We have finished scouting the defensive players of the 2017 NFL Draft and now we head to the offense, starting with the interior offensive line. The Browns focused most of their attentions in free agency on fixing the interior offensive line. The team added center J.C. Tretter and guard Kevin Zeitler early in the free agency period. So, the interior offensive line will most likely not be on the top of the list for the Browns to address in the draft. But, the team could target some developmental players later in the draft. This year’s class of interior offensive linemen is a solid group and is definitely better than the offensive tackle class. So with that, let’s take a look at my top five interior offensive linemen in the 2017 NFL Draft.
1. Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Forrest Lamp is my top interior offensive lineman in the draft after playing most of his college career at left tackle. He is a lineman with great feet. He can shuffle fluidly from side to side, mirroring the opposing defender’s movements. He is able to keep his feet in a good stance throughout the entire play, allowing him to have good balance to take on all incomers. He has good athleticism to stay in front of athletic players. His body positioning is superb. The former Western Kentucky lineman beats defenders to a spot, placing his body in the right position to properly block the oncoming player. He has good hands to latch on to defenders and keep control of them throughout the process. He is a patient blocker with good awareness, staying in the right position, without trying to lunge into defenders to get contact. He keeps strong leverage in his stance, allowing him to take on the defenders’ bull rushes and not be overcome with the power. He is a good run and pass blocker because of all of these skills. Lamp can also provide versatility, possibly playing at tackle and quite possibly center if needed.
But Lamp has some weaknesses to his game. The reason why he is best suited for offensive guard rather than his college position, offensive tackle, is because of his lack of length. He is 6-foot-4 with just 32 ¼-inch arms, lacking the length teams want in a tackle to play against the elite edge rushers. With his transition, he will also move to a position where he has little experience playing in college. Lastly, he does not have great power and strength, so he will not be a plowing holes open in the run game. But in the end, Lamp has the athleticism, feet, and body positioning to be a really good offensive guard at the next level.
2. Dan Feeney, Indiana
Dan Feeney is a prototypical zone blocking offensive guard. At 6-foot-4, 305 pounds and 33 3/8-inch arms, he possesses good size and length for an offensive guard. Even with his bulky size, he has solid athleticism, including great feet. His feet are quick and always moving. When engaged, he keeps his feet moving to continue to resist the power of the defender. He plays with good body positioning, always trying to get in the right position to square up the block. The Indiana lineman is a patient blocker who does not over extend and reach for defenders. All of these traits helps him to be a really talented blocker in the second level and on the move. He uses his feet, body positioning and patience to get to the blocker and engage them in space. So, he is a valuable player in pull blocks and zone blocking schemes. He is quick out of his stance, allowing him to get in position to engage the oncoming rusher. When he fires into a defender, he offers a powerful punch that can really shock the defender. He plays with good awareness of the rush and where he needs to block. All of these traits lead to him being a good pass and run blocker.
Feeney has some weak spots in his game, however. One of his problem areas is his balance when he is engaged. He can struggle with balance because of two main reasons. The first reason is bad hand placement. He must work on placing his hands into the chest of defenders, rather than being too wide and high on the defender. The other main reason is his leverage. He can get too high in his stance, which can lead to rushers being able to push him off balance. Besides balance, he is not an overly strong at the point of attack, so he will not be plowing open holes and dominating defenders with strength. But in the end, his feet, body positioning and other strengths in his game make him a really good offensive guard prospect.
3. Dion Dawkins, Temple
Dion Dawkins played left tackle in college last season, but offensive guard is probably his best fit. He stands at 6-foot-4, 314 pounds and 45-inch arms, giving him great size for the offensive guard position. With his size comes immense power and strength at the point of attack. The Temple lineman has a strong upper body that can control and even manhandle defenders. His strength allows him to be stout against oncoming bull rushers. He is very quick off the snap, giving him the opportunity to unleash his powerful jab. His jab can really stun a defender and move him off his spot. What makes him unique is his solid athleticism, especially his agile feet. His feet are quick for such a big man, shuffling side to side in fluid succession. He has good lateral quickness to move from side to side. His agility helps him transition from rusher to rusher fluidly. As a blocker, he is patient and does not overextend and get out of position to make the first contact. He has the versatility to play tackle and guard for teams.
On the negative side, Dawkins has trouble with hand placement. When he fires out to jab a defender, he can be inaccurate, either shooting too high or missing the target all together. His hands when engaged tend to be wide on the defenders body. This can lead to rushers getting into his body and negating his length of his arms. Also when he is engaged on blocks, his feet can slow down and not keep driving through the block. This can lead to him getting beat on the edge and it negates his ability to drive players away using his great strength. Lastly, he has a tendency to have his head down in some pass protection situations. But, Dawkins has the power, size and feet that will be a great fit for an offensive guard.
4. Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
Taylor Moton played offensive tackle last season, but he fits best as an offensive guard. He is a huge lineman with the size and strength teams love in an offensive guard. At 6-foot-5, 319 pounds and 34 1/8-inch arms, he is a huge man to move with the strength to plow open holes for the run game. He possesses powerful hands to latch onto defenders and control them. Once a player is engaged with him, he is tough to get away from. His hands can transmit a powerful punch that pushes players off their spot. His length and pure size is hard to get around, forcing defenders to have to work harder to get past him. When he fires off the snap, he comes out with good leverage, attacking under the pads of the opposing defender. He is able to get to the second level and provide path-clearing blocks against linebackers. Moton is not a great athlete, but he is not overwhelmed in space. He will provide versatility to play both offensive guard and offensive tackle.
But Moton has some work to do in his game. Overall, he is a waist bender. He has tendency to lean his upper body ahead of his lower half. This leads to balance problems. He can fall off blocks and in space he can lunge toward the defender, completely missing the block attempt. Also, his hands and arms usage can be improved. Even with his great length, he can allow players into his body because of bad hand placement or lack of arm extension. He is not a good athlete, so speed rushers could be a problem for him at the next level when he tries to shuffle his feet and move his body to stay in position to block the oncoming rusher. Nevertheless, he is a huge human being who can be a road-grader in the NFL.
5. Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh
Dorian Johnson is an offensive guard with the size and movement skills of an offensive tackle. He is 6-foot-5, 300 pounds with 35 ¼-inch arms, giving him the size and length that teams would love to have in a guard. He uses his length well, utilizing good extension on his arms to keep players away from his body. Athletically, he has remarkable movement skills for a man his size. He has quick choppy feet, which allow him to shuffle from side to side and mirror the rusher in pass protection. The Pittsburgh lineman has the fluidness to move laterally, too. He uses his athleticism to move in space, including getting to the second level to block linebackers and others down field. He is able to get into good body position to square up the defender he is looking to block. When he is engaged on blocks, he keeps his legs churning to drive the defender back. He keeps a good wide base to stay balanced throughout the block. His hands are active, jabbing defenders and pushing them throughout the process. He is well-put together, carrying 300 pounds in a fluid and compact form.
Johnson has some work to do in his game. His biggest issue is sustaining blocks throughout the entire play. He is more of a jabber than a latcher. He does not use his hands to control players and keep them engaged, rather just pushing the defender. His hands placement is another reason he has trouble staying attached to players. He does not get to the player’s chest consistently enough to more easily control the player. His jabs can be inaccurate, causing him to miss or fall off the target. However in the end, Johnson has the unique size, length and movement skills that will be a good fit for teams looking for a starting offensive guard for their offense.
(#53 LG Dorian Johnson)