Combine Watch: Interior Offensive Line

February 24th, 2013

Ohio’s Eric Herman won the Saturday bench press competition, but how does he fit as a potential Lion?

Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor

Because the Lions are in the midst of an offensive line overhaul, here are some thoughts on some of the interior linemen that worked out in Indy that are viable potential picks at some point in the draft. I do think there’s a chance the Lions select Central Michigan T Eric Fisher at #5 overall, though I believe it’s more credible that Mayhew & Co. float that concept to scare someone into trading up for the pick.

These are in no particular order, just the order from my notes.

Chris Barker, Nevada: He impressed on the bench with 29 reps, pretty solid for a player that didn’t consistently demonstrate great strength. He was in the middle of the pack in agility drills and explosive drills like the broad and vertical jumps. And that’s what Barker is, an average prospect that can play either guard spot, ideally as the top reserve. One of my game notes on Barker is that he helped his opponent up after the play a couple of times; most teams, the Lions included, would prefer less niceness. He is a 6th-7th round prospect.

Garrett Gilkey, Chadron State: At 6’6” and 318 pounds with big hands and good power (28 reps), Gilkey has the length and physical attributes of a tackle, where he played in college. Alas, his short arms at 32.6” and relatively slow lateral quickness make him a guard in the NFL. Gilkey played some guard during Senior Bowl Week and stood out for the power in his punch and his tenacity, though he tended to get too tall. He’s a very bright guy with good toughness and a distinct personality that would fit well in Detroit. There is legit developmental upside with Gilkey as a 5th or 6th round pick, and I suspect the Lions will have some interest.

Travis Frederick, Wisconsin: He is the best center in this draft in my opinion, but he’s a much better prospect as a guard. Frederick made news Saturday for running a plodding 5.58 seconds in the 40, but as Marty Schottenheimer once told me “the only time a guard ever runs 40 yards is when your quarterback throws an interception”. Frederick is a powerful sledgehammer as a run blocker, a real road grater. His squat and dead lift numbers set Wisconsin weight room records, showing that unlike Peterman or Raiola, Frederick can anchor against anyone. It’s a bit of a value reach to take Frederick at #36, but if the Lions can slide back a few spots he should certainly be an option. He can start at guard right away but could also slide into center and take over from Raiola after 2013.

Joe Madsen, West Virginia: Madsen is a center who is probably best described as a poor man’s Dominic Raiola. I know most Lions fans cringe at the thought of someone being compared to Raiola, but he has been a reliable, average starter for over a decade. Madsen lacks great anchor strength and isn’t a powerful run blocker, but he is generally effective because of great effort, intensity, and more than a little snarl, just like Raiola. Two things Lions fans will like about Madsen: he is one of the best shotgun snappers in recent memory, and he’s a Midwestern guy with a Midwestern mentality. The Chardon, OH native grew up in a football mecca and has an exceptional football IQ. He is an option in the 7th round.

Lamar Mady, Youngstown State: Mady is a converted HS and JUCO center with very good power in both upper and lower body. His 35 bench reps were impressive, but the rest of his workout numbers are not. On film (I’ve seen one full game and half of another) he moves better than he did in Indy, able to slide one step in either direction to combo block or pick off a moving target in gaps. There is decent potential here, but he is raw and should not make it off a practice squad in 2013. I wouldn’t advocate drafting Mady but he would make a solid priority free agent for Detroit.

Eric Herman, Ohio University: I am a fellow Bobcat so it’s hard for me to be unbiased, but it warmed my heart that an Ohio U. product led all linemen in bench press reps with 36. That’s an accurate representation of Herman’s game: power. He is a thickly built cannonball of a run blocker with real jolt in his punch. His hands and shoulder strength are exceptional, and he deploys them with a mentality that shows genuine malice towards his opponent. Lateral range is an issue, and he struggled with good swim moves. Sounds a little like Rob Sims, huh? I put the odds of Herman being drafted at 50/50, and he is a potential Mr. Irrelevant candidate. He fits the Lions blocking scheme better than more zone-emphasis schemes.

Earl Watford, James Madison: Watford underwhelmed in the bench press at 24 reps, but he demonstrated decent explosiveness with a 107” broad jump and a 30” vertical at a pretty sculpted 6’4” and 300 pounds. I saw a lot of Watford during Shrine Game week, where he was a mixed bag. He consistently sets up quickly with a strong, wide base, but his hand punch is weak and often both high and wide. The coaches chastised him repeatedly for his poor handiwork. If you like guys that finish blocks and can annihilate targets at the second level, you’ll like Watford. He’s a 5th rounder with viable upside if the Lions want him.

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