2023 NFL It begins on Monday, February 27th, with the prospects arriving in their spot groups. During the first few days, players will undergo medical exams, meet NFL teams, and take the stage to answer questions from the media. Then on Thursday, March 2, the league will kick off four days of television coverage of field practices.
This is the latest in a series of articles that will explore participants in this year’s Combine That Detroit Lions You must be watched closely during topical activities. If you missed any of our previous installments, check them out here: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends.
Next up: offensive linemen
While the Lions’ offensive line is the strength of their offense, they have a decision to make with starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (re: healthy and tidy stuff), their top backup (Evan Braun) is an unrestricted free agent and their depth in general can be upgraded. A top 100 player capable of starting at right guard can be added to this draft cycle cards, while Day 3 depth options can also be played.
What to watch
The Lions prefer their offensive linemen to be large, strong, and athletic in order to work effectively in their gap and area run blocking schemes. So during field drills, keep an eye on your leads’ balance with their mobility and bending skills at the hips and knees. Drills such as the kick slider and side shuffle will help reveal toughness, while the pull and drive drills demonstrate a player’s athletic performance. Additionally, retrograde time in all workouts is an overarching topic to watch out for.
Plug and play RG
Players in this division are instant starters but also potentially cost a potential Big-50 draft pick.
O’Cyrus Torrence, RG, Florida, 6-foot-5, 337
Torrence moved from Louisiana to Florida last season in hopes of bolstering his stock against SEC competition and it worked. He is considered one of, if not the best inside offensive lineman in this category. Huge human being, he is devastating in running game, use power to drive open fast lanes. His 2,000-plus shots at right guard would be very attractive, and if he tests mathematically well, he could crack the first round.
Steve Avila, IOL, TCU6 ft 3, 332
With 1000+ snaps at center and another 1000+ at guard, Avila is a true IOL, as he is capable of playing in all three indoor positions. A wonderfully powerful athlete, Avila is a perfect fit for the Lions’ gap/area operating system, as he is light enough on his feet to drag and move, yet strong enough to anchor pass protection and bury defenders as a run block. Avila brings some positive vibes to Jonah Jackson, but she’s 30 pounds heavier and is an instant starter that can be picked up in the second round.
RG depth with upside
It’s worth it if the team sticks to Vaiati, as she can be quick on the depths and has an upside.
Emil Ecure Jr., RJ, Alabama, 6-foot-2, 317
With nearly 2,600 snaps at right guard, Ekiyor has been a starter for three years at Alabama, with plenty of translatable experience. He’s small, which will turn some teams away, but he knows how to use that to his advantage in the leverage game. His ability is clean and lends itself to a gap-based scheme.
Anthony Bradford, RG, LSU6 ft 5 345
Bradford, a native of Muskegon, has over 1,000 college snaps to his name, with nearly 800 at right guard and the remainder at left tackle. With his massive frame, he is a road-runner in the running game, yet still has discipline when he pulls, which makes him best suited in a gap scheme such as The Lions run.
Centers that may be able to move to guard
The Lions like inside offensive linemen with starting position experience because the position requires a high level of football intelligence and they have the knack to drop left and right, which makes for a flexible position. The snag here is that teams that need a starting position may value it higher than Lions.
John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota, 6-foot-3, 306
Schmitz only played position at Minnesota, but recorded more than 2,000 catches during his career. He’s in contention to be the first place in this draft class, which will increase his appeal to teams in need, but for the Lions, his filming indicates he has the skill to play guard, too. Switching to ranger may take some time to adjust to, but his ability and anchor seem translatable.
Joe Tipman, C, Wisconsin, 6-foot-6, 315
Tippmann has over 1,400 shots at center, but at 6-foot-6, he’ll have to land in the upper echelons of athletics tests in order to stay at center. If he can’t pick up and prepare fast enough, he’ll be caught hunched over in his prime and liable to be beaten by leverage. Switching to guard solves the problem of sudden transition.
