GREEN BAY - The numbers paid to unrestricted free-agent tackles in March were flabbergasting, from the $58.75 million for Riley Reiff to the $55.5 million for Matt Kalil to the $53 million for Russell Okung.
NFL teams paid through the nose for some veteran guards, too.
Storm warnings in the offensive line were up because clubs didn’t like what was coming in the draft. They didn’t wait around, plugging the dike with seasoned albeit ordinary performers.
It’s a grand time to be an offensive lineman, and former Franklin High School standout Levon (LEE-von) Myers would like to crash the party. A two-year starter at left tackle for Northern Illinois, he should benefit from the league-wise shortage of capable offensive linemen.
“I don’t want to bad-mouth anybody,” Myers said this month. “But there were some offensive linemen making a lot more than what you would have expected in most years.
“You hate to be part of what’s called a weak O-line class. But, at the end of the day, if it makes my situation better, I’ll take it.”
Myers, 6 feet 4 ½ inches and 310 pounds, almost certainly will be signed as a free agent and could be a late-round draft choice.
“I would probably draft this guy late,” one personnel man said. “He didn’t have a very good workout. From his workout you wouldn’t know he was as good an athlete as he is. He has nice feet.”
Myers conceded that his 40-yard time of 5.41 seconds at pro day March 10 in DeKalb, Ill., was “very, very disappointing.” It’s one reason why the Packers have invited Myers to Green Bay for a midweek visit.
“I know I’m definitely faster than that,” Myers said. “But that’s what I ran that day so that’s what everyone sees.”
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There was urgency to perform well because Myers wasn’t invited to the NFL combine. Some non-combine players are drafted each year but the vast majority did audition in Indianapolis.
“I honestly felt like I deserved to be invited to the combine,” Myers said. “When I found out I wasn’t, it gave me more time to prep for my pro day and just put another chip on my shoulder.”
If anything, Myers is known more for his athletic ability than his strength. His build and skills are a better fit in a zone run game than a power system, he acknowledged.
Myers played both ways for the Sabers of Franklin, earning all-state honors. He has been told that his Division I football scholarship was the first for a player from Franklin.
Northern Illinois offered to Myers in the spring of 2011 but Wisconsin, his school of choice, showed interest, too. When the Badgers backed off, Myers committed to NIU during the fall.
One week before signing day, Myers said UW had one of their verbal commits head for Ohio State.
“Coach (Bret) Bielema called me and offered me,” Myers said. “My knee jerk was almost like, ‘I’ve got to take this. I was born and raised in the state, that’s what I want to do.’”
Myers delayed to mull his decision. “Those were probably the most stressful days of my life,” he said. In the end, Myers remained loyal to NIU.
After a redshirt season for a team that played in the Orange Bowl, Myers backed up in 2013 before playing extensively at both tackles in ’14. He made second-team all-Mid-American Conference the past two seasons as a left tackle.
“Intense, violent and high energy,” said Myers, describing his playing style. “My favorite part of football is you get to legally assault someone.”
Recognizing versatility is everything for a backup offensive lineman, Myers was fortunate to have practiced at guard and center for the Huskies. He spent time at every position except center during his week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January.
“Honestly, I’m preparing myself to move inside to guard,” Myers said. “I know how it is. I know my measurables line up way better at guard than they would at tackle.”
If his choice of colleges had been reversed, Myers is certain he would have become a starter at UW.
“I played against big schools at Northern and I didn’t really feel a ton of difference from the guys I played against in the MAC,” he said. “I don’t think skill-wise I would have been any better (at UW). I might be looked at better because I was going against, quote-unquote, top competition.”
Myers is attempting to become the first NIU offensive lineman to be drafted since tackle Doug Free, a Manitowoc native, was taken in the fourth round by Dallas 10 years ago. He retired in March after starting 114 of 124 games.
“I feel like it’s more likely than not that I do (get drafted),” he said.