CFF Overview: Interior O-Line - Something to Work With
You’ve already seen our favorite interior linemen in this year’s class, now we turn our attention to the second tier. The following players all have obvious flaws in their game that is holding them back from the top of the class. Each showed well in our grading and physically impressed enough that we think they have something to offer at the next level.
Josue Matias, Guard, Florida State
Tre’ Jackson has gotten more draft pub, but we graded out Matias as the more effective guard by some margin for the Seminoles last season. Matias gained control of reach blocks about as well as anyone we saw in this class and was also extremely quick to get on linebackers when firing off to the second level.
The worrisome thing about Matias is his athleticism. If he didn’t get on a linebacker right away at the second level he struggled because of subpar change of direction ability. This also showed up when Matias was asked to pull. On those plays he looked labored and like an all-around liability. At the combine he ran a 5.52 40-yard dash and posted a 17.5 inch vertical. While that 40 is below average, the vertical is a downright disaster and it’s the lowest in the last 16 years according to nflcombineresults.com. You wouldn’t be able to guess it by his pass sets, though, as he was one of the smoother looking guards in pass protection and performed exceptionally well there.
Signature Stat: Matias didn’t allow a sack all season and his 98.0 Pass Blocking Efficiency was ninth-best among guards in the class.
Arie Kouandjio, Guard, Alabama
If we would have released an all-american team for 2014, Kouandjio would have been a shoe-in for the first team left guard. He graded right at the top of the position in one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA. While Kouandjio got the job done last season, he didn’t earn any style points doing it and that’s the reason he’s not in the discussion for top guard in the class. He had a lot of the same movement problems as Matias and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him pulling on a regular basis. The older brother of Cyrus Kouandjio, Arie has the same clunky feet as Cyrus without the size and length that allows Cyrus to play tackle.
You don’t have to have amazing feet at guard, though, and Arie used his hands so well that he was still among the best pass protectors in the nation. Kouandjio was also extremely effective when asked to control the man in front of him on straight forward runs like inside zone. So while he may be limited by his athleticism in the NFL, Kouandjio is still technically skilled enough to go in the mid-rounds.
Signature Stat: Kouandjio’s 98.8 Pass Blocking Efficiency on 384 snaps against Power 5 schools was the third-best among guard prospects.
Hroniss Grasu, Center, Oregon
There may not be a more fluid looking offensive lineman in this class than Grasu. When pulling and getting to the second level you can’t help but think he’s a poor man’s Jason Kelce. He was easily the best lineman in the class at finding linebackers in space and engaging. Just like Kelce, though, Grasu has a slight build at 6-foot-3, 297 pounds and was just an average pass protector. But the main reason he’s not among the top group in this class is because he doesn’t handle nose tackles nearly as well as Kelce does.
Grasu rarely got movement on inside zone runs when trying to help a guard secure a double team and when he had to seal out 0-techniques he had a bad habit of getting rocked back. There is a lot to like from Grasu athletically, and if he can put some more muscle on his frame he could be a starting center in the NFL for years to come.
Signature Stat: Oregon ball-carriers averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 140 runs through the A gaps last season compared to 4.8 yards per carry on 222 runs through the B gaps and off tackle.
Greg Mancz, Center, Toledo
Even though Mancz played against the weak defensive lines of the Mid-American conference last season he’s still garnered enough attention to put him on every draft analyst’s radar. There’s good reason for this as Mancz was by far our top-graded center and didn’t have a negatively-graded game all season. Mancz was asked to do a lot of different things in Toledo’s scheme and probably pulled to the edge more than any center we saw this season. He excelled when asked to pull and was also strong enough and quick enough to gain control of nose tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Like everyone on this list, there are some concerns with Mancz. The obvious one is the competition level as Missouri was the only team from a Power 5 conference on their schedule a year ago. While he showed exceptionally well in that game, it would have been nice to see him play in the East-West Shrine game. Instead, Mancz tore his labrum in the practices leading up to the game and underwent a third surgery on his shoulder. His chronic shoulder issues will scare off some teams, but there are few centers in this class that can match Mancz’ talent.
Signature Stat: Mancz’ 93.5% Run Blocking Percentage was the third highest among Centers in the class.
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