B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 35 Right Tackles
NFL right tackles are asked to be dynamic now more than ever before as defenses evolve into better-balanced pass-rushing attacks. The left tackles may make all the money, but right tackles are quickly becoming just as important. But who does it best?
Our B/R NFL 1,000 series is back, taking a look at each position by scouting, charting, grading and finally ranking each player based on his 2012 season.
The B/R 1,000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100. Potential and past accomplishments are not taken into account.
Offensive linemen are judged on pass-blocking (50 points) and run-blocking (50 points). Everything else that goes into the position—quickness, strength, vision, technique—can be grouped into those two categories.
In the case of ties, I have asked myself, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly. Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
Each player was scouted by myself and a team of experienced evaluators, with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.
All statistics from Pro Football Focus. Players' heights, weights and seasons in the NFL are from NFL.com.
35. Derek Newton, Houston Texans
Derek Newton (6'6", 318 pounds, two seasons) has the size and body type you look for in a right tackle. He is a good athlete but is inconsistent with his technique.
Newton shows poor balance and struggles with speed-rushers and defenders with quick hands who can knock Newton’s hands away before he has a chance to get inside their pads.
The Texans use Newton's athleticism to their advantage in the run game. They are constantly asking him to pull to his left and kick out to his right.
He doesn’t have an impressive first step, and he will lose contact with blocks. Newton has good leg drive and push when he is asked to fire straight off of the ball.
Derek Newton is young and physical, and he has a ton of potential. He will need to become more consistent and technically sound if he plans on sticking around.
Newton was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
34. Jonathan Martin, Miami Dolphins
Jonathan Martin (6'5", 312 pounds, one season) has an athletic, lean frame that you would expect to see from a left tackle.
He did play both left and right this year, but he spent the majority of his snaps on the right side. Martin has the quickness to cut off the edge, but he lacks the strength to stand up to power rushers.
Martin, put simply, lacks the strength to have an impact in the run game. There are players without great strength, but they compensate with quickness and technique.
Martin is quick, but his technique needs a ton of work. Martin does a good job combo-blocking with the guard, but this too highlights his struggles to handle players one-on-one.
Martin is an interesting athlete who would probably be best at left tackle (if he can add strength) or even inside at left guard, where his agility can be used to pull and trap.
He’s been outmatched at right tackle, as teams exploited his lack of strength regularly. Much can change between Year 1 and Year 2, and Martin needs to commit to getting stronger.
33. Guy Whimper, Jacksonville Jaguars
Guy Whimper (6'5", 315 pounds, six seasons) moved between starter and reserve often this year, summing up his performance perfectly. Whimper didn’t show the balance or strength to beat a bull rush; pass-rushers constantly targeted his chest and tried to get their hands inside his. Once they did, game over.
Teams loved to line up ends in a wide technique, forcing Whimper to make up ground to get to the corner. This was an automatic win for the defense, as Whimper couldn’t get to the edge and get set in time to absorb a bull rush or counter a speed move.
Whimper showed good agility to take a zone step to his right, open up his chest and attack the edge. What he didn’t show was the strength to make an impact once he got there.
Outside defenders gave Whimper fits in the run game, as he couldn’t get hand placement and drive them away from the play. Playing with better leverage on the move—keeping his pads down and driving through the block—would make a major difference.
Whimper doesn’t offer much upside as a right tackle. He lacks the kick step to get into position, the balance to absorb rushers and the strength to pancake or drive block. Based on the 2012 season, Whimper looks like a long-term backup.
Whimper was No. 23 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
32. Willie Smith, Oakland Raiders
An eight-game starter at right tackle, Willie Smith’s strength wasn’t in pass protection. Smith (6'5", 310 pounds, two seasons) does a good job resetting his feet and moving laterally, but in a man-to-man situation, he lacks the strength to punch and tie up pass-rushers.
He’ll get walked back into passing lanes off the ball. Smith has potential, but he really needs to work on punching and hand placement. From there, his feet need to stay with his upper body to maintain balance.
Smith shows much better resolve in run-blocking situations, where his lack of punch isn’t as much of an issue. Smith has the agility to pull on outside runs, and while he’s willing to mix it up and get dirty, too often he’ll fail to connect on blocks.
When Smith doesn’t get leverage right off the ball, which happened quite a bit, he’s easy to walk back. He must work to get better leverage to prevent being driven off the ball.
