As the NFL has transitioned into a passing dominated league, the importance of having an elite pair of tackles has also increased.
Not only are defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers becoming bigger and faster, but they're also getting significantly more chances to tee off on the opposing quarterbacks. This combination has created a much bigger demand for tackles at the next level.
With that in mind, let's take a look at where the top tackles in 2012 NFL draft may land come this April.
1. Indianapolis Colts—Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. St. Louis Rams—Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
3. Minnesota Vikings—Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikings released overweight and under-performing tackle Bryant McKinnie before the season, and replacement Charlie Johnson was only so-so. With a franchise quarterback in place, the Vikings need to add his personal protector. Kalil is that guy as the draft's consensus No. 1 tackle.
4. Cleveland Browns—Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
6. Washington Redskins—Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
7. Jacksonville Jaguars—Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
The Jaguars have plenty of holes on offense to fill in this draft. Tackle might not be the No. 1 need, but Reiff is a tackle prospect that may be hard to pass up. He could start immediately at right tackle with plans to eventually move him over to the left.
8. Carolina Panthers—Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
9. Miami Dolphins—Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
10. Buffalo Bills—Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
11. Kansas City Chiefs—Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
12. Seattle Seahawks—Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
13. Arizona Cardinals—Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
If there's any tackle that has the opportunity to move up near the top of this draft, it's Martin. He's a road-grader in the run game and showed signs of improvement in pass protection. All the physical skills you want in a tackle, Martin has them.
14. Dallas Cowboys—Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
15. Philadelphia Eagles—Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
16. New York Jets—Ronnell Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
17. Cincinnati Bengals—Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
18. San Diego Chargers—David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
19. Chicago Bears—Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
20. Tennessee Titans—Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
21. Cincinnati Bengals—Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
22. Cleveland Browns—Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
I tried to get Cleveland an offensive playmaker to team with Robert Griffin at No. 22, but the Browns can plug Adams in at right tackle and feel comfortable with their tackle combination for the next 10 years. Playmakers can be found in the later rounds, but starting tackles are increasingly difficult to goldmine past the first round.
23. Detroit Lions—Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
24. Pittsburgh Steelers—Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia
25. Denver Broncos—Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
26. Houston Texans—Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
27. New England Patriots—Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
28. Green Bay Packers—Nick Perry, OLB USC
29. New York Giants—Dont'a Hightower, LB Alabama
30. Baltimore Ravens—Vontaze Burfict, LB Arizona State
31. San Francisco 49ers—Mohamed Sanu, WR Rutgers
32. New England Patriots—Mark Barron, S, Alabama