NFL Scouting Combine Preview: Offensive line

Posted Feb 18, 2013 lead writer Tim Twentyman takes a look at offensive line prospects slated to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine

The Detroit Lions’ offensive line is going to look different in 2013.

Right guard Stephen Peterman is no longer on the team. Center Dominic Raiola recently restructured his contract and will likely have to make the team in the fall to continue his 13th season in Detroit. Left tackle Jeff Backus hasn’t decided on his future yet – though he’s been around the practice facility quite a bit this offseason – and right tackle Gosder Cherilus is an unrestricted free agent beginning March 12.

There are young players waiting in the wings for the Lions and it seems their time for the spotlight is fast approaching. Players like Riley Reiff, Bill Nagy and Jason Fox will all challenge for playing time in training camp.

Could there be another name added to this list? Maybe a rookie?

It just so happens that this year's crop of offensive linemen are the first group up at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis starting Thursday.

There’s top-end talent at both tackle and guard in this draft, and the Lions could find themselves with a decision to make with the No. 5 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.

The team needs playmakers on defense, but they also need to bolster their offensive line to protect franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford and better run the football.

Decisions. Decisions.

Here’s a look at some of the offensive line talent that’ll be on display in Indy this week.

Luke Joeckel

Luke Joeckel, tackle, 6-6, 310, Texas A&M

Best trait: Technique

Concerns: Strength

The skinny: Joeckel is the best tackle prospect in the draft and could go as high as No. 1 overall to the Chiefs. He’s technically sound and played very well against some of the best edge rushers in college. He’s an immediate starter at left tackle and a cornerstone. If he were to fall to No. 5 – which isn’t likely – his selection could allow the Lions to move Reiff to the right side and they’d have two young bookend tackles for the foreseeable future.

Chance Warmack, guard, 6-3, 320, Alabama

Best trait: Strength at the point of attack

Concern: Speed

The skinny: Some draft analysts have given Warmack the highest grade of any prospect in the draft. He’s a dominating run blocker who helped former Alabama running back Mark Ingram win the Heisman trophy, Trent Richardson be a top 5 pick last year and Eddie Lacy be a likely first-round pick this April. He’s a starting guard in the NFL for the next 10 years. Is No. 5 too high to choose a guard, though? Even one as talented as Warmack?

Eric Fisher, tackle, 6-8, 305, Central Michigan

Best trait: Athleticism

Concern: Needs to add strength and weight to frame

The skinny: The former tight end didn’t lose much of his athleticism when he made the switch to tackle. He’s got terrific feet and was by far the top performer at the Senior Bowl last month. Like Joeckel, he’s an immediate starter as a rookie. He’s also a local kid from Rochester.

Jonathan Cooper, guard, 6-3, 310, North Carolina

Best trait: Athleticism

Concern: Doesn’t have elite size for position

The skinny: Cooper is an athletic guard with quick feet and a powerful lower body. He's good in both run blocking and pass protection. Moves very well for his size.

Lane Johnson, tackle, 6-7, 303, Oklahoma

Best trait: Foot quickness

Concern: Has to get stronger

The skinny: Like Fisher, Johnson is a converted tight end made tackle. Those kind of players tend to have very good success against speed rushers because of their athleticism, but also tend to be on the lighter side and susceptible to the bull rush against stronger defensive ends until they add sufficient weight and strength to their frame. Johnson was very good at the Senior Bowl, but he hasn’t been playing the position very long, so there’s still a learning curve there.

D.J. Fluker, tackle, 6-6, 335, Alabama

Best trait: Elite size and strength

Concern: Not great athlete

The skinny: A mammoth right tackle with elite size and strength. He’s terrific as a run blocker and his shear size makes it hard for rushers to disengage from him. Speed rushers in space appear to have more luck getting past Fluker.

Barrett Jones, center/guard, 6-5, 302, Alabama

Best trait: Versatility

Concern: Durability

The skinny: He played all three positions along the Alabama offensive line, helping the Tide to three National Championships in the last four seasons. Jones is a high-character guy who looks like he can play guard or center for the next 10 years in the NFL. The Lions are looking for Raiola’s eventual replacement and the second round could be an option for Jones -- if he's there.

Larry Warford, guard, 6-3, 333, Kentucky

Best trait: Size

Concern: Reaction time

The skinny: Warford has great size and shows uncharacteristically quick feet for a player his size. He shows good technique, but isn’t as dominate a run blocker, as his size would suggest.

Travis Frederick, center, 6-4, 338, Wisconsin

Best trait: Hands

Concern: Quickness

The skinny: Frederick has experience at both center and guard and uses his hands very well to manipulate defenders. He has a terrific combination of elite size and terrific technique. That’ll make his a solid pro.