At the beginning of 2019 it looked as though the grudge match between Alabama and Clemson for the College Football National Championship would be renewed for another year. Those two teams were widely seen as the two best in the country and the runaway favorites to (once again) play each other in the final game of the year. But as the season wore on, the Joe Burrow lead LSU Tigers turned into a purple and yellow buzzsaw that tore a swath through the SEC. It also isn’t a coincidence that LSU fielded one of the best offensive lines in the country on their way to winning the College Football National Championship.
Much of the conversation around the the offensive line has been about the offensive takle position in the lead-up to the 2020 NFL Draft. And considering the depth of talent at that position, that shouldn’t really be much of a surprise. But while the interior offensive line doesn’t really measure up — particularly at the guard position — there are some good players available.
Junior college transfer Damien Lewis started 27 straight games for the Tigers over the last two seasons and became — along with center Lloyd Cushenberry III — the heart of a one of the best offensive lines in the country. He is a big, powerful guard who would fit well with the blocking concepts Jason Garrett has favored in the past. It is possible that Kevin Zeitler could become a cap casualty after this year and it could make sense for the New York Giants to find his eventual replacement.
Prospect: Damien Lewis (G, LSU)
Games Watched: vs. Ole Miss (2018), vs. Utah State (2019), vs. Alabama (2019), vs. Auburn (2019)
Red Flags: None
Games Played: 27 (27 starts at LSU - JuCo transfer)
Best: Size, power, competitive toughness, run blocking, strength
Worst: Hand usage
Projection: A starting guard in an offense which runs man-gap or inside zone blocking schemes.
(Lewis is the right guard, number 68)
LSU Guard Damien Lewis has a very good frame for an interior offensive lineman. Lewis has a low center of gravity, long arms for his height, excellent thickness in his upper and lower body, and good strength throughout his frame.
Lewis is a reliable pass protector who moves well enough to mirror most interior defensive linemen. He also shows very good play strength, anchoring well against bull rushes, either at the point of attack or through a second effort.
Lewis is a very good run blocker on man-gap or inside zone concepts. Lewis shows a good get-off, with good pad level and leverage off of the snap. He does a good job of driving his legs through the block and is able to create movement along the line of scrimmage on power concepts. Lewis does a good job of sustaining his blocks, with good grip strength and a nasty play demeanor. He is a capable blocker on screens and has enough athleticism to execute as a pulling guard.
Lewis will need to improve his pad level on longer passing plays. He has a tendency to play more upright in those situations, letting his knees and hips straighten and losing his leverage. He will also need to be more consistently aware, as he can miss late pressure or stunts and blitzes along the line of scrimmage. Lewis’ biggest limitation is his hand usage, which is inconsistent at best. Particularly as a pass protector, he will let his hands fall low and outside defenders’ framework. He has a tendency to fail to secure inside leverage and give up his own chestplate in the process.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Has the traits to become a dependable starter within his first couple years, and should be a contributor early in his career. A good value on the second day. [Grading Scale]
Damien Lewis projects best as a guard in an offense which uses man-gap and inside zone blocking schemes. Those schemes take advantage of his power and play strength, as well as his ability to pull or play off of double teams.
Lewis should be viewed most favorably by teams that base their offense on power running, as he is at his best when blocking downhill.
He is a capable pass protector but has issues to clean up in that area of his game. Most notable are his hands, which have a tendency to fall low and wide on defenders. Becoming more crisp with his hand usage, firing them into defenders’ chest plate, should allow Lewis to fully unlock his impressive play strength and take the next step in his development. He also needs to work on improving his leverage in pass protection.