A POSITION OF STRENGTH

The focus on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine was the offensive tackle position, a spot some consider one of the deeper positions in the April 22-24, 2010 NFL Draft.

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NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday Focuses on Strong Offensive Tackle Position

INDIANAPOLIS – Whatever his rank right now, and whoever it is doing the ranking, Trent Williams isn't much concerned. Not yet. Not this week.

Williams, an offensive tackle from Oklahoma University generally considered one of the top players at his position in the 2010 NFL Draft, said his concern certainly is rankings and all that they entail when it comes to the draft. But he figures there's time to change that ranking.

And that, he said, is what his weekend is about.

"I think that's what the combine is for, to separate the competition," Williams said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is scheduled to continue through March 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.

The competition at Williams' position, offensive tackle, is particularly strong this season.

And that may be particularly true at the top of the draft.

Williams (6-feet-6, 315 pounds) is widely projected as a first-round selection in the April 22-24, 2010 NFL Draft, and he is one of at least six tackles projected to potentially be among the first 32 players selected. Others include Russell Okung of Oklahoma State, Bruce Campbell of Maryland, junior Bryan Bulaga of Iowa, junior Anthony Davis of Rutgers and Charles Brown of Southern Cal.

It is considered by some one of the deepest offensive tackle positions in several seasons.

"Every draft takes on an identity," San Francisco 49ers General Manager Scot McCloughan said. "I'm not saying this is a real deep year on the offensive line but there are good football players out there. The one thing about the offensive line nowadays is the game's changed a lot in college with the spread offense. The big power guys, the guys that come off (the line) and drive block and all that – you don't see that anymore in college."

Brown, who said he measured at 6-5, 303 pounds Thursday, moved from tight end to offensive tackle in college, and said that's part of the reason he is a bit lighter than a prototype tackle. He said another reason is he didn't have enough money to pay for many meals at Southern Cal.

"One meal a day," he said.

Asked where he fits among this year's tackles, he said, "That is not a question for me. That is a question for the scouts.

"I haven't really watched everybody else," he said.

Davis, who – like Williams – said he hopes to play on the left side in the NFL, had a different weight issue than Brown in college. Whereas Brown entered Southern Cal around 280, Davis arrived at Rutgers weighing 366 pounds and was demoted to second-team before his sophomore season when he reed at 320 pounds rather than 315.

"I had to suffer the consequences," he said. "It hurt to see someone else in my spot. It was just a lesson. It was a lesson to be learned."

While the aforementioned six are widely listed among the draft class' top left tackles, Mike Iupati could be a factor at the position, too.

Iupati (6-5, 331) is considered the draft's top guard and has been listed as a first-round selection by many analysts, but he played left tackle at the Senior Bowl, his first time at either tackle or right guard.

"It's coming along – trying to fine-tune it a little bit," he said of his play at tackle.

Iupati said he hopes to play tackle in the NFL, and that while he said he may need some time to make the adjustment, he said there's a fairly clear reason he would like to make the change.

"That's where the money is," Iupati said. "I've been playing left guard all my career and it's something I have to learn. I think it's pretty good to be the best offensive guard, but being versatile will be a great deal and hopefully put me up the draft.

"Whatever a team wants me to play I will definitely give them 110 percent and definitely know I will be the best at that position."

Also at the combine on Thursday:
• Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Director of Football Operations, said the growth in profile of the combine has benefited not only the league, but the prospects. "The players become very competitive in this environment, with all the media attention and network broadcasting," he said. "Quite honestly I was opposed to when [NFL] Network came in with the exposure, but it has been great for the combine and the competition with the players. It hasn't changed too much from our medical examinations, psychological examinations and physical workouts. It's really the exposure."

• Colbert said while the combine plays a role, "The most valuable part of a player's evaluation is what happens from August to December. The combine, Senior Bowl – this is all icing on cake. Ninety percent of the evaluation has already occurred before we get to this point."

• With the prospect of an "uncapped" year in the NFL beginning March 5, team officials say that could mean more activity than normal for players who are restricted free agents. "In this world of the uncapped season, where you have three years of restricted free agency, I think there could be more action in the restricted free agency aspect of the offseason – only because there are more players to pick from," Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland said.

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