Anyone who watched the 2010 Carolina Panthers is aware that the offensive line was one of the biggest weaknesses from the horrid 2-14 season that we as Panthers fans had to endure. Thanks to season-ending injuries to an important starter (Jeff Otah) and a guy who failed to show any effort from jump street (Duke Robinson), the offensive line was an incomplete unit for the entire season and had to rely on guys who shouldn't see the field except in blowouts (Mackenzy Bernadeau, for one example) to be starters.
Because of the lack of quality depth on the offensive line the Panthers front office decided to address the issue in the draft by selecting two offensive linemen in the 6th and 7th rounds. Jaxon has already covered the other offensive lineman, Zack Williams, and in this article we will discover what OT Lee Ziemba can bring to the table for the Panthers in 2011 (and hopefully beyond).
Let's take a closer look at Ziemba after the jump...
In case you didn't know, Ziemba was the left tackle for the 2010 National Champion Auburn Tigers (or, if you want to look at it another way, he was Cam Newton's personal body guard in 2010). According to the media, Ziemba was a very good offensive lineman, as he won a myriad of awards last season. Among those awards are:
- AFCA Coaches' All-America
- Walter Camp All-America Team
- FWAA All-America Team
- AP 2nd Team All-America
- SI.com 1st Team All-America
- CBSSports.com 2nd Team All-America
- Rivals.com 2nd Team All-America
- Coaches' 1st Team All-SEC
- AP Unanimous 1st Team All-SEC
According to draft scouts, Ziemba was impressive during the Senior Bowl, especially when considering that he switched positions from LT to RT for the game. Ziemba, however, was quick to give props to the Senior Bowl coaches for preparing him for the contest, saying:
The coaching staff did a good job of preparing us, and I just wanted to go out and execute as well as I could. ... I think I showed that I can learn quick and play with different players, you know? ... I want to be able to go out and get on the field real quick, and I think this was a good experience for me.
Ziemba had a decent combine, but he didn't set the world on fire with his effort. He ran a 5.50 40, benched 225 lbs. 20 times, had a vertical jump of 29", a broad jump of 7'11", a 20 yard shuttle of 4.65 seconds, and a 3-cone drill of 7.74 seconds. His pro day results weren't much different, although he did manage to shave 0.04 seconds off his 40 time and long-jumped 5 inches further (big guys take pride in that kind of stuff, ya know?). While he may not be an athletic freak of nature, he is not too shabby for a guy who's 6'6", 317 lbs., so there should be little concern that he will be unable to compete athletically at the next level.
According to CBS Sports, Ziemba is:
[A] massive mauler of a run blocker who can fire off the snap and move defenders. [He] started as a true freshman, [and is an] extremely experienced and durable prospect with good technique. [He] extends [his] arms well and has a strong punch. [He has a] huge frame, long arms and powerful hands. [He] finishes blocks with attitude, [and is] decent holding up against the bull rush despite his height. [He] can run and hit a second-level target.
The fact that he's a good run blocker makes him a good fit for Carolina, who uses the power running game to their advantage with the horses they have in the backfield. If Ziemba can run block effectively in the NFL, he can immediately make an impact at RG alongside Jeff Otah (if he can finally get healthy) and provide a bulldozing right side for Double Trouble to take advantage of in 2011.
Again according to CBS Sports, Ziemba is:
Somewhat high hipped and stiff, and tends to play high. [He's] not athletic enough to hold up in the NFL off the edge in pass protection, which will require a move inside. [He has] poor lateral agility, [his] knee bend is inconsistent, [and he] tends to lean. [He] lacks good balance and will end up on the ground too often. [He] can whiff in pass protection against quickness, especially double moves.
His weakness in pass protection makes it a near-certainty that he will start off his NFL career as a LG or RG, and if he develops the ability to pass protect at the NFL level he could possibly move to LT in a few years when Jordan Gross is out of the picture, but for the time being it appears that his inability to protect the passer is going to force the Panthers to keep him on the inside of the line. Hopefully his lack of quickness against double moves is something that he can improve throughout the course of training camp and preseason (if there is one), because I'd hate to see him being owned on a consistent basis by a smaller, faster DT.
Value of Pick
Ziemba was projected as a 4th-5th round pick after his performance in the Senior Bowl, so the Panthers got a good value out of the pick since they took him in the 7th round with their final compensatory selection (#244 overall). Hopefully Ziemba turns out to be a draft steal instead of a guy that we look back on and say "no wonder he was still there in the 7th round". I believe that Rivera and Hurney drafted the kid for a reason though, and I doubt that we will look back and regret this pick, especially when it was the last pick we had in the draft.
I think Ziemba can come in and make the roster if he shows that he can run block at the next level, but he will most likely be stuck behind Geoff Schwartz at RG for the first year or two of his career. He should be a nice backup while he adjusts to the NFL, and he certainly can't be any worse than Mackenzy "The Turnstile" Bernadeau if he were to have to contribute this season. He could even out perform Duke "I don't know if I want to play football or not" Robinson if he works hard enough in training camp and the preseason (again, assuming there is one) and should have a great chance to lock down the backup RG position, depending on whether or not Robsinson decides to show up this year.
Fit in Depth Chart
If he's not a starter in 2011 (which he most likely won't be), I think he's at least in the rotation at RG, because we desperately need depth on the offensive line, and let's face it: the guys we have on the 2nd string right now are guys that most teams wouldn't even have on their practice squad. (Can you hear me MacBern? I'm only saying this so you'll be better -- I promise.)
In closing, I'll just add that I believe we got a draft steal with this pick. I see no reason to hate the pick, especially when I consider that there really isn't that much to choose from when you're choosing who to take with the 244th pick in the draft. If this pick were made in the 2nd or 3rd round, then I'd probably have a slight reason to be concerned, but for a 7th round compensatory pick I see this as a solid opportunity to add a quality starter or rotational guy on the interior offensive line. Besides, as I've already pointed out before, he couldn't possibly be any worse than what we saw on the field in 2010.
Well friends, this wraps up CSR's coverage of our 2011 draft class. If you'd like to go back and read the profiles of any of our draft picks, you can find them linked in the left sidebar on the main page under the heading "Panthers 2011 Draft Picks".