1. BRYANT McKINNIE
Miami (Fla.) (6-9, 336; 5.09)
Strengths: Prototype size and tremendous 94-inch wingspan, which he really uses to his advantage. Smart player who looks almost impossible to beat once he sets up as a pass protector, using superior balance and leverage. Great mobility and ability to slide into pass protection. In run blocking, he will often lock up the DL, turn his man away from the ball and absolutely smother him.
Weaknesses: Isn't nearly the mauler you'd expect from a super blue-chipper in the running game. He's almost too business-like and doesn't appear to play with the fire and nastiness of some previous premiere prospects at his position. While he dominated Syracuse's premiere speed rusher, Dwight Freeney, for the vast majority of the game, he was forced into a couple of holding penalties when they faced off in 2001.
Bottom Line: The best OL prospect to come out since Jonathan Ogden, McKinnie should be a perennial Pro Bowler.
2 . MIKE WILLIAMS
Texas (6-6, 348; 5.12)
Strengths: Played RT for the Longhorns but protected lefty QB Chris Simms' blindside as a senior. Tremendous mobility — can really get out and lead sweeps and screens like few men his size ever have and is a willing down-field blocker. Simply engulfs DBs and LBs at the point and is a real finisher. Fine overall athleticism for his size and excellent handwork and footwork, aided by practicing the martial arts.
Weaknesses: Looked fat last year and should play at about 335 pounds — not 360. For being so huge, he doesn't always anchor properly against bull-rushers.
Bottom Line: While he won't be drafted as high as his former UT linemate, Leonard Davis (No. 2 overall last year), Williams was a better college player. He simply doesn't possess Davis' phenomenal physique, but does possess rare movement and footwork for a 345-pounder and regularly dominated his opponent. Definite top 10 overall pick here.
3. MIKE PEARSON
Florida (6-7, 296; 5.14)
Strengths: Great pass-blocker who sets up with fine technique, a wide base and possesses very good balance and quick feet. Regularly shut down the opposition's attempt at getting to the QB's blindside. Tremendous hand-swat, able to knock pass-rushers off balance. Excellent agility for a guy with such a long frame and possesses a fine cut-block. Mature and a team leader. Athletic and can redirect without problem.
Weaknesses: Too light to play LT in the NFL and needs to gain 25 pounds. At the college level, beat opponent strictly through technique and skill as he's not particularly strong or aggressive.
Bottom Line: Tremendous pass-protector who will go in the first round and will eventually shoulder the responsibility of protecting his QB's blindside for a decade.
4. LANGSTON WALKER
California (6-7, 348; 5.30)
Strengths: Gargantuan prospect who could project to LT or RT. Agility, athleticism and ease-of-movement are top-notch. At times, he will drive DL back 5 yards after they are engaged, possessing excellent leg drive. Very strong upper body — will finish off DL by pushing him to the ground after riding him past the QB. Sometimes plays with mean-streak and was scary for collegiate opponents who often weighed 90 pounds less. Above-average cut block for such a huge player.
Weaknesses: Needs to drop 10-15 pounds and looks soft around the mid-section, which could affect his stamina late in games. Some speed rushers have given him trouble — especially to the outside. Will quit on some plays when the action is away from him and almost looks lazy during stretches.
Bottom Line: While far from a sure thing, Walker's potential is unlimited. Likely won't be drafted as high as our ratings indicate, but in three years could become a real standout.
5. LEVI JONES
Arizona State (6-5, 308; 5.17)
Strengths: A former DT, Jones is a fine LT prospect with a prototype frame and super work ethic. Athletic OL with quick feet, fine balance and nice agility. Can really throw a nice cut-block and possesses very good ease-of-movement. Fine mobility and can really get out and lead sweeps and screens. Good initial pop and used his hands well to knock pass-rushers off their strides.
Weaknesses: Often plays too high in run-blocking, resulting in a loss of leverage. At times, will overextend and reach for opponents, resulting in a loss of balance and thus, effectiveness. Far from consistently dominant in the run game, operating more as a lock-em-up and directional blocker as opposed to the type who drives defenders away.
Bottom Line: Compares favorably to former Sun Devil Marvel Smith, who went in the first round to Pittsburgh two years ago.
1. ANDRE GURODE
Colorado (6-3, 319; 5.24)
Strengths: Tremendous run blocker who does a great job of staying with plays and finishing off blocks. Solid, wide-base setup and a real knee-bender who keeps his feet under him well to retain balance. Engages DL squarely, can turn defenders away from the play and bury him — one of the best finishers in college football. Equally strong drive and directional blocker, possessing great leg drive. Really uses his hands well on DL and can get nasty. Ability to play guard or center and possesses a great cut block.
Weaknesses: Must improve his footwork in pass-blocking and isn't a great pulling guard.
