Could local prep O-linemen meet Chicago Bears' draft needs?
Fourth in a series of position- by-position reports leading up to the April 28 NFL draft.
The Chicago Bears' late-March signings of veteran free-agent interior offensive linemen Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen was a clear signal they weren't satisfied with their O-line depth -- and perhaps not even their starting lineup.
Their O-line interest level during the upcoming NFL draft will reflect how confident they are in that position group going forward. Aside from the few teams that already have a franchise left tackle, every other NFL franchise is looking for a dominant blindside protector for its quarterback.
This year's top two left tackles -- Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil and Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley -- likely will both be gone before the Bears use their No. 11 first-round pick. Tunsil should go near the top, but there's a chance Stanley could fall out of the top 10.
Michigan State's Jack Conklin and Ohio State's Taylor Decker have been linked to the Bears in the first round. Best-case scenario, both project as standout NFL left tackles. The floor for both is solid right tackle.
If the Bears choose to wait until the third day of the draft (Rounds 4-7), there are local offensive linemen they might consider. Michigan State center Jack Allen prepped at Hinsdale Central, Michigan center-guard Graham Glasgow played at Marmion Academy in Aurora, and Mississippi tackle Fahn Cooper attended Crystal Lake South and College of DuPage.
Allen was a state champion wrestler in high school, and some of those skills translate to the football field. Despite being undersized for an NFL O-lineman, the 6-foot-1, 294-pound Allen generally maintains a stout base and good balance.
While starting 47 games, Allen became what many Spartans teammates called the most respected player on the squad, according to talent evaluator Nolan Nawrocki's NFL Draft 2016 Preview.
Allen's long list of intangibles include toughness, intelligence, strong work ethic and maturity. He also showed a sense of humor and humility during interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Asked what set him apart from the O-line crowd in Indianapolis, Allen said: "I'm not as tall as any of them."
Getting drafted by the Bears would do more than fulfill Allen's boyhood dream of playing for the hometown team. It would reunite him with ex-Spartan Jeremy Langford, who's expected to fill the vacancy left by the departure of running back Matt Forte.
"When we're in the training room on Sundays (the day) after a game, before our meetings, we usually have games on and everyone's rooting for Jeremy," Allen said. "That's a tough guy. He can take some hits. That's the kind of guy who you want to block for. He's a great guy off the field, and he runs hard."
Glasgow started 37 games for Michigan (seven at guard, 30 at center) over the previous three years despite missing one game in 2014 as a punishment for a DUI arrest. Glasgow violated his probation a year later and was banned from the team for the spring in 2015 but started all 13 games in the fall.
One of the conditions that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh imposed on the 6-6, 307-pound Glasgow before allowing him back was that he had to live with his 81-year-old grandmother Carmella in an apartment in downtown Ann Arbor.
Rather than resisting the arrangement, Glasgow embraced it. And rather than resenting Harbaugh, Glasgow is grateful.
"I can't say enough about Coach Harbaugh," he said. "I think the world of him. I think that he's done an immense amount for me in making it to the next level.
"I really owe a lot of this to him."
The well-traveled Cooper has been an every-game, season-long starter in three different programs since leaving Crystal Lake. He began at Bowling Green but left after starting 13 games at left tackle in 2012, wanting to play for a higher-profile school.
After playing one year at College of DuPage because he didn't want to sit a year as a transfer, Cooper enrolled at Mississippi and immediately stepped into the starting lineup.
He lost 30 pounds before the 2015 season and started the first seven games at left tackle while Tunsil served a suspension. He moved to right tackle for the final six starts.
At 6-4 and 303 pounds, Cooper has NFL size, but he needs to get stronger, and his lack of athleticism could prevent him from becoming a starter. His future could be at right tackle, or as a swing tackle, since he has experience on both ends of the line.
Top 10 offensive linemenNAME, COLLEGE HT. WT. 40-TIME
OT Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi 6-5 310 5.16
Exceptional foot quickness, athleticism, flexibility and technique. Could use more power as run blocker but an NFL-ready pass protector. Should go in the Top 5 overall.
OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame 6-6 312 5.20
Superb in pass pro. Plug-and-play LT in NFL with superb athleticism. His game is more finesse and technique. Could add power and strength in run game.
OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State 6-6 308 5.00
This former walk-on now a top-20 pick. Ideal size with strength and toughness, though not as athletic as top 2 OT's in pass pro, but allowed just 4 sacks in 39 games.
OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State 6-7 310 5.23
Tough, nasty, physical butt-kicker in the run game, but is not a great athlete so is more suited to RT in NFL.
OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana 6-6 301 4.94
4-year starter has great quickness, movement skills and athleticism as a LT in NFL but lacks football strength in run game.
OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas St. 6-4 301 5.08
Played LT, RT and LG but projects to OG. Started every game for 4 years. Good quickness and body control but just 16 reps on bench.
OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M 6-6 324 5.27
A project with great size and physical tools. Needs better technique and discipline at next level, where he will be a RT or OG.
C Ryan Kelly, Alabama 6-4 311 5.03
Has size, strength, toughness and technique. What he lacks in aesthetics and athleticism, he makes up for in smarts and leadership.
OT Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech 6-5 316 5.16
Started 51 straight games, last 38 at LT. Great size and quickness but technique lacking. Needs more strength to reach LT potential.
OT Shon Coleman, Auburn 6-5 307 5.35
Overcame 2-year fight with leukemia. Lacks athleticism and foot agility for LT but has power and focus to be a road-grader at RT. Will be 25 as a rookie.
-- Bob LeGere