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Prospect Watch: Guards, part 1

Written by Dan Gigler on .

An occasional look at potential 2012 NFL Draft picks for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Previous installments featured Memphis DT Dontari Poe, Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu, Georgia OL Cordy Glenn, Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower, Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Stanford OT Jonathan Martin and Ole Miss OT Bobbie Massie

Today Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele and Midwestern State's Amini Silatolu ...

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Kelechi Osemele, left, and Amini Silatolu, right, are big, raw prospects.

With the Steelers perilously thin on the offensive line (what else is new?) many of the draft handicappers think Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert would be wise to make selecting a tackle a high priority in the 2012 NFL annual selection meeting. With a number of good, late-first round prospects available, and only Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon are pencilled in as starters, and a $100 million dollar man at quarterback, it makes sense.

But so does addressing the guard position, which is equally thin. Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky are your likely starters and then ... buncha chirping crickets.

David DeCastro of Stanford is the only true guard consistently projected to be a surefire first-round pick, and will be selected well before the Steelers are on the clock. Georgia's Cordy Glenn, a tackle-to-guard convert could be within striking distance of the Steelers, but a number of teams picking just ahead of Pittsburgh seem to like the cut of Glenn's jib.

After that, there are a bunch of solid but not earth-shattering prospects that the Steelers could trade a few spots down for in the first round, and others that should be available throughout the second and third rounds.

We'll take a look at them, a couple at a time this week.

First off, two big fellas with seven-syllable names: Kelechi Osemele from Iowa State and Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State.

Cue the NFL Draft drinking game when discussing these gentlemen, as the time-honored cliches of "big upside" (drink!) and "a project" (drink!) are often attached to both the 6-6, 333-pound ex-Cyclone from Houston, whose name is pronounced kah-LETCH-ee oh-sem-AH-lee and the 6-3, 320-pound guy from the school you've never heard of who goes by ah-MEE-nee sill-uh-TOE-lou .

Like the aforementioned Glenn, both Osemele and Silatolu were college tackles but will almost certainly play guard in the NFL, thus offering some "positional flexibility." (gratuitous Tomlinism! social!)

Osemele, whose last name means "ancient warrior" in the language of his Nigerian forebears has a massive 85+ inch wingspan and 10+ inch hands, was an academic standout in college, and has a mean streak on the field. The knock on him, however, seems to be that he's too reliant on his massive size and his technique and field smarts aren't quite up to par. He's been compared to the Ravens' Michael Oher.

Here's a good little profile of Osemele by the esteemed Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated.

Excerpts from the experts on Osemele:

NFL.com: "Osemele will need strong coaching, but could to be a dominant lineman based off his production at Iowa State. He has great athletic ability and gets off the line very quickly. He understands blocking with angles and within a scheme, and has the upper strength to keep on his blocks once he gets to them. Very rarely do defenders release themselves from his blocks, and if he can learn to get to the block sooner at the NFL level, he can be a stalwart for years to come. His potential as a go-to run blocker for the next decade could find him selected as early as the first round."

National Football Post: "Impression: A big, thick kid with natural strength, athleticism and flexibility. Has improved his technique and overall range off the edge, but is better suited to play inside or on the right side at the next level."

CBS: "Osemele may be stronger than he is big, which is saying something. While some players use a strong base and others rely on a powerful upper body, Osemele has both. He has incredible reach and massive hands that make him hard to escape. He seems to enjoy using that strength most on run blocking, where he overwhelms defenders. He is a bit more tentative as a pass blocker and must work on recognizing what is happening there. A hard-working student on and off the field, Osemele made the academic Honor Roll three times and was selected All-Big 12 first team in 2011. He played in 49 games and started 43 in a row despite missing most of one game last year with a severely sprained ankle."

Drafttek likes Osemele and has the Steelers selecting him in the second round of their mock draft: "The Steeler roster has 2 young starting UDFA guys and essentially no quality depth at guard. Osemele is a great fit for the Steelers power scheme and as a college OT, he has some positional versatility. He's a very powerful drive blocker with nearly 36" arms, good foot quickness and relatively few technique and form issues to address. Osemele should help revive the power running game and keep Big Ben off the ground so much."

Pro Football Weekly draft capsule: 

Silatolu played some JuCo ball with hopes of eventually getting his grades up and enrolling at Boise State before finding a place at the Division-II Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas. Having competed only at lower levels, he is raw, but the 6-4, 311-pound Polynesian gent is strong, athletic and mean, and draws comparisons to the Saints' Jahri Evans.

Excerpts from the experts on Silatolu:

CBS: "Possesses on-field nastiness and hustle to help teammates, NFL coaches will get even more out of him. Scouts will have major questions about his level of competition, as well as his football and general intelligence, after he played two years at junior college and two years in Division II."

National Football Post: "Impression: He has some technique flaws that needs to be fixed and will need to kick inside at the next level. However, he's a wide-bodied athlete with a powerful/explosive frame, good foot quickness and can really pull from the backside. Might need some time, but is one of the top guards in the class with as much upside as any."

NFL.com: "Silatolu is a large, athletic interior lineman who has the ability to smother his opponents and consistently sustain his blocks through the end of plays. Coming from a small school like Midwestern State and facing little competition, he will have an adjustment period far greater than other linemen as he enters the league. A team likely will want to move him from his college position of tackle to guard, where he can use his athletic ability to get up field more often in the run game. Silatolu's greatest attribute is his footwork, as he is quick off the line of scrimmage and an active puller who can get outside, move upfield and locate his blocks to quickly engage. He does not have great leverage or explosiveness in his play but possesses many strong assets for an interior lineman, giving him early second-round value to a team with the patience to develop him into a starter."

Tony Pauline, Sports Illustrated: "Silatolu is another small-school lineman who looked better in drills than during the testing phase. He displayed incredible quickness, footwork and terrific movement skills. Silatolu also has an impressive blocker build, and scouts feel he could develop into a starter at the in due time."

Drafttek has Silatolu as a late second round pick: "A strong showing at the "underwear olympics" helps Silatolu overcome his small-school background. The 6'4" 311lb prospect out of Midwestern State has dominated defensive players throughout his career. He starts with a strong punch and follows that with great technique and attitude. His quick hands and lateral agility make him a nightmare in both pass and run protection. He can get overextended and exposed, but he is quick to recover and projects well in the interior OL."

Pro Football Weekly draft capsule (they're big on this guy):

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