It is getting closer folks, the beginning of the 2015 NFL Draft is just one day away for the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the NFL. This means that we need to kick our Top 5 positional fits into overdrive, with the next group up on the list being the offensive line.
For the sake of my sanity and yours, the entire line was grouped into five players who could fit the Cleveland Browns in this draft. We could have examined five players at each position (tackle, guard and center), however, it just does not seem like the Browns will be drafting more than one or two linemen in this class—which can easily be broken down in this list.
Before we get to the potential draftees, as usual, we need to take a look at the offensive linemen currently on the roster.
OL Currently on the Roster:
Joe Thomas, LT: 2007 1st Round Draft Pick
Joel Bitonio, LG: 2014 2nd Round Draft Pick
Alex Mack, C: 2009 1st Round Draft Pick
John Greco, RG: Traded for in 2011 (former 3rd Round Pick 2008)
Mitchell Schwartz, RT: 2012 2nd Round Draft Pick
Michael Bowie, G/T: Claimed off waivers from Seattle in 2014
Ryan Seymour, T: Claimed off waivers from San Francisco in 2014
Vinston Painter, G: Signed in 2014 (former 6th Round Pick in 2013)
Nick McDonald, G/C: Claimed off waivers from San Diego in 2014
Karim Barton, G: Signed in 2014 after being waived by Philadelphia
Andrew McDonald, T: Claimed off waivers from Indianapolis in 2014
Since there are a lot of linemen on this list, instead of going player by player—let’s just focus on the areas of future concern for the Browns.
First off on that list is Mack, who has the option to opt-out of his contract after this season and every season after that. Coming off a leg injury which cost him the majority of 2014, the Browns were likely going to address center just for depth sake, but the fact he can opt-out means the team better have a starting caliber replacement in line. This means that the center position (preferably one who can play guard from day one) will be very important in this draft.
Next up on the concern list is Schwartz, who has received nothing but constant criticism since being drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Schwartz has shown various issues defending speed rushers off the edge, often looking like he was on skates—though these issues have improved over the course of his career. Some feel the former Cal Bear is better off moving inside to the guard position as well, so the Browns could potentially have a hole to fill at right tackle because of that. No matter what they decide with Schwartz, he is a free agent after the 2015 season—and the Browns just may not be willing to give him what the market could demand.
As for the rest of the “depth guys,” Bowie is the most intriguing of the group. A former starter for Seattle who was plucked off waivers, he could come in and actually challenge Schwartz for the starting right tackle position. None of the other guys on that list will prevent a rookie from coming in and being a quality backup, in fact, I will be shocked if two of those five after Bowie are even on the active roster coming opening day.
Ereck Flowers, T, Miami (Fla.), 6’6” and 329 pounds, 1st Round Projection
Though the majority of his experience has been at the left tackle position (25 games compared to four at RT), Flowers—thanks to the presence of Thomas—would be forced to start on the right side of the offensive line while acclimating to the NFL game. A massive prospect at 6’6” and 329 pounds, Flowers is surprisingly nimble and athletic when you watch him on film.
Most players his size would seemingly struggle to get to the second level routinely, however, that is not the case with Flowers. He is an excellent run blocker thanks to his ability to get to the second level, not to mention his long wingspan (83 ¼”) allows him to gain early leverage on defenders and drive them back at the point of attack. Another thing you notice is that he is very physical because of this, often fighting through the whistle—the guy just loves to maul defenders.
Among his weaknesses you can see is struggling with a speed rusher off the edge, something that will be helped at the next level by starting off on the right side. Though this has been one of the concerns with Schwartz, should the Browns decide to go tackle at No. 19 or via a trade down into the 20s—he is a guy to keep an eye on.
Donovan Smith, T, Penn State, 6’6” and 338 pounds, Late 1st/2nd Round Projection
A recent riser up draft boards (initially projected in the 2nd/3rd round range), Smith is another massive prospect with athleticism and agility. When you watch Smith, one of the first things you notice is how quick his feet are, seamlessly kicking out to the edge to defend against the speed rush to the outside. Unlike some in this draft, his footwork is not choppy—which is a major plus when hoping a guy can come in and start at left or right tackle (right tackle for the Browns) from day one.
Smith is very physical, which can be a blessing and negative at the same time. While he can dominate in the run and pass games when controlling his physicality, he can get caught being too aggressive and overextending—thus allowing defenders to work past him. Because of this, some think he may be better suited for guard at the next level—but you will want to make him prove he cannot play tackle with his natural kickslide and edge protection ability before moving him inside.
Ali Marpet, G/T/C, Hobart, 6’4” and 307 pounds, 2nd/3rd Round Projection
If you are asking yourself “Where the heck is Hobart” right about now, it is okay—we did too. It is not often you are talking about a D-III offensive lineman in the 2nd/3rd round range of the draft, but that should let you know just how good the collegiate left tackle (37 starts) is. Though many believe he will ultimately move inside to guard or center, Marpet is one of the best pure blockers in the 2015 NFL Draft class.
His best trait, which you can see some of in this video, his the ability to diagnose the play and get out in front. Marpet quickly seeks out his blocks, moving from target to target to find the next guy to take out of the play for his team. He seems to be an intelligent player, and will be an asset at any position on the line.
The major question marks regarding Marpet are in regard to his lack of experience on the interior of the line, and his ability to take his game to the next level against top-level competition. Though his intelligence and vision will translate to the next level, the question to answer will be whether or not the big man can hold his own against the top tier of football talent in the world.
Rob Havenstein, G/T, Wisconsin, 6’7” and 321 pounds, 3rd/4th Round Projection
One of the favorite’s of many, Havenstein comes from the offensive line factory of the Big Ten. Havenstein is a massive prospect with a mauler mentality, as evidenced by any little piece of film you watch on him—especially in the devastating Wisconsin run game. Even though he is so tall, Havenstein has no trouble getting out in the open and into the second level—sealing with ease.
Though he can get out in the open, his athleticism has been called into question from time to time. This has led many to believe he would be better suited for guard in the NFL. He also doesn’t have a refined kickslide, which could contribute to this move inside. With a mid-round projection and his size and experience in a power rushing attack, do not be surprised if the Browns target the Wisconsin big man come day three if he is still there.
Andy Gallik, C/G, Boston College, 6’2” and 306 pounds, 4th/5th Round Projection
One of this writer’s favorite prospects in the entire draft, Gallik is a high-energy player who continues to play through the whistle on every down. A veteran of the Boston College line, Gallik is well-versed in multiple blocking schemes, proving the ability to get to the second level with ease at all times.
When watching him on film against USC—one of the better defensive lines with top prospect Leonard Williams—one thing you consistently notice with Gallik is that he just does not get beat often. He gains leverage early on, and maintains his blocks despite the defender throwing various moves at him. Gallik has a mean and nasty streak in him on the level of any offensive lineman in this draft class, which is something the Browns physical, run game could certainly use.
In the weakness column, you can see he is not the quickest on film—however, he combats that with his physicality and ability to maintain leverage against defenders. Some are also concerned that he overextends too often when getting to the next level, often leaving those behind him exposed. Despite this, Gallik is the type of player who can come in from day one and compete at the guard position—and possibly shore up center should Mack decide to leave in free agency.
Check out More of our “Top 5 Positional Fits” for the Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft!