Feeling A Draft: Tackling Jacksonville's Offensive Tackle Problem
The Jacksonville Jaguars' 2008 season couldn't come to an end soon enough for some of us. I know it's particularly true for me after they blew a 14-3 lead at halftime to Tennessee. After that game, I just wanted the season to come to an abrupt, merciful end but I digress.
At this point in time we are on the verge of the NFL Combine, the annual parade of college players in their underwear for all NFL scouts and coaches to scrutinize everything about these future NFL players. The Jaguars have a multitude of areas that need addressing, and this article, in part, is to diagnose what the Jaguars require and might do to repair their ailing roster situation.
The Jaguars didn't stand a chance after week one. I knew when Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams went down with injuries that the season many expected was doomed. Couple their season-ending injuries with Brad Meester being out for half the season and the tragic shooting of Richard Collier prior to the season, and you could see how the offensive line fell on hard times real quick.
This remains the Jaguars' biggest problem area. Let's face it, when the Jaguars can't control the line of scrimmage and run the ball their chances of winning decrease drastically. Let us not forget David Garrard was the most hit quarterback in the NFL in 2008. The soon-to-be free agent departures of Khalif Barnes and Brad Meester leave big holes on the offensive line, and those have to be addressed first and foremost.
Luckily, the Jaguars are going into a draft that has a premium group of offensive tackles, and the team is well positioned to grab one of those top-notch tackles.
Possible Left Tackle Prospects
1. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Monroe is a classic left tackle, that is to say he is a finesse pass blocker. This is a guy that I believe is the most NFL-ready. You plug him in from day one, and he's your guy. Monroe isn't a great or even good run blocker; like I said he's a finesse guy, but he's a dominant pass blocker, and that's what I look for in a blind side pass protector.
Monroe may not have any upside; you get what you draft. However, what you get is a guy that kept former first round pick and now starting left tackle of the Kansas City Chiefs Branden Albert at guard at UVA while he and Monroe played together.
2. Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Smith, a former tight end, played in a spread offense in college and spent most of his time in a two-point stance. From a technique standpoint he could use some work, but his athleticism isn't in question. Smith, like Monroe, is a starter from the day he's drafted. He's a little more accomplished as a run blocker than Monroe. Smith does have more upside and has been labeled as some a future Pro Bowl tackle at the NFL level.
3. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Andre Smith poses some unique problems for talent evaluators. First, Smith is only 6'4", not an ideal height for an NFL tackle. Secondly, keeping his weight under control has been a concern in the past. Beyond that Smith is the most dominant run blocker of the bunch; in fact, some project him at right tackle or even guard.
Smith has the most upside of any of the top tackles and has great feet and knows where to put his hands in pass protection. The junior for Alabama could go as high as No. 2 overall to St. Louis or fall right into the Jaguars' laps.
4. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
If there's a real boom or bust pick it's Michael Oher. Oher has all the physical tools; he's tall, long-armed, strong, and has the feet. However, there is concern his football I.Q. isn't what it should be and maybe he isn't cut out to be a left tackle, which may prompt others to view him as a right tackle.
While at Mississippi Oher played multiple positions on the line and just recently settled into left tackle, so some wonder if that's his best position. Oher impressed at the Senior Bowl by showing he can regain his form and learn from his mistakes quite quickly.
Of the four premium offensive tackles that could be available for Jacksonville at No. 8 (provided the team doesn't trade back), I would say either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe would be the best options. Both are experienced and ready-to-go NFL tackles. Andre Smith and Michael Oher present bigger question marks and uncertainty, something that new Jags GM Gene Smith would like to avoid in his first draft.
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