Smith isn’t a wash at right tackle, as there’s good athletic ability here to work with. He needs his technique refined over the offseason, though, and he could be looking at serious competition or an outright replacement in free agency.
Smith was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
31. Erik Pears, Buffalo Bills
Erik Pears’ (6'8", 316 pounds, eight seasons) ability on the edge can be a major liability. He’s not quite quick enough out of his stance, leaving the outside unprotected for far too long.
Pears is strong enough to wall down defenders if he can get the angle off the snap, but that’s not a consistent trait of his. When working against an outside rush, he really struggles once the defender dips his shoulder. He doesn’t have the agility to slide his feet and mirror the defender.
Pears works well to his left and can be a good combination blocker, but he’ll struggle to get off blocks to get to the second level. In a zone-blocking scheme, he does well working down the line of scrimmage and can make cut blocks to seal off the back side.
In Pears’ seven games starting, the Bills often ran away from his side. Pears is at his best when working head-up on a defender in a 5- or 6-technique.
Pears has the ability of a player who could still develop, but he's most likely destined for a career as a spot-starter and rotational player on the offensive line.
Pears was No. 18 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
30. Byron Bell, Carolina Panthers
Byron Bell (6'5", 340 pounds, two seasons) is shorter and bulkier than a lot of the right tackles in the league, which helps him keep his pads low and stay under the defenders. He has a good initial punch and is able to keep in contact with his opponent.
Bell lacks the quickness to keep up with speed rushers coming off the edge or athletic defensive ends who can throw a counter move after they are initially stopped.
Bell doesn’t get a good push off the line of scrimmage and is a little slow coming out of his stance. He more gets in the way of the defense instead of moving it, but he does a great job of sealing off his blocks to create holes.
He isn’t the most agile lineman, but he can get to the second level to help create big plays in the Panthers' running game.
Coming off a poor rookie season, Bell showed quite a bit of improvement in 2012. He will need to become more consistent in the passing game, as he was bailed out by Cam Newton’s athleticism time after time.
Bell shows that he has a mean streak, and if he can build up his strength, he can become a dominant run-blocker.
Bell was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
29. Cameron Bradfield, Jacksonville Jaguars
A college guard, Cameron Bradfield (6'4", 308 pounds, two seasons) is still making his adjustment to right tackle in the NFL.
His second season in the league was a rough one, as Bradfield struggled to show the punch and outside kick step needed to seal off the right edge. Speed rushers had a field day with his inability to set up strong on the edge.
Bradfield has the quickness to get upfield, but he lacks the strength to drive-block defenders off the line. He’s at his best when angle-blocking on runs to the left and shouldn’t be thought of as someone who can power the run game.
Bradfield is a balanced blocker, but the talent level we’re seeing on both rushing and passing downs isn’t promising. Jacksonville has to consider making right tackle a priority upgrade in the offseason.
Bradfield was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
28. Breno Giacomini, Seattle Seahawks
As a right tackle in the Seahawks' scheme, Breno Giacomini (6'7", 318 pounds, five seasons) was often asked to reach to outside-shoulder pass-rushers and slow them down off the ball. He did well at times, showing a good kick step to the edge and quick hands.
Too often he lost contact and would reach and lunge for defenders who were quick enough to hurry his process off the ball. Fast pass-rushers, like Corey Wootton, dogged him off the snap, as he wasn’t quick enough to get off the ball and recover to the edge.
The Seahawks have a running back who excels in yards after contact, which can inflate stats. Giacomini struggled in the run game when asked to move laterally.
He’s a one-step-and-drive type of tackle who really needs to work in a confined space. His agility is average, but the pad height he shows won’t get the job done against defenders who know to use their hands to disengage.
A weak link on an otherwise solid offensive line, Giacomini is a stopgap starter who must get better at taking away the edge in passing situations and working to move the line of scrimmage in the run game.
Giacomini was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
27. Mike Adams, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Adams (6'7", 323 pounds, one season) is a big man with limited flexibility, which makes pass protection tough when isolated on the edge. He’s powerful when able to punch and reach defenders, but Adams can be a liability if he has to move his feet.
Adams is powerful at the point of attack, but he needs to learn to better use his hands to direct and control defenders. At this point, he’s surviving on strength alone. When Adams can sink his hips and get his weight balanced, he’s a monster on the move.
