Part 2, OL: Trevor Penning, 'total prick' in trenches, leads class of ass-kickers
Enjoy players who specialize in making a defensive lineman's life a living hell? This draft is for you. Scouts dish on the toughest of the tough in Part 2 of McGinn's series.
This is the 38th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL draft series. Previously, it appeared at the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-’91), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-’17), BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-’19) and The Athletic (2020-’21). Until 2014, personnel people often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts. The 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic test was not administered at the NFL scouting combine this year, possibly the first time it had been excluded. Players generally took the test at spring timing days in 2021 and at pro days in the last two months. The NFL average score is about 19.
Today: Offensive Line
With apologies to several other offensive linemen, tackle Trevor Penning and center Tyler Linderbaum brought a certain joie de vivre to their college football careers that should make them valuable NFL starters if not Pro Bowl players for years to come.
A self-styled “prick” on a football field, Penning is about as overt with his bullying style of play as the offensive line has seen in a while.
Described by one NFC personnel director as “f-----g ruthless,” Linderbaum goes for the throat on an equally consistent basis but isn’t quite as belligerent about it.
Two sons of small-town Iowa, one is from the Power 5 and the other FCS. If they both don’t go in the first round next week, their wait won’t be long in the second.
Kirk Ferentz signed Linderbaum out of Solon, Iowa, just north of Iowa City, as a defensive lineman in his 2018 class. The year before, the Hawkeyes’ all-time winningest coach never contacted Penning, who lived 175 miles to the northwest in Clear Lake but played at tiny Newman Catholic in Mason City.
After playing sparingly as a defensive tackle in 2018, Linderbaum agreed to the position switch suggested by Ferentz in ‘19. Penning, who arrived at Northern Iowa as a gangly 253-pounder, needed two years of development before his career took off.
“Kirk moved him from D-line to O-line,” an executive in personnel for an AFC team said. “Linderbaum was a Kirk special, but they completely whiffed on Penning. It’s amazing that Iowa missed on Penning and now he’s going in the top 15.”
After Ferentz, an NFL offensive coach for the Browns and Ravens from 1993-’98, took over for Hayden Fry in 1999, the Hawkeyes’ rich tradition of sending offensive linemen to the NFL continued. In the 22 drafts since Ferentz arrived Iowa has had 18 offensive linemen drafted, including five in the first round and three in the second. Guards Marshal Yanda and Brandon Scherff have made multiple Pro Bowls, and tackle Tristan Wirfs already has been to one in his two-year career. Six others have made at least 40 starts: tackles Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, guards Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery and James Daniels, and center Austin Blythe.
“Those offensive linemen from Iowa are usually pretty successful when they come into the league,” another NFL exec said.
Linderbaum, an outstanding wrestler in wrestling-mad Iowa who started all 35 games the past three years, is as technically sound as any blocker in the draft. He has been compared to Garrett Bradbury, the No. 18 selection in 2019 and the last pure center to be drafted in the first round.
“Just being an Iowa offensive lineman in general, there’s a lot of weight on your shoulders,” Linderbaum said at the combine. “I think the center is a tempo-setter. That’s something I tried to do right away. Make a Day 1 impact when I first moved into that position. I think it’s important that you’re the guy that holds guys accountable and works their butt off.”
Most of the scouting reports on Linderbaum center on his quickness, whether executing a reach block, pulling wide or combo-blocking to the second level.
“He is an athletic position-technique guy,” said one scout. “He’s not an ass-kicking dude, but he does flash it. He’ll try to bury people.”
On Oct. 9, students swarmed the field at Kinnick Stadium after the Hawkeyes beat No. 4 Penn State, 23-20. Unbeknownst to them but also in attendance was an NFL exec, and he found himself spending a lot of time watching Linderbaum in his duel against Brandon Smith, the Nittany Lions’ big, talented junior linebacker.
“This Linderbaum kid was just pushing Brandon Smith around repeatedly,” the personnel man said. “Then the Smith kid would get pissed off and Linderbaum would count 1, 2, 3 on his fingers telling him this is how many times in a row I knocked you on your ass. He’s athletic, quick, smart and extremely physical. Plays to the echo of the whistle.”
The next challenge for Linderbaum will be the one Bradbury hasn’t met in three seasons for the Vikings. Bradbury (6-3, 305) is very similar to Linderbaum (6-2, 302) in workout numbers and intangibles, but he was benched for several games last season because he couldn’t cope consistently with the good, brawny defensive tackles.
“Both of them have similar quickness and movement but I felt Bradbury played with more strength,” an AFC personnel man said in remembering Bradbury coming out of North Carolina State. “Linderbaum’s going to have to go to a (zone) scheme that fits his athleticism. If you expect Linderbaum just to line up and gap scheme and power block people, just from the overall size and length (31 1/8-inch arms), that’s going to become an issue, especially against an odd (3-4) front.”
