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Cowboys Draft: Interior Offensive Lineman Prospects & Strategies

Cowboys Headlines - Draft Prospects and Strategies for Interior Offensive Linemen

NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: Interior Offensive Lineman Prospects & Strategies

In previous articles we looked at the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and tackles. This article will discuss the prospects at guard and center.

With Mackenzy Bernadeau gone and Ronald Leary leaving after next year, the Cowboys are starting to get thin at the guard position. The Cowboys will need to add a guard in this draft and probably in an earlier round than most people expect.

Some of you may be thinking that Chaz Green could back up the guard and tackle slot since he has played both positions. While that is true, remember that Doug Free will be gone in two years as well. So the Cowboys need to draft either a guard or a tackle in this year’s draft and, most likely, they will be drafting another one next year too.

The Cowboys also need a backup center. As the team stands now, the likely scenario is that Zack Martin would be the backup but do you really want to move an all-pro to a new position?

So the Cowboys have a need for backup guard and center. They will most likely draft a player who can perform at both positions. They need someone with starting potential that would benefit from a year or two of growth and practice. However, the player needs to have enough talent that if they have to start at center during the year, they could at least hold their own.

Before we look at the various prospects available in the draft that meet these needs, let’s look at some of the attributes that are important when analyzing the guard position. Typically I look at:

  1. Balance – Do they move with balance? Do they keep their feet under them at all times
  2. Leverage – Do they get under the pads of the DTs and can they move there man backwards
  3. Power – Do they have brute strength, do they have functional strength
  4. Size – the bigger the better
  5. Athleticism – Can they pull, get to the second level, can they handle seed rushers
  6. Technique – Are they polished and understand how to win on technique
  7. Hands – Do they hurt you when they hit you
  8. Meanness – I like mean interior linemen
  9. Intelligence – Do they understand their assignments
  10. Character/Work Ethic – Are they the right kind of guy

Now let’s take a look at some of the prospects that will be available to the Cowboys.

Ryan Kelly

Strengths

  • Just looks the part. He is a big with a strong frame
  • Surprisingly quick for his size
  • Always going forward; rarely do you see him pushed back
  • Quick to get to the second level, can adjust and redirect
  • Can pull effectively
  • Sound technique
  • Physical at point of attack
  • Can pull, will pancake a corner or linebacker
  • Plays with leverage. Good pad level
  • Can twist body to throw defender
  • Smart and well coached
  • Can drop hips and sit down on a bull rush

Weaknesses

  • Does not always sustain his blocks
  • Would like to see him finish more

Summary

    • Should start day one. Best center I have seen in a while
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at center and guard. They will probably not draft him in the first or second and I doubt he will still be around in the third.
    • I have him as a top 30 player

Joshua Garnett

Strengths

  • Big, physical tough inside blocker
  • Long arms, able to keep defensive linemen away from his body
  • Has nastiness to game
  • Can pull; will pancake a corner or linebacker
  • Low center of gravity, good knee bend, plays with leverage
  • Will drive DTs out of the hole
  • Aware, he will come around and cut on a blitz or stunt
  • Understands how to run block. Good techniques
  • Can get to second level and effective when he gets there
  • Can drop hips and sit down on a bull rush

Weaknesses

  • Is a little slow at times
  • A little late off the snap as well

Summary

    • Should be a plug and play guard
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard. However, they will not draft him in the first or second and he will not be there in the third
    • I have him as a top 40 player

Vadal Alexander

Strengths

  • Played tackle and guard in college
  • Big man, hard to move
  • Good athleticisms/size ratio
  • Has good decent footwork for a man his size
  • A fundamentally sound run blocker. Will create space
  • Can drive defenders backwards
  • Can get to second level and is effective when he gets there
  • Plays with power
  • Has a bit of nastiness to his game

Weaknesses

  • Slow footwork at times
  • Can play high and be bull rushed and driven back
  • Needs more punch with his hands
  • Needs to learn to use his big body to turn and redirect

Summary

    • Should start in his first year
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard and possibly tackle. They would not draft him in the first or second and will not be there in the third
    • I have him as a top 60 player

