a poor fit for Pat Meyer’s scheme, and also vulnerable to really quick 3-techs. Here are links to Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile, and the TDN scouting profile.|
|3:24||T/G Richard Gouraige, Florida (RS Junior). 6’4⅞”, 308 lbs. with 34” arms and 10” hands. 24, turns 25 in October. A multiyear college Tackle with NFL assets, he won’t be able to stay in that position at the next level unless/until he can clean up some glaring problems with his footwork and balance. Those are things one can learn, but it takes time and a lot of men fail. The hidden upside is that better footwork cascades into better performance in every aspect of the game, so Gouraige may have hidden upside. And he has good experience playing Guard as well. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile ends with something like a Round 3-4 grade, describing him as a “durable and dependable” young man with excellent experience, who “plays with sound technique, but  could struggle when matched with size and power, [and has] athletic limitations [that] might ultimately cap his draft value and career ceiling” to playing at Guard.|
|3:24||T/ Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion (RS Senior). 6’6”, 311 lbs. with 33⅜” arms and big 10½” hands. 22, turns 23 in August. Team captain. Good mobility with an effective punch and solid experience at a lower level. Adequate athleticism. Better at positional and zone blocking than at old fashioned, dig-’em-out, dirty work. This goes to the TDN scouting profile, which ends in a Round 4 grade. Here is a good Senior Bowl interview with Alex Kozora. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile calls him a natural athlete who “should fit best as a zone blocker or pulling guard who can get out into space and find work.”|
|3:24||T/G Tyler Steen, Alabama by way of Vanderbilt (Senior). 6’5½”, 325 lbs. with 33” arms and big 10¾” hands. 22, turns 23 in June. First, he has all the athletic talent needed to play Tackle in the NFL. His feet are nimble enough to do the job against anyone, and he has tremendous range for getting to the second level. He also made significant and continuing gains as the season went by, which bode very well if you project the same sort of thing moving forward. The downsides come down to a moderate amount of country strength, only acceptable length, a bad habit of rising up as he comes out of his stance, and the normal hand fighting and leaning concerns to be expected of any OT outside of Round 1. Has some experience at Guard, but that would not suit his profile quite as well. Here is Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile.|
|3:24||OC Luke Wypler, Ohio St. (Junior). 6’3”, 300 lbs. with ___” arms and ___” hands. 21, turns 22 in early May. The pivot man for a very good college OL, Wypler has everything you want in a center except some exceptional genius or extra large size. Smart, technically sound, experienced, etc, he also moves very well. Could use added strength and especially length. Held his own against Jalen Carter in the semifinals game. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile calls him “undersized but highly athletic [with] initial quickness [that] gets him to the best angles.”|
|4:01||C/G Alex Forsyth, Oregon (RS Senior). 6’4”, 312 lbs. with __” arms and ___” hands. Turned 24 in February. A nice, solid Center with good technique outside of what Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile calls “pre-snap yips [that] turned into penalties.” Has the size and build to play Guard without any real dip, especially if he can build some extra core strength.|
|4:01||G Ryan Hayes, Michigan (Senior). 6’6⅝”, 305 lbs. with very short 32¾” arms and 10” hands. 23 years old as of February. An extremely good multisport athlete with excellent college experience playing LT at the highest level. A vicious run blocker who knows how to use his frame, drive with his legs, reach, pull, and shift around to get a good angle. The combination of disproportionately short arms and waist bending issues will combine to force him inside, which makes sense given his approach to the game.|
