2013 NFL Draft Predictions: Teams Most Likely to Reach for Offensive Line Help

Ethan GrantAnalyst IFebruary 8, 2013

December 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95) during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY

Offensive and defensive lineman have dominated draft talk so far. QB inadequacy is also up there, but the big boys from college football programs are prepared to make a lot of money in April's draft, specifically because this year's class is so deep with trench talent.

Luke Joeckel is the highest rated tackle on the board right now, and the Texas A&M standout is projected to go anywhere between picks one and four on draft day, depending upon what head coach Andy Reid and Kansas City Chiefs decide to do with their No. 1 pick.

Standout tackles Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan both decided to return to school for their senior seasons, but there's still plenty of talent up front, starting with a trio of Alabama offensive lineman and a pair of tackles whose name you'll know inside and out before draft day.

Since offensive line is at a premium this year and so many teams are clamoring to get their hands on a quality big man to protect a franchise QB, there's a good chance teams reach when there would be better value in taking the best player available.

Here's a look at three teams in that situation as we inch closer to the 2013 NFL draft.


San Diego Chargers

The Chargers were the fourth-worst team at allowing their QB, Philip Rivers, to be sacked in 2012, giving up an astounding 49 sacks and 70 QB hits over the course of the season.

It's a pretty general consensus that the Chargers will need to take an offensive lineman with the No. 11 pick in the draft, but who will they pursue? It's a question that Chargers reporter Tom Krasovic asked on Thursday on Twitter:

From Mike Harris to Jeromey Clary, the group just isn't getting it done.

When the Chargers pick at No. 11, there's a good chance the best two offensive tackles, Joeckel and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, will be gone. Chance Warmack is a great player and a stud guard, but should the Chargers use a pick on him with other gaping needs on defense?

Elsewhere, the next-best crop of tackle talent includes Alabama's D.J. Fluker and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson. Those two guys are great, but they aren't worthy of the No. 11 pick. The Chargers clearly have a need and all five spots appear to be up for grabs this offseason, but the selection at No. 11 could be very paltry when San Diego gets on the clock.


Dallas Cowboys

Dallas didn't have an astounding number of sacks allowed, and didn't do an overwhelmingly bad job like some teams in the league.

However, watching film on this group will reveal only LT Tyron Smith is worthy of his job in 2013 and even he was bad at times during the 2012 season. From C Ryan Cook to both guards (Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Living) on down to Doug Free, this group was terrible.

If Tony Romo wasn't an escape artist and able to maneuver away from multiple defenders coming his way, the sack number (36) would have been closer to 50.

Dallas is looking to cut Free, and could benefit from any position on the line except LT, where Smith is set in stone. Dallas also has some extensive needs along the defensive line, but Bill Callahan will want to bring in some fresh blood on the offensive side, too.

The Cowboys are in a similar position that San Diego will be in, because the No. 18 pick doesn't figure to have a ton of talent available to it on the offensive line. Johnson would appear to be the closest, and if Warmack is still around it's a no-brainer.

But those situations would require more luck than skill, and Dallas will be forced into wait-and-see mode in determining what direction they look to go in 2013—something Jerry Jones hasn't been good at since dismissing Bill Parcells from his draft room.


Chicago Bears

Just to get the laughs out of the way, here's a funny tweet from a fake Jay Cutler on Twitter:

Fake Cutler is right—the Bears need help.

Chicago gave up 44 sacks and 87 QB hits in 2012, good for eighth-worst in football. Cutler was publicly seen chewing out his left tackle during a nationally-televised game in the middle of the season and ended up being knocked out of one of the Bears' games after taking a brutal blow to the the noggin.

Just in case you missed it, the protection for backup QB Jason Campbell wasn't any better.

No. 20 is where the Bears will pick in 2013, and both Johnson and Fluker will be in play, as will North Carolina standout OG Johnathan Cooper. All three are quality lineman, and address a need for the Bears.

However, questions remain. If they are not there, what will Chicago do? It seems foolish to trade down because the linebacking corps could use some youth and the defensive line might be without Henry Melton next season, but offensive line is clearly the biggest team need.

Chicago might end up drafting an OL here no matter what—if nothing else to protect a QB that's fragile enough without a free-release rusher coming off the edge. It will be an interesting situation for a new coaching staff, but you can bet Marc Trestman knows he can't have a successful team without a good line. That makes the Bears a prime candidate to reach for an OL right here.