March 10, 2010

The 25 greatest OL prospects since 1997

In the last few weeks, I've taken a look back at the top 25 running backs and defensive tackles that I've evaluated in my time in the recruiting industry and today I'm taking a look at the top offensive linemen since 1997.

From an NFL development standpoint, the position has been a gold mine over the years, as more offensive linemen and defensive backs become NFL players from the Lone Star State than any other. However, as the look back will show, a five-star ranking is no guarantee of success at the collegiate and NFL levels.

Here's the full breakdown:

Guys that were in the "other's receiving votes" category: Andre Gurode (No.23 in 1997), Jordan Black (No.17 in 1998), Mike Williams (No.18 in 1998), Greg Barnum (No.16 in 1999), Robbie Doane (No.17 in 1999), Derrick Dockery (No.28 in 1999), Tony Ugoh (No.15 in 2002), Ciron Black (No.17 in 2005), Kyle Hix (No.20 in 2007),

Guys that I flat out missed on: E.J. Whitley (No.100 in 2001), Jason Smith (NR in 2004), Brandon Carter (NR in 2005), Trent Williams (NR in 2006) and Russell Okung (NR in 2006)

Ok, now let's get down to the top 25 in reverse order:

25. Garrett Greenlea - Klein Collins (No.11 in 2011)

Greenlea's high school film

Comment: I was hesitant to include more than one prospect from the 2011 class on the list until I have a chance to scout them a little more throughout the spring, but when you consider the fact that Greenlea currently rates as a borderline 6.0 on my grading scale, he falls right into the final 5-7 spots. With his combination of size, agility and attitude, he has a chance to be one of the better tackles prospects that the state has produced.

24. Herman Johnson - Denton (No.13 in 2004)

Comment: When I first watched Johnson, he was a 365-pound man-mountain of a kid that couldn't move a lick, yet by the time he transitioned from a junior to a senior, he had turned himself into an elite prospect. After a successful career at LSU that watched him start nearly 40 games at guard, Johnson is trying to carve out an NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals.

23. Garrett Porter - Odessa Permian (No.13 in 2009)

Porter's high school film

Comment: The former West Texas star was a national top 50 prospect on the national level just finished his redshirt freshman season in Austin and is currently running second-team at center.

22. Seth McKinney - Austin Westlake (No.15 in 1997)

Comment: McKinney was Drew Brees' center at the high school level and I got a chance to watch him extensively at the high school level. He's one of the top two or three best high school centers that I've evaluated in this state over the years. He was a bull as a run blocker and terrifically skilled as a pass-protector.

21. Greg Dolan - Round Rock Westwood (No.12 in 2004)

Dolan's high school film

Comment: Writing about Dolan hurts my soul because I was higher on him that anyone else in the industry. What can I say? Sometimes the limb breaks when you go out on it too far. Dolan was a guy that I thought had it all… great feet, a great frame and he played the game with fire. Seriously, this is a guy that had all of the tools. Unfortunately, the internal fire dimmed when he arrived at Texas. Swing and a total miss.

20. Montrae Holland - Jefferson (No.12 in 1998)

Comment: Holland was one of the nastiest power players in the run game that I've ever scouted. I never thought that the guy was an elite-level athlete for a big guy, but he could maul with the best of them. Although he wasn't a great college player, he was a very good one at Florida State and was able to carve out a nice NFL career.

19. Cedric Dockery - Garland Lakeview Centennial (No.8 in 2004)

Dockery's high school film

Comment: There was a time Dockery looked like a future star for the Longhorns at guard, but he was never the same after a knee injury against Oklahoma early in his career. Although he ended up being a solid starter for the Longhorns, he never touched the potential that many of us thought he had coming out of high school.

18. Chris Boggas - Irving (No.9 in 2000)

Comment: Boggas was another guy that blended great size, athleticism and power, but he was a total head case in recruiting, probably one of the top two or three that stand out over all these years. After signing with Kansas State after a roller coaster recruitment, he never emerged as anything more than a decent back-up. His career was a terrible waste because he was a full-game highlight reel in high school.

17. J'Marcus Webb - North Mesquite (No.10 in 2006)

Webb's high school film

Comment: Webb looked so good as a true freshman for the Longhorns that Texas offensive line coach Mac McWhorter commented that he was one of the best freshmen linemen that he had ever coached. Talent wasn't the issue as much as the ability to stay eligible proved to be. He just finished his college career at West Texas A&M and is hoping to latch on somewhere in the NFL.

16. Ben Wilkerson - Hemphill (No.6 in 2001)

Comment: Along with McKinney, Wilkerson ranks as the best pure center prospect I've evaluated in this state. A terrific athlete with rare quickness and football smarts, Wilkerson started for LSU almost as soon as he stepped onto campus and he ended up earning All-America honors twice.

15. Trey Hopkins - Houston North Shore (No.8 in 2010)

Hopkin's high school film

Comment: I've mentioned some really good athletes from the list above, but I'm not sure that any of them used their athleticism on the field as well as Hopkins did as a high school player. A terrific player on the move, Hopkins has the ability to pick up ultra-athletic players in space at the second and third level. On top of that, he's a very physical player at the point of attack and projects as a three-position player at the next level. He's one of the closest things I've seen to a young Dan Neil in a long time.