Cody Whitehair

Strengths

  • Versatile, can play guard and tackle. Could also play center in a pinch
  • Fundamentally sound. Plays with good technique.
  • Can handle speed rushers. Can redirect and shield.
  • Good balance. Rarely extends too far.
  • Can block at first level, come off and then block the second level
  • Good vision. Will come off block to pick up free rusher. Picks up blitzes well
  • Good hips, will get low and set
  • Good feet. Easily stays in front to rushers. Smooth, not a lot of wasted motion

Weaknesses

  • Can get beat by bull rush
  • Not very good at cut blocks. Looks awkward going low
  • Gets a few holding penalties
  • Needs to sustain blocks longer. Finish until play is over.
  • Needs to add some more strength

Summary

    • Will play guard in NFL, but if needed could move out to tackle
    • Fundamentally sound with good awareness and vision
    • Chould be a day one starter
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard and tackle. It is hardly likely that the Cowboys will take him in the first or second. If he is still available in the third, the Cowboys should take a look at him there.
    • I have him as a top 60 player

Christian Westerman

Strengths

  • Stocky build with low center of gravity
  • Strong, with heavy hands.
  • Plays like he was a wrestler, can turn defenders with upper body strength
  • Plays with some nastiness
  • Quick feet, can pull
  • Can drive defenders backwards
  • Aware, picks up blitzers and stunts
  • Can set down and drop hips when bull rushed

Weaknesses

    • Will miss in space
    • Is not as effective in the second level
    • Can be driven backwards
    • Not as large as many linemen, size and his arm length could be issue

Summary

    • Should be a starting guard in NFL
    • He plays with attitude and determination
    • Will be all-pro or could be bust
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard. If he is there in the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there. Most likely he will be gone in late second or early third.
    • I have him as a top 75 player

Jack Allen

Strengths

  • Big center who moves well down the line
  • Can really get out on the screen and plays well in space
  • Plays with unbelievable lateral movement
  • Gets good leverage
  • Quick feet, can pull
  • Physical in run game. Create space and drives defenders backwards
  • Plays with some nastiness
  • Aware, picks up blitzers and stunts
  • Has size and technique to prevent bull rush. Rarely is he driven backwards
  • Great motor and sustains blocks until the end
  • Smart
  • Quick off the ball

Weaknesses

    • Will miss in space
    • Smaller body size
    • Has shorter than ideal arm length
    • Is not the most natural athlete

Summary

    • Should be a starting center
    • He plays with attitude, intelligence, quickness, and determination
    • Best suited for a stretch or spread offense
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at center and guard. If he is there in the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there.
    • I have him as a top 90 player

Nick Martin

Strengths

  • Big center who moves well down the line
  • Can really get out on the screen and plays well in space
  • Plays with unbelievable lateral movement
  • Gets good leverage
  • Quick feet, can pull
  • Physical in run game. Create space and drives defenders backwards
  • Plays with some nastiness
  • Aware, picks up blitzers and stunts
  • Has size and technique to prevent bull rush. Rarely is he driven backwards
  • Great motor and sustains blocks until the end
  • Smart
  • Quick off the ball

Weaknesses

    • Will miss in space
    • Smaller body size
    • Has shorter than ideal arm length
    • Is not the most natural athlete

Summary

    • Should be a starting center
    • He plays with attitude, intelligence, quickness, and determination
    • Best suited for a stretch or spread offense
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at center. If he is there in the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there.
    • I have him as a top 90 player

Sebastian Tretola

Strengths

  • Massive road grader
  • Husky, broad shoulders. Wide base keeps him from being moved backwards
  • Good base and decent knee bend for a big man
  • Good awareness, sees stunts and blitzes. Will leave his guy to pick up someone coming free
  • Keeps his feet under him, does not over extend
  • Can move the pile backwards
  • Can get to second level consistently
  • Good pass set, keeps his feet moving and body in front of defender
  • Plays with some aggression

Weaknesses

  • Limited ability to pull
  • Fat, could struggle keeping weight off
  • Struggles against quickness
  • Can play high and lose leverage