Iowa, which has had three players picked in the first round of the last three years, takes Draft Day in stride. Not so 90 miles away in Cedar Falls, home of the UNI Panthers. The highest drafted player in their history was defensive tackle James Jones, who started 140 games in a 10-year career that began in 1991 as the No. 57 overall choice in the third round.
Penning, who became Public Enemy No. 1 if you were a defensive player at the Senior Bowl three months ago, isn’t among the 21 players set to attend the draft in Las Vegas but the celebration at UNI couldn’t be more eagerly anticipated.
“He’s all about football,” said a personnel man who has interviewed Penning. “Dedicated. Tough kid. That’s just the way he plays. He said, ‘Nobody’s gonna intimidate me.’”
Penning had his share of rough moments during Senior Bowl week. He needs work, especially if asked to move from his three-year home at left tackle to the right tackle in the pros. What stood out in Mobile was the pushing and shoving Penning initiated in the padded practices.
“The defensive line in Mobile hated this guy,” an AFC exec said. “They just wanted to fight him. This guy is as mean as the day is long. He’s got the right demeanor.”
No punches were thrown. After each late shove, Penning would look or turn the other way, putting the defensive player in danger of being penalized if he retaliated too strenuously.
“It’s not like he’s proactively saying, ‘I’m going to maul this mf every chance I get,’” said one scout. “That’s not his intent. But he finishes basically to the same point on every play. As soon as he finishes it, it’s, like, ‘Alright, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Then I’ll line up and do this again.’ No malice with it until I guess he really gets pushed to the edge.”
Penning drew 13 penalties in each of his two full seasons (2019, ’21). Most were for holding and false starts but he had his share of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, too, not unlike Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, the NFL player he most emulates.
“Just playing very nasty is just how I believe O-line is meant to be played,” Penning said at the combine. “You want that guy across from you to hate to go against you. You want to see the fear in his eyes almost. You want him to be exhausted and he wants to go home and get on that flight and get the hell out of there. It’s a huge, huge part of my game.”
A panel of 17 personnel people agreed to rank the offensive linemen regardless of position on a 1-2-3-4-5-6 basis, with a first-place vote worth 6 points, a second-place vote worth 5 and so on.
Ickey Ekwonu led the way with 90 points and nine firsts, followed by Evan Neal (80, six) and Charles Cross (61 1/2, two). Other vote-getters were Linderbaum (34), Penning (31 ½), Kenyon Green (20), Tyler Smith (19), Zion Johnson (13), Abraham Lucas (three), Cam Jurgens (two), Chris Paul (two) and Zach Tom (one).
“When it comes down to it,” an AFC exec said, “those tackles and those corners and the pass rushers are going to end up going because those are the positions that people want.”
Part 1, WR/TE: Does size matter?
RANKING THE OFFENSIVE LINE
1. ICKEY EKWONU, North Carolina State (6-4, 328, 4.99, 1): Third-year junior. “He’s a better athlete than Neal,” one scout said. “Smaller, but he does have long arms (34). He’s really athletic and twitchy. Moves easy. He can get out and run. Plays with nastiness even more so than Neal. He can get out on the second level and pancake linebackers. There are times when he’ll overset, but that’s correctable. He gives up sacks. He can be a left tackle or guard.” Made 27 starts at LT and four at LG. “I think he’s the No. 1 player in the draft,” a second scout said. “He’s not perfect but there’s still some upside. He was maybe the safest guy in the draft just because of the position flex and he’s a good kid … (Willie) Roaf probably had a little better foot agility. But this guy has some nasty to him. You can find clips where he’s got people 10, 15 yards downfield and he’s pinning them.” Compared by one scout to Rashawn Slater. “I thought his feet were good enough to catch the speed rushers off the edge,” a fourth scout said. “I don’t know if I’d call him a great one but he should be a real good player.” Scored 29 on the Wonderlic. “He’s a tad knock-kneed,” said a fifth scout. “He’s smart as shit. He understands angles. He’s never going to put himself in a bad position. And he loves to finish.” Added a sixth scout: “He’s the most physical run blocker I saw. He has some holes in him in pass protection. Really thought he played the game (hard).” From Charlotte.
2. EVAN NEAL, Alabama (6-7 ½, 345, no 40, 1): Rated the No. 1 tackle in the class of 2019. “He came to Alabama on a three-year plan,” said one scout. “He had NFL written all over him since arrival. Does he remind you of Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones? No, he’s not that caliber. But in this era of football he’s near the top of the list. He’s pretty safe. You can find clips of him getting beat from an athletic standpoint. But he’s a giant, he’s a good kid, they like him there, he works pretty hard. The floor is pretty high for him. He’ll line up and play for a long time.” Started at LG as a freshman, RT as a sophomore and LT as a junior. “I do think he can be a dominant right tackle,” said a second scout. “He’s played left tackle but I see a guy that’s going to have problems there. Negatives? Feet. I don’t see Laremy Tunsil, a guy who can block Myles Garrett one on one for a whole game. I don’t see that kind of athlete.” Arms were 34. Elected not to run a 40. Wonderlic of 16. “He just is not a quick mover and he’s not particularly strong,” a third scout said. “He gets that super Alabama bump but he’s just not an elite player. For being that big you better be kicking ass and destroying people. He doesn’t have much violence to him. He doesn’t have much competitiveness to sustain. He falls off a lot of his blocks and guys just work him over.” From Okeechobee, Fla.