14. Michael Huey - Kilgore (No.14 in 207)

Huey's high school film

Comment: Huey will be entering his third year as a starter this season for the Longhorns, but he's yet to emerge as a standout. After battling injuries as a junior, Huey has been the best lineman on the field this spring. Perhaps this is the year when it all comes together for the former East Texas star.

13. Luke Joeckel - Arlington (No.7 in 2010)

Joeckel's high school film

Comment: Nobody knew it at the time of his commitment, but the Aggies got themselves a potential franchise left tackle prospect in Joeckel. He proved over the course of his senior season that he's got all of the required tools and he's without question one of the best prospects that the Aggies have landed in the last decade.

12. Stephen Good - Paris (No.3 in 2008)

Good's high school film

Comment: Good actually graded out as the state's top player in 2008 as a junior, but shoulder injuries as a senior dropped his rating slightly. Still, when he was healthy, Good was a monster at the high school level and although he didn't project as a left tackle, his combination of size, strength and footwork seemed to make him an all-star candidate at either guard spot or right tackle. It's still a little early in his career, but he hasn't emerged as a standout yet.

11. Jami Hightower - Jacksonville (No.5 in 2001)

Comment: I didn't know it at the time, but one of the issues that plagued Hightower in college was conditioning and he started to show that as a senior when he ballooned from 280 to 300+. When he was at his best, he was a dominating run blocker that could move around the field like a dancing bear. When it was all said and done, he's another guy that simply wasn't committed enough to maximize his raw ability.

10. Jorrie Adams - Jasper (No.3 in 2003)

Comment: At the end of Adams' senior year in high school, I had a former NFL offensive lineman tell me that Adams was the best looking high school specimen he had ever seen and that if he stayed healthy, there was no way he wouldn't play on Sunday. Adams had the frame, the feet and the ability, but he washed away quickly with the Aggies. Truly, one of the most stunning collapses of talent I've seen.

9. Reginald Youngblood - Houston Yates (No.3 in 2005)

Youngbloods's high school film

Comment: Youngblood had as good of feet at the high school level as I've seen in Texas and. His issues had more to do with his lack of development in play and in strength. Although he was a solid player for the Hurricanes, his career was a disappointment because everyone expected for him to be a star and he ended up being nothing more than pretty good.

8. Jonathan Scott - Dallas Carter (No.4 in 2001)

Comment: Scott was very similar to Youngblood in high school, although he might have lacked a little bit of the ultra-explosive athletic ability Youngblood possessed. However, he was a stronger player at the point of attack, had a high football IQ and cared about being great. Those are some of the reasons why he emerged as a starter on a national championship team and has been able to enjoy a fair NFL career.

7. Sedrick Flowers - Houston North Shore (No.2 in 2011)

Flowers' high school film

Comment: Flowers is one of the best interior prospects I've seen in the last ten years or so from this state. An absolute mauler in the running game, Flowers has great feet, moves well and plays the game with a mean streak. He really is one of the better blends of power and athleticism that I've seen in a while.

6. Mason Walters - Frenship (No.5 in 2009)

Walters' high school film

Comment: From a physical perspective, Walters ranks right up there with the best I've ever seen. Although he played inside in high school, he projected as a possible dream left tackle prospect in evaluation because of his unique skill set. Injuries have kept him from hitting the ground running at Texas, but the feeling among those in the program is that he's as good as any prospect they've had since Justin Blalock.

5. Antwan Kirk-Hughes - Waxahachie (No.4 in 1998)

Comment: Kirk-Hughes is probably the third-best pure run blocker I've seen from this state in the time I've been in the business. He was so powerful and mean that he would often drive guys 15 to 20 yards down the field before burying them into the ground. Although he was one of Mack Brown's first recruiting coups in Austin, he never emerged as anything more than a very solid college player.

4. Ofa Mohetau - Euless Trinity (No.2 in 2003)

Comment: Yet another example of a guy that had it all physically, but didn't have the commitment needed to become a great player. For anyone that followed his recruiting circus, it wasn't a huge surprise to see him disappear after a year at BYU and then a transfer to Texas Tech. This guy should be playing in the NFL right now.

3. Tray Allen - South Grand Prairie (No.1 in 2007)

Allen's high school film

Comment: He's the only offensive lineman in the history of the LSR rankings to finish as the state's top prospect and he hasn't lived up to that billing by a long shot. He has one final season at Texas to salvage things and he's off to a good start this spring as the starting left guard.

2. Justin Blalock - Plano East (No.3 in 2002)

Comment: Blalock is the best pure offensive line prospect I've probably ever seen and among the humans on the list, he's the top guy. In addition to dominating in the running game, Blalock possessed rare feet for a big man, a tremendous football IQ, great strength, an elite-level work ethic and he was a great leader. It's not an accident that he was an All-American, a second-round pick and is currently a multi-year starter in the NFL.

1. Leonard Davis - Wortham (No.3 in 1997)

Comment: I'm still not convinced that Davis is human because he truly is unlike anything I've ever seen from a physical perspective. The sight of this 6-6, 350-pound monster playing middle linebacker at Class 2A Wortham was a sight that will remain burned into my brain for the rest of my life. Trust me if you've never seen the video, it was one of the most incredible and unlikely scenes you could ever seen. Although some envisioned him as a defensive lineman in college, he was always a future offensive lineman in my mind and he's obviously emerged as one of the most successful pro football players in the program's history.

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