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NFL Draft O-line watch: early Dec. edition

I posted a mid-September edition here that ranked the best offensive linemen at T, G, and C. This time out, I'm just going to list my top 10 linemen, regardless of where they play on the line. With Orlando Pace aging (quickly), the Rams will need a legitimate left tackle soon, if not next year. Finding a quality OT who can play on the left side can be tough, but this year's draft offers serious contenders. At center and guard, we've seen the damage mediocrity can do. So, a list of ten players who would make a difference for the Rams in '09 after the fold.

1.) Andre Smith, OT, Alabama (Jr.): In Todd McShay's most recent mock draft for ESPN here, he has the Cincinatti Bengals picking first and grabbing Smith. Initially ranked by most pundits behind Ole Miss' Michael Oher, Smith has matured this season and showed that maturity on the field. His blocking has been a significant factor in Alabama's unbeaten streak this year (ignore if reading after the SEC Championship.). Strength, agility, acceleration, size, poise: he has it all. Smith has the potential to be an immediate contributor to any NFL team.

2.) Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss (Sr.): In that same mock draft, McShay has Oher going to...the Rams. Oher is a huge specimen at 6'6" and just 325 lbs. He certainly could gain size before seeing his first action in an NFL game. If you don't know his personal story, you will. Chris Berman will discuss it ad nauseum during the first day of the '09 Draft, so feel free to wait and listen. Oher showed the same maturity Smith has, but Smith displays more agility and athleticism. He could still be a force in the NFL from day 1.

3.) Alex Mack, C, Cal (Sr.): I'm stretching a bit here, but more for a positional reason than in terms of talent. It's hard to justify taking Mack over some of the tackes that will follow on this list; let me try. A quality center can solidify an offensive line. If you've seen the issues the Rams have had at the position, you know. If you watched the Jaguars this week, you know even more. Mack has more than poise and experience. He has athleticism, the rarest of traits in centers. He has the strength to push around nose tackles. He has the footwork to deal with slippery DTs. He even has the quickness to get in front of the HB and drop a lead block for a big gain. Is he more valuable to most teams than the #3 or 4 OTs who follow him here? Probably not. Is he as good at his position than they are? No. He's better.

4.) Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia (Sr.): On Mel Kiper, Jr.'s most recent big board, here, Monroe sits at 7th. I like his skills, I just worry about his size. Monroe is just a shade over 300, which is miniscule for NFL tackles. Can he bulk up signiificantly? Sure. Anyone can eat Tostinos pizza rolls. Can he adjust to the extra weight by conforming his strength, speed, and agility to the bulk? I'm skeptical. Nevertheless, he has shown great skill on the outside this season and has pretty much cemented his status as the third best tackle in next year's draft.

5.) Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma (Sr.): Another stretch from 3k, but for the same reason as Mack: he's so good at his position, it warrant his slot here. Would you rather have a #4 OT or the #1 G? It depends on your depth chart. Since I'm a Rams fan... can I have both? Oklahoma's OT Phil Loadholt was ranked highly early in the season, but as teams moved inside, Robinson responded by clearing out the middle time and time again. Anyone who saw Oklahoma play Oklahoma State saw Robinson control the bedlam of Bedlam. Loadholt is huge, towering over people at 6'8". Consider that this would create serious problems for the majority of quarterbacks since it makes it incredibly difficult to see over his giant ass. Robinson is 3 inches shorter, but packs the same poundage. He lacks great speed, but his strength can match up with any DT in the NFL.

6.) Eben Britton, OT, Arizona (Jr.): By far, the player I know the least about out of these ten. Why? He's the person I heard the least about and haven't seen. But no O-lineman has gotten more hype over the last three weeks than Britton. I can't say much else here without making it up except to say, I'm intrigued.

7.) Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma St. (Sr.): Okung might be lightest tackle taken on day 1 next summer. He's right around 300 even though he's 6'5". He's been a huge reason why the Cowboys had such a strong year. In this year's Bedlam matchup, one of the things I was looking at was linemen, and Robinson (#5 above) and Okung stood out. Definitely someone to keep an eye on at the combine. Maybe this is the future prototype for tackles. Instead of the kind of line the Dallas Cowboys have put together of massive, powerful tackles, maybe a lighter more agile tackle could do better against the speed DE's of the NFL.

8.) Jason Smiith, OT, Baylor (Sr.): Like Britton, his stock has risen significantly since mid-October. Also, like, Britton, I haven't seen him play. Unlike Britton, he's had hype behind him since last year. He's shaped more like Okung, but I'll reserve any comment until I see him.

9.) Ciron Black, OT, LSU (Jr.): I'm still hesitant that Black will even enter the draft. He has more to gain than Britton or Smith by staying through his senior year and if LSU closes the deal on Russell Shepard, he might get a shot at a national championship if they can get through the SEC. I've watched 4 LSU games and he's solid, but there are better tackles out there and, for no practical reason, I have a feeling he's one of those guys who will get hurt by the combine and fall to the middle of the 2nd day.

10.) Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas (Sr.): The fastest (and the last-est) of this top ten. Not quite as polished as Mack, but good size, great agility, and solid poise should make him a valuable addition to any team. The combine will be huge for him.

That's all for now. Those of you who only follow the NFL might want to watch some college ball on Saturday. It's as good of a day as you could find. A TON of talent that will hear their names called during the Draft.