Small school prospects are sometimes lost in the shuffle during the Draft weekend because few get to see them play on TV and even fewer get to see them play personally. That's one reason why teams have regional scouts whose job is to find those players, get some film on them and make recommendations to the decision makers back at team headquarters. One player getting the attention of Patriots central command is Eastern Michigan
offensive lineman T.J. Lang
Since his appearance in Texas vs. the Nation, Lang has been getting closer looks from plenty of teams. While he may not be the top name on everyone's list, and didn't make it to the Combine, he's squarely on the map that counts, the one used by line coaches in the NFL to arrange their travel plans.
Patriots Insider has confirmed Lang had a private workout with New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. A versatile blocker who may move inside from his tackle spot at the next level, the 6-foot-4, 307 pound lineman has been rising on draft boards.
The Patriots have been scouting other linemen in the Draft including Ball State's Robert Brewster, Baylor's Dan Gay and Louisville's Eric Wood, all mid round to late round prospects.
Making something out of sleeper picks is Scarnecchia's mark of success. Stephen Neal (UDFA), Dan Koppen (5th round) and Nick Kaczur (3rd round) were all mid-level players who start for the Patriots now. Lang could be the next one of those sleepers Scarnecchia coaches up.
"He's done more with less than any other coach in the league, said longtime NFL Scout Tom Marino. "He's one of the best out there."
| T.J. Lang (AP Photo)|
Scarnecchia's peers are also taking closer looks at the underrated prospect. Lang visited the Chicago Bears and is scheduled to visit with the Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons among others.
All told, Lang has at least 10 visits with more teams trying to squeeze into the schedule. "There's a lot of interest in him," one NFL insider told PatriotsInsider.com.
Once he showed he could play any of the five positions on the offensive line, interest really started picking up, one of Lang's representatives confirmed.
Lang has parlayed a strong performance at the Texas versus the Nation all-star game into growing interest from scouts. He played left tackle in college.
A three-year starter and a converted defensive tackle, Lang has 5.15 speed in the 40-yard dash. He has drawn high marks for his footwork, strength and aggressiveness, finishing off blocks.
With 22 teams represented at EMU"s pro day, it was important for EMU's coaches to give their take on the Draft eligible players working out. EMU's offensive line coach Kurt Anderson -- the only holdover from the old coaching regime -- spoke to the media about Lang..
"He's a natural leader," Anderson told the Eastern Echo. "Football means the world to him. T.J. Lang would start at Michigan in a heartbeat."
Anderson should know, he was an offensive lineman in collage, played for the Arizona Cardinals and was an assistant at Michigan.
NFL Draft Scout projects Lang as a fourth round pick, but insiders feel he could go higher than that as teams consider not getting him if they wait too long.
Here is a partial scouting report from NFLDraftScout.com:
Positives: Good height with thick and strong upper and lower bodies. Absolute mauler who works hard on - and through - every play. Versatile enough to start at all three interior spots. Gets down quickly and is effective on cut blocks. Strong enough to stone and pancake his opponent….
Negatives: Must learn to play inside in the NFL because he lacks the athleticism, arm length and hand size to be more than a short-term solution outside. Leans into his man too much, enabling the tackle to rip him off or pull him forward on a second effort. …
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Aaron Wilson contributed to this report. Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for RavensInsider.com, the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
The Patriots assistant coaches are notoriously media shy including one of our favorites, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Which is why when we spot them scouting Draft prospects they immediately get our attention. We've got some insider info on who is he checking out now and why if New England doesn't pull the trigger early, this sleeper won't last on Draft day.