The Top 5 Interior Offensive Linemen in the 2015 NFL Draft

It wasn’t too long ago that guards and centers were never in the conversation when people talked about potential first round offensive linemen. With defensive coordinators continuing to put quality pass rushers inside on passing downs, the interior linemen have become more important and that shows in where they are now being drafted and the amount of money they are getting paid in free agency. This year, at least one and perhaps two of my top interior linemen will go in the first round. I expect all five to be strong contributors as rookies. 1) Brandon Scherff – Iowa Scherff has been a productive three year starter at left tackle for Iowa. He is a tough, physical player who plays with strength and power. He is also a good athlete with good speed for a lineman (5.07). As a player, he is a smart technician with good hand use. Like most Iowa linemen, he has been well coached. He plays with bend and knows how to get and keep good position. He is a consistent run and pass blocker and has the strength and power to get movement. He is a consistent pass blocker who gets and keeps good position and can anchor. On the downside, he may not be quite the athlete coaches want at left tackle. There are other linemen in this class who play better in space than Scherff. Overall, this is a player who knows and understands the position. He can be productive at either guard or tackle spot once he gets to the NFL. I feel he is best suited to play inside at guard where he may have Pro Bowl potential. He is similar to Dallas guard Zack Martin who made the Pro Bowl last year as a rookie. At Notre Dame, Martin was a left tackle. 2) Cam Erving – Florida State Erving was a two-and-a-half year starter at left tackle for Florida State. Just past midseason in 2014, he was moved to center and looked as if he had played the position his entire life! Just for the record, Erving was a top prospect as a left tackle. He showed, quickness, strength, power, and range and looked like an early starter at that position. At center, he showed all those traits and more. He took over as the leader of the line and made all the line calls. At 6’5 – 313 he has excellent size, to go along with rare length for a center (34 1/8” arms). As a player he is a strong run blocker and a very good pass blocker. He is explosive on contact in the run game and is able to get under his opponent and generate movement. In pass protection, he shows quick feet and the slide and recovery skills to mirror speed or power. He needs some work with his hand usage. When at tackle, he needed to do a better job keeping his hands inside. He also played from a right-handed 3-point stance at tackle, which won’t work at the NFL level. Erving has the skills to start at any of the five offensive line positions. That versatility will help him get on the field early. He is clearly the best center in this draft and will most likely be a late first round pick. 3) Tre Jackson – Florida State Jackson is a three year starter at guard for Florida State. He almost came out last year, and if he did, he would have been a high draft choice. I actually felt Jackson looked better on tape in the 2013 season than he did in 2014. He looked too heavy this past season and didn’t move around as well. That was verified at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Jackson weighed 323 in Mobile and 330 at Indy. Despite his size, Jackson moves around fairly well. He has adequate feet and very good balance. He is best as a run blocker where he shows he can consistently get movement. He looked better at getting to the second level in 2013 than he did in 2014 and will need to play in the 320 range this year for him to get that extra quickness back. In pass protection, he shows a strong punch, and he never gets bull rushed. He uses his hands well and has good overall mirror skills. Overall, like I mentioned above, Jackson needs to drop to around 320 to be most effective. He can play either guard position and should start as a rookie. I highly doubt he gets drafted in the first round, but he should be a solid second round choice. SCOUTING BOOTCAMP IS COMING TO CHICAGO MAY 15th-17th - REGISTER FOR THE SEMINAR OR WEBINAR 4) A.J. Cann – South Carolina On tape, Cann looks to be as good an athlete as there is in this draft at the guard position. He is a four year starter and has been a very productive player for South Carolina. He has excellent size at 6’3 – 313 to go along with strength and power. He is best as a run blocker, as he comes off the ball low and is explosive on contact. He is usually able to get movement and can get to the second level. In pass protection, he moves his feet well, plays with bend and can slide and recover. He needs to do a better job using his hands in pass pro and keep them inside on a more consistent basis. He has all the natural physical traits to excel at the NFL level. He just needs to pay a bit more attention to detail on the little things. He should become a starter early in his career, and if he stays healthy, he can pay for a long time. 5) Ali Marpet – Hobart This is my surprise selection for this group. Six weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have listed him here. Division III players rarely get invited to the Senior Bowl, and when they do, they often look out of place. That wasn’t the case with Marpet. From the get go, he showed he belonged with the big boys. He was equal in size and was more athletic and stronger than many of his teammates. Marpet has excellent size (6’4 – 307) and the frame to get bigger. He was one of the few offensive linemen to break 5.00 in the 40, running a 4.98. He was also among the best in the 20 yard shuttle and 3-cone drill. He did 30 reps on the bench and had 30.5” vertical jump. These are natural traits that few have. Sure he is raw from a technique point of view, but that is easily corrected with coaching and Marpet takes well to coaching. While he played tackle at Hobart, he played guard at the Senior Bowl and may end up being a center at the NFL level. He is very intelligent and is a strong leader and that bodes well for the center position. Marpet may not start as a rookie, but in two years, he may be a better player than many of the guys who are drafted ahead of him. He has some special qualities. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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