Leading up to April's NFL Draft, Andrew O'Brien will be bringing you positional breakdowns, mock drafts, and more. Here's a look at some of the top offensive lineman who could be available for the Eagles:
The offensive line crop in the 2013 NFL draft is highlighted by one surefire pick - Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel - and a number of solid prospects who could step right in and start in the pros. Eight to 10 teams could draft linemen in the first round, and really, most teams could stand to improve their line in at least one position. With the number of “elite” quarterbacks in the NFL and the amount of money and success riding on them, it only makes sense to add as many linemen as possible, especially in a draft where the franchise quarterback potential is low.
Already the class lost a likely first-round pick in Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, who decided to return for his senior season. It could also lose Jake Matthews, the 1(a) of Texas A&M’s tackle duo, but has a number of solid prospects regardless. Let’s take a look at who’s left.
THE TOP PROSPECTS
Luke Joeckel, Tackle, Texas A&M (6-6, 310 lbs.)
Joeckel is the big name in this year’s draft. The junior tackle from Texas A&M will be one of the first three or four players selected in the 2013 draft, and with Andy Reid now in Kansas City and no quarterback prospect worth taking first overall, could be the first one off the board.
After winning the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman, Joeckel announced Tuesday that he is officially entering the draft. He started at left tackle for three seasons, earning the job as a true freshman, and blocked for Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins’ 2012 first-round pick, and Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, and started all 37 of his college games. He can also write! What’s not to love?
Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama (6-2, 322 lbs.)
Warmack is the top-rated guard in the draft and the only thing that seems to be holding him back from being a consensus top-10 pick is his position. As a three-year starter at Alabama, Warmack blocked for the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and, most recently, Eddie Lacy, earning unanimous first team All-American and first team All-SEC selections in his senior season. Warmack is also solid in pass protection.
Want to judge him for yourself, future NFL scout? Here’s video of every snap he played in Alabama’s win over LSU on Nov. 3, 2012.
Jake Matthews, Tackle, Texas A&M (6-5, 305 lbs.)
The word is that Matthews will return to school for his senior season, but Joeckel’s teammate on the right side of the Texas A&M line may be the second-best offensive lineman in the draft if he declares. Matthews is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and the cousin of Clay Matthews (and I guess Casey Matthews too, but the family doesn’t like to talk about it.)
What the mock drafts say: St. Louis (16), San Diego (11), San Diego (11)
Eric Fisher, Tackle, Central Michigan (6-7, 305 lbs.)
With Lewan returning to school and Matthews probably doing the same, Fisher will probably be the second tackle taken in the first round. The senior out of Central Michigan, where he was a three-year starter, was named AP All-American third team this season. Fisher played both tackle positions and right guard in school. He also takes a mean headshot.
Jones played guard, tackle and center in his four seasons at Alabama, displaying a versatility that will be beneficial in the NFL. As a pro, Jones will likely be a center, which is where he spent his senior season with the Crimson Tide. Jones won the 2012 Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center and was a consensus first-team All-American. He also has no problem shoving his quarterback, regardless of what his girlfriend looks like.
Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina (6-3, 295 lbs.)
On the interior of North Carolina’s offensive line, Cooper helped the Tar Heels average 193.8 yards per game. In his senior season, Cooper was a 2012 consensus first-team All-American and one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy.
Oday Aboushi, Tackle, Virginia (6-6, 310 lbs.)
Dallas Thomas, Tackle, Tennessee (6-5, 310 lbs.)
Lane Johnson, Tackle, Oklahoma (6-7, 303 lbs.)
Brennan Williams, Tackle, North Carolina (6-7, 315 lbs.)
Rick Wagner, Tackle, Wisconsin, (6-6, 317 lbs.)
Larry Warford, Guard, Kentucky (6-3, 343 lbs.)
Travis Bond, Guard, North Carolina (6-7, 330 lbs.)
Hugh Thornton, Guard, Illinois (6-5, 310 lbs.)
Gabe Jackson, Guard, Mississippi State (6-4, 320 lbs.)
Travis Frederick, Guard, Wisconsin (6-4, 338 lbs.)
Khaled Holmes, Center, Southern California (6-4, 305 lbs.)
Mario Benavides, Center, Louisville (6-4, 280 lbs.)
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals’ offensive line allowed 58 sacks this year, most in the NFL. Ask any four of the quarterbacks they used this season if they think the team should target multiple offensive linemen.
Chicago Bears: Remember when Jay Cutler yelled at his offensive lineman, J’Marcus Webb? Both men would probably agree that the Bears need a serious upgrade up front.
Green Bay Packers: You’d think the Packers would be interested in protecting Aaron Rodgers better. They allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL this season, yet won 11 games.
New York Jets: The uninitiated might think the reason the Jets struggled this season was uneven quarterback play, but you’d be wrong. OK, maybe not wrong, but their offensive line was bad also. Right tackle Austin Howard played like an undrafted free agent “discovered” by the Eagles, which is coincidentally how he got into the league.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: The King Dunlap era should be over as soon as possible. With the No. 4 pick and uncertainty surrounding Jason Peters’ future, Joeckel could be the Eagles’ top target. Philadelphia’s quarterbacks took the most hits (118) in the NFL this season.
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers made a lot of terrible decisions this season, but he had to make those terrible decisions very quickly because of the line in front of him. It was bad, especially at the tackles.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams dealt with a lot of injuries on their line this season and likely will look to improve its quality and depth for next season. With two first-round picks, they’ll have a chance to address it.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson’s slow start to the season had a good amount to do with the Titans’ line, specifically the interior. Tennessee will likely look for help at both guard positions.