Late Round Offensive Linemen to Watch
By: Justin Partlow
While the main focus of the 2014 draft class has been the top end of the OL class, the truth is that there is so much value in this OL class that will help many teams. The key thing to remember is teams will be helped not only with starting caliber talent, but also by adding quality depth that can go a long way in the development of a team. The key this year will be watching which teams look to take advantage of the OL class, and how each team goes about taking advantage of it. Below lets take a look at some later round players(day 3) who can make an impact in various ways in 2014.
James Hurst OT UNC
James Hurst was seen as one of the better OT prospects in the 2014 draft, until a broken leg has left him unable to really gain traction on his draft stock. While Hurst isn’t the greatest player or most athletic, what he does well is pass protect and allow for his QB to have a clean pocket for the most part. When you watch Hurst on film you notice how well he is at playing with proper technique, but at the same time he struggles when he plays against speed rushers. Because of that, I expect Hurst to move to RT in the NFL where he wont have to play against speed rushers, but more so against the power guys, where he can match up well against them. With the broken leg, Hurst has seen his stock drop only due to the rehab and wondering what happens, but if he’s healthy look for Hurst to become an early starter in 2014
Chris Watt OG Notre Dame
While not as highly heralded as his teammate Zack Martin, Chris Watt is the epitome of a “steady as he goes” type of OL. He may not be the strongest player on the field, or the fastest player, or even the most flashy player, but he just gets the job done and gets holes open for running backs and keeps his QB clean. What I really like about Watt is his ability to play with a mean streak and want to finish blocks. It’s always refreshing to see a player who wants to make it known with his presence instead of just making the block and stopping his effort there. Watt is someone who also provides possible scheme versatility as he can play OG in the NFL, but there is some chatter as to if he could play C and be more effective there. Watt has seen his stock settle in the 4th-5th round area, but at the same time he possesses the ability to start, depending on what team is able to develop him properly. Watt needs to work on his overall technique to succeed as he relies at times on his overall strength to make blocks. If Watt can refine his technique he could be a starter, but I also see someone who could provide great value as an interior reserve OL who can rotate between C and G.
Brandon Thomas OG Clemson
This name will come as a shock if you were reading this article about a week ago, but with Brandon Thomas out now with an ACL injury the question becomes if how long will Thomas stay on the board and will a team gamble on him to recover from the injury. Thomas before the injury was seen as a possible top 50 pick and someone who could start immediately at OG and be a top end player. Every time I watched Thomas on film I was impressed with his ability to pass protect as well as run block from the OT position and combining that with his project as an OG I saw someone who could be successful. The key to Thomas will be how his recovery processes is going, and what team will just take that gamble on him with the hopes of him being healthy and being a major contributor in 2015. Look for a team in the 5th to 6th round area take that gamble on Thomas and IR him for the year to recover and see if he can contribute in 2015.