Adams showed promise in his first season, but it’s clear that the former Ohio State Buckeye is very raw when it comes to technique. He needs to be coached on technique and leverage before he’s ready to be a high-level starter.
26. Ryan Harris, Houston Texans
Ryan Harris (6'5", 300 pounds, five seasons) is a stopgap starter at right tackle who would be best served in a rotational role. His ability to slide outside and stop the rush is questionable, as defenders can easily set him up to attack the inside shoulder.
To compensate for a lack of agility, he’ll kick slide too far out, creating a huge gap for pass-rushers to counter through off his left shoulder. Harris showed a willingness to punch but lacked the strength to follow it up with a drive block.
Harris does a good job taking a 45-degree step to his left and then finding the first man to block, but he has trouble actually blocking once he’s there. He doesn’t show great strength at the point of attack and looks timid off the ball at times.
There is no mean streak here. When he’s able to connect, Harris has good leg drive, but fundamental strength is lacking.
Harris is on the lighter side for a right tackle, but he hasn’t shown the quickness to play on the left side. In Houston’s zone-blocking scheme, that lack of quickness hurts.
Harris was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
25. Doug Free, Dallas Cowboys
Doug Free (6'6", 325 pounds, six seasons) made the move to right tackle in 2012, and it wasn’t a kind move to his game. Free saw his sack numbers actually decrease, but his on-film performance shows a decline.
When taking on an outside rush, Free never really learned how to set his feet and anchor. He became a backpedaling tackle anytime the defender made contact with his chest.
With poor balance, Free was easily tossed aside. Against the Eagles in Week 13, Free was dominated by a bull rush, wrapping up nicely the struggles we saw all year.
Free was asked to block head-up on ends often this season, and he showed good initial pop out of his stance to attack the line. He was most commonly used inside as a combination blocker with the guard, something he did with little noticeable result.
Free struggled when asked to fire off and drive block, as he was off-balance and uncoordinated in trying to establish contact and keep his feet.
Free shouldn’t have struggled as much as he did with a move to the right side, but he never seemed to sync his feet with his hands and become comfortable moving in mirror to his former side.
Free is still young enough to be a valuable player, but he might be best served inside at guard, where operating in space isn’t a requirement.
Free was No. 12 among left tackles in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
24. Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
A gifted athlete with high upside, Marcus Gilbert (6'6", 330 pounds, two seasons) played out of sorts all year due to injury. When on the field, he showed good initial quickness off the ball and light feet.
He has the range to go inside out, but he has to work to take cleaner angles to the corner so as to not give up so much ground. The biggest complaint with Gilbert’s game is that he will surrender a lot of territory in working off the line. He shortens the space between rusher and quarterback inadvertently.
The first run play we charted, Gilbert came off the ball high and lost leverage. That was consistent throughout.
When asked to move laterally, Gilbert has good quickness, but he doesn’t connect on a high percentage of the blocks. He was used to pull around the tight end and lead block and, again, has the quickness but has poor accuracy to actually set the block.
Gilbert started just five games this year before suffering a season-ending injury, just barely making our 200-snap limit for non-quarterbacks.
In his 246 snaps, Gilbert didn’t look like his old self and struggled to gain ground in pass and run situations. Here’s hoping a healthy Gilbert will be back to his old self in 2013.
Gilbert was No. 13 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
23. Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints
Zach Strief (6'7", 320 pounds, seven seasons) sits high in his two-point stance awaiting the snap, something he struggles to overcome in both facets of the blocking game.
Against a power right end, he’s able to punch and slide, but speed-rushers will frustrate him as he shoves to generate space. Against teams running a 4-3 defense, Strief struggles to go from inside out to help with defensive tackles.
Strief is strong enough in the run game to kick out and hold the edge on inside and weak-side runs. He doesn’t show the agility to consistently get upfield on the outside. The Saints’ run game was at its best going away from Strief.
Strief is helped immensely by the scheme in New Orleans and the fact that Drew Brees is so good at stepping up in the pocket. He’s an example of a serviceable player who likely wouldn’t fare as well in another scheme.
Strief was No. 8 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
22. Jeromey Clary, San Diego Chargers
A top-paid right tackle, Jeromey Clary’s (6'6", 320 pounds, seven seasons) performance hasn’t lived up to his paycheck.