3. CHARLES CROSS, Mississippi State (6-4 ½, 311, 4.96, 1): Ranked No. 5 in the 2019 tackle class, four slots below Neal. “He just has a very steady game,” said one scout. “Doesn’t have a dominant trait. Good athlete. Has length (34 ½ arms). I don’t know if he’ll ever be great but it’s hard to see him as a fail.” Backed up in three games as a freshman and took his redshirt year. Started 22 of a possible 23 games at LT in 2020-’21. “Definitely a player that’s on the rise,” said a second scout. “Little bit of a mystery because people didn’t know a lot about him coming into the year. There will be a lot of pressure on him if he goes (top 15). He’s sort of enjoyed some anonymity and has earned his way. He’s very young. He’s a good person.” Played in coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid system, meaning he was in a two-point stance and almost never run blocking. “Needs to get stronger as a run blocker,” said a second scout. “Pretty good in pass protection. He has left tackle feet, but you get a little concerned with the offensive linemen that have come out of that system. I think he’s better than (Andre) Dillard when he went in the first to Philly. He came out of Washington State.” Wonderlic of 12. “I don’t like him,” said a third scout. “He plays in that stupid run-gun bullshit offense. His hips are high. He can’t sink his hips. He has no power. He’s not ready yet. It’s not even close. I think he’s going to fail.” From Laurel, Miss.
4. TREVOR PENNING, Northern Iowa (6-7, 333, 4.92, 1): Trevor’s young brother, Jared, was the more prominent recruit so the Panthers hoped by securing him they’d get Jared a year later (which they did). “His first year was a struggle,” said one scout. “He got beat up every day at practice.” Constant weight-gain and what was described as “robot-borderline psycho” dedication to football moved him into the lineup at LT in 2019. “He has a chance to be a dominant right tackle,” a second scout said. “I don’t see a left tackle. I liked a lot of things I saw at the Senior Bowl but not the left-tackle stuff. There’s a chance for him to be a Jon Runyan right tackle.” Embraces the physical part of the game, sometimes to the detriment of the team because of his penalties. “He plays dirty, he’s a cheap-shot artist, all that,” said a third scout. “He’s a total prick. For some people, that’s a negative. For others, they like that. He didn’t really perform great at the Senior Bowl. He got his ass beat some. But it’s a big man’s game, and he’s a big man.” One of those scouts who didn’t appreciate the extracurriculars said: “He wants to get in a fight with everybody. I can show you film against those little piss-ant schools they play where he got his ass whipped. This guy’s gonna go because he’s so big and tough and all that, but I don’t like his intangibles that much. He’s going to get his ass kicked in the NFL. All those damn bottle rockets that weigh about 255 will hit him three times before he even blinks.” Arms were 34 ¼. Wonderlic of 23. “Good-looking kid at 333 and he still could fill out more if he wanted to,” said another scout. “I am not in agreement that he should go top 10. He tested well but he’s not as good an athlete as those guys (Ekwonu, Neal, Cross). He’s a better player than the kid (Spencer Brown) that came out of there last year that Buffalo took in the third round and wound up starting. I didn’t see a first-round player (in Penning).” From Clear Lake, Iowa.
5. TYLER SMITH, Tulsa (6-4 ½, 327, 5.04, 1-2): Another third-year sophomore. Started two of four games as a true freshman before redshirting. “Natural left tackle,” said one scout. ”This guy can pull and trap. Great technician. He can bend his knees and move his feet and slide. He was 21 on April 3. At the second level he was totally amazing. About as tough a guy as I saw. I don’t know how Tulsa got him. Only thing I didn’t like: he wants to hurt people. Sometimes when they do that, they get holding penalties (12 in 2021). He just smashes guys down and officials call a hold.” His high school in Fort Worth was small and fielded losing teams, reducing his exposure and college offers. “When you have the toughness he plays with and his makeup, there’s not an offensive line coach that would not want to work with him,” said a second scout. “He might have more upside than all these guys. You’re getting a really good athlete that can play guard or tackle. He’s long (34 arms). He’s a violent player. It’s hard for those guys to fail, but he has to clean up a lot of stuff from a fundamental standpoint. If you moved him to defense you’d be talking about a high-end nose tackle.” Made 21 starts at LT. Wonderlic of 30. “He’s a left tackle but I thought he was a long, long ways away,” said a third scout. “He’s just so out of control and so raw. Just sloppy. The big guy tries but the technique’s way off. He lunges, he’s top-heavy. I don’t see the top athletic ability that some others may see.”
