Summary: Zeitler has been a go-to blocker for one of the best rushing attacks in college football the past few seasons. The Badgers had a lot of success running behind Zeitler, and he was an essential blocker in opening up holes for star running back Montee Ball. Zeitler helped pave the way for 48 rushing touchdowns in 2011, with Wisconsin averaging 236 yards per game on the ground. He generally was a dependable pass protector for quarterback Russell Wilson, but will need to get better in the NFL.
As a run blocker, Zeitler is a pure road-grader. He can blast defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage and shove them aside to open up their gap. While he isn't the most athletic or mobile lineman, Zeitler was able to hit blocks on linebackers in the second level of the defense. He is a power blocker who wears down defensive linemen, and as a game progresses, he can be a key cog in owning the line of scrimmage. A team that runs a power-rushing offense will love what Zeitler put on tape as a senior.
The biggest weakness in Zeitler's game is his pass protection, and specifically his ability to match up on speed rushers. At the Senior Bowl, he struggled with speed rushers getting by him. Zeitler will need to work on recovering against defensive tackles who have special first-step quickness when the ball is snapped. He has the power and base to hold up on big bull rushers, but definitely needs to improve his ability to handle the fast interior defenders.
Zeitler looks like a quality second-round pick who should be able to start quickly in the NFL. If that is the case, whichever team drafts him may want to give him some center help when he takes on speed rushers. Zeitler fits best in a power-man blocking scheme rather than a zone-blocking system.
Player Comparison: Marshall Yanda. Both Yanda and Zeitler are Big 10 products who are strong run blockers. Yanda (6-3, 315) is nearly identical in size to Zeitler. Baltimore selected Yanda in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He earned a big contract extension and was a Pro Bowl selection for the AFC last year, so a lot of teams are regretting that they passed on Yanda. Zeitler's game is similar to Yanda, and he could have a similar career path if he can improve his pass protection.
NFL Matches: Miami, Chicago, San Diego, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Baltimore
Zeitler would be a good fit for a lot of teams in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Dolphins need a replacement for Richie Incognito, and Zeitler would be a good option. Chicago needs offensive line help, and offensive coordinator Mike Tice has been drawn to Wisconsin offensive linemen. Unfortunately, the Chargers lost Kris Dielman to retirement. Zeitler could be a nice fit to try and make up for what San Diego figures to lose.
The guard position is a big need for the Steelers, and Zeitler would be a phenomenal fit in Pittsburgh's smash-mouth style of offensive linemen. Cincinnati has two free agent guards in Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams. Assuming one is re-signed, the Bengals may need a new starter at the other guard spot. The Saints could lose Carl Nicks in free agency, while the Ravens could bid farewell to Ben Grubbs. If either team loses those starters they may target Zeitler as a replacement.