As a pass-protector, he shows a good initial slide step when working back and to his right. He’s a willing puncher, but he tends to give up ground and get walked back to the quarterback when delivering his punch.
Too often he’s using a double-handed shove at the defender and stepping back to reset and absorb. Ideally, Clary would punch and engage rather than give up precious ground.
Clary fired off the ball well, but after that he tended to get high in his stance and struggle to generate push. He has a bad habit of pressing defenders in the run game—like a bench-press technique—instead of locking on and driving them upfield.
When he fires off and is asked to take on a head-up defender, his technique is much cleaner and more effective.
The San Diego Chargers should look to upgrade the right tackle position this offseason. Clary can be solid in the run game, but his inconsistency there and failures in pass protection open them up to big holes on the front five.
Clary was No. 29 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
21. Barry Richardson, St. Louis Rams
Barry Richardson (6'6", 319 pounds, five seasons) will likely be replaced in the offseason thanks to a 2012 season that left much to be desired. Richardson doesn’t show the quickness to beat pass-rushers off the line.
He has good technique on his kick step, but the speed isn’t there. He loses leverage early and will get walked back into the quarterback. While he does have the length to punch at pass-rushers, his follow-up doesn’t sustain the block.
Richardson is a high-stance player who struggles with pad level and leverage. When he’s able to move before blocking, he’s much better off than when asked to fire off and get low. Richardson doesn’t have good agility to pull, and he lacks flexibility to cut block on the go.
He is strong at the point of attack and can hold the corner for outside runs. He’ll get some momentum moving north and south. He does a good job releasing off the ball to get to the second level.
A 16-game starter at right tackle, Richardson played some of his best football in 2012. That said, he’s a liability in space as a pass-protector and is really best suited for a backup role moving forward. Right tackle is one of the Rams’ biggest offseason needs.
Richardson was No. 27 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
20. Kelechi Osemele, Baltimore Ravens
Kelechi Osemele (6'5", 335 pounds, one season) should not be trusted as an outside pass-protector. The Ravens’ regular-season right tackle doesn’t show the quickness in his kick step to effectively and consistently cut off the edge.
When Osemele could get his hands on defenders, he graded out well, but he lacked the punch and slide technique needed to mirror pass-rushers off the edge.
When asked to kick out and attack an outside defensive end in the run game, Osemele has the strength to seal off the backside.
He doesn’t show great quickness moving side to side from the tackle position, but once moved inside to guard he was much better suited to pull against slower defensive tackles. Osemele’s leg drive when locked up with defenders is promising.
It is very important to note that Osemele graded out higher as a left guard than at right tackle, but he started 16 regular-season games at this position, so that’s where he’s ranked.
If kept at guard, Osemele looks like a future Pro Bowler, but he lacks the quickness to be a top-level player on the outside.
19. Gabe Carimi, Chicago Bears
Gabe Carimi (6'7", 316 pounds, two seasons) hasn’t adjusted well to the speed of the NFL, especially on passing downs. The biggest concern with Carimi is that his kick step to get to the edge isn’t fast enough.
He gets good depth, but often a second too late. When asked to stop a bull rush, he can give up ground due to a narrow base. In the games we viewed at right tackle, rarely did he execute a punch to generate separation from the defender.
A powerful run-blocker, Carimi is at his best moving forward to attack the defense. He does a good job moving laterally to seal off holes in the run game, as he’s quick enough in short areas to get a good angle.
We did note a few times where he and the right guard tried to block the same player on an angle block—something that just won’t work. All in all, Carimi has a bright future on running downs. He’s strong, quick moving on his first step and has the mentality of a run-blocker.
The former first-round draft pick has struggled to find his place in the NFL. Carimi started the year at right tackle but was moved inside to guard after struggling on the edge. His future is at best uncertain heading into 2013.
Carimi was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
18. Bobby Massie, Arizona Cardinals
The first eight weeks of the season were a different story than the last eight for Bobby Massie (6'6", 316 pounds, one season), and we’ve tried to average the two out in his scoring. Massie improved dramatically throughout the season at finding his angle to take away the edge.
As he became more comfortable with leverage and angles, his raw athletic ability started to shine. Massie’s confidence in being able to anchor got better. He tended to panic when bull-rushed early in the season, but he was holding his ground late in the year.