6. BERNHARD RAIMANN, Central Michigan (6-6, 303, 5.08, 1-2): Lived in Vienna, Austria until coming to the U.S. and playing one year of high-school ball near Grand Rapids, Mich. Played tight end at CMU in 2018-’19 (20 receptions) before making the move to offense in March 2020. When the pandemic halted the program, he lost an entire off-season and summer camp of development. “Physically, he’s got everything you could desire,” one scout said. “From where he came from to where he is in a short amount of time, it’s impressive. He’s built the right way, both physically and mentally. I never would have thought he was going to be a first-round player coming into the year but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where he ends up going. His ceiling’s a lot higher than anybody (on the offensive line) you’d get later than him. If you’re betting on your offensive line coach to develop him, then that’s the guy you’re going to bet on.” Started all 18 games at LT in 2020-’21 before opting out of a bowl game. Didn’t help himself at the Senior Bowl. “He was just awful,” another scout said of his week in Mobile. “He’s a tight end who grew into a 300-pound body. He has some measurables but his arm length (32 7/8) is not great. He’s learned to play offensive line but he doesn’t have any instincts for angles. He’s low and late with his hands. Can you teach all that? I don’t know. Maybe they can. He’s a get-in-the-way, body-position blocker. I hope he goes in the first.” Led tackles on the bench press (30), in the broad jump (9-9) and the Wonderlic (35). “Had a good anchor,” a third scout said. “He can absorb some power rushers. He’s just kind of working to put his feet and hands together. He’s a solid guy for 10 years. Who gives a shit if he’s 25 (he will be Sept. 23)?”
7. NICHOLAS PETIT-FRERE, Ohio State (6-5, 316, 5.18, 2): The No. 1-rated tackle in the class of 2018. “He’s going in the top 100,” said one scout. “All people keep thinking about is the Michigan game. He had NFL rushers playing against him and he got wore the f--- out. You’ve got to watch him play right tackle in ’20 and then you go, ‘F---, he’s pretty good.’” Had some terrible games down the stretch at LT after playing RT the year before. “He left kind of a bad taste in people’s mouths because he got his dick handed to him against Michigan in the last game of his career,” another scout said. “Probably the worst game he ever played. He could play left tackle but I don’t think he’s the answer there if you’re searching for one. He can be a really good right tackle. He’ll be gone before the second round is over.” Fourth-year junior with 33 5/8 arms and a Wonderlic of 15. “He’s athletic and mobile,” a third scout said. “He is talented. Just not a real tough guy. More of a pusher than a striker.” From Tampa.
8. RASHEED WALKER, Penn State (6-5 ½, 324, no 40, 2-3): Fourth-year junior, three-year starter at LT. “He’s hit or miss,” one scout said. “There are really good plays and really bad plays. He’s a tackle so he’ll get a chance. Very inconsistent. Lesser version of Cross and Smith. Fourth round, which is where you have guys with traits and flashes but aren’t complete. There’s starter potential.” Big hands (10 5/8) but average arm length (33 5/8). Wonderlic of 11. “He’s got physical talent,” a second scout said. “There’s just a little concern about who the guy is, the mental, his football character stuff and if he’s long enough to be outside. Tape is good, but through the process more questions have come.” Had a knee procedure and didn’t work out all spring. “He is an eternal f-----,” a third scout said. “He’s got no confidence and he’s got no heart. Lazy. But he is supremely gifted and you take him in the third.” From Waldorf, Md.
9. DAVID FAALELE, Minnesota (6-8, 390, 5.60, 3-4): Largest man in the draft. “I compare him to Langston Walker,” one scout said. “Played with the Raiders a little bit. There are guys like this that have started. The talent level says he will. It will take some time. A lot of people see him as a project, but he is talented and he is massive. It’s up to him how good he wants to be.” Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. Moved to Florida in 2016, played as a prep in ’17 and started eight games at RT for the Golden Gophers in ’18. “He can be out of position and still keep a clean pocket just because he’s so big,” said a second scout. “Whether he uses his length (35 1/8 arms) or guys just have to go around him. They rarely go through him. His feet are average for his size.” Started 31 games, all at RT. Was well over 400 pounds at times during his career. Has been removed from one team’s board because of off-field considerations. “He’s lazy and not very smart (Wonderlic of 11),” said a third scout. “Not a bad athlete for such a freakishly huge man but there’s a lot of bust potential.” Added a fourth scout: “I don’t see the passion and grit that I like to see out of an offensive lineman. He’s got to fit the perfect system.” Said a fifth scout: “Can you imagine what Myles Garrett would do to that guy? The giant is gonna get beat.”