|4:01||T/G Warren McClendon Jr., Georgia (Junior). 6’4”, 290 lbs. with long 34” arms and 10” hands. Turns 22 just before the draft. You expect Right Tackles to be enormous, relatively slow footed 6’7” monsters who weigh anywhere from 330 on up. The national champion Georgia Bulldogs went the opposite route, with a sleek, quick footed Tackle who comes in at 3” shorter and 40 lbs. lighter. But those numbers are deceiving. McClendon has the arms of a taller man, and used to weigh as much as 320, and the current version has almost no extra weight at all. The result has been all the foot speed needed to more or less neutralize Top 5 pick Will Anderson Jr. when the two faced off a year ago, but a lack of oomph when put against larger men. He run blocks with serious attitude, can climb to the next level as well as anyone, and has a good strong punch; he’s just on the very small side, and it’s going to show at the next level. If he can solve the size and strength challenge, you’ll get a Kelvin Beachum (6’3”, 303 lbs.), but he just won’t stick if he can’t. Injured in the January car crash that killed a fellow O-Lineman and an athletic staffer, but not enough to harm his draft prospects. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile calls him, “a hardworking team leader [whose] intangibles  are countered by a lack of ideal size, length and athleticism as either a tackle or a guard.”|
|4:01||OG Jordan McFadden, Clemson (RS Senior). 6’2”, 295 lbs. with __” arms and __” hands. 23, turns 24 in November. 3-year starter and team captain. A college Tackle with enough flaws and physical limitations to be forced inside for the NFL. He’s actually built more like a Center than anything else, and all reports suggest that has the savvy and leadership a pivot needs, but he has never done that job so far as I can tell. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile catches the issues in a single pithy phrase: “a reliable prospect lacking desired measurables.” That covers it. This goes to the TDN scouting profile, which admires “the tone-setting style of play and demeanor that Jordan McFadden embodies,” but worries about whether he has the size to handle the sort of Night Stalker DT monsters he’d see in the NFL. This goes to a nice, Giants-oriented scouting profile from January that describes a player who’d fit Pat Meyer’s philosophy perfectly if not for the lack of pure size and length.|
|4:01||OC Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan by way of Virginia (RS Senior). 6’2⅝”, 308 lbs. with 33” arms and smaller 8⅝” hands. 23, turns 24 in August. Another fine player in a fine class, who plays a smart, intelligent game at the pivot position. Good mobility, positioning, awareness, and hand fighting skills but also the sort who benefits from being on the inside where his teammates can cover for his lack of top level lateral agility and superior size. Compensates with a good understanding of leverage, but one worries that a tie would end up being a loss. A gets the job done and leads his unit type, but not a star. A fair projection would be someone comparable to Mason Cole in overall quality, if not specifics. Josh Carney’s gif-supported Depot scouting report uses Patriots OC David Andrews as a more refined comp. There were Senior Bowl contests when Oluwatimi looked frankly overmatched, though his overall performance evened out to “average.” Here is the NFL.com scouting profile.|
|4:01||OC Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame (RS Senior). 6’4⅞”, 304 lbs. with T-rex arms (31⅝”) arms and 10” hands. 23, turns 24 in December. Team captain. A four year starter with his first three at Center, he also did quite well as a Guard in 2022. John Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes him as a steady, crafty, and experienced blocker who pulls well but has limited overall athleticism; most likely a useful backup with starter potential down the road if he finds the right coaching and situation. High floor, low ceiling. The arm length came as a Senior Bowl shocker, but he also looked extremely good all week. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile could have been copied from Jon’s.|
|4:01||G/T Asim Richards, N. Car. (Senior). 6’4”, 307 lbs. with 34⅛” arms and 10” hands. 22, turns 23 in October. A strong, nasty, very physical run blocker who excels moving the man in front of him, and can pulling and getting to the second level. His pass protection skills are basically low-average for a Tackle, which suggests a move inside unless new coaching will clean up various details like hand fighting and gain some quicker feet. One big flaw has been a tendency to be late off the ball, which is very strange for an athlete who was good enough to play TE and DT in addition to Tackle. Could be a Day 3 bargain, but there are enough issues to make Day 2 a little rich. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile sees a Guard with the versatility to be a backup Tackle, rather than vice versa.|
