Examining 4 Mid-Round Offensive Tackles the Rams Should Keep Their Eye On
Behind newly-acquired offensive tackle Jake Long and third-year man Rodger Saffold, the Rams' offensive-tackle position has more question marks than answers. Currently, Long's backup is the inexperienced Ty Nsekhe, and Saffold's backup is Joe Barksdale.
Other than the two names I mentioned, St. Louis doesn't have another offensive tackle on the roster. Barry Richardson has departed in free agency and Wayne Hunter was released on March 6, 2013. It's obvious both players weren't going to be long-term solutions given their poor level of play.
This leads me to believe Les Snead and Jeff Fisher will target a young offensive tackle in the draft. Just don't expect the tackle to be chosen in rounds 1-3. It would be wise to expect a selection in rounds 4-7 based on this year's tackle class.
Let's take a look at four offensive tackles the Rams should be targeting during the middle of the draft.
San Jose State was a surprise top-25 contender last year at 11-2. They finished the season with seven consecutive wins and a bowl victory over Bowling Green. The most explosive facet of the team was its passing attack led by David Fales.
Fales threw for 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns in 13 games. Moreover, the Spartans finished the season with the sixth best passing attack in all of college football. Sure, Fales will stand out as the biggest reason for the team's impressive aerial attack, but people shouldn't forget about David Quessenberry or the rest of the offensive line.
Quessenberry has been a mainstay at left tackle for the last three years. As a junior, the 305-pound road grader earned second-team All-WAC, and as a senior, he earned first-team honors.
Quite the feat for a kid who started his collegiate career without a scholarship.
His final and biggest personal accomplishment came on January 26, 2013, when he became the first player in San Jose State history to ever participate in the Senior Bowl.
Because of his size, I believe Quessenberry will make the switch and play right tackle in the NFL. This would be good news for the Rams based on the fact that Saffold is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Projected Round: 4th
From one small school product to an SEC product. Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon and the Florida Gators were often dominate on offense much like Fales and San Jose State. Yet they were dominate in a completely different way.
Nixon and Co. made their living all season long by setting the tone along the line of scrimmage. The Gators' offense finished the season with the 39th best rushing attack in the nation. As a team, they piled up 2,440 yards rushing on 539 carries; not to mention the fact they scored 22 touchdowns on the ground compared to the 13 they threw through the air.
According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, "Nixon has first-round feet." However, feet aren't everything. When you turn on the tape, you see an inconsistent player who often allows sloppy technique to creep its way into his game from time-to-time.
It's also worth mentioning that Nixon has had to overcome a few nagging injuries since his freshman season. The plus side of having 33 starts in the SEC is the fact that he is as pro-ready as any player will ever be. At a premium position, he has spent the last four years squaring off against some of the best pass-rushers in all of college football.
It will be offensive line coach Paul Boudreau's job to help him became a more consistent player at the next level. If he can do it, St. Louis would get a huge return on a possible late-round investment.
Projected Round: 4th-5th
LSU offensive tackle Chris Faulk is personally my favorite mid-to-late-round tackle prospect. Despite recovering from an ACL injury, Faulk is still one of the most polished players the 2013 NFL Draft has to offer.
There are very few offensive linemen who are as aggressive and determined as Faulk is in the run game. The most consistent part of his game is his pad level and the way he moves defensive linemen off the ball from snap to finish.
Like Nixon, he played against elite competition in the SEC. Yet, his biggest downfall is the fact he only took on that elite competition for one season. His first season as LSU's starting left tackle was as a sophomore in 2011. His one start in 2012 came against North Texas in the season opener. During practice the following week, in preparation for Washington, he tore his ACL.
Not quite the way he envisioned his junior season, but life often doesn't go the way we expect it too. Which is exactly why Faulk decided to feverishly rehab his knee all season and then declare for the draft. NFL organizations will want to make sure his knee checks out and is completely healed before they invest a mid-round draft selection in him.
If healthy, Faulk could end up being one of the best tackles in the 2013 draft class.
St. Louis would be wise to draft him and stash him on the PUP for the first half of the season. That way he will have additional healing time for his surgically repaired knee.
Projected Round: 3rd-4th
Last, but definitely not least, is former tight end turned right tackle Reid Fragel.
Fragel spent the majority of his career in a backup tight end role. As a sophomore and junior at Ohio State, he caught 14 passes for 185 yards and scored one touchdown. Not earth-shattering numbers by any means.
Which explains why the coaching staff challenged Fragel to change positions in 2012. The 308-pound offensive lineman was open to the switch because he was committed to the program and would do anything to log more snaps.
After starting four games as a junior, he was happy to make 12 starts in his senior season. The folks over at NFL.com believe he has the ability to be the type of player Eric Winston is. However, he will need to spend a great amount of time improving his footwork if he ever wants to reach that ceiling.
Additionally, he needs to put more muscle on his frame. Despite being almost 310 pounds, at 6'8" he should ideally be in the 320-325 pound range. The added weight will help his strength more than anything. On tape he's often thrown around by opposing defensive linemen with ease.
As a project tackle, Fragel has no business starting as a rookie. But with patience and solid development, the right coaching staff could turn him into an NFL starter. St. Louis may be a good landing spot for him because of the fact he wouldn't be expected to contribute right away.
Projected Round: 5th-6th