10. ABRAHAM LUCAS, Washington State (6-6 ½, 316, 4.96, 4): Four-year starter at RT in a throwing offense. “He’s big and really a nice athlete,” one scout said. “Had a good game against (Kayvon) Thibodeaux. He’s really impressive.” Posted 30 on the Wonderlic. Arms were 33 7/8. Ran and worked out well. “He’s big and strong, athletic enough to play outside,” a second scout said. “He was one of those guys in the mid-rounds that I had potential to be a really good player.” From Everett, Wash. “Washington State O-linemen are scary,” said a third scout. “The (Andre) Dillard guy that the Eagles took a couple years ago was bad. This guy plays weak. He just gets knocked around. Just a backup.”
OTHERS: Braxton Jones, Southern Utah; Kellen Diesch, Arizona State; Max Mitchell, Louisiana; Matt Waletzko, North Dakota; Obinna Eze, Texas Christian; Vederian Lowe, Illinois; Zach Thomas, San Diego State; Dare Rosenthal, Kentucky; Luke Tenuta, Virginia Tech; Austin Deculus, Louisiana State; Ryan Van De Mark, Connecticut; Myron Cunningham, Arkansas.
1. KENYON GREEN, Texas A&M (6-4, 325, 5.28, 1-2): Third-year junior. “He’s going to be a good, steady pro,” said one scout. “Don’t ever know if he’ll be a Pro Bowler or All-Pro. He’s big, long, tough, smart. He’s got the makeup you look for in an offensive lineman.” Started at RG as a freshman and at LG in ’20. Last season, he made seven starts at LG, two at RG, two at RT and one at LT. “Pretty impressive,” another scout said. “Everything but center. I would try him at left tackle. He doesn’t have a typical left tackle look to his body. Arms were 34 1/8. Nimble, quick. He’s got strike and jolt. They pull him a ton and he’s really good at it. In pass pro he’s got nifty feet and hand-punch coordination. He’s got some technique issues but he’s real talented.” His versatility and body build brought to mind Larry Allen for one scout. “Unbelievable kid,” a third scout said. “Damn good run blocker and a pretty good pass blocker. He’ll be a rookie starter. Physical.” From Humble, Texas. “He pushes people around in the run game,” said a fourth scout. “He’s a better athlete than you want to give him credit for because he’s one of those grimy, gritty guys. At first, you’re thinking, ‘All right, is this just a strong, tough guy?’ But he played left tackle in the SEC and did pretty well. Dan Moore started for the Steelers as a rookie from out of there and (Green) is better than him.”
2. ZION JOHNSON, Boston College (6-2 ½, 314, 5.24, 1-2): His primary sport in high school was golf. Played just one prep year of football before showing up at Davidson weighing 225 and beginning his football career in earnest. Transferred to BC after the TE coach at Davidson joined the Eagles’ staff. “Takes perfect angles, coach’s dream,” said one scout. “Big enough, powerful enough, arm length enough (34) to play guard or center. Just watch the Senior Bowl. At the end of the day, he’s the best center in the draft. He only played center at the Senior Bowl. He’s quick, agile, strong.” Started 19 games at three positions for FCS Davidson before starting 18 games at LG and 12 at LT for BC. Two-year team captain for the Eagles, but another scout wasn’t impressed. “He’s OK,” he said. “BC, they don’t have great athletes.” Another scout described him as “just physically dominating” at guard. Said a fourth scout: “Doesn’t have much surge or jolt. Gets stood up, falls off blocks. He competes and you can see he knows how to play, but I thought he was just a typical, box-area player.” His Wonderlic of 32 was the second-best among the top 10 guards. His 32 reps on the bench press and 9-4 broad jump led the guards. Added a fifth scout: “He played against (Bryan) Bresee of Clemson, who probably will be a first-round pick next year, and he anchored him. I just really liked his toughness. He’s so square, I thought about him as a center.” From Bowie, Md.
3. LUKE GOEDEKE, Central Michigan (6-5, 311, no 40, 2): Shades of Saints RT Ryan Ramczyk, who also began his career at Wisconsin-Stevens Point before transferring to Division I (Wisconsin) and becoming a first-round pick. Goedeke walked on at Division III UWSP as a TE, started the last four games (12 receptions) and departed for CMU. Redshirted in 2018 as he began making the shift to offensive line. “He came out of nowhere,” one scout said. “He benefited by Bernhard Raimann becoming a prospect because that kind of made him a prospect. People were going in there.” Started 24 games at RT in 2019 and ’21, missing all of ’20 due to a meniscus tear. “He’s more of a prototypical body than Raimann and he’s a little younger (will be 24 in November),” said another scout. “He and Raimann might end up in the same (draft) range.” Arms were just 32 ¼, the shortest of the top 15 guards. “He’s a really good guard who could also be a really good center,” a third scout said. “He’s brilliant smart (Wonderlic of 31). He has excellent leadership. He’s strong (27 on the bench), flexible, mean, an awesome kid … Goes to Central Michigan and the guy was a total difference-maker. He helped make the other guy (Raimann) a better player.” Unable to work this spring because of the hamstring injury that he suffered in the first practice at the Senior Bowl. “He put on all that weight to play (tackle),” said a fourth scout. “He came in at 255. That shit (hamstring) may never go away. If your body’s not meant to be that big and you’re just trying to be that big … It (injuries) started at the Western Michigan game (Nov. 3), and he had the knee last year.” From Valders, Wis. Added a fifth scout: “If I had to take somebody right now and say go play, I would go with Goedeke (over Raimann).”