Garrett Patterson, IOL, Notre Dame6 ft 5 307
Patterson has 1,400+ snaps at center, but also 800+ at left guard, which makes him a bit more flexible compared to the rest of the prospects in this group. At the same time, the center may be his best position in the NFL, as his projected arm length could be an issue on long 3-techs. Now, his passing pro looks to be the point, but he needs to improve his strength in the running game.
Luke Wepler, C., Ohio State6ft-3, 300
Wypler has over 1,700 collegiate screenshots, all of which come center. His size (his weight and arm length) suggest he’s likely to be a potential center only on some of the team’s plate, but his above-average athleticism is worth keeping an eye on.
Olu Oluwatimi, C, Michigan, 6-foot-3, 310
Oluwatimi moved from Virginia to Michigan for his senior year Winner of the 2022 Remington Award, which was given to the most outstanding player in college football. With over 2,500 snaps at center, Oluwatimi is very experienced, and a year in Jim Harbaugh’s playing scheme prepared him for the transition to the NFL. Unfortunately, Michigan’s blueprint has also revealed a few things it needs to work on, including adding more power and gaining more confidence in space.
These are the college tackles who are likely to stay out in the NFL proper, but also have enough positional range that the Lions could consider using at guard.
Matthew Bergeron, OT/G, Syracuse, 6-foot-5, 324
With nearly 1,500 tackles and only four inside, many evaluators think Bergeron could end up at guard in the NFL because of his run-blocking skills. He can be absolutely dominant in the running game, fitting into multiple systems due to his ability to pull off and reach second level. At the same time, he has enough oomph in dealing with teams who missed out in the first round might be only too happy to beat Bergeron in the second round.
Cody Mauch, OT/G, North Dakota State, 6-foot-5, 306
Mauch has played nearly 2,500 snaps at left tackle for the Bisons, but he’s gotten some work at right tackle and guard as well. Despite being 6-foot-5, Mauch checked in Senior Paul With an arm length of just 32 1/8 inches, nearly two inches short of the league average. That alone is enough for some teams to look at him as a keeper, although the Lions are a bit more flexible. In addition to arm’s length, Mauch also displays plenty of successful traits that would work well indoors, including tenacity as a running block, movement skills, and courage.
McClendon Curtis, RG/OT, Tennessee-Chattanooga, 6-foot-6, 345
Curtis is a bit different from players in this division because he has over 1,000 takes at right guard and a less than 500 mark at left tackle, but his frame and arm length (35 inches) are significant enough that some teams will want to try him out. For the Lions, I think he would be suitable as a right-guard, but with the reduced level of competition he faces and some technical improvements to correct, he probably needs time before he’s ready to start.
Tyler Steen, OT/G, Alabama, 6-foot-5, 315
With over 3,000 tackles (2,300 on the left side), Steen has plenty of experience, especially considering he started his college career on the opposite side of the ball. Despite his experience, he still has some technical flaws in his game that need to be cleaned up. But his skill set also lends itself to multiple locations, including processing points and perhaps some inside looks.
Swing offensive tackles
These players are athletically reserved offensive tackles to play left or right, as well as inside at guard. They are also likely to be players that the Lions could find on the third day of the draft.
Blake Vreeland, LT, BYU6ft-7, 312
With approximately 2,300 shots at both tackle points, Freeland has the length, stature, and athleticism to be an NFL swing rink. A high school quarterback and tight end, as well as a basketball and track star, Freeland won the starting job early in his college career despite switching positions. As he polishes his game, his role as a professional must expand.
Ryan Hayes, LT, Michigan, 6-foot-7, 305
Hayes has over 1,800 snaps at left tackle, anchoring the blind side of Michigan Joe Moore’s winning offensive line over the past three seasons. The Traverse City native is technically sound and brings with him a mid-line into Michigan’s power play game. His athleticism makes him a flexible position – likely able to learn to play both point tackle and guard – as well as a versatile scheme.
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