NFL

DeCastro is elite among interior linemen

Brian Billick and Taylor Jones break down NFL Draft's top interior linemen.
Brian Billick and Taylor Jones break down NFL Draft's top interior linemen.
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Brian Billick

Brian Billick served as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007, winning Super Bowl XXXV. He has also authored books, including More Than A Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL. Follow him on Twitter.

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From the fans’ perspective, there is nothing less sexy than to take a guard or center in the draft. Yet when you get value at that position, you can anchor your offense in a way that is seldom recognized.

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A good interior line can cover average tackles on the edge and provide diversity and power to your offense. Teams typically carry only three interior linemen on game day, so versatility is key. Four of the top six prospects in this year’s NFL Draft come from Wisconsin or Georgia, schools that traditionally produce excellent linemen.

Stanford’s David DeCastro, 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, may be the most complete player at his position in the draft. Over the past three years, at least one interior lineman has been selected in the top 21 picks (Alex Mack, Mike Iupati, the Pouncey twins, Maurkice and Mike), and DeCastro is likely to be better than all of them. Drawing comparisons to former Pro Bowler Alan Faneca, he has the size and all the tools indicative of a dominating presence in the inside.

At 6-5 and 315, Wisconsin’s Peter Konz is the top center prospect, but he has the size and versatility to kick over to the guard position as well. That alone increases his value.

Konz has great field awareness and shows balanced feet to find his target and hook on. He is an excellent combination blocker who works well with teammates to either overtake a block or slip off and attack the second level. Konz is comparable to Buffalo's Eric Wood, the 28th selection in the 2009 draft. Although he isn’t a household name, Wood has started 33 games in just three seasons with the Bills.

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Cordy Glenn from Georgia is likely next on the interior linemen list. Then again, a solid Senior Bowl followed by an excellent combine has many believing that he can be a solid offensive tackle in the NFL. I see him as a first-year starter on the right side, and because of that, I’m evaluating him against the other tackles in the draft. But he certainly could be selected by a team looking to add to its interior.

Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin is another interior lineman worth keeping an eye on. Anchored by Joe Thomas and 2011 draft picks Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, the Badgers have a strong recent history of producing very capable NFL linemen, and Zeitler will be no different.

Like all his Wisconsin alumni, Zeitler has tremendous size but can sink his hips and plays with good flexibility. Zeitler reminds me of Marshal Yanda, who we took in Baltimore in 2007 from another Big Ten staple, Iowa. Yanda wasn’t taken until the third round, and that is where Zeitler’s value is greatest.

Baylor’s Philip Blake, Miami's Brandon Washington and Georgia’s Ben Jones also are names to become familiar with, but the fastest risers may be small-school prospects, Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State and Kelechi Osemele from Iowa State.

Both are creating positive buzz leading up to the draft, and when you watch them on tape, they both show the bulldozing power that will be beneficial to a traditional rushing attack. If either Silatolu or Osemele is available in the late second round, teams will be itching to write their names on the draft card.
 

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