4. SEAN RHYAN, UCLA (6-4 ½, 323, 5.23, 2-3): Started all three years at LT before declaring a year early. “Doesn’t have great arm length (32 3/8),” one scout said. “He’s not a top-flight, athlete-movement guy but he’s always on his feet. He plays big. He can drive guys off the ball. In pass pro, he’s just so big that it’s hard to get around him. He’s a starting right tackle, and a good one. I could see why people would want to move him to guard right away but I would try him at tackle first.” Led the guards in the vertical jump (34 ½). Wonderlic of 29. “Looks like it comes really easy to him,” a second scout said. “He’s thick, but super light on his feet. He’s got good quickness. I’d call him more finesse than power. He’s not lacking in toughness but he’s just not nasty and isn’t a guy that wins with power. He wins with athleticism and technique. There’s no way he makes it out of the second round.” From Ladera Beach, Calif.
5. DARIAN KINNARD, Kentucky (6-5 ½, 328, 5.32, 3): Longest arms (35) and largest hands (11 1/4) at the position. “He’s got starter ability,” said one scout. “He can be a good starting right tackle. He’s been overweight most of his career. Kind of been an underachiever. Things have always come easy for him. I don’t 100% trust the kid, but he’s a giant man. He did pretty good at the Senior Bowl. He’s a right tackle or a guard.” Started two games at LT late in his freshman year before making 37 starts at RT from 2019-’21. “He can do everything you want when he wants to do it,” said another scout. “He tends to play up or down to his competition too much. He’s a physically gifted player. He’s too good to just throw away. Someone will take him early-to-mid second.” From Knoxville, Tenn. “He reminds me of a bigger Will Hernandez, the guy the Giants took a couple years ago,” a third scout said. “The kind of guy that just tries to get by on just mauling people. That doesn’t work in the NFL anymore. Because he’s so big somebody will try him at tackle. If you’re that big, you can survive out there somewhat.”
6. JAMAREE SALYER, Georgia (6-3, 318, no 40, 3-4): Started at LT for the national champions in ’21. “Good to very good initial pass-set quickness,” one scout said. “Clean feet to slide. Flattens to punch edge rushers off course. Can get in trouble against the rush when his chest is exposed and his hand placement is way low and wide. Good combo run blocker. Flashes the ability to move the line of scrimmage. Has a tendency to lunge and waist bend into a run block. You’d like to see more nasty finish. Body type is more that of a guard but he has the pass pro for tackle. Can develop into a starting tackle or guard. But (Justin) Shaffer is the better player.” Shaffer started at LG next to Salyer the past two years. “I have him as a guard,” another scout said. “He’s gotta be a guard to have any chance. Tries his ass off. Just very limited.” Made 23 starts in all, including 20 at LT, two at RT and one at LG. Arms were 33 5/8. “I don’t like the guy,” said a third scout. “I tried on him. He lacked quickness.” Wonderlic of 25. From Atlanta.
7. ED INGRAM, Louisiana State (6-3, 312, 5.07, 3-4): Reinstated to the program in 2019 after being suspended for 2018 over allegations of aggravated sexual assault. When the alleged victims failed to show in court, the case was dismissed. “Despite the major issue this was one of the staff’s favorite players,” said one scout. “They loved the way he handled adversity.” After starting at RG as a true freshman in 2017, he returned to start 23 of 33 games at LG from 2019-’21. “Nasty player who is looking to kill the guy in front of him,” the scout said. “Best on a straight path. Struggles some to adjust. When he connects, he delivers a punishing blow.” Posted the fastest 40 of the top 20 guards. “He’s a big guy who gets in the way,” said another scout. “Played at a high level. He’s going to need a little technical work but he’s got enough skill set and athleticism.” From DeSoto, Texas.
8. LOGAN BRUSS, Wisconsin (6-5, 308, 5.33, 4): Posted one of the highest scores on the Wonderlic (41) in the entire draft class. Also led guards in the broad jump (9-4). “He’s a sleeper and one of my favorite guys,” one scout said. “He’s not much worse than the top group of guards.” Fifth-year senior with 26 starts at RT, six at RG and three as a blocking TE. “Average athlete and strength,” said another scout. “Didn’t run well. I don’t know if he’d ever be a solid starter. He may start just because he’s a typical Wisconsin lineman.” Arms were marginal at 33 1/8. “Played stronger at guard than right tackle in the running game,” said a third scout. “He was a little bit disappointing on this year’s film. Better at guard because there’s less space and where he can get his hands on defenders and control them better. He probably goes fourth or fifth round and makes it as a backup and potentially starts. I might even try working him at center and see if he can do it.” From Kimberly, Wis.
