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Big-name linemen sliding late

4/20/2010

The Scouts Inc. team is about to head into the bunker to complete our full seven-round mock draft, and here is some of the buzz and speculation that we'll be taking with us as we hammer out our projections:

Bulaga falling could boost safeties

There has always been a debate about whether Iowa OT Bryan Bulaga can hold up on the left side in the NFL. Our film study leads us to believe Bulaga can make it as a left tackle but we're hearing that Kansas City -- which is currently projected to take Bulaga at No. 5 overall -- does not feel the same way.

Chiefs GM Scott Pioli is known to go with safe picks and Bulaga's shorter arms and lack of elite agility could give Pioli something to think about. And should he decide Bulaga is not the pick we think, it's unlikely Kansas City goes with Oklahoma OT Trent Williams, either, given concerns about Williams' football character.

All that means Tennessee S Eric Berry is back in play at No. 5, and while Pioli might not prefer to draft a safety that high, Berry is a rare overall prospect and the top player on the board at the Chiefs' No. 2 position of need. From a value standpoint, it makes sense.

If Berry comes off the board with the fifth pick, then it becomes likely that Cleveland takes Texas S Earl Thomas at No. 7 to fill a glaring need. That would put Miami in a bind because the Dolphins also want safety help and they would be reluctant to spend the No. 12 pick on overrated USC S Taylor Mays.

Miami would then have two options: take one of the top 3-4 OLBs on the board -- Brandon Graham, Jerry Hughes, Sergio Kindle -- or maximize the value of the pick by trading back. After No. 12, the Dolphins do not pick again until No. 73 overall, so finding the right deal could help them a lot.

Seattle also has a big need at safety but is likely to stay put at No. 14, where the Seahawks could conceivably bring in USC's Taylor Mays, who played for new Seattle coach Pete Carroll in college. That's a bit high for an overrated prospect like Mays, but if Berry and Thomas are gone in the top seven, Mays will see his value go up simply because teams would then be more likely to reach to fill a need there.

Finally, should Thomas get past Cleveland, it's possible Philadelphia could move ahead of Miami to snatch him up. The Eagles filled their need at outside linebacker by trading for Ernie Sims and they have the picks (10 overall, five in the top 87) to package for a player like Thomas, who would fill a huge need.

Griffen on the slide

The NFL is very much a height-weight-speed league and players with high ceilings based on their physical tools always come off the board early. So why is USC DE Everson Griffen (6-foot-3⅜, 273 pounds, 4.66 in the 40) falling?

The buzz is that plenty of teams are terrified Griffen will not work hard once he begins cashing paychecks. Talk all you want about character flags -- academics, arrests, suspensions, failed drug tests -- but nothing scares a team more than a player who is not willing to work at his craft and maximize the investment the team made in him.

Griffen is essentially experiencing the opposite of the "Tebow Effect." Florida QB Tim Tebow will likely be drafted higher than his grade and skills indicate simply because of his work ethic and character, while Griffen will fall down draft boards because many teams feel he won't get the most out of his physical potential.

We give Griffen a late-first-round grade, but at this point do not see a team taking a chance on him that early.