The NFL scouting combine starts Feb. 22. In advance of the annual meat market in Indianapolis, staff writer Matt Vensel will examine each position and give Ravens fans the 4-1-1. In this post he looks at offensive linemen.
The top prospects: USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil is one of the top overall prospects in April’s NFL draft and should be one of the top four or five selections. At 6-foot-7, 295 pounds, Kalil is tall, athletic and agile, and he was a dominant player in college in both pass protection and run blocking. His father was an offensive lineman in the USFL and his brother, Ryan, is a center for the Carolina Panthers. Iowa's Riley Reiff and Stanford's Jonathan Martin are two tackles who could get drafted in the first 25 picks, as could Stanford guard David Decastro and Georgia tackle/guard Cordy Glenn. Wisconsin's Peter Konz is a first-round talent and the draft’s top center entering the combine. Obviously, there is a lot for all of these prospects to gain in Indy.
Other intriguing names: Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams could be available at pick No. 29, where the Ravens may try to target a long-term answer at left tackle. Adams showed flashes of talent, but also flashes of immaturity at Ohio State (he was suspended twice). Florida State’s Zebrie Sanders and Mississippi’s Bobby Massie are second-day prospects, but they spent most of their collegiate careers at right tackle. Boise State’s Nate Potter protected Kellen Moore’s blind side. UAB’s Matt McCants is one raw, athletic prospect to watch. Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler, Washington's Senio Kelemete and Wake Forest's Joe Looney are three notable guards who are like to be selected after the first round. Georgia center Ben Jones is physical and can get nasty.
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Grading the class: Given the importance of the left tackle position, we will likely see a few tackles go in the first round of the draft and several offensive linemen overall. There is decent depth at guard, which is good news for the Ravens if they have to have to replace left guard Ben Grubbs, who could leave in free agency. It doesn’t look like a great class for centers. Grading the 2012 draft prospects on the offensive line as a whole, I would hand out a solid B.
Fitting the Ravens: The Ravens have stated publicly that upgrading the offensive line is one of their biggest offseason priorities, though it may not be optional if Grubbs and center Matt Birk don’t return in 2012. The Ravens may look to fill those potential holes in the draft. Finding a long-term solution at left tackle could also be a priority. Bryant McKinnie has one year left on his deal and Michael Oher has fared better at right tackle in his three years in the NFL.