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Joeckel considered top-rated lineman

Posted Apr 10, 2013

As we go down the Road to the Draft, Driven By Liberty Ford, here’s a look at the offensive linemen of the 2013 NFL Draft class.

With the 2013 NFL Draft fast approaching on April 25, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a deeper look at the prospects, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the offensive linemen.

Overview:

If a trend breaks and a quarterback is not taken with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, as has been the case in the past four drafts, the person selected may be someone in charge of protecting the signal-caller.

Several mock drafts from various analysts have an offensive lineman going at or near the top of the 2013 NFL Draft class.

“I think we probably have better depth than we’ve had in the last ten years,” NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock said. “I’m really impressed with our depth. The top end of the draft, the top 10 picks, I don’t see the difference makers like we’ve had the last several years: a couple of quarterbacks last year, Von Miller, Ndamukong Suh. You can go back and see those impact players each year where, before the draft, you knew who they were; (you knew) that guy’s a difference maker.

“I’ve got six tackles that I’ve given first round grades to, so the offensive line depth is really good.”

Key Players:

*Guards: Chance Warmack (Alabama) and Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina); Centers: Travis Frederick (Wisconsin) and Brian Schwenke (California); Tackles: Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) and Eric Fisher (Central Michigan).

Behind Warmack, the University of Alabama ran for 3,185 yards -- an average of 227.5 yards per game -- and passed for 3,052 yards en route to the school’s second straight National Championship, and third in the last four years.

Running back Eddie Lacy, who waited behind a Heisman Trophy winner in 2010 (Mark Ingram), and Heisman finalist in 2011 (Trent Richardson), rushed for 1,360 yards and 17 touchdowns, while T.J. Yeldon added 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries this past year. Both running backs averaged better than 6.0 yards per carry.

“Chance Warmack from Alabama is the best football player I saw on tape this year,” Mayock said. “And Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina is just a tiny notch behind him. As a matter of fact, Cooper’s probably a better athlete.

“People will tell me I’m crazy that a guard can’t go No. 1. I think (Warmack’s) the best player in the draft.”

Cooper helped pace a North Carolina offense that averaged better than 40 points per game in 2012. The Tar Heels gained 5,827 total yards, including 3,501 through the air and 2,326 on the ground, and surrendered only 11 sacks for 75 lost yards.

“If there is anything he is, he’s one of the most athletic guards I’ve ever seen,” Mayock said of Cooper. “He’s an athletic kid. He’s explosive. He just needs to get into the meeting rooms at night, be comfortable, answer questions, and he’ll be fine. I think this (Combine) is a showcase for Jonathan Cooper.”

Frederick blocked for running back Montee Ball to rush for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns on 356 carries this year. In addition, he led an offensive line that allowed 28 sacks, an average of two per game in 2012.

“As far as Travis Frederick at Wisconsin, the center, he’s similar to Barrett Jones from Alabama, my No. 1 and my No. 3 centers,” Mayock said. “I think Frederick goes in the second round, Barrett Jones, second or third-rounder. (Frederick’s a) big, strong kid, gets pushed, smart and tough. The fact that he’s a Wisconsin offensive lineman is going to help him. That’s a positive thing to be in today’s NFL.”

Schwenke allowed California quarterback Zach Maynard to complete 180 of 296 attempts for 2,214 yards and 12 touchdowns, while clearing the way for running backs C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele to each rush for more than 700 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.

Blocking for a new quarterback after the departure of Ryan Tannehill, a top-10 pick in 2012, Joeckel helped the Aggies average 44.5 points and 558.5 yards per game last fall. The Aggies rushed for 3,147 yards and passed for another 4,114.

Behind Joeckel, redshirt-freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,410 and 21 scores en route to becoming the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

Fisher, one of just three players from the Mid-American Conference to participate in the 2013 Senior Bowl, led a Central Michigan offensive line that surrendered only 15 sacks for 101 lost yards last season.

By staying upright because of Fisher’s blocks, quarterback Ryan Radcliff completed 242 of 407 attempts for 3,158 yards and 23 touchdowns against only nine interceptions. When he did not pass the ball, Radcliff handed the ball off to running back Zurlon Tipton, who rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012.

“He was one of my four top offensive line prospects,” Mayock said of Fisher. “From my perspective, when I put his first tape on and was able to see him all week at the Senior Bowl, the first thing I thought of was Joe Staley, and I thought he’s better than Joe Staley, which says a lot.

“At the Senior Bowl, I thought he answered every question. I thought he showed a little more upper body strength than I thought he had. He had great feet. He’s long. I think he’s that prototype left tackle, and I don’t think there is as much difference between him and Joeckel as a lot of people think.

“I think this kid, two or three years from now, is one of the better ones. They’re more like Joe Thomas. They can be a technician and a real good pass defender, not as big a run guy -- just the prototypical left tackle pass defender. He’s solid. He’s a really good football player and got better and better as the Senior Bowl went on.”

*ClevelandBrowns.com utilized the players’ list by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock.