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Protection Top Priority in Indy

Posted Feb 21, 2013

Several of the offensive linemen in Indianapolis for the 2013 NFL Combine could be vying to be the top selection at this year’s draft.

INDIANAPOLIS – When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium to announce the first selection of the 2013 NFL Draft, there is a good chance he’ll call the name of an offensive lineman.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he considered four players worthy of the top choice – all of whom played somewhere on the offensive line.

“I’ve never seen two guards at the top end this good that could be top 10 picks,” Mayock said on a conference call earlier this week. “Love them. I’ve got six tackles that I’ve given first round grades to. So the offensive line depth is really good.”

Those linemen will go through a gauntlet of drills, tests and interviews this week at the NFL Scouting Combine as teams try to continue developing their draft boards.

For the top offensive linemen at the combine, the chance to be the first player taken at their position, and possibly the first overall pick, is something that serves as a motivating factor.

“That would be a huge, huge honor, and obviously a dream complete and it would just open up another dream for me,” Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher said. “But anybody who would give me the chance to play football I’d really appreciate it and I’d definitely work real hard to be successful on their team.”

Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel is another player that some pundits have pegged in the No. 1 draft slot.

“It would be really cool, a dream come true,” Joeckel said. “But the way I’m just looking at it, I want to get there. I am definitely striving to be the No. 1 pick, going through this entire process and playing this season and all that kind of stuff. But my dream is to just play in the NFL.”

The 2012 Outland Trophy winner, Joeckel earned All-America honors following his junior season at Texas A&M. He stepped into the starting lineup as a freshman and went on to start all 39 possible games during his career with the Aggies.

No guard has been selected in the top 10 picks since 1997, but North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper hopes to change that trend this year.

“I’d say so,” he said. “Being a guard – I feel like if he can help your team and make an immediate impact and you really need that position, then why not spend a top-five pick on him.”

All 333 combine participants would like to be the first player drafted. However, even that top pick will have to prove that he can take his college success to the next level.

Joeckel said that if he were to be selected No. 1, it wouldn’t change his approach to his game.

“I know, being the No. 1 pick, after that, it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “You’ve got to go prove yourself in the NFL. It’s just like that in college. Being the No. 1 recruit in college doesn’t matter unless you step on that campus. It’s the same thing. It’s cool and everything, but going to any team I go through, proving myself there will be the biggest thing.”