While not yet a powerful run-blocker, Massie did a good job moving to occupy the defender’s space, using his hands to lock onto the inside shoulder and drive players away from the ball.
He needs to get better at firing off low and staying low, but his quickness and hand placement are assets. You’ll want to see his accuracy increase when blocking on the move, and that is a major coaching point this offseason, but the talent is here.
Massie had a very rough start to the season, but he actually rebounded well down the stretch. The rookie right tackle had his share of bad games, but he’s pegged for big improvement heading into 2013.
While Massie’s early-season woes keep his grade down, I’m high on him moving forward.
17. Winston Justice, Indianapolis Colts
Winston Justice (6'6", 317 pounds, seven seasons) is a long and lean tackle who shows a very quick first step. He has a good punch and is strong enough to handle bigger defensive ends from teams that run a 3-4.
While Justice is fairly athletic, he does struggle with rushers who start with a speed rush to his outside shoulder and then quickly cut across his face toward the inside.
With good but not great power, he plays a little high and will give up some ground. Justice shows good initial quickness and contact though.
Once he locks on, he really controls the defender. He has good reach and does a great job with his kick-out blocks.
Justice has quick feet and and good hands, but he is average in almost every other category. He struggles with changing directions, which is usually caused by him playing too high and not always being consistent in his technique.
Justice was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
16. Sean Locklear, New York Giants
Sean Locklear (6'4", 310 pounds, nine seasons) won’t blow anyone away with his quickness off the ball, but he’s a strong anchor on the edge. When matched up against power-rushers, Locklear doesn’t always get a big enough kick step, which opens him up to an outside rush and causes him to hurry to get depth.
When lined up against outside rushers, he didn’t show a good punch, instead waiting to catch the pass-rusher. He must get more aggressive at trying to stun the pass-rusher and then sliding to reset and regain leverage.
Locklear’s strength is a major asset in the run game, but he can be heavy-footed, and he struggled to get push off the line. Locklear’s movement off the line wasn’t great, but he does come off with good pad height.
With less-than-ideal agility, he’s not going to pull or kick out well. But when moving the pile straight ahead, he’s good.
Locklear is a bit of a throwback at right tackle. He’s a bulldozing blocker in the run game who can be a liability on the edge against teams with a balanced pass-rush attack.
Locklear was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
15. Chris Hairston, Buffalo Bills
Chris Hairston (6'6", 330 pounds, two seasons) shows a good initial step and punch, but he’s overrun by pass-rushers too often in pass protection.
Due to a lack of speed, Hairston will give away his outside shoulder to speed. Once that happens, he will overcompensate by jumping to the outside. That, in turn, opens up his inside shoulder.
He’ll get top-heavy when pass-rushers start walking him back to the quarterback when he should be sinking his hips and absorbing the contact.
In the run game, Hairston’s first step is strong and balanced. While he needs to follow through with better pad height, he’s strong at the point of attack and can push defenders inside or out.
One issue with his footwork is that he’ll shuffle his feet at the snap instead of getting upfield immediately. This small, correctable issue could help a ton.
Hairston was an impact blocker on the right side when it came to opening holes in the B-gap and sealing off the outside. He’s just not very mobile.
Chris Hairston is a good run-blocker and an average pass-protector who still has some room to grow as a young player.
Heading into Year 3 of his career, Hairston needs to nail down his technique and angles to better overcome his lack of agility.
Hairston was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
14. Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Demar Dotson (6'9", 315 pounds, three seasons) is a raw athlete at right tackle. Dotson is best used when covered with a tight end so he can get help on the outside edge.
He does a good job sliding inside and reaching defensive tackles, but he doesn’t show the speed to consistently kick out to the edge. He’ll need to improve his mechanics to effectively reach the outside.
Dotson has some lateral movement to pull and trap, but he’ll get caught in traffic at times when attempting to go to the second level.
He’s strong enough to drive block, but he can lose his feet at times and try to block with only his upper body. At 6’9”, you can expect Dotson to have some trouble with leverage in the run game, and he definitely does.
Dotson is a balanced tackle with upside on the right side of the offensive line. He showed some versatility in 2012 by playing left tackle for one game, but his home for the future is on the right.
