Here’s a look at my pre-combine ranking of this year’s interior offensive line prospects.
#1 Chance Warmack, Alabama – Warmack could go in the top-15, but there’s a good possibility that he can fall to #20. We see it every year in the Draft where an OG is highly touted as a top-15 pick but ends up sliding because team’s value other positions a little more.
If Warmack is there, the Chicago Bears should definitely consider taking one of the best OG prospects to come out in a while. Warmack is a pure road-grader who compares favorably to Carl Nicks; a talented OG Bears’ offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer developed and coached with the New Orleans Saints. Warmack would certainly shore up the LG position for the next 10 years.
#2 Larry Warford, Kentucky – Like Warmack, Warford is another road-grading OG who can work in a zone-blocking scheme. For his size, he has quick feet to mirror speed rushers and to get outside when pulling. His size and strong hands allows him to excel in short-yardage situations where the Bears have struggled in recent years. Warford’s excellent technique in both pass and run blocking would make him a plug-and-play player for the Bears at either RG or LG.
#3 Barrett Jones, Alabama – Jones might not have Jonathan Cooper athleticism, but he’s the more pro ready of the two potential centers. What gives Jones a leg up over Cooper is his ability to play all three interior line positions. Jones is also scheme versatile and will fit well in either a zone-blocking or man-blocking scheme. Next to Warmack and Warfold, Jones is one of the most technically skilled linemen in the Draft.
#4 Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina – Cooper’s best position at the next level might be at center, and yes, the Bears need one of those, too, along with OGs. Cooper is arguably the most athletic interior linemen prospect in the Draft. He’s extremely quick pulling outside on run plays and can get to the second level very quick to spring running backs toward big plays. Cooper would be an ideal fit for new OC Aaron Kromer’s zone-blocking scheme.
#5 Dallas Thomas, Tennessee – Thomas was the star on that Tennessee offensive line for the past few years. He played left tackle in 2011 and was very effective in that position protecting Tyler Bray’s blindside. In 2012, he moved to LG which is where most scouts see as his most natural position at the next level. Thomas has a ton of potential at LG; while he’s not the road-grading type, like Warmack and Warford, he’s a pretty good athlete who could be a star player in a zone-blocking scheme.
#6 Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech – An underrated prospect for teams that utilize zone-blocking schemes, Uzzi is a talented guard capable of playing OG or developing into a franchise-level center.
#7 Mario Benavides, Louisville – Benavides is a sleeper prospect who looks the part athletically and physically. He excelled in both pass and run blocking this past season and looks like a prospect who could win a starting position in training camp. He would be a great developmental prospect, learning behind Roberto Garza if the Bears choose to bring him back in 2013.
#8 Cyril Richardson, Baylor – Richardson is a former offensive tackle who moved inside for the Baylor Bears in 2012. OG most likely will be the position for Richardson in the NFL.
#9 Alvin Bailey, Arkansas – the Bears’ new offense figures to be a pass-first one, and Bailey has experience in an offense that heavy utilizes the pass back at Arkansas. Bailey is solid in both pass and run blocking and looks like a quality prospect the Bears can get in the fourth-round.
#10 Travis Frederick, Wisconsin – Frederick is a great run blocker, but his lack of mobility doesn’t make him an ideal fit in a zone-blocking scheme.
Safe Choice: Larry Warford
Jones and Warmack fall in the safe category also, but Warmack is likely to go before the Bears pick, and Jones is a bit of a reach at 20. Warford might sky rocket up to the first-round at the conclusion of Combine and Pro Day workouts. The Bears could either take Warford at 20 or trade down and get him while gaining an extra pick (Bears currently don’t have a third-round pick).
Warford would give the Bears a true mauler at OG that they haven’t had at the position in sometime. He could play at either guard spot, but his skill-set might appeal more to the RG position. That would allow the Bears to move Lance Louis (if re-signed) to LG, which I felt has been his more natural position.
Warford could be an All-Pro caliber RG for the Bears for years to come; he has that kind of potential.
High Risk/High Reward: Omoregie Uzzi
The high risk with Uzzi? He’s an undersized OG, and he didn’t play in anything that resembles a pro-style system at Georgia Tech. If Uzzi doesn’t bulk up at the next level, his only suitable position would be at center which would make him a two- to three-year project. The Bears need linemen who can come in and play immediately.
What is the high reward with Uzzi? He could potentially be an effective starting OG at 300 pounds, and possibly your center of the future as he continues to develop. Uzzi’s skill-set works best in a zone-blocking scheme as he’s a quick athletic guard with the ability to hit on blocks at the second level. Kromer has experience developing raw yet talented OGs, and if he can help Uzzi reach his full potential, the Bears could have a perennial Pro Bowl-level guard.
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