By Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune reporter
April 13, 2013
This class doesn't have a sure-fire first-round pick who looks like he can be an immediate all-pro, but it does offer a number of players who should become solid starters for a long time. The public misconception is that Barrett Jones is the best prospect. He is the biggest name. Many NFL scouts rate others ahead of Jones.
1. Brian Schwenke, Cal, 6-3, 314: His stock has been on a steady climb all year. Schwenke is like a quarterback on the line. "He handles the line of scrimmage well, makes the checks and controls everything," an AFC scouting director said. Schwenke plays with good pad level and generates power to move defenders. He has the feet to adjust his body on contact. As a bonus, he also has experience at guard. He has proven himself over a long time, starting 36 games in college.
2. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin, 6-4, 312: He is well built for the position, and he displays good pop. Frederick also can anchor against powerful defensive tackles. He shows good recognition skills, and he is efficient about getting his blockers ready for the defensive front on the line. He shows good technique. His athleticism is above average, and he can get to the second level. He has experience at guard and also could be considered there. Frederick did not help himself with a poor NFL scouting combine, but his tape is impressive. "He still is in the mix with the top guys at center," an NFC college director said. Some rate him higher than Schwenke.
3. Barrett Jones, Alabama, 6-5, 306: Jones has better intangibles than physical abilities. He is smart, polished, versatile, tough, intense and instinctive. He excels at getting his teammates lined up. NFL coaches are falling hard for him, which is driving up his stock. Jones is not a top athlete. "His play is not that impressive," a veteran scout said. "He doesn't have much strength, athleticism or explosion. You don't want him isolated in space or taking on a nose guard man up." He is capable of playing all five positions, but most NFL teams would not consider him a full-time tackle. In that regard, Jones has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. He has started 49 games for the best team in college football over that period, including 25 at guard. He currently has a foot injury that needs to be checked out.
4. Khaled Holmes, Southern California, 6-3, 302: He has good size and he plays with power. He knows how to use his hands and take good angles. He bends well and plays with a good pad level. He is scrappy. Holmes overextends at times, and he is not a rare athlete. He had a better season in 2011 than 2012, in part because of an injured ankle. He also has experience at guard.
5. T.J. Johnson, South Carolina, 6-4, 310: There is a bit of a drop-off after Holmes. Johnson is big, tough, smart and competitive. He plays with sound positioning and has some quickness. As a four-year starter with some time at guard and tackle, he has a good body of work. His lack of athleticism and arm length concern one general manager. "He gets knocked off balance easily," he said. Johnson does not have a special quality, but he is adequate is most areas.
6. J.C. Tretter, Cornell, 6-4, 307: He was a high school quarterback who moved to tight end before becoming a left tackle. NFL scouts say he is likely to be moved to center, or possibly guard. Tretter has excellent feet and athleticism, which he showed at his pro day workout. He needs to add strength. Tretter is not proven against top competition. He is seen as a player who might not be NFL ready, but could end up being a fine pro.
7. Jeff Baca, UCLA, 6-4, 302: One scouting director describes him as a "lesser version of Barrett Jones." Baca is a heady player who gets the most out of his ability. He is competitive, and he knows angles well. He has some quickness, strength and flexibility but is not a great athlete. He could develop with the right offensive line coach. Some teams consider him a guard, and he also has played tackle.
8. Graham Pocic, Illinois, 6-6, 314: He is taller than the ideal for the center position, and some teams view him more as a tackle or guard. The Lemont High School product could be a good backup at all five positions. He played some tackle for the Illini. Pocic has good leadership skills. He sometimes plays with a high pad level, and powerful nose guards can get under his pads. But he does have decent strength and he plays aggressively.
9. Mike Golic Jr., Notre Dame, 6-5, 300: Some NFL talent evaluators like him more than linemate Braxton Cave. He is competitive and tough, and athletic enough. One general manager said he would fit best in a zone blocking scheme. "I would love to have him in camp," he said. He is the son of former NFL player and current ESPN personality Mike Golic. Guard also is a possibility for Golic as he played there for the Irish.
10. Braxston Cave, Notre Dame, 6-3, 303: Cave is smart and tough, and he battles. He picks up blitzes well. Cave uses leverage well. He did not have a very good Senior Bowl. One scout said Cave is a little "stiff" athletically, and is on the ground too much. "He struggles to get to the second level," he said. He needs to add strength. Durability issues also could affect his draft stock.
11. Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M, 6-1, 311: He helped himself at the Texas vs. the National all-star game, according to scouts. Lewis is an aware player with good intangibles. He is a solid leader. He plays with good leverage and pad level. Lack of reach and athleticism could limit him.
12. P.J. Lonergan, Louisiana State, 6-3, 304: He is a try-hard blocker who has overachieved. He isn't very athletic and he isn't overpowering, but he is scrappy and has good intangibles. He has been a productive player over time.
13. Dalton Freeman, Clemson, 6-5, 291: He lacks bulk but not athleticism. Scouts say Freeman will have to get stronger and bigger, especially in his lower body, to have a chance at the next level, but he should be able to do that. He was a productive college player. He plays with toughness and intelligence.
14. Joe Madsen, West Virginia, 6-4, 310: One longtime evaluator said he was a poor man's Brian Schwenke. Madsen doesn't have the athleticism and foot quickness of Schwenke, but his strength is good. He has proven himself over a long time.
Mario Benavides, Louisville
Braden Hansen, Brigham Young
Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State
Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh
James Ferentz, Iowa
Sam Schwartzstein, Stanford
The Bears seem likely to add an interior offensive lineman in the draft. Whether that player is a guard or center might depend on how the draft falls. They certainly could use a young center. Roberto Garza is capable, but he is 34, and entering the last year of his contract. If the Bears draft a center who could start immediately, Garza has the flexibility to move to guard, the position he played the majority of his NFL career.
Next: Offensive tackles
Twitter @danpompeird, the position he played the majority of his NFL career.
Next: Offensive tackles
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