This year’s draft class is stacked with talent along the offensive line, perhaps no position has quite as many talented prospects as offensive tackle though. There are arguably three top-10 grade offensive tackles this year, plus two others with first round grades and a slew of guys that should go on day two.
Basically if you need a tackle, this is a good year to get him.
Now the question becomes, do the Buccaneers need a tackle? A lot of speculation has been made about whether the Vikings will pick USC OT Matt Kalil as expected or LSU CB Morris Claiborne, if Claiborne is off the board, based on the best available player the Bucs may be best-suited to grab one of these behemoths to book-end the offensive line.
With the off-season addition of Carl Nicks, the re-signing of Jeremy Zuttah (and release of Jeff Faine) and the continued presence of Davin Joseph, the interior of the Bucs’ offensive line is as good as they come. The tackles on the other hand leave something to be desired. Jeremy Trueblood is in the last year of a two-year deal that was part of the package to re-sign Joseph last season. On the other side Donald Penn may be the most overpaid left tackle in the NFL.
While I doubt they do address the offensive line early come draft-time, there are plenty of options and most of the guys on this list would represent an upgrade at either position.
1.) Matt Kalil, USC, Jr.
Kalil comes from a good NFL bloodline and hails from a program that makes reputably good linemen. Kalil is the best to come out of USC in a while and that’s saying something, especially considering the Trojans have had tackles drafted in the first round two of the last four years. Kalil is prototypical in every sense, he’s 6-7, 305, extremely strong, plays with good balance and is a little nasty. As a pass blocker Kalil would be able to handle protecting a quarterback’s blindside almost immediately in the NFL. Kalil has good technique and strength against most types of rush though he could improve laterally a little bit against speed rushers that can get the edge quickly. As a run blocker he’s impressive, with good initial burst and excellent technique. He doesn’t necessarily have the most quickness in the draft, but his hand placement and raw strength are more key to what he’s doing. The thing I like most about Kalil though is his high football IQ, he sees what the defense is doing with stunts and pre-play adjustments, he makes his own adjustments. His quarterbacks will thank him for it.
2.) Riley Reiff, Iowa, Jr.
The more I watch Reiff the more I like him. Reiff started for three years on the Hawkeye line and earned plenty of distinction in that time. The Big Ten is still a run-first league and Iowa is another program, under Kirk Ferentz who specializes in lineplay, that produces great NFL linemen. Reiff is no different. He’s got prototypical size, strength and technique and is ready to start now at either tackle spot. One thing Reiff does even better than Kalil is protect the edge, he has some of the best lateral quickness and strength of any lineman in the draft. The flipside of that is that stronger defenders can sometimes get into his pads and knock him back. That can be fixed. As a run blocker Reiff is nasty, he comes off the ball strong and hard, he combos from lineman to linebacker well and he is capable of getting a hat on men downfield when the situation calls for it. I think he’s more of a left tackle, but whatever side of the line he plays on Reiff will be dominant quickly in the NFL.
3.) Jonathan Martin, Stanford, Jr.
The third of the offensive tackles I give a top-1o grade to Martin is a good combination of size, strength and intelligence. Martin has been protecting an NFL quarterback’s blindside for the past two years at Stanford. Of the top three tackles in this draft, Martin may have the highest ceiling because his issues are mostly technique-related, he has the prerequisite strength and athleticism to be elite, he simply needs some fine-tuning. Frankly, in a deep class it may have been smarter for him to go back another year and come out as the top-rated tackle in the draft next year, but this year he’s a close third behind Reiff and Kalil. Martin is a solid pass-blocker who can handle almost anything but does occasionally stop his feet and lose leverage. As a run-blocker he comes from a zone system and is effective but he lacks the strength to push heavier defenders back in the trenches. I think Martin may be a better option on the right side, at least at the start of his career as he adds strength and improves his technique.
4.) Cordy Glenn, Georgia, Sr.
