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Green Zone League Articles

GZL's Most Freakish Athletes(OL Edition)
By Paul Willis
Special to gzl-football.com

I've been dreading AND looking forward to this edition moreso than any other. If there's one part of a team that I believe GM's have differing philosophies of more than any other it's right here. I've changed my opinion of what matters most in an offensive lineman multiple times over my admittedly short GM career, and it's still evolving. While I personally appreciate athleticism along my OL, over the seasons I've come to respect the "technical skills" as much or more. Looking in to this feature has given me more food for thought, hopefully it gives some of you guys something to mull over as well. I think this is one of the more arguable editions of this we'll have, so tell me who I snubbed below!

Left Tackle

Terron Armstead - 6'5" - 306 LBS - 65 SPD - 95 STR - 65 AGI - 82 ACC

Most elite athletes at tackle end up moving to the right side. Not so for Armstead, at least not yet. Despite being drafted at 1.6, Armstead currently sits on the bench in Green Bay behind Charlie Johnson(who is having a heck of a season so far). As we'll discover later, most of the truly special athletes along the offensive line aren't especially polished coming out of college and this one is no different. While I'm sure he'll see playing time eventually, for now there's no data to pull from.

Honorable Mention

Ryan Clady - 6'6" - 327 LBS - 64 SPD - 94 STR - 69 AGI - 80 ACC

One of the true all around elites in the game, Clady combines freakish athleticism with an incredible football IQ and technique. 2nd all time with 551 pancakes and only 23 sacks allowed.


Left Guard

Bruce Campbell - 6'6" - 314 LBS - 70 SPD - 91 STR - 70 AGI - 84 ACC

If I was ranking all the OL regardless of position, Campbell would be in the top 2. If he had hands he could be a productive TE, and for a nerd like me you've got to love him just for his name. His rookie year was the inaugural GZL season and he came in with a remarkably low 40 AWR starting point. He did have very good technique however(90 PBK/80 RBK), which helped him overcome the learning curve and he's been very productive with 367 pancakes to 21 sacks allowed. Factor in the fact that Michael Vick was his QB for a couple of seasons and he still only gave up 8 sacks during those years.

Honorable Mention

Chris McDonald - 6'5" - 310 LBS - 66 SPD - 90 STR - 66 AGI - 82 ACC

This was tough, outside of Campbell nobody really stands out too much at LG. Frankie Gerard, Logan Mankins, Marshall Newhouse, Dallas Thomas or Jon Asamoah could've hit this spot. I went McDonald because he's solid across the board. He's been solid in his first 2 seasons, but isn't really a "freak" like some others on the list.


Center

Ryan Bartholomew - 6'1" - 302 LBS - 68 SPD - 95 STR - 65 AGI - 80 ACC

Center is one of the more interesting positions in the league. Despite many not considering it a priority, it is nice when you have a stud since you can't just grab a talented OL and move them to the middle without a significant penalty. Of all the centers in the league, the most freakish is clearly Bartholomew. His blend of size, strength and quickness would make him a stud anywhere on the o-line, but he's been hurt by a lack of applicable skill at the position so far in his career.

He entered the league as the 25th overall pick by New England in the 2011 draft with 56 AWR/79 RBK/77 PBK, and it's probably that lack of polish that has made him only average in terms of production. While it looks like he was injured during both of his first two seasons, he's played every game since 2013. His best year was in 2013, he had 47 tackles and 0 sacks allowed.

Honorable Mention

Nick Mangold - 6'3" - 300 LBS - 63 SPD - 94 STR - 57 AGI - 81 ACC

One of the few guys on the list who doesn't hit at least 60 SPD/60 AGI/80 ACC. Mangold only lacks elite AGI, but that hasn't stopped him from being the most productive center in GZL history. He's never finished outside the top four in pancakes and led the league among centers in 2010 and 2011.


Right Guard

Barrett Jones - 6'4" - 315 LBS - 66 SPD - 93 STR - 63 AGI - 80 ACC

I was a bit surprised to see that out of all offensive line positions, the one with the least amount of impressive specimens was right guard. Only 3 hit the magic numbers I mentioned above, but many are close. This is likely due to the fact that all incoming rookies have been LG's for at least the last couple of seasons and most GM's just haven't switched them over. Buffalo's Barrett Jones was drafted at 1.13 in 2013, and has proven his worth during his short career. Unlike others on the list, Jones has the mental makeup to compliment his physical gifts.

After losing the last 6 games of his rookie season to injury, Jones bounced back in a big way in 2014 and helped the Bills field one of the most impressive lines in GZL. His presence allowed the Bills to not only keep a scrambling RGIII clean(only gave up 4 sacks), but also make Griffin the most prolific rushing QB in league history. Oh, and Darren McFadden also won Comeback Player of the Year in thanks in large part to his contributions. Currently 10th in the league in pancakes among OG's.

Honorable Mention

Mike Iupati - 6'5" - 341 LBS - 55 SPD - 93 STR - 65 AGI - 85 ACC

Like I mentioned, only a few RG's hit the 60/60/80 benchmark. Iupati is not one of those guys, but aside from slightly below average speed, he's a monster. One of the biggest players in the league, he's also got the ability to move and has been one of the best at his position since the GZL opened its doors.


Right Tackle

Tyron Smith - 6'5" - 307 LBS - 71 SPD - 92 STR - 72 AGI - 81 ACC

It should come as no surprise that what most consider the "sexiest" position on the offensive line also claims the most impressive "freak". Bruce Campbell is close, but Smith edges him out just a bit in my opinion. Like Campbell, Smith was rough around the edges when he started his GZL career. Unlike Campbell, Smith was a part of a GZL draft class, and his impressive attributes were enough to make him the 6th overall pick. I feel like my memory serves me right here so I'm not going to research it, but that would make him the highest picked offensive lineman in GZL's history until Lane Johnson's selection at 1.4 this past offseason.

I really hate to say this, but to this point Smith has been something of a bust. Despite being so physically gifted he's only been at best a mediocre producer and his play has actually gotten worse over the years. 2014, his third year in the league, saw him finish the season with a paltry 47 pancakes and 16 sacks allowed. In his defense, he was blocking for the fairly inexperienced Matt Barkley, but you'd think a guy with his ability to get down the field would at least be in the top 60 at his position in pancakes. 2014 may have been an aberration, as he put up respectable if not impressive numbers during his first two years(one of which he had to block for Mike Vick for almost half the season) and is on pace for another decent year stat-wise.

Honorable Mention

Lane Johnson - 6'6" - 303 LBS - 64 SPD - 93 STR - 68 AGI - 83 ACC

It was close, but I gave the edge to Johnson because he's so good across the board and has room to grow. Unlike Tyron Smith, Johnson is also one of the most polished blockers to ever come out of a GZL draft. Only three games in to his career he has looked mediocre, but I expect we'll be looking at one of the top linemen in the league's history a decade from now.
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