Bottom Line: Definite first-rounder who has displayed the type of ability to eventually earn Pro Bowl honors at either guard or center.
2. TERRENCE METCALF
Mississippi (6-3, 315; 5.32)
Strengths: Three-year starter who has not allowed a sack since his sophomore campaign. Standout collegiate OL who was an all-star LT, but will likely be moved to guard in the NFL. Quick feet with the agility to stay squared up in passing situations after secondary moves are made on him. Despite his poor 40 speed, can get out and lead screens and sweeps as well as chip and chase. Really uses his hands well in pass protection.
Weaknesses: Moves like he's a bit top-heavy with only average balance. In pass protection, will commit himself too early, making himself vulnerable to the up-and-under move and quick change-of-direction rushers.
Bottom Line: Super prospect who could start at guard or either tackle position in the NFL.
3. TONIU FONOTI
Nebraska (6-4, 351; 5.35)
Strengths: Gargantuan prospect who was the most dominating run-blocker in the country in 2001, averaging high double-digit pancake blocks per game. Can really get his 350-pound body moving and simply bury defenders at the point. Tremendous functional strength (nearly impossible to overpower) and is an excellent trap blocker.
Weaknesses: Overweight and is a raw pass-blocker, operating in an option-based, run-first attack. Got by on superior strength and tenacity in college.
Bottom Line: Intriguing prospect who is a true boom-or-bust guy. The question is two fold: Can Fonoti translate his awesome run-blocking skills he displayed in an option-based attack into the NFL; and can he become the polished pass-protector required of NFL linemen?
4. KENDALL SIMMONS
Auburn (6-2, 311; 5.31)
Strengths: Experienced at guard and OT. Possesses quick feet, nice footwork and does a great job of sustaining his blocks until the whistle. Very athletic for his size and uses his hands well in pass-protection, able to hand-fight with the best of them. Possesses fine quickness and ease-of-movement.
Weaknesses: Not a dominating run blocker and has suffered ankle and knee injuries in the past. At times, looks vulnerable to the hard inside and outside moves from really quick pass-rushers. Average balance and spends a bit too much time on the ground.
Bottom Line: Not a dominator, but if he remains healthy, Simmons could be a good starter in the league for a long time.
5. FRED WEARY
Tennessee (6-3, 309; 5.30)
Strengths: Thick, strong trenchman who is experienced at guard and center. Hard worker in the weight room, earning a UT "Lifter of the Year." Engages defenders with good balance, bent knees and slightly forward lean. Excellent job of getting under defenders' pads in short-yardage situations. Quick into his sets and a good shotgun snapper.
Weaknesses: Squatty lineman and not much of a pulling or trapping guard due to his lack of quickness. Has an injury history, including a neck injury in early November from an automobile accident and an ankle injury, which cost him the 2000 season.
Bottom Line: Underrated prospect whose ability to play center and guard should make him a value player.
1. SETH McKINNEY
Texas A&M (6-3, 305; 5.11)
Strengths: Unbelievably consistent, starting 50 consecutive games. Gets off the ball very quickly and can get out and pull in either direction. Thick build, plays with a mean streak and will stay after it until the whistle blows. Absolutely buries NTs who fire off low at him. Can really get out and hit LBs squarely, sometimes knocking them off their feet. Excellent directional blocker — able to turn DL away from the play and drive him away.
Weaknesses: Better run-blocker than pass-blocker, must continue to improve his one-on-one pass-protection skills and play with better leverage.
Bottom Line: Very prepared prospect who could start as a rookie.
2. LeCHARLES BENTLEY
Ohio State (6-2, 296; 5.11)
Strengths: Very versatile, able to play anywhere along the line in college. Fine drive blocker who is quick out of his stance and keeps his legs churning. Leader on the field and possesses great functional upper-body strength. Played every snap of the 2001 season until separating his shoulder in the season-finale against Michigan, which kept him out of the Outback Bowl.
Weaknesses: Small by NFL standards and doesn't possess the type of frame to put on much weight. Needs work in pass-blocking.
Bottom Line: Immensely talented trenchman who must put on weight but possesses all the other ingredients clubs look for in an anchor to its OL.
3. MELVIN FOWLER
Maryland (6-3, 294; 5.31)
Strengths: Unreal consistency, starting more than 40 consecutive games for the Terrapins and will play through minor injuries. A thick, wide-body with fine mobility. Very good directional blocker and can chip and chase. Quick out of the blocks, possesses good footwork, fine overall mobility and is a top shotgun snapper.
Weaknesses: Plays a bit high in pass protection and can be overpowered by strong, bull-rushing NTs. Plays with more of a protect than attack mentality and doesn't drive his man off the line consistently in run-blocking.
Bottom Line: While just below both McKinney and Bentley in our ratings, if Fowler becomes more of a factor as a drive-blocker, he definitely has the ability to be every bit as good a pro as the top two ranked centers.