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Offensive linemen run aground with character issues
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Alabama's Andre Smith is shown in action against Louisiana-Monroe. Smith is a top prospect in the 2009 NFL Draft.

 

University of Alabama

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Published: 4/21/2009 5:44 PM

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Once you get past the top two players in this year's NFL draft group of offensive linemen, the position is filled with land mines.

It's not just Alabama's Andre Smith, who bounced out of Lucas Oil Stadium and hopped a plane back home while the other players in his group were being put through their paces at the NFL Scouting Combine. But Smith is a good example. His excuse for leaving early was that he wasn't in good enough shape to run, jump and lift, which seems odd, considering the Combine is like a mass job interview for football players.

Still, Smith is a legitimate top-10 pick and won last year's Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the country. He started 38 games in his three years with the Crimson Tide, but there have been warning signs.

Before he bolted the NFL Scouting Combine, Smith said he weighed in at 332. When asked if 332 was good, he replied: "It's better than 345."

He has had problems controlling his weight, which has been over 350, and he missed last season's Sugar Bowl due to a suspension for improper contact with an agent. He is not a hard worker in the weight room, which was obvious on his pro day March 11, when he made the regrettable decision to run sprints shirtless and did a great impression of a giant bowl of Jell-O.

Most NFL teams are still convinced the good far outweighs the bad with Smith, and he's expected to go in the top 10, but that won't be known for sure until the Saturday's draft.

Other offensive linemen might not get the benefit of the doubt on draft weekend.

Ohio State tackle Alex Boone has admitted to being a binge drinker since he was 14, and claims to have pounded as many as 40 beers in a day.

The 6-foot-71/4, 328-pounder started 36 games at left tackle for the Buckeyes the past three seasons, even though he was charged with drunken driving as a sophomore. He immediately sobered up and lost 50 pounds. But in February of this year, he relapsed while training in L.A. and was arrested on charges of public intoxication after being Tasered twice. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

Asked if had a drinking problem, Boone said: "Drinking every day? No, I don't. I've obviously abused it once or twice. I'm seeing somebody about it, seeing what I can fix about it. As of right now, I don't drink; I'm good. I'm seeing a counselor, talking about it, trying to get it off my mind, and keep it out of my life right now.

"I made a big mistake that I regret. I'll live up to it and take full responsibility. I hope it doesn't hurt me too much."

Like Boone, 6-foot-31/2, 332-pound Cornelius Lewis is a player some team could risk a late-round pick on, despite his checkered past.

Lewis was booted off the Florida State team after three suspensions in two seasons. But he started 11 games at right tackle for Tennessee State in 2007 and 12 games at left tackle last season, when he didn't allow a sack.

"I failed two drug tests and got dismissed from Florida State," Lewis admits. "It was a mistake. I was young."

Most of the coaches Lewis talked to at the NFL Combine wanted details.

"They've asked me when was the last time I smoked, things like that," Lewis said. "It's been three years. I haven't smoked since I left Florida State."

NFL draft preview: offensive linemen

Bob LeGere breaks down the Bears' depth, draft history and top prospects for theApril 25-26 NFL draft.

Bears depth chart: The Bears have improved a mediocre o-line by adding LT Orlando Pace, RT Kevin Shaffer and versatile Frank Omiyale. But Pace is 33, Shaffer is 29, incumbent C Olin Kreutz will be 32 before training camp starts, and RG Roberto Garza is 30. So it would be wise to continue the overdue youth movement that started with 2007 fourth-round pick OG Josh Beekman and continues with last year's No. 1 Chris Williams. Beekman started 16 games at LG last season but will have to fight to keep his job from Omiyale this year. Williams is expected to be the starting RT after playing very little in '08 following back surgery in the preseason. Current Grade: C-plus.

Bears 10-year draft history at OL
Year Position Player Round
2008 OT Chris Williams 1
2008 OG Chester Adams 7b
2008 OT Kirk Barton 7d
2007 OG Josh Beekman 4
2007 OT Aaron Brandt 7
2006 OG Tyler Reed 6
2003 OG Bryan Anderson 7
2002 OT Marc Colombo 1
2002 OG Terrence Metcalf 3
2001 OL Mike Gandy 3
2001 OL Bernard Robertson 5
1999 OG Rex Tucker 3
1999 OL Jerry Wisne 5

Best pick: Rex Tucker

Worst pick: Terrence Metcalf

Rating the top OL players

LeGere's draft position grade: B. The top two tackles will be taken in the first 10 picks - probably in the first five - and Alabama's Andre Smith is also a potential top-10 pick. Five OT's appear to be solid first-round picks. The top three centers are better than a weak group of guards, and at least one of them could go late in the first round with the other two gone by the middle of Round 2. There is a drop in talent after the first five tackles and the top two guards, and an even bigger drop after the top three centers. But there are still a handful of tackles who could be good second-round picks.

Position Name School Height Weight 40 time Skinny
OT Jason Smith Baylor 6-5 309 5.19 Ex-TE with great agility, toughness, football temperament and a mean streak
OT Eugene Monroe Virginia 6-5¼ 309 5.22 Athletic pass protector in a pro-style scheme from a school known for elite OLs
*OT Andre Smith Alabama 6-4¼ 325 5.31 Tremendous talent with some character concerns might be an OG in NFL
OT Michael Oher Miss. 6-4.4 309 5.36 Has fine physical tools, but he could take time to develop into a starter
*OT Eben Britton Arizona 6-6 309 5.16 May lack agility for LT but could be a stud at RT for a long time
C Max Unger Oregon 6-4½ 309 5.34 Started all 51 games for Ducks and can play all 5 OL positions
C Alex Mack California 6-4¼ 307 5.17 Tough, aggressive and nasty. Started 39 straight games and can play OG
C Eric Wood Louisville 6-3⅞ 310 5.23 Started all 49 games, has the size and strength to play OG. Stock is rising
OG Andy Levitre Oregon St. 6-2⅝ 5.36 305 College OT lacks the tools and agility to play outside but should do well inside
OG Duke Robinson Okla. 6-5 329 5.37 More than enough talent but has been downgraded for lazy play

*Third-year sophomore