Duke guard Laken Tomlinson was clear about what he wanted to prove to the NFL during Senior Bowl week. "One of the things I want to market to the other teams is that I'm one hell of a player."
The scouts agree. If you want proof, just turn on some later 2014 film of him.
Tomlinson came to America from Jamaica when he was 10 and started football at 11. This is a player smart enough to carry a double major at Duke. That’s in addition to football. He plans to become a physician after his playing career.
Offensive linemen are usually the second most intelligent players on the team, behind the QB. Tomlinson fits that model. If playing for Peyton Manning is like brain surgery, he’s probably the best lineman in the draft. It’s not just because of his intellectual prowess, either.
He has to see the possibility of a brain trauma more than most rookies. What draws him back to the gridiron despite that reality?
I see football as the ultimate challenge, your physical capabilities to the core. I love the challenge and I'm just now at the opportunity to go against the best of the best in the game. [It] excites me.
Tomlinson is a devotee of the film room. This is a 6’3”, 323 lb man. He’s enormous, quick, and he’s broken down the tendencies of everyone he’s likely to play.
I apply myself to academic work and to football, just my work ethic. I play with great physical fundamentals. I play with great pad leverage and I'm a hell of a nasty player.
All the film I’ve seen looks much the same. I like his hand use - a lot. I don’t say that about a lot of college offensive linemen, but he has superb control of the centerline. I like his leadership:
He’s got skills in both zone and man blocking.
Todd McShay called him the most consistent offensive lineman over the course of the Senior Bowl week practices. He mirrors well and has smooth footwork. His pass protection needs some upgrading. That’s common with college linemen, but he’s visibly improving. Laken wasn’t playing his best early in 2014, but the second half of the season, he showed that he belongs at the next level. He handled speed rushers better and better as the season went on.
The toughest assignment for an offensive lineman is a big, strong, quick nose guard, like Vince Wilfork. Tomlinson is strong against nose tackles. That's something that you can’t say about every draftable college guard. He’s durable. The more you see of him, the more he impresses. I think Draft Nasty hit the nail on the head:
There may not be a better brawler at the guard position in the nation than Duke's Laken Tomlinson.
With Orlando Franklin having gone to San Diego, Denver needs a big dose of nasty. Laken’s an option who is slated to go earlier by some pundits. As a guard, he might fall to pick #28. If he does, Denver could do far worse than a probable left guard with both right and left tackle abilities.