- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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As a follow-up to today’s “beyond the first round” entry on guards, and as a preview to Saturday’s entry on centers, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay was asked for some thoughts on interior offensive line prospects the New England Patriots might consider early in the 2014 draft.
McShay sees just one option if the Patriots go in that direction at No. 29 -- UCLA’s Xavier Su'a-Filo.
“He played a lot of tackle this past year. I watched his tape recently and was really impressed with him,” McShay said, adding that he has ideal experience for an underclassman (40 starts). “I think he has a chance to be the best guard from this class. He’s big [6-foot-4 1/8, 307], he moves pretty well, he’s strong, physical and can move guys off the line. I gave him high grades in both pass protection and run-blocking.”
One dynamic to consider with the Patriots and the guard position is how the overall crop of prospects is stacked.
“I do think there is a drop-off at guard after [Su'a-Filo],” McShay said, noting that Clemson’s Brandon Thomas probably would have been a second-round pick if he didn’t tear his ACL in a private workout with the Saints.
Thomas is now likely be selected in the middle rounds with a team essentially red-shirting him in 2014.
At center, McShay began with Southern Cal’s Marcus Martin.
“I have a late second, early third grade on him,” McShay said. “Good player, he still has to improve with his balance and some of the things he does with his hands. But when he gets locked on and is in balance; he’s big and strong for a center [6-foot-3 3/8, 320 pounds] but moves well. I think he has a chance to be a good starter.”
McShay called his No. 2 center, Weston Richburg of Colorado State, an underrated prospect.
“If he goes late second, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I think he’s a good enough player,” he said. “The game that really got me with him, when I studied the tape, was Alabama. I thought he was outstanding in that game, handling all the different looks they showed at him up front. Very good football IQ. Not a road-grader but a very good zone blocker who moves well laterally who does the little things you need to do in terms of the line calls and making sure he has his head on a swivel, picking up stunts and all those things.”