Dotson was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
13. Austin Howard, New York Jets
In pass protection, Austin Howard (6'7", 333 pounds, three seasons) lacks the quickness to effectively cut off the corner and protect the quarterback. What he does do well is punch to stun defenders, knocking them off-balance and allowing him to reset and control the edge.
Howard may always need a tight end or back helping him with speed-rushers, but he’s strong enough to handle his inside shoulder and not forfeit ground in the B-gap.
Howard is a powerful run-blocker who is nearly impossible to stop when moving forward. He did struggle against 3-4 defenses when he was asked to take on bigger, stronger 5-technique defensive ends.
Howard is strong enough to take a 45-degree step to the end and control the player with power. He can do a better job following up with his feet, but overall he’s controlling guys with his hands.
It will be interesting to see if Howard can learn to roll his hips when he’s locked up with defenders to better drive block. That’s a big coaching point for him.
Howard was thrust into a starting role this year and struggled at first, but his improvement over the course of the season was impressive.
He was up and down at times, but Howard's last 10 games showed growth and development. He’s worth sticking with at right tackle.
Howard was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
12. Todd Herremans, Philadelphia Eagles
A solid starter on the right side, Todd Herremans (6'6", 321 pounds, eight seasons) has a clear strength. It’s not in the pass game, though. His best attribute as a pass-protector is his ability to wall off defenders who try to jump outside.
He has the strength to squat and seal off the edge. Due to mediocre agility, he can be exposed if he makes that jump outside and then the defender crosses him and goes inside. He’s best when locking up one player and isn’t isolated in space to mirror and slide.
Herremans is at his best in the run game, where he can be a bit nasty. He is best suited to move forward, and the run game allows him to hide his lack of agility.
The Eagles used him to pull some, and he did a good job moving side to side. But he comes out with a high pad level and can be beaten.
Herremans was limited to action in just eight games this year due to injury, but in that time he showed marked improvement as a run-blocker and good enough pass-protection skills to be considered a quality starter moving forward.
Herremans was No. 11 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
11. Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers
One of our top-graded right tackles last year, Bryan Bulaga (6'5", 314 pounds, three seasons) suffered through a bad 2012 season before being injured after nine games. During the 2012 season, Bulaga couldn’t get a handle on 3-4 edge-rushers.
Bulaga was slow out of the gate and couldn’t get to the edge quick enough to shut down speed. While he was strong inside and could handle strength, his lower body wasn’t speeding up to catch the outside. Bulaga has a nice back step, but if countered with outside speed, he was beaten.
Bulaga did a nice job walling off defenders on the back side. He was at his best firing off and locking into the body of a defender, where his leg drive allowed him to take players out of the box.
He’s agile enough to pull outside the tight end without issue. With outside alignment, defenders were able to walk him back into the play.
Bulaga’s down year could easily be attributed to injury, but his start to the season was forgettable. The bookend right tackle struggled with speed-rushers and otherwise looked beatable.
Bulaga has elite talent, but his 2012 season is one to look back on as motivation to get better.
Bulaga was No. 2 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
10. Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns
A former left tackle at Cal, Mitchell Schwartz (6'5", 320 pounds, one season) made an easy transition to right tackle in the NFL. On film you see a quick snap step, where Schwartz “snaps” to attention and punches inside to the defensive tackle.
He’s strong enough to punch, reset his feet and absorb second contact from the pass-rusher. Schwartz has exceptional physical tools; he just needs time to develop them.
Schwartz can get too high out of his stance in the run game, especially if a defender is head-up on him before the snap. His first-step quickness is good, and he’s not afraid to make contact and drive into defenders.
Schwartz has the agility to pull and trap, but he must work on connecting with defenders when blocking on the move.
A fluid athlete with experience on both sides of the line, Schwartz was one of the top rookie performers on the offensive line all season.
He did a stand-up job in pass protection and showed improvement down the stretch to indicate the Browns stole a long-term starter in the second round.
9. David Stewart, Tennessee Titans
Having good reach and strength are very important for a right tackle, and that’s what David Stewart (6'7", 315 pounds, eight seasons) has plenty of.
He’s able to stun defenders off the edge with a hard punch, which covers up some of his troubles moving in space. Stewart is a tough player who finishes blocks. He’ll use his reach to punch and hold defenders at bay, locking his arms and using his strength to keep distance.
He doesn’t have the best agility in space, but he’s strong enough to take down most defenders if he can get his hands on them. A hard speed rush to the outside will give him fits.
