CFF Overview: Interior OL - Top of the Crop
We’ve been making our way through the various position groups for CFF draft content and here we take a quick look at a few of this year’s interior offensive linemen.
With only one interior offensive lineman expected to be taken in the first round (Cameron Erving whom I detail below) the group is missing the top-end talent from the previous few years where we have seen 11 first-round guards and centers drafted since 2010. There will still be good guards and centers from this year’s draft that make an impact in the NFL.
Laken Tomlinson, Guard, Duke
Laken Tomlinson is without question the best Division I guard prospect in this year’s draft. He comes in at 6-foot-3 and 323 pounds, your prototypical size for a power scheme guard. Tomlinson is at his best when he can lock onto the defensive tackle and drive him, although he does have some issues. In the run game he is limited at the second level due to his limited agility and foot speed. Tomlinson struggles to locate second level defenders on the move and typically would lunge at them letting linebackers to beat him.
In pass protection Tomlinson excels with his power and his footwork and he has a great initial punch to prevent defensive lineman being able to bull rush. Even if his punch doesn’t work he anchors well to make it difficult for defensive lineman to record any pressure against him.
Signature Stat: Tomlinson had the best Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) in 2015 at 99.4 PBE; he only allowed four pressures with zero knockdowns all season.
A.J. Cann, Guard, South Carolina
While Tomlinson is and looks to progress as an all-around guard, Cann has some big time work to do in pass protection. The problem he has in that area is that he will often play outside his base and ends up lunging at defenders leaving himself vulnerable to players with quick hands and good swim moves.
With the issues in pass protection limits his draft stock, his work in the run game is very good. Cann is very good at not allowing defenders to shed his blocks. He has very strong hands and wants to finish blocks until the end of the play. When he gets to the second level Cann has good agility to take on moving defenders and the power to take them out of the play. If he can fix his technique issues in pass protection the physical tools should be there that he can become an all-around guard at the next level, he is just further away from that point right now.
Signature Stat: A.J. Cann had the 35th best Pass Blocking Efficiency vs. Power 5 teams, at 96.9 with 17 total pressures.
Cameron Erving, Center, FSU
The best center in this year’s draft, Cameron Erving, is in the running to be the first interior lineman drafted for 2015. Erving was moved from left tackle to center in Week 12 when Florida State played Miami. In his first few games Erving had his struggles at center (as one would expect moving to a new position) but the improvement he made from the end of the regular season to the ACC Title game and the Rose Bowl was drastic. In the final two FSU games Erving looked like a great fit for a zone-blocking scheme where he was able to run around on blocks and seal on reach blocks very well.
Erving does have some issues in moving to center that with a full offseason to work on might become a less of an issue. When there is late pressure in the A-gap Erving is slow to recognize and adjust to it this should be something that comes with time as he adjusts to playing center. Overall, he is a leap above the other centers in this class and how quickly he has developed over a short span makes it exciting to see where his development is once preseason rolls around.
Signature Stat: In 365 snaps at tackle Erving had a 95.9 PBE, which was 149th in FBS play. At center Erving had a 190 snaps and a 97.8 PBE (73rd).
*Ali Marpet, Guard, Hobart
One of the most interesting prospects in this year’s draft is Division III’s Hobart Statesmen Ali Marpet. In a very limited look — the only tape we had to watch was the Senior Bowl, so there is a big asterisk over where he places — he showed that he could play with the top seniors in this draft. In the 53 snaps he played in that game, Marpet showed very good technique in both pass protection and as run blocker.
What stood out with him was he was that he was up against Grady Jarrett for most of the game and his 6-foot-5 frame really showed well, not allowing Jarrett to penetrate and cause issue. The only thing holding Marpet back is the competition level he played against and how long it will take for him to get up to speed in the NFL, but the way he performed at the Senior Bowl, that jump could be quicker than most people expect.
Signature Stat: Allowed zero pressures in this year’s Senior Bowl.
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