Summary

    • Best suited for a straight ahead blocking scheme
    • Can be a starter in the league for a run oriented team
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard. If he is there in the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there.
    • I have him as a top 90 player

Landon Turner

Strengths

  • A massive man. He will move anything in his way
  • Good awareness, keeps head on a swivel looking for someone coming free
  • Good base and decent knee bend for a big man
  • Strong, will rarely go backwards. Tends to drive DTs backwards
  • Can twist his body and redirect the DT. Creates big run lanes
  • Plays with a mean streak. Intimidating. Will flat pancake people in the run game
  • When he gets hands on a blocker, they have a hard time getting free
  • Can pass set effectively

Weaknesses

  • Slow, limited range when pulling or trying to get to second level
  • When he moves, he struggles to keep balance
  • Can get over extended in attempt to drive defenders back
  • Winds up on the ground more than normal
  • Can be stiff
  • Flunked out of school at one point (Why?)

Summary

    • Best suited for a straight ahead blocking scheme
    • Can be a starter in the league for a run oriented team
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard. If he is there in the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there. However, I do not think he fits the Cowboys stretch offense.
    • I have him as a top 90-100 player

Connor McGovern

Strengths

  • A former wrestler, uses leverage and body turn to get movement
  • Strong upper body, benched 33 times
  • Strong lower body
  • Light, quick feet for a big buy
  • Nice pass set, keeps his body in position and locks arms to keep rusher away from his body
  • Can pull effectively
  • He can get to the second level and finish
  • Has awareness. Keeps head on swivel
  • Versatile, has played most positions on the line

Weaknesses

  • Tight hips
  • Bends at the waist more than he should. Gets him off balance at times
  • Can get tall and lose leverage

Summary

    • Best suited for a pulling, stretch or pass oriented offenses
    • Can be a starter in the league for a run oriented team
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard. If he is there at the end of the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there. He would fit their scheme
    • I have him as a top 120 player

Max Tuerk

Strengths

  • A smooth, quick athlete for his size
  • Played every line position in college.
  • Can pull and play in space. Excellent in screen game
  • Can get to second level and take dead aim at opponents
  • Light, quick feet for a 300 pounder
  • Has good foot work and hips
  • Plays with leverage, gets pad level low because of natural leg bend
  • Quick setup. Can jam before defender is ready
  • Can pass rushers off and pick up rusher coming free
  • Has awareness. Keeps head on swivel

Weaknesses

  • Tall and lean, which usually means shorter stockier guys will win leverage position
  • Needs to get stronger
  • Was injured in October and may not be ready for camp
  • Thin frame may be injury prone
  • Has unusually snap style

Summary

    • May have been one of the top two guards/centers in the draft had he not been injured. He would have been a top 60 pick. Will offer good value to team that can sit him for a year or two
    • Talented, fluid athlete but may have difficulty with brute power
    • Best suited for passing, spread or stretch run offenses
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at center/guard/tackle. If he is there in the fourth round, the Cowboys could take him there as he would fit their scheme and be good value
    • I have him as a top 120 player (if healthy, top 60)

Spencer Drango

Strengths

  • Played as a tackle in college.
  • Strong hands and long arms
  • Fundamentally sound, good technique
  • Stays in balance on pass sets and guides rushers past quarterback.
  • Can pull. Tackle feet at guard position
  • Effortlessly gets to the second level
  • Has awareness. Keeps head on swivel
  • Nice kick step, he is a natural pass protector

Weaknesses

  • Can over extend on running plays and is susceptible to swim moves
  • Too often gets in position when pulling, to then miss his target
  • Struggles against quickness to outside
  • Can also be beat with fake speed rush to a quick inside rush
  • Is tall for guard position. Maintaining low pad level will be difficulty
  • Has never really powered block from NFL set

