Fringe Day 2 Picks
Anthony Steen, Alabama (6’3″, 314 lbs)
Steen made significant strides in 2013, taking on a bigger role in the Alabama offensive line and proving himself as a difference-maker as a starter. He has solid quickness, which allows him to seal off defenders and then using his natural strength to control them. He is a bit shorter than ideal for a guard, but he moves well, is able to move well laterally and can pull block effectively to the second level.
A smart tactician, Steen takes good angles to get in position and is a strong finisher. He has good initial strength, but lacks a mean streak. He is far too content to turn away from blocks without driving defenders completely out of plays. Although he is not elite in any particular category, his overall package should attract teams.
Brandon Thomas, Clemson (6’3″, 317 lbs)
Arguably the top offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, Thomas performed well at offensive tackle despite a frame that suggests he should move inside in the NFL. A physically strong player with athleticism well above average for the guard position, Thomas also used the Senior Bowl to prove he has the intelligence and technique to never be taken out of a play.
Greg Bedard of The MMQB said he “fell in love” with Thomas when he handled South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney—largely considered the top defensive prospect in this year’s draft—and that Thomas continued to impress him in Mobile.
“His smart, savvy and tough play reminds me a bit of future Hall of Fame guard Brian Waters,” Bedard wrote. “Thomas just knows how to play.”
In a piece for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net echoed Bedard’s sentiment, writing that Thomas “displayed tremendous pass-protecting skills and had no problem shutting down rushers, both those who tried to overpower him on the inside and those who attempted to beat Thomas with speed around the corner.”
“He’s a strong blocker with long arms, which he effectively used to knock defenders from the play,” Pauline wrote from the Senior Bowl.
With high versatility and success, Thomas would be a great value pick in the second round.
Day Three Picks
Spencer Long, Nebraska (6’5″, 320 lbs)
Despite battling injuries most of his senior season, Spencer Long has some legitimate value as a guard prospect. He is a big guy who possesses above average power while also being able to move pretty well for a guy his size. He can pull block on run plays in both directions, and moves well at the second level. He’s not the type of blocker to run somebody into the ground, but he has strong enough hands and technique to keep guys in front of him, or seal them off, once he locks on.
Long doesn’t make many mistakes. He is never going to be one of the stars of an offensive line, and doesn’t have the athletic upside of some of the other names on this list, but he is a serviceable guard who could turn into a solid, technically sound starter as a Day 3 draft pick.
Dakota Dozier, Furman (6’4″, 313 lbs)
Almost the exact opposite of Long, Dozier is an upside prospect from a small school who could boom or bust in the NFL. A collegiate left tackle at Furman, Dozier moved to guard at the Shrine Game and handled himself well, according to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.
“He has quick feet, excellent balance and strong hands,” Jeremiah wrote. “In the run game, he was able to generate movement at the point of attack. In the passing game he was an easy mover and didn’t have much trouble anchoring down against power rushers or redirecting versus quicker opponents. I wouldn’t be surprised if he landed somewhere in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft.”
Dozier’s time at offensive tackle has clearly helped him develop excellent footwork skills, and he plays with good pad level. Being quick for his size, Dozier has the speed necessary to pull to the outside and get to the second level. He also does a solid job in pass protection, setting the edge and maintaining solid technique against a variety of rushes.
Although he showed himself well at the Shrine Game, Dozier hasn’t faced the consistent quality of competition he will see at the next level. A former wrestler, however, Dozier has the intensity and mean streak coveted in offensive linemen prospects and could be worth an early Day 3 gamble.
Joel Bitonio, Nevada (6’4″, 302 lbs)
Bitonio is another smaller-school player with good strength and power. His mean streak is immediately evident in his play; he looks to beat up his opponent whenever possible. He can often be seen looking onto a defender and driving them down the field or into the ground, causing a number of pancake blocks. He combines this power with impressive footwork and good balance, which allows him to get the most out of his body and skill set.
Bitonio is good athletically and has shown the ability to slide well with short, quick steps while staying light on his feet. This enables him to get to the second level with ease, though he does have some issues making blocks in space. He looks as though he can add more size to his frame, and his technique is good enough for him to keep improving.
Michael Schofield, Michigan (6’6″, 301 lbs)
An underwhelming player from a big school, Schofield might have been miscast as Michigan’s right tackle for the last two seasons. He is an extremely athletic player who might be a bit too lean for guard, but he has good feet and can move well, both laterally and moving forward.
Schofield shows impressive agility and quick feet, allowing him to pull and get to the second level with ease. He does a good job getting below opponents’ pads for a guy his height, but he can simply get out-muscled when he blocks too high. The lack of power might mean that he won’t be effective in a power scheme, but if he can add more muscle onto his frame, he should be able to contribute more in a season or two down the line.
Schofield has solid technique and field awareness and is a talented run blocker, so if he can add power to those skills, he might develop into a starting-caliber guard. He is a likely late-round pick.
With weaknesses at left guard and right tackle, the Bills should be looking to add at least two offensive linemen this offseason. They could address at least one of those needs in free agency, but would be smart to try to add one of the draft’s top guard on Day 2, then use a third-day pick on a versatile lineman like Dozier or Schofield who could be a backup at both guard and tackle.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Alabama, Anthony Steen, Arkansas, Baylor, Brandon Thomas, Clemson, Cyril Richardson, Dakota Dozier, David Yankey, Draft Needs, Furman, Gabe Jackson, Guards, Joel Bitonio, Michael Schofield, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Nevada, Notre Dame, Spencer Long, Stanford, Travis Swanson, UCLA, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Zack Martin