The secret to picking a great offensive lineman in the NFL draft

The college game has changed how offensive lineman get ready for the NFL, and how they are evaluated for the NFL. The college game used to be a glorified minor league for the NFL. The same basic offensive principles were taught and executed at both levels. You could see a guard block a three-technique on a zone play, or a left tackle pass protect from a three-point stance, exactly how he would on Sundays.

Nowadays, with the advancement of the spread offense in college, a college offensive lineman may only rarely be asked to execute the same assignments and techniques that will be asked of him in the NFL.

In addition, practice time was cut drastically when the new NFL collective bargaining agreement was approved in 2011. The CBA reduced the offseason program from 14 weeks to nine, and created time limits. Training camp went from being daily, with occasional two-a-days, to just one padded practice per day and one day off per week.

I remember during my first few seasons before the new CBA, we would be in full pads twice in week 17. Not anymore. At first, I was thrilled about the changes. I still am — they mean much less wear and tear on players. However, you can trace the slide in NFL offensive line play back to the start of the new practice schedules, alongside the rise of college spread offenses.

So if you’re a college offensive lineman looking to translate your skills to the NFL, or a scout grading college offensive lineman, what are the positives and negatives in a player’s game that translate to the NFL? Can some flaws be fixed with coaching and limited practice time?

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