NFL Draft 2013: Offensive Tackle Rankings, Draft Predictions and Analysis
The 2013 NFL draft is now just a month away, and there is still little consensus about the order in which offensive tackles will be taken, save for maybe the top few.
After coming out with my rankings of each position, I decided to start breaking down each position individually, giving more in-depth analysis of my top-10 players at each position on the field.
So far I have looked at defensive ends and wide receivers, and I'm now taking a shot at the increasingly important offensive tackle position. There are a few top-tier players here, but then we see a bit of a drop-off and a lot of disparity in opinions about some of the middle-tier guys.
I want to remind everyone that this does not reflect the order I think they'll be drafted, because different types of players have different values to teams. A light-footed, smaller tackle may be ranked behind a stronger, slower tackle, but get taken earlier by a team who needs that particular style.
Those things are impossible (and effectively pointless) to try to predict, so I just provide a breakdown of each player and the order I would rank them going into the NFL draft. I also include a sleeper pick who may get taken late in the draft but has significant upside.
Here's my top offensive tackles for the draft.
Sleeper: Manase Foketi
Although this picture shows him in a Kansas State uniform, Manase Foketi actually ended his career at West Texas A&M, after starting at Mt. San Antonio College and making a stop in Kansas in between.
He suffered an Achilles injury while at Kansas State and left there in a somewhat egregious fashion, which may have been why he ended up at little-known West Texas A&M. But there's no overlooking Foketi's potential as an NFL tackle.
He's 6'5", 318 pounds, with a good solid frame and aggressive mentality. He plays with good balance and strength, although his quickness may be an issue and force him to either slide inside or play on the right side in the NFL.
He comes with his question marks, with his limited experience, rough departure from Kansas State and injury history. He would be well worth a late-round shot for a team in need of offensive line help.
10. Justin Pugh
A three-year starter and first team All-Big East tackle in 2011, Justin Pugh has the experience that NFL teams look for in their pass protectors.
He is known for his maturity, intelligence, and exemplary character off the field. He'll be a good presence in the locker room and potential team leader in the NFL, which is a huge bonus for an offensive lineman.
At 6'4" with short arms, Pugh doesn't possess the ideal frame for a tackle, but his fantastic mobility and balance help make up for his stature. He may be best suited as a guard in the NFL, in a scheme that will allow him to use his quickness and balance to pull and move his feet a lot.
Pugh will likely be taken in the third or fourth round, and could easily be molded into an everyday starter by his second season.
9. Kyle Long, Oregon
Essentially the complete opposite of Pugh, Kyle Long is an athletic freak who does not have the ideal experience that an NFL team looks for. The son of NFL Hall of Fame defensive end Howie and younger brother of 2008 second-overall pick, Chris, Kyle is a monster prospect with huge upside.
He originally went to Florida State to pitch, but after a DUI charge he enrolled in junior college before transferring to play at Oregon last year. In his only season, he showed a lot of potential as a raw tackle with a bright future.
At 6'7" with long arms and a muscular frame, Long has an ideal build for an offensive lineman in today's NFL. He's strong, flexible, agile and uses his frame well, although he needs to improve his hand usage and to learn the game more.
Once he refines his play and gets more experience, Long could be a perennial Pro Bowler on the offensive line. With his combination of size, strength and speed, teams could really mold him to play at tackle or guard on either side of the line. Long will definitely not make it out of the third round.
8. Terron Armstead
Coming from little-known Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Terron Armstead was mostly overlooked until dominating in the East-West Shrine Game, which led to being called as an injury replacement for the Senior Bowl.
Armstead is a great athlete, as he excelled in both football and track and field at both the high school and college levels. He received some Division I football offers, but chose Arkansas-Pine Bluff because they would allow him to participate in track and field as well as football.
He went on to be a three-time All-SWAC football player, as well as an eight-time SWAC champion in track and field. As a tackle, a lot of Armstead's value is in his potential. He faced mediocre competition throughout his collegiate career.
His frame and athleticism will make teams take a shot on him early, and he could easily be a second-round pick, although I would be more comfortable waiting until the third round.
7. Oday Aboushi
Oday Aboushi has seen his stock fluctuate over the past six months or so. There were times when he flashed as a top pick during his senior season, but he also struggled sometimes as well.
He also had a sub-par combine when he posted low numbers in just about every single event, which did not help out his draft cause. But I am still somewhat of a believer in Aboushi, because I think he has a lot of pieces to be a standout tackle, he just needs the right coaching to put it all together.
Aboushi has a great frame and seems to have a great head on his shoulders too. One of 10 children growing up, he was a team captain at UVA and has played at both right and left tackle for the Cavaliers, a full-time starter since his sophomore year.
He lacks the quickness and athleticism that will keep him from going in the first two rounds, but his natural strength and experience will make him a very solid third-round pick who will likely be a right tackle in the NFL.