Glenn had a very solid career at the University of Georgia and projects as another first rounder in this year’s draft. A lot of scouts have Glenn higher, above Jonathan Martin, and it’s close, but Glenn just doesn’t seem to have the same explosion and nastiness that I see in Martin. That’s not to say he can’t still be an elite tackle at the NFL level though. For starters Glenn has prototype size and is an absolute mauler in the run game. He was tossed into the mix as a freshman and proceeded to start 50 games for the Bulldogs over the next four years. As I said, he doesn’t have elite explosion out of his stance but he can absolutely manhandled defenders in the run game and he’s shown the ability to add an elite pass-pro component when he irons out a few things in his technique. A lot of people think because of his lack of a good first step he may be better suited to slide inside but I think it’s worth seeing how he looks at tackle before making that decision.
5.) Zebrie Sanders, FSU, Sr.
I had the privilege of watching Zebrie play all season and I can honestly say that he faced arguably the worst situation of any of the tackles on this list. That’s why he’s higher in these rankings than a lot of other places. Florida State entered the season with a fairly coherent line and due to injury (and some ineptitude) ended with four freshman starting their bowl game alongside Sanders, the one constant. Because of the inconsistency on the line around him, it’s tough to really gauge where he was last year, but going back to his junior tape you see a very solid player. Sanders brings good size and strength to the table, but his intelligence and athleticism are what’s worth mentioning. Sanders is more of a right tackle, as we saw in the Senior bowl practices (as well as in games against UF and Oklahoma) superior edge rushers can give Sanders problems. There are ways to improve his technique, but he’s probably a better bet on the right side. As a run blocker though, Sanders may be the best tackle of the bunch. He’s powerful and smooth, can drive back defenders and has great instinct at the second level. I’ve got him rated higher than he’ll actually go, he probably comes off the board during day two, but in five years I think we’ll look back differently.
5A.) Mike Adams, Ohio State, Sr.
I decided to put Mike Adams at 5A because the drop-off occurs right after him. Adams is another tackle with prototype size and strength, but there’s a hole in his pass-blocking that gives me some cause for concern. Much like Martin, Adams sometimes has trouble with keeping his feet moving on some blocks, but Adams is also susceptible to double-moves (specifically ones that go outside and then head back in), that’s a dangerous mix and one that will get a quarterback hurt if it’s not addressed. Beyond that though, Adams has all the tools to be a good NFL left tackle from a pass-blocking standpoint, and the footwork is a correctable issue if he gets good coaching at the next level. As a run blocker Adams is experienced, hailing from a Big Ten program that loves to run. He could work on playing with better leverage, especially in short-yardage situations, but he is more than adequate as a run blocker. Adams does come with a few off-the-field blemishes from his past, including involvement in the scandal that rocked Ohio State, but beyond those and some questions about his football IQ, he will make a solid selection at the end of round one or the top of round two. He’s ready to start on the right in the NFL, he will need time to develop on the left though.
Best of the Rest
6.) Mitchell Schwartz, Cal, Sr.
Schwartz is an extremely bright lineman with a good frame and solid strength. I think he projects as more of a right tackle at the next level, but he could be pressed into duty on the left-side if needed. He needs to work on becoming more physically imposing and playing with better leverage, but he’s got good potential.
7.) Bobby Massie, Ole Miss, Jr.
I don’t think Massie did himself any favors by declaring early. He has prototype size, speed and strength but that’s what he got by on in college and it’s prevented him from learning the technique necessary to play immediately at the next level. He’s going to need time to develop as a football player before he’s really where you want him to be mentally, but he does have a very high ceiling.
8.) Matt McCants, UAB, Sr.
McCants could be an exceptional pass blocker with some coaching, he has the quickness and speed to protect the edge but he needs to work on his balance and leverage before he’s ready to protect it in the NFL. He also grades out as an above average run blocker. He would likely be a solid right tackle right now, and could potentially develop into a left tackle with coaching.
9.) Brandon Mosley, Auburn, Sr.
Mosley has got good size and strength, but nothing to blow you away. He has good technique and leverage in pass blocking but occasionally struggles with superior athletes, he’s a serviceable run-blocker who has room to develop into a very good one. As a converted tight end, he’s still learning the position.
10.) Nate Potter, Boise State, Sr.
Potter is a developmental guy, but a good one. He needs to work on adding some size to a frame that despite being tall is still somewhat lean. He’s consistent and reliable, but still a little raw. He is a very good run-blocker though and has the tools to become a great pass-blocker, with the right coaching and some time to develop he could become a very good NFL starter.