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Capfan
02-24-2005, 11:04 AM
ESPN article (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/draft05/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=1998707)

INDIANAPOLIS -- At 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds, with the overall girth of a Manhattan city block and a wingspan approximating that of Yao Ming, Florida State left offensive tackle Alex Barron is not going to be readily confused with the normal perception of a doting mother hen.

Unless, that is, one listens to Barron's discussing his approach the art of pass protection. That's when the massive bodyguard morphs into a real-life security system.


Alex Barron was a two-time All-American at Florida State.
"A lot of it is about the technical stuff no one ever thinks about, like footwork and hand placement, things like that," said Barron, a 2-year starter and two-time All-American for the Seminoles. "But part of it is attitude, too, like feeling you have to treat that quarterback as if he's a family member. You think, like, 'Hey, what if that was my mother or my sister back there, and somebody is trying to mess with them? What if that [pass rusher] was a thief, trying to break into our house, you know?' It's kind of like the commercial where the player screams, 'We must protect this house!' I mean, you have to take care of your family, right, at all costs?"

Here for the annual predraft NFL combine, where his goal is to impress scouts sufficiently to earn a spot in the first round and to garner financial security for him and his family, Barron is ready to take care of business as well.

And, judging from the tepid reviews of the offensive linemen in this year's draft pool, scouts will certainly be looking for prospects such as Barron, tackles Jammal Brown of Oklahoma and the University of Washington's Khalif Barnes, along with Virginia guard Elton Brown, to separate themselves from a nondescript group.

To be sure, there is no offensive line prospect approaching the talent of Robert Gallery of the Oakland Raiders, the second player selected last year. Scouts aren't going to locate a player the caliber of Jordan Gross, the eighth overall pick in '03 and a starter as a rookie on a Carolina Panthers team that advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII. The next Tony Boselli, Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden, Alan Faneca or Walter Jones? Not in this year's draft.

As usual with the offensive linemen, the physical size is jaw-dropping. The skill level, alas, and perhaps the ability to quickly step in and contribute, leaves a lot to be desired.

"I think, just based on what we've heard and seen so far from our personnel people, the depth is there," said Washington Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel. "But this draft might not have the real, high-caliber players we've seen in some other years."

Not since 1989, when the Raiders chose John Clay with the 15th pick, has there been a draft in which an offensive lineman failed to be chosen in the top half of the first round. The 1999 lottery, in which John Tait went to Kansas City at No. 14, was the last time the top-10 choices didn't include at least one blocker. There have been 20 top-10 offensive line picks since '90, but the number likely won't be augmented this year.

Since 1990, the first round has averaged 4.7 offensive linemen, but the '05 draft will be hard pressed to reach that. There were three offensive linemen off the board among the first 10 picks in 2002 and some scouts have suggested there might be only three line prospects, total, worthy of first-round consideration this year. You have to go all the way back to 1990 for a first round that included fewer than three blockers.

"I don't know," said Elton Brown of Virginia, glancing around a convention-hall corridor early Thursday morning at the cadre of beefy line prospects that surrounded him. "To me, all these guys look like first-round [prospects]."

The perspective of NFL personnel directors, who over the past several year have come to expect a bumper crop of blockers, won't be nearly as gene