Stewart got beaten quite a bit this year by players who were simply faster off the ball in the run game. He can block down with the best tackles in the game, but he lacked the agility to get out and lead block consistently.
He can be high-centered in his stance, and he needs to get lower and stronger in his foundation. He’s at his best when drive blocking a head-up defensive end off the ball.
Stewart is still largely considered to be one of the top right tackles in the NFL, but that status took a hit in 2012.
In pass-protection situations, he is still very good. But in the run game, he’s being surpassed by more athletic players. Stewart can be up and down, so a rebound in 2013 wouldn’t be a surprise.
Stewart was No. 4 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
8. Tyson Clabo, Atlanta Falcons
Tyson Clabo (6'6", 329 pounds, eight seasons) is a good athlete who regressed in 2012. In passing situations, Clabo gave up way too much ground to pass-rushers, shortening the distance between himself and the quarterback.
That allowed defenders to counter Clabo and easily get to Matt Ryan. He shows good balance on his backpedal, but he’s letting defenders get inside his reach too easily.
Clabo does a good job initiating contact off the ball. He’s strong enough to redirect defenders when he gets his hands on them, but he can be inconsistent in his hand placement.
He’s slow to reset his feet if a defender counters his first move and can be a bit late off the ball on weak-side runs. Clabo shows good angles to get to defenders and has a knack for using his body to shield runners on the edge.
Clabo was one of our top right tackles in 2011, but his play dipped considerably in 2012 as teams attacked his inside shoulder more and forced him to play as an athlete and not a mauler. While Clabo is still a top-10 right tackle, he needs to rebound in 2013 to live up to his status as a high-level player.
Clabo was No. 3 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
7. Gosder Cherilus, Detroit Lions
Gosder Cherilus (6'7", 325 pounds, five seasons) has quicker hands and feet than you would expect from a man his size. Cherilus has a good kick-and-shuffle move, especially when going back off the line of scrimmage to meet edge-rushers.
He has very quick hands and will strike at defenders and stun them. While he can get a bit upright at times, he’s strong enough to overcome most bull rushes he’ll see.
One of the first things we saw on film was Cherilus consistently losing leverage when the play was away from his side. Defenders are able to slip his block on weak-side runs because he’s not locking them up with his hands.
He’ll too often try to use a forearm to drive block, when he should be locking up with hands on the inside of the defender’s body. He will get his weight over his knees at times, but he's strong enough to overpower defenders in a one-on-one situation.
Our preseason rankings of the top right tackles didn’t put Cherilus anywhere close to the top 10 players, but he earned it this year with top-level pass protection on the back side.
Cherilus was No. 22 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
6. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings
Watching Phil Loadholt (6'8" 343 pounds, four seasons) manhandle pass-rushers with his exceptional power, we expected him to grade out a little better as a pass-protector. Loadholt will win most battles when he can get a square punch on the defender, but when he’s asked to slide his feet, he’ll struggle.
Loadholt wasn’t great against an outside speed rush, especially from 3-4 outside linebackers. But he did show the ability to stun pass-rushers with a strong right hand.
Pure power goes a long way in run-blocking on the right side of the line, and Loadholt has that. He tends to stand up out of his stance at times when the play is away from him, but he makes up for this with great strength when locking on to defenders.
He has good enough feet to kick out and seal off the left defensive end, and he did a good job getting upfield on off-tackle runs. He’s not incredibly mobile but can move well enough. He's much better working in confined spaces.
Loadholt really improved from last season, showing much better understanding of angles and leverage. He’s a massive man, and with that power he’s able to control most defenders he can get his hands on.
As his footwork improves, Loadholt has room to move way up the list. You would be hard-pressed to find a meaner, more physical player at his position.
Loadholt was No. 12 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
5. Orlando Franklin, Denver Broncos
If you’re not expecting it, Orlando Franklin (6'7", 330 pounds, two seasons) will surprise you. A lot. For a big man, he moves exceptionally well in space, showing the footwork to slide and shuffle in and out of the box to pick up the pass rush.
He’s patient enough out of the gate to wait for the defender to make a move. That works against slower pass-rushers but can open him up to speed rushes.
Coming off the ball, Franklin can struggle to establish blocks and then maintain them while moving his feet. He can get top-heavy at times, which allows defenders to slip away from his grasp.
