I’m combining the interior line positions as there are very few guys who are true centers or true guards. What this class is lacking in overall talent it makes up for with good depth and versatility. The top three to four interior offensive linemen can play either position and start at the next level, and that is what will more than likely push them the up in draft position.
The only interior OL with a first round grade in my opinion is Mike Pouncey of Florida. Yes, it’s Pro Bowl Rookie Maurkice’s twin brother, who moved from guard to center this season after his brother left school a year early. I actually think Mike is a better fit at guard, but he can definitely play center as well. He’s very good in the run game, and stout enough to handle the big nose tackle types at the next level. I don’t think there is any way he makes it past the Bears, unless one of the top OTs is still left on the board. He will be a day one starter and is about as clean as it gets from a prospect. He may never reach the level his brother did right away, but he will be a very good interior NFL offensive lineman for a long time.
The only other guy I would consider at the very end of round one is Rodney Hudson of Florida St. The one knock you will hear from everyone is that he is undersized as he’s only 299 pounds and not 305 pounds. I find it laughable that this is what things have come to in this day and age. Even a 20 pound difference can be wiped away clean if the player in question has good technique, gains good leverage, and is powerful enough for their size. This is exactly what Hudson brings to the table. He has some of the absolute cleanest technique I have seen in a guard prospect in some time. His hand placement, base, and footwork are the kind of thing you can show a young player and say ‘do that EXACTLY’ and you will be a good offensive lineman. I’m sure some teams will shy away because of the weight issue, but whoever takes a chance on him in the second round will be very pleased. I think he has potential to be a Pro Bowl player in the NFL at guard or even at center. I’d love to see him in a Bears uni, if he happened to slip that far in the second round.
After these two, there is a second tier of players that could be taken in the second and third rounds, and are all very solid but unspectacular players. This is the ideal fit for what is considered one of the true blue-collar positions in the NFL. Honestly, you could interchange any of the following guys and get a very good guard prospect. Guys like John Moffitt of Wisconsin, Danny Watkins of Baylor, Clint Boling of Georgia, and even small school tackles turned guards like Ben Ijalana of Villanova and William Rackley of Lehigh. I would not argue with any of these guys in the second or third round as I think they all have potential to be starters right away.
Two guys who I have really fallen for that I would consider sleepers are Andrew Jackson of Fresno St and Marcus Cannon of TCU. These are two different types of players but two guys I want on my team very badly. They may end up going in the fourth or fifth round at the highest, but when it’s all said and done, I think these two guys may have some of the best return on the investment of all of the OL picks. Cannon played OT at TCU, but he does not have the feet to play this at the NFL level. What he does have is massive size, and he transitions very well to guard. He’s the kind of mauling space eater that a team like the Bears desperately need inside. Jackson is not nearly as big, but every game I watched him play you see him consistently moving guys out of the hole. He has great technique, he locks his hands inside on guys, and he can just straight up rag doll people and drive them off the ball. I don’t remember seeing a single play where he was pushed behind the line of scrimmage. He may be a tidbit over aggressive, but I would rather have that in my interior OL. In fact, what impressed me the most was his play against a very good, albeit rusty, DT in Marvin Austin at the East/West Shrine game. Keep an eye out for these two as I have a very good feeling I am right about this assessment and these two will be starting sooner than you’d think. As an additional treat, I’ll throw a very late round sleeper at you who I think can play at the next level, but might not start right away (and may even be a career backup). Chris Stewart of Notre Dame is a player who flashed a bit on an awful ND line in 2009 and looked solid again this season. I’m not going to say he’s as good as Cannon or Jackson, but he’s a value guard who can be had in the 6th or 7th round more than likely.