Summary

    • I like him. He may be a steal. He is a high risk/reward pick. Could fail and never make it, could be a solid starter.
    • Can be a starter in the league but it will take time for him to learn how to block in an NFL set. Will need to work on inside blocking techniques.
    • Offers some flex as guard and right tackle
    • For Cowboys he would be a backup at guard and possibly add depth at backup tackle. If he is there when the Cowboys pick their compensatory 4th rounder, it would be a nice pick up. He would fit their stretch scheme.
    • I have him as a top 130 player

Joe Dahl

Summary

  • Played tackle and guard in college
  • Plays with good center an balance
  • Good knee bend
  • A tactician with good technique
  • Strong hands that can shock a rusher
  • Plays angles well
  • Good feet. Stays over toes and keeps balance
  • He is quick
  • Can pick or get to second level
  • Struggles with power
  • Needs more attitude and aggression
  • For Cowboys would add depth and give them someone to groom
  • I have him in the top 135-150

Graham Glasgow

Summary

  • Center guard combo
  • Intelligent player
  • Good awareness
  • Can play on the move
  • Moves with ease
  • Plays with good bend
  • Will struggle with pad level and winning the leverage battle
  • Is just average athletically
  • Would give the Cowboys a center guard backup to groom
  • I have him rated in the 150 -175 range

Joe Thuney

Summary

  • Versatile, played every position on the line
  • Right kind of guy
  • Athletic and Strong
  • Low base, good hips, can sink on a bull rush
  • Plays with a good kick step
  • Can get choppy with feet
  • Weight room strength needs to translate to field
  • Does not always explode off of the line when run blocking
  • Would give the Cowboys a guard to groom
  • I have him rated in the 150 -175 range but others are lower on him. If he is around in the sixth, then he would be a good pick

Evan Boehm

Summary

  • Powerful, ex–wrestler. Uses balance and leverage to man handle DTs
  • Squarely built, great for setting anchor
  • Drives defenders backwards in run game
  • Can get to second level
  • Has good bend and pad levels
  • Is not athletic
  • Struggles when pulling
  • Short arms can allow rusher to get into his body
  • Allows himself to play on his heels too much, susceptible to bull rush
  • Would give the Cowboys a guard/center to groom
  • I have him rated in the 150 -175 range but others are lower on him. If he is around in the sixth, then he would be a good pick

Austin Blythe

Summary

  • Is compactly built with good knee bend. Wins leverage battle
  • Brute strength to drive defenders off the ball
  • Shows good quickness off the snap
  • Plays with nastiness and attitude
  • Is not athletic. Has tightness.
  • Has short arms. Can struggle with DT with long arms
  • Does not have good lateral movement
  • Would give the Cowboys a guard/center to groom
  • I have him rated in the 150 -175 range but others are lower on him. If he is around in the sixth, then he would be a good pick

The Cowboys will have some intriguing options at the center and guard positions. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys take a guard/center in the third or fourth round. They need a backup center now, they will need a backup guard next year, and they may need to replace their starting center in two years.

I would be very surprised if the Cowboys do not try to get a developmental player in this year’s draft, even if it is in the 6th round.

Some of the players I would watch for are:

  • Whitehair – In the third round
  • Westerman – Beginning the fourth
  • Allen – Beginning of the fourth
  • Tuerk – End of fourth
  • Durango – End of fourth
  • Boehm – End of sixth

In my next article, we will take a look at the quarterbacks in the draft.

Tommy Simon

Tommy Simon is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and sports enthusiast. He is currently CEO of TechBAA, an investor and board member of TPC Technical and CommunitesFIrst, and acting CFO for ALS Communities. In addition to investing and advising companies, Tommy is also a Sales Management coach and is working with companies as a Fractional CMO/CSO.

Tommy is a life long football player, coach and Cowboy fan. He currently coaches and sponsors several 7 on 7 teams. He manages/coaches an adult flag football team that is the top team in Florida one of the highest ranked teams in the country.

Tommy’s hobbies include international travel, fantasy football, reading, and engaging in intelligent political discourse. He is married to a wonderful women for 18 years; which is the best thing he has ever accomplished. He has a dog that is the best dog ever. He also has 9 siblings and roughly 30 nieces and nephews.

For more information about tommy, or to request him to speak, please contact him at info@techbaa.com

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