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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot of people expect three offensive tackles to be off the board in the first 10 or 12 picks of the NFL Draft.
At No. 8, the Jacksonville Jaguars may well claim one of them. A stud left tackle is a necessity for a team trying to refortify its lines.
O-linemen talked Thursday at the scouting combine. Ask around and you get the top three guys in all different orders. I'll go alphabetically by school: Alabama's Andre Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe all answered questions about what might set them apart. (Ole Miss' Michael Oher is a likely first rounder too, but while he said he's the best of the lot, he's generally rated as fourth so far.)
Jason Smith won the battle of the podium media sessions, but I have been told by several prominent scouts that means nothing when it comes to actual evaluations. Nevertheless, this is what I am armed with right now, and I thought you might be interested in a bit of what each of the top tackles had to say:
Why should you be the first tackle taken?
Why should I be the first tackle taken? Hmmm. Just my hard work on the field. The way I go out and compete every play, try to dominate my opponent every single play.
Do you measure yourself against other top tackles in this draft?
I try to pick up certain things they may do as far as how they work out or something they may do different and try to see if it works for me, or if it's a hindrance to me. Eugene, Jason and Mike [Oher], I love all of them.
You said you weigh 332. There were reports you were up to 380.
No sir. The highest I've ever been is 345 ... I never had a problem at the university as far as having a weight issue.
How did you get your weight down?
Changing my eating habits, being disciplined, not eating after certain times of night.
What do you see in the quality of tackles in this year's draft?
All of us bring something good to the table. Every one of us do something really well. We like to compete. We work hard with our teammates on the offensive line. We have to play together on the offensive line. We play good in the system we're in.
On your reputation for finishing blocks:
When I'm on the field, I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody. As far as finishing them off, that's just a part of the block, so you don't really think too much of it because that's what you go on the field to do. So it's just something I practice real hard at, and I practice real hard at practicing, and when its game time it just happens naturally.
Have you talked to the Lions and is the No. 1 pick a realistic possibility?
Anything's realistic... I haven't talked to the Lions, but I do believe it's realistic that they will take a tackle and I do believe it's realistic that I can be the No. 1 overall pick.
What are your selling points?
First of all, I'm tough, I'm physical, and I have a great attitude. I show up every day willing to work. And I'm productive. And I have 12 games that shows it. And I have 12 weeks of practice that also shows it. So if you want to see a guy that practices hard, plays hard, look at my practice or look at my games -- you won't be able to tell the difference. I'll be going full speed, and every day you walk in there I'll have a smile on my face, ready to go to work.
There's a lot of technique involved. You don't just walk out there and hit somebody. But once you get your hands on a guy and grab him and squeeze him and slam him, or whatever goes on in the trenches, it's a great feeling. In the game of football, there's always something to work on. If you're an offensive lineman and you think you're great, retire. I'm still learning. And I honestly believe I'll still be learning till the day I retire.
On why he'll do all the workouts at the combine:
It's a bit of that too because you don't want to miss out on an opportunity to show you have the ability to do as well or better but you decide not to do the drill.
Make the case for why you should be the first tackle taken:
I think over my career at Virginia I've proven that I can block anybody. I have the determination to improve my game and the ambition to succeed. And I'll never stop, I'll just continue to set goals, one step is completed, I set another goal and I make sure I do everything in my power to achieve that and if I can't, if there is a setback, I reset everything and I go back again and go to the drawing board and continue to grind.
Do you watch anyone in the league as a model?
Yeah, when I study film at times I will watch Walter Jones a bit. I wouldn't say that I compare my game to his but I will try to learn things from him. Originally I was just looking at how consistent he is with his footwork and his hand placement and his explosiveness. He's a really good player.
Are you in line with the idea you're the best of the tackles?
I hear it but ultimately that's not my decision and all I can do is position myself where everyone knows about Eugene Monroe and what type of player and person he is.
What's the competition like between you and the other top tackles?
Who is going to be the first one picked? We'll see in April. I can't predict that. We speak and get along pretty well. It's a very good group.