Franklin is strong in his first few steps and he can manhandle defenders, but he’s been known to miss when aiming for the second level.
Franklin was one of the better pass-protecting right tackles we evaluated this year. His reach added with his ability to slide and mirror pass-rushers helped keep Peyton Manning upright all season.
While Franklin isn’t dominant in the run game, he’s good enough to wall off and seal running lanes.
Franklin was No. 21 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
4. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
Andre Smith (6'4'', 335 pounds, four seasons) has exceptionally long arms that allow him to reach and redirect pass-rushers off the edge. Smith has a good punch to stun an outside rush. He’s strong enough to get physical and mix it up with bull-rushers who get inside his frame.
Smith can get his feet crossed up if you set him up outside and counter with an inside move. He’s not quite agile enough in space to set his feet for countermoves.
A big-bodied blocker who is a bowling ball off the line of scrimmage, Smith does a very good job initiating contact and driving the defender off the ball.
He can be very physical in the run game, locking on and driving with ease. Smith’s natural low center of gravity makes him a force when he gets off the line with low or centered pads.
Smith has been inconsistent throughout his career, but he turned in an excellent 2012 season right in time for free agency. He’s a powerful right tackle who is limited to playing on the strong side of the line.
A lack of lateral agility can make Smith a liability against skilled pass-rushers, but what he brings in the run game is tough to replace.
Smith was No. 10 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
3. Eric Winston, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs struggled in 2012, but right tackle Eric Winston (6'7", 302 pounds, seven seasons) was once again solid. Winston was the most productive pass blocking right tackle in the NFL.
Winston can get behind if a speed-rusher sets him up to the outside. He creates space between guard and tackle, and he counters back inside. Winston does a good job sliding his feet to come back inside to recover.
Winston is a classic power right tackle with the strength to move the pile. He plays well out of a two- and three-point stance.
Winston is at his best in a zone-blocking scheme that allows him to track upfield and get an angle on defenders (as opposed to a power scheme where he’s locked on to one player).
He shows good agility for a big man, getting out of his stance quickly and easily getting to the second level. He does a good job rubbing the outside man and then getting upfield to attack linebackers.
Our top right tackle from 2011, Winston had a tough season in Kansas City. Winston wasn’t as effective pass-blocking for the troubled quarterbacks, allowing more sacks and penalties than usual.
On film, the penalties seemed to be caused by late audibles in the cadence. The strength of Winston’s game is his run-blocking, and he was once again brilliant in 2012.
Winston was No. 1 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
2. Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots
With long arms and exceptional quickness to cut off the corner, Sebastian Vollmer (6'8" 320 pounds, four seasons) is a prototypical tackle in today’s NFL.
Vollmer is long enough to cut off pass-rushers who try to loop outside of him, but he could do a better job sliding his feet to maintain balance. He will arch his back to absorb bull rushes and second moves.
Vollmer can be dangerous as a run-blocker, but only when he’s coming in with leverage and technique. Too often he’ll try to muscle his way through a block, and he’s just not strong enough to do that. When Vollmer dips his shoulders and fires off, he’s tough to get past.
Vollmer shows great balance between pass- and run-blocking. Thanks to his length at 6’8”, he’s able to keep defenders at bay without always having to move his feet and kick out to the edge. He’s a versatile athlete who can also play left tackle in a pinch.
Vollmer was No. 5 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.
1. Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers
When watching Anthony Davis (6'5", 323 pounds, three seasons) pass-protect, you see a big man with the quickness to move, but one who struggles to pick his spots.
Davis will overextend at times and get caught on his toes lunging toward defenders. He must learn to keep his balance and his base strength by sliding his feet and anchoring with his rear end.
Davis fires off the ball with rare power and burst. For a big man, he generates good leverage off the snap, allowing him to get into his defender quickly.
He has the agility to be used out in front of the run, but the 49ers really like to have Davis kicking out defensive ends and crashing down on tackles when the run is to the outside. Davis is an ideal fit for the power-blocking scheme the 49ers favor.
Davis is an unreal athlete for the position, showing the footwork and flexibility needed to win battles on the edge.
Davis is one of the league’s most improved players over the course of the last two seasons, and his hard work has paid off. He’s now one of the best run-blockers in the NFL.
Davis was ranked No. 20 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.