6. Dallas Thomas
Dallas Thomas has been a name most people have not heard much of recently, as he has been quiet during the whole pre-draft process due to a torn labrum he suffered this past winter.
But Thomas has the makings of a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. He was Tennessee's starting left tackle as a sophomore and junior before switching to guard as a senior, when he was named second team All-SEC.
Thomas started his final 37 games of his career, so the labrum injury should not set him back much. His movement ability is his biggest asset, as he pulls well and has great recovery speed. He is aggressive and looks to finish his blocks. He'll also hustle downfield to follow the play and lay a hit.
His strength is a bit lacking, and he needs to develop his lower-body and core strength to be successful in the NFL. But he has a lot of experience against the great pass-rushers of the SEC, and that should help him be a late second- or early third-round selection.
5. Menelik Watson
Possibly the most interesting player in the entire draft, Menelik Watson may also be the best athlete we have seen in years. Growing up in poverty in Manchester, England, Watson played soccer to keep himself out of trouble.
After picking up basketball and finding success, Watson moved to Spain in 2007 to join a travel team there. Two years later, he ended up with a basketball scholarship at Marist College in New York. But he realized his basketball career was not going to pan out, so he took up boxing.
After a short stint with boxing, Watson finally enrolled at Saddleback Junior College to play football, where he was teammates with Kyle Long. Watson then earned a scholarship at Florida State, where he started at right tackle in 2012.
With only two years of football-playing experience, the sky is really the limit for Watson. He has all the talent in the world, but whatever team takes him will need to be willing to let him develop and not rush his progress, even though he is already 24.
The right fit for Watson would be a team who has an older starting tackle that will play this year but then could be supplanted by Watson after he gets a year of NFL coaching and training. Look for him to be scooped up in the second round.
4. D.J. Fluker
Danny Lee Jesus "D.J." Fluker was the right tackle for one of the greatest offensive lines in college football history at Alabama this past year. He started 36 games for the Crimson Tide and was one of the steadiest linemen in college football.
His massive size will keep him from being a left tackle in the NFL, as he does not possess adequate foot speed to deal with speed-rushers on the blind side. He has a whole lot of talent, however, and could become on the NFL's best right tackles.
He weighs in at almost 340 pounds and is a fierce competitor who turns his strength and tenacity into big holes for running backs. He has decent balance and great hand usage, which helps him in both pass-coverage and run-blocking.
Fluker brings a lot to the table, but he has to go to a team that already has their franchise left tackle. That could change his stock a little bit, but I still see him as a good pick in the late first or early second round.
3. Lane Johnson
Another intriguing athlete at the tackle position, Lane Johnson has played all over the field. He was a quarterback in high school, and also spent time as a defensive end and tight end before permanently switching to tackle in 2011.
At 6'6" with 35-inch arms (extremely long), Johnson has tremendous upside although he still needs a lot more experience after only playing as a left tackle for two seasons.
The 2012 second team All-Big 12 selection has quick feet and good strength for a tall guy with long arms. He's coordinated and balanced, and really moves well in any situation. But he wastes movement sometimes and can get himself out of position too often.
His big improvement from 2011 to 2012, along with an outstanding performance at the combine, helped Johnson's stock immensely. With a number of teams needing tackles, I could see him going to San Diego at 11, and he likely won't make it out of the top half of the first round.
2. Eric Fisher
Eric Fisher was a relative unknown coming into the 2012 season, but his name became mentioned more and more in draft circles until everyone knew about him by January.
He has the prototypical size, length, quickness and strength to be a franchise left tackle, and his tape is impressive, although he did not have the best competition playing at Central Michigan. So during the Senior Bowl, Fisher really had to prove himself.
Throughout the entire week of practices leading up to the game, he did just that, going up against some of the top pass-rushers in the draft and dominating them drill after drill. At 6'7", 306 lbs., Fisher looked the part on tape, and seems even better after the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
He really proved that he is worth the hype, and I would be shocked if he made it past Arizona at No. 7. He can start from day one and become a premier left tackle.
1. Luke Joeckel
Luke Joeckel has been near the top of draft boards since very early on in the college football season, and it is a testament to him that he not only stayed there but even elevated his stock as the season wore on.
He had the daunting task of protecting Johnny Manziel's blind side from SEC pass-rushers all season, and he excelled en route to winning the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. He shut down guys like Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, and Corey Lemonier, all projected to be high picks in April.
When he measured in at 6'6" at the combine, which is taller than I expected, it even further solidified Joeckel as a franchise left tackle. He is a solid athlete with great footwork and exceptional hands. His technique is second to none, and he really has no holes at all in his game.
Joeckel is the best prospect in the entire draft, and he really deserves to be the number one pick. With Kansas City cutting Eric Winston and looking to trade Branden Albert, it seems like they have their sights set on the former Texas A&M standout.