9. MARQUIS HAYES, Oklahoma (6-5, 320, 5.31, 4): Redshirted in 2017, hardly played in ’18 and started 37 games at LG the past three seasons. “Very strong, powerful kid,” one scout said. “Good finish, good hands. Good control in pass protection. I think because he’s so smart he’s probably third or fourth round.” Possesses an odd combination of long arms (34 7/8) and tiny hands (8 7/8). “He’s a big gap-scheme guy,” a second scout said. “He’s like the old Pittsburgh Steeler-Baltimore Raven type (guard). Short-area guy. He’s good in pass pro. He’s just got to win early. If a guy gets him in space, he struggles a little bit.” From St. Louis. “If he gets in a power scheme, he’s got a chance to be a starter,” another scout said. “He’s a below-average athlete. He was better as a junior than as a senior.”
10. JOSH EZEUDU, North Carolina (6-4, 313, 5.19, 4): Fourth-year junior. “During the course of the game he plays both left tackle and left guard,” one scout said. “Good long pull ability. Strong lower body. He pass-blocked well at left tackle. He could actually play left tackle. Only negative was his low hand carriage.” After a redshirt season, he made 20 starts at LG, six at LT and two at RT. “He’s pretty good,” said a second scout. “He’s a better athlete than you realize. He can move guys. A guard.” From Lawrenceville, Ga.
OTHERS: Justin Shaffer, Georgia; Spencer Burford, Texas-San Antonio; Chris Paul, Tulsa; Thayer Munford, Ohio State; Cade Mays, Tennessee; Lecitus Smith, Virginia Tech; Ja’Tyre Carter, Southern; Cordell Volson, North Dakota State; Chasen Hines, Louisiana State; Andrew Stueber, Michigan; Nick Zakelj, Fordham; Tyreese Robinson, Oklahoma.
1. TYLER LINDERBAUM, Iowa (6-2, 303, 5.04, 1-2): Compared by scouts to undersized centers like Jason Kelce (6-2 ½, 280, 4.91) and Ryan Kalil (6-2 ½, 297, 4.96). “He’ll start for 10 years,” one scout said. “He’s going to be a top-5 center within a few years. People talk about Linderbaum’s arm length (31 1/8) but he’s got such good foot agility and body balance. He just knows how to cover people up. When Linderbaum walked into our (interview) room you thought he was our offensive line coach.” Started 35 games over the past three years. “He’s athletic enough to pull and reach,” a second scout said. “He repositions himself well to shield away the defender more than moving them on his own. He’s got that wrestling background. He plays with good leverage and can get under guys.” Fourth-year junior scored 21 on the Wonderlic. “He’s a little light in the ass and he’s maxed out,” said a third scout. “Really a good athlete, really smart, really competes. That’s the good news. The problem is when they put a nose on him and bull-rush him. He got pushed around a little bit. I wouldn’t call it an ass-kicking or anything. I’ll tell you what, I think he’s going to have problems at our level because of the size.” One scout said he never saw Linderbaum have a bad snap. “It took a while for him to grow on me,” said a fourth scout. “He just kind of gets it done, man. I just like what’s in his heart.” From Solon, Iowa.
2. CAM JURGENS, Nebraska (6-3, 304, 4.94, 1-2): A high-school TE and LB, he moved to center in the spring entering his second season and went on to start three seasons. “The best zone-blocking center in this draft,” said one scout. “He’s got almost elite range as a second-level, get-out-in-the-open blocker. One of the questions was could he get above 300 pounds. He did. He’s never going to be a powerful guy but he won’t have to be. He’ll be a starter early, maybe as a rookie. In the old Shanahan blocking scheme he’ll be a good starter. He’s bigger and a better athlete (than Linderbaum).” Arms were 33 3/8, the longest of the top eight centers. His vertical jump (33 ½) led the centers. “He just isn’t real strong,” another scout said. “You watch him against Minnesota and they have a 0-technique and you didn’t like him at all. The guy just kind of pushed him around. You watch him against Ohio State and the guy was good. He is smart (Wonderlic of 28) and he is tough. Zone type. Best for even fronts. I like the guy, but I just don’t think he’s the full package.” Has a long history of major injury. “He’s a good player, but Jurgens does not haven the mental capacity of Linderbaum,” a third scout said. “He’s a work in progress. He had a hell of a workout.” From Beatrice, Neb.
