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O'HARA'S 2019 DRAFT PREVIEW: Offensive linemen

Before Jawaan Taylor could ever think about playing in the NFL – and eventually be one of the top offensive line prospects in the 2019 draft -- he made a lifestyle change to achieve his boyhood dream of playing for the University of Florida.

Going into his senior year at Cocoa High School, Taylor realized that being overweight at more than 380 pounds would keep him from playing for Florida.

He ate a lot less, worked out a lot more, and lost 58 pounds to get into Florida.

“Just changed my eating habits,” Taylor said in his Combine media interview. “Worked out three times a day – just took it very serious.

“I just did everything it took to get there.”

His career at Florida developed him as a member of a strong draft for offensive linemen, with tackle prospects on the left and right sides and quality interior linemen with the flexibility to play guard or center.

The Detroit Lions could be looking to add another offensive lineman for depth and development, but probably not early.

View photos of Bucky Brooks' Top 10 offensive lineman draft prospects.

There’s a premium on offensive linemen in this high-scoring era to protect quarterbacks and open holes for running backs. Five times in the last six years two offensive linemen have been taken in the top 10 picks. In 2014, four were taken in the top 10 and three in the top four.

Regardless of how this year’s class compares to other years, Taylor is aware of the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead after the draft.

“In the NFL, it’s a grown-man game,” he said. “I have to be ready for big-time players, and a big-time game.”

Following is a breakdown of the top eight draft candidates for the offensive line, with one to watch and others, along with the Lions’ position breakdown, draft priority and key stat:

Top 8 O-line prospects:

(Note: Workout results are from Combine or Pro Day.)

Offensive line draft rating: Overall, the strongest and deepest position on offense, with interior linemen leading the way with depth and versatility.

Lions’ offensive line breakdown: Four starters returning, with right guard open because of T. J. Lang’s release and retirement.

Lions’ draft priority: A lot depends on how the board falls. Using at least one of the nine picks is likely, but probably not before Rounds 2-3 on the second day.

Key Lions’ stat – 2: That’s how many offensive snaps center Graham Glasgow and rookie left guard Frank Ragnow missed combined in 2018 as the iron men of the offensive line. Both played 1,074 of the 1,075 offensive snaps. Ragnow played 64 snaps on special teams to Glasgow’s 63.

1. OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida: 6-5, 312.

Profile: Did not run at Combine or Pro Day because of hamstring injury. Did position drills, bench press, with 24 reps. Three-year starter at right tackle, with two games in 2017 on left side. Led O-line that allowed only 18 sacks in 2018. Long arms, big hands, power suit him to play right tackle.

2. OT Andre Dillard, Washington State: 6-5, 315.

Profile: Allowed only one sack protecting for 677 pass attempts in 2018, according to school stats. Showed athleticism to play left tackle in Combine workout: 4.95 40, 24 reps in bench, almost 10-foot broad jump. Three starts as 2015 reserve and all 13 per year next three seasons.

3. OT/G Jonah Williams, Alabama: 6-4, 302.

Profile: Heavily recruited California high school star, did not require break-in period when he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2016. Started all 44 games in three years – 15 at right tackle, then 29 at left. Part of 2018 unit that allowed one sack per game, SEC fewest. Pro position could be guard.

4. C Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State: 6-3, 306.

Profile: Agile and built for center, as Combine workout showed: 4.92 40, 34 bench press reps. Gradually migrated to center – from high school tight end, two college years at guard, the last two at center. Won 2018 Rimington Award as FBS top center. Might need weight gain in NFL.

5. OT Cody Ford, Oklahoma: 6-4, 329.

Profile: More athletic than raw Combine numbers might show: 5.21 40, 19 reps in bench. Redshirt in 2015, seven starts at guard in 2016-17 combined, then all 14 at right tackle in 2018. December 2018 grad. Blocked for two straight Heisman winners – Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray.

6. OT Kaleb McGary, Washington: 6-7, 317.

Profile: Good high school athlete, played basketball and tight end and defensive line in football. After 2015 redshirt season, started six games in 2015 and all 41 last three years at right tackle. Rangy build and athleticism – 5.05 40, 23 reps in the bench – could project to left tackle.

7. C Erik McCoy, Texas A&M: 6-4, 303.

Profile: Another solid center prospect, with experience at guard and athleticism: 4.89 40 and 29 reps in bench. After 2015 redshirt, started all 39 games last three years: Two seasons at guard, 2018 at center. Helped clear way for A&M to rush for more than 2,000 yards in both 2017-18.

8. G Chris Lindstrom, Boston College: 6-4, 308.

Profile: Played 50 games in four years, breaking in as starter at right guard in 2015 finale. At guard final three years, except emergency switch to right tackle for six starts in 2017 when BC went 5-1 to qualify for a bowl game (loss to Iowa). Wonder if he’s ever called Lidstrom?

View photos of NFL prospect Chris Lindstrom.

One to watch: OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois: 6-6, 327.

Profile: A solid second day prospect, Scharping experienced the traditions of pro football growing up in Green Bay. He also benefitted from being coached in high school on a part-time basis by Bryce Paup, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker who played his first five seasons with the Packers.

“He really set a standard of excellence,” Scharping said in his Combine media interview. “That helped going into college, and I think it helped guys just in their lives in general.”

The weight program he began in high school showed up at the Combine, where Scharping did 29 reps in the bench press. He did not run the 40 at the Combine, or his Pro Day five days later, because of a hamstring injury.

Scharping put the lessons he learned to use on and off the field. After a 2014 red-shirt season he started 53 straight games, mostly at right and left tackle, with a few games at right guard.

His versatility and production were highlighted in the 2018 season. He played all 998 offensive snaps, scored a two-point conversion on a lateral and earned a $13,000 National Football Foundation scholarship. Also, giving up a sack in the opener against Iowa was the first sack he allowed since 2015, according to the school’s stats.

Scharping’s skill set and size likely make him best suited to right tackle, but that will be decided over time.

“Teams haven't really spoken about that,” he said at the Combine. “Any position, I’m pretty good with.”

Others:

Tackles: Greg Little, Mississippi; Tytus Howard, Alabama State; Chuma Edoga, Southern Cal; Dennis Daley, South Carolina; Isaiah Prince, Ohio State.

Guards/centers: Connor McGovern, Penn State; Nate Davis, Charlotte; Michael Jordan, Ohio State; Michael Deiter, Wisconsin; Dru Samia, Oklahoma; Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin.

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