Five to Fit: Guard/Center Prospects Who Can Offer Depth, Competition

(Editor's Note: The staff of DallasCowboys.com is currently previewing the depth chart at each position on the Cowboys' roster. The biggest remaining variable in determining that depth chart is the NFL Draft, which begins April 30. This series will identify five potential draft picks who could affect the depth chart at each position. Today, we continue with guard and center.)

IRVING, Texas –Travis Frederick, Zack Martin. Two first-round picks, two Pro Bowl players.

Not a bad batting average over the past two years for the Cowboys, who have selected only one other interior offensive lineman in their last eight drafts (David Arkin, 2011).

This year the guard and center spots look relatively set. Frederick and Martin own their respective positions at center and right guard; Ronald Leary has been quietly consistent at left guard; and veteran backup Mackenzy Bernadeau offers value with his ability to play all three interior spots.

But with Bernadeau entering the final year of his contract and the Cowboys always looking for depth and competition at all positions, the club could be looking for a prospect who can play guard or center and eventually develop into a starter.

Here's a look at five players in the early, middle and late rounds:

1. Cameron Erving, C, Florida State – Zack Martin, anyone? Like the Cowboys' All-Pro rookie guard, Erving primarily played tackle in college – he protected the blind sides of E.J. Manuel and Jameis Winston – but also showed he can move inside in a pinch. Erving filled in at center for the final five games of his senior season, and the feeling among most NFL scouts is he can play just about anywhere on the line. As the draft's best center prospect, he figures to go in the first or early second round.

2. A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina –As productive as any guard in this year's class, Cann started 51 of a possible 52 career games at left guard in the rugged SEC and earned first team all-conference honors as a senior. The 6-2, 313-pound prospect is a powerful blocker and mobile enough to thrive in a zone-blocking scheme. Although Cann only played guard in college, he impressed scouts at his Pro Day by taking a lot of center reps, too. His versatility makes him a likely second-round pick who might even slip to the late first round (where the Cowboys are currently slotted at No. 27).

3. Ali Marpet, G, Hobart (N.Y.) –Running back Chris Warren (Seahawks, 1990) was the last top-100 draft pick from Division III. Marpet's name and school (tiny Hobart College) were once complete unknowns among casual fans, but he has worked his way into top-50 consideration since his outstanding combine performance that included the fastest 40 time among offensive linemen. Marpet was a three-year starter at left tackle for Hobart, but due to short measureables, including arm length, he projects inside at guard or center in the NFL. Teams must decide their comfort level in drafting a prospect who has only faced small-school competition outside of the Senior Bowl in January. But his toughness, football IQ and underrated athleticism have moved him into Day 2 consideration.

4. Greg Mancz, C, Toledo –Mancz tore his labrum during the East-West Shrine Game week and will still be rehabbing from surgery after the draft. Still, the four-year Toledo starter has plenty of talent for a projected Day 3 pick. A three-year starter at right guard and right tackle, Mancz moved to center as a senior and has good feet and agility for an inside position in a zone scheme.  

5. Adam Shead, G, Oklahoma –Shead started 40 games over four years at left guard for the Sooners. The 6-5, 338-pounder is pretty nimble for his huge frame, but needs to improve his technique for the next level. Shead could be a late-round upside pick given his size and experience against major college competition.

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