3. COLE STRANGE, Chattanooga (6-5, 305, 5.08, 2-3): Spent six seasons at the FCS level. “I like him as a guard,” said one scout. “I like him in a West Coast system to run off the ball in a wide zone. He can do that. He’s got a real upside. He fit right in that category with (Hobart’s) Ali Marpet and some of these small-school guys nobody ever heard of … the kid (Quinn) Meinerz (Wisconsin-Whitewater) last year. He went in the third and ended up being a starter (for Denver). He was a guard in college but took reps at center in the Senior Bowl.” Strange played mostly center in Mobile after starting 42 games at LG, one at center and one at LT. “Mountain man, has a big beard,” a second scout said. “Very smart (Wonderlic of 28). Lots of fights he’s had on the field. His team and the other team. He’s a tough SOB. Won’t take any shit. Like this kid. Good chance he can play center.” Led the centers on the bench press (31) and broad jump (10-0). “He’s a figment of someone’s imagination,” a third scout said. “He’s narrow built and plays that way. You can see the strength when he’s playing I-AA but when he plays bigger comp he gets pushed around. He’s stiff in space. I don’t see the athlete I want for center. He’s like a tweener that’s not great at either (position). Plays his nuts off. He’s mean. He’s a good free agent but I see very limited upside.” From Knoxville, Tenn.
4. DYLAN PARHAM, Memphis (6-2 ½, 313, 4.97, 3): Redshirted as a TE-DE in 2017, he was switched to offense in ’18 and ended up starting. “He’s a guard,” one scout said. “He’ll be on a team. His measurables will give him plenty of chances. Is he a long-term answer? I can’t swear to that.” Projected to center by several teams after seeing him there all week at the Senior Bowl. “He can play center, yeah,” another scout said. “He was a tight end, a defensive end and for four years he started at guard.” Actually, he started at guard for three years and at RT in 2020. From Carrollton, Ga.
5. ZACH TOM, Wake Forest (6-4, 307, 4.95, 3-4): Logged two seasons at center, including 2019 as the starter, before moving to LT and making 23 starts in 2020-’21. “He is a spectacular athlete,” said one scout. “Excellent pass blocker and a good run blocker. He’s probably the best pure athlete of all the offensive linemen I saw this year. He could play left tackle. Only thing stopping him is arm length (33 ¼). This guy can play tackle, guard or center.” His hands (10 3/8) were the largest among centers. Wonderlic of 31. “Center is the first thing I thought of,” a second scout said. “Here’s an undersized guy playing left tackle. He’s super athletic. His intangibles aren’t great for center. Not a great worker.” His brother, Cameron, played center at Southern Mississippi and has banged around the periphery of the NFL for five years. From Prairieville, La.
OTHERS: Luke Fortner, Kentucky; Dohnovan West, Arizona State; Alec Lindstrom, Boston College; Ben Brown, Mississippi; Dawson Deaton, Texas Tech; Doug Kramer, Illinois; Liam Shanahan, Louisiana State.
Ja’Tyre Carter, G, Southern: A basketball player by choice, he didn’t even try football until his junior year of high school in White Castle, La., south of Baton Rouge. Moved from TE to LT upon arrival, he started for four years before having an impressive week at guard in the Senior Bowl. On the first rep in Mobile, he was run over by Oklahoma DT Perrion Winfrey. Thereafter, he performed like a Power 5 player. Could he have started on LSU’s weak O-line last year? Probably.
Justin Shaffer, G, Georgia: One scout insisted Shaffer (6-4, 319) had strong second-round value based purely on playing ability. The Bulldogs’ left guard for the last three years, when healthy, he has a wide body, athletic twitch, high energy and a nasty demeanor. The scout rated Shaffer over former linemates Solomon Kindley and Ben Cleveland, both of whom are in the NFL. But Shaffer, who scored poorly on the Wonderlic test, also has weight issues and other off-field concerns that cloud his draft viability.
SCOUT TO REMEMBER
Dom Anile: Bill Polian and Anile were joined at the hip over a period of almost 15 years with the Panthers and Colts. Polian ran both teams as general manager but relied heavily on Anile, his dear friend, for his expertise in college scouting. After a 24-year career as a college coach, Anile got his NFL start as an area scout with the Browns and Ernie Accorsi. He stayed in Cleveland for 12 years before joining Polian in Carolina from 1995-’97 and then Indianapolis from 1998-’09. Anile’s position as senior scouting consultant was eliminated after the ’09 draft. He died in Henderson, Nev., in 2018. He was 80.
QUOTE TO NOTE
NFL personnel man: “There aren’t a ton of centers so people will take them higher than they should. I look for an undersized tackle that’s athletic enough for center. Andy Reid always says bring me tackles and I can get them playing inside. For center, you need intelligence, leadership, confidence, flexibility and athleticism.”
When in doubt, draft the O- lineman with the higher Wonderlic.
"...he got his dick handed to him against Michigan in the last game of his career."
Yet another of the pearls of wisdom from scouts that make these such a hoot.