|4:16||OG Nick Broeker, Ole Miss (Senior). 6’4¼”, 305 lbs. with 32¼” arms and 9⅞” hands. 22 years old on draft day, turns 23 in October. Hey Nick, I have something to put on your greeting card: “Hi, I’m a run blocking Guard. You got something to say about that?” He isn’t particularly mobile, but he is strong, nasty, and able to both dig people out and maneuver himself in their way. Quick enough inside the proverbial phone booth, but limited and vulnerable to the even better quickness of top notch DL’s. He also has some obvious size and length issues that may prove to be important against the big DT’s found in the AFC North. Alex Kozora’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 4 grade. The TDN scouting profile puts him closer to Round 6. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile sums him up as, “a below-average athlete with above-average play strength and has the talent to become a starting guard in a downhill run scheme.”|
|4:16||T/G Wanya Morris, Oklahoma by way of Tennessee (Senior). 6’4⅞”, 317 lbs. with exceptional 35⅜” arms and 10¼” hands. 22, turns 23 in October. Has experience at both RT and LT. A 5 star athlete with great length and good strength, he has never developed consistent technique to build on his natural advantages. Known to get out over his feet and lunge. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile takes care to note the athletic potential before offsetting them against shortcomings going to pad level, lack of core and drive strength, and overall inconsistency. My verdict? A boom or bust prospect in Round 4, who will either ‘get it’ and become a quality starter in Year 3-5, or someone who will be off the team by the end of Year 3. Interviews will matter to see why he is taking so long to understand the craft.|
|4:16||OG Chandler Zavala, N. Car. St. (RS Senior). 6’3½”, 322 lbs. with 33” arms and 10⅜” hands. Turns 24 just before the draft. According to Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report, Zavala is a big, strong, alert Guard who does his job well but may be vulnerable to the quickness of really high end DT’s. He is not just a dig ‘em out power player, though he can do that quite well, but also has the agility to pull and handle reach blocks. He just needs to get a little better and a little sounder across the board. Asked for a 1:1 comparison to Kevin Dotson, Tom said, “I think his mental processing is better, plays more physically and sustains blocks more effectively with his hand strength.” Nice prospect.|
|5:01||C/G Jake Andrews, Troy (Senior). 6’2¾”, 319 lbs. with short 32¼” arms and big 10¼” hands. 23, turns 24 in November. A powerful D-II player with excellent size and an anchor to match, but limited athleticism and foot speed when measured on an NFL scale.|
|5:01||T/G Alex Palczewski, Illinois (Senior). 6’6”, 314 lbs. with 33⅜” arms and 9¼” hands. 23, turns 24 in August. Team captain. Tom Mead’s nice, gif-supported Depot scouting report summarizes Palczewski as a capable Tackle with good upside, held back by several small but important gaps. Core strength would be #1, and after that it’s the myriad of technical details needed to stabilize his game and prevent the holding penalties and false starts that happen from his shortcomings. Aggressive mindset with very good versatility and overall athleticism. Tom ends in a Round 6 grade, but I’ve bumped that up a little because the issues seem fixable enough to project him as a valuable, four position, utility man with some upside.|
|5:16||T/G Braeden Daniels, Utah (RS Senior). 6’4”, 297 lbs. with __” arms and __” hands. 22, turns 23 in August. Projects best as an outside zone player, who has really good quickness and accuracy when on the move, but lacks the desired size and length he’d need for a gap/power system. Discounted by a solid round or two because Pittsburgh plays the wrong style from his POV. This goes to Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile.|
|6:16||G/T Brandon Kipper, Oregon St. (RS Senior) [MTG. AT NFLPA BOWL]. 6’5⅞”, 326 lbs. with 34⅛” arms and 10⅛” hands. 24, turns 25 in September. Played RT for most of his college career, but moved inside to RG in 2022. A well balanced athlete with no particular weaknesses, just limitations. Good wrestler in HS.|
|6:16||OC Juice Scruggs, Penn. St. (RS Senior). 6’2⅝”, 314 lbs. with 33¼” arms and 10¼” hands. Turned 23 in January. As solid as they get with his anchor, but not the guy you want to move an unwilling DT backward, nor to get out in space and pull. Think of your classic NT profile in reverse. The player is better than the grade, but he just doesn’t fit what Pittsburgh wants to do.|
|7:16||T/G Joey Fisher, Shepherd (Senior). 6’3⅝”, 292 lbs. with short 32” arms and 10¼” hands. ___ years old. An extremely good athlete who dominated his D-II opponents. His stock fell drastically when the Senior Bowl showed him to be 3” shorter and 25 lbs. lighter than advertised. The Draft Bible scouting profile describes him as “feisty” but undersized, with film “full of more pancakes than IHOP.” Supposed to be very strong and a mauler on the inside, but also prone to dumb mistakes caused by his hyper-aggression. Did well enough at the Shrine Bowl to get a bonus invite to the Senior Bowl.|