Lane Johnson is among the offensive tackles who could be taken in the first round of the NFL draft.
The 2013 NFL draft finally begins on Thursday night, and a position that will be receiving a lot of scrutiny starting right at the top of Round 1 is offensive tackle.
The draft is top-heavy with tackle talent on the left, but there are players at the position who will be going in all seven rounds. Based on Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's final big board, here is a list of the offensive tackles to watch, including updates on where they end up in the NFL.
Alex Dunlap's full scouting report for Chris Faulk can be found here.
Faulk could have been one of the better offensive tackles of this draft class. However, his 2012 season only lasted just a few snaps, as he tore his ACL in LSU's first game. As such, there are presently more unknowns about him than knowns.
Based on what we've seen of him so far, there appears to be more technical drawbacks to his game than signs of promise. Dunlap believes there is something to Faulk, though:
Chris Faulk is not quick. He isn't agile neither. He likes down blocks and easy assignments that keep him in a tunnel. In watching Faulk's film, one cannot help but notice his knees. He does not bend them naturally. He has stiff hips and does not seem flexible. Still, Faulk does not seem "balky." He has an athleticism to him that sticks with evaluators, like there is something just underneath the surface that—again—has only "flashed" to this point.
Hopefully, that can happen in the NFL.
You can read Alex Dunlap's full scouting report on Xavier Nixon here.
Nixon is quick and athletic, but he's not particularly efficient or consistent, which has hurt his draft stock. Dunlap notes:
Nixon just looks athletic, and he flashes rare athleticism at times when being used to pull and dash into space. He has a quick first step but wastes a lot of motion coming out of his stance and seems to struggle finishing on power run-block assignments. Nixon is not a "sticky" player who will get his hands on a defender and be relentless (again, a common theme with Nixon). He tends to hand-fight and get into engagements that look like shoving matches at the point of attack as opposed to collisions.
He's also not particularly powerful, and his pass protection needs a lot of improvement. Though he has played both right and left tackle during his career at Florida, he projects to be a right tackle in the NFL. At the very least, he needs to add strength.
Weaver spent the last two seasons as Southern Mississippi's starting right tackle, where he was an aggressive run-blocker. However, The National Football Post notes that Weaver lacks athleticism, as well as balance:
He is a below average overall athlete, who struggles to play on his feet with balance, especially after contact. He is heavy-legged and slow-footed on the move and shows very little lateral agility in pass protection. He lacks the foot quickness to be considered as a tackle prospect and will get moved inside to play guard where he has a chance because of his physicality.
A shift to guard would be best for him. The strength is there, and his size is good as well. Weaver's overall skill level puts him on the draft's margin.
Sean O'Donnell's full scouting report on Braden Brown can be found here.
Brown is a former tight end who converted to right tackle. He was the blind-side protector for left-handed BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, and his strength definitely lies in pass protection. O'Donnell continues:
His length and athleticism make him an ideal candidate for the tackle position in the NFL.
While he needs to work on his technique, Brown can certainly develop into a starter at the next level based solely upon how well he has picked up the nuances of this position over the past few seasons.
Brown is athletic and has good size for the position, but he's not particularly tough, and his run-blocking needs a lot of work. He struggles with consistency and will require development in the NFL to crack a starting lineup eventually.
Roger Gaines is a small-school tackle prospect with only two years of starting experience, which means he may not be drafted at all.
While Gaines has great size for the position, as well as strength, he may have relied too much on the two to get him through in the Ohio Valley. CBS Sports further details where he needs to do work:
Too often stands up at the snap, losing the leverage battle. Has a tendency to lunge toward defenders as part of his punch, making him vulnerable to arm-over swim moves and counters from quicker pass rushers. Possesses adequate straight-line speed but doesn't show the balance to adjust to moving targets when blocking downfield. Was rarely asked to play out of the three-point stance and doesn't appear to be particularly flexible.
In the NFL, Gaines will need more than just size and strength to succeed. He's raw, but he can certainly be developed considering the basic tools he already has.
Azusa Pacific's Luke Marquardt had foot surgeries in both 2012 and 2013, which, of course, makes him a major draft risk, as does his small-school pedigree.
Despite these issues, Marquardt has good size and athleticism, as well as speed. NFL.com breaks down his strengths thusly:
Possesses prototypical height, length and a growing frame still able to add weight without losing athleticism. Flashes foot quickness to take away the edge in pass protection, but also mirror without losing knee bend to maintain balance and form. Redirects ends through the pocket inside, as well. Widens his base to anchor when on his game. Also uses his feet to change blocking angle on the move to create running lanes. Surprises with his straight-line speed when leading on pulls or getting downfield to block. Has a solid punch, and is also capable of keeping his feet active while landing it.
He has basic problems with fundamentals, as NFL.com notes:
Must be consistent with his bend in pass protection and when approaching targets in space. Will occasionally stop his feet while punching, overextending in the process. Could finish plays more regularly, putting his man to the ground and keeping him there as he shows the ability to do.
If he can stay healthy long enough, Marquardt may be molded into a contributing player as a tackle or guard.
You can read Eric Stoner's full scouting report on Eric Fisher here.
Central Michigan's Eric Fisher is another starter-ready left tackle in this year's draft class with the tools and talent to be a top-five selection.
For an offensive tackle, Fisher is very fast and athletic. He's also versatile, having played left and right tackle, as well as guard, during his college career. He's also very football smart and is a hard worker, never giving less than his full effort.
His blocking is also quite good for someone of his frame, according to Stoner:
The most impressive part of Fisher’s game is the flexibility he exhibits in his back and hips. Despite being a tall, long-limbed offensive tackle, Fisher’s ability to bend his knees, get low, and roll his hips through contact allow him to play with great leverage. He gets underneath smaller defensive players and roots them out easily.
Aside from needing to add a bit of bulk in order to help his strength, Fisher does not have a lot of weaknesses. Like Joeckel, he can make an instant impact.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 1, Kansas City Chiefs
You can read Eric Stoner's full scouting report on Luke Joeckel here.
The best offensive tackle in the NFL draft this year is Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel. Matt Miller names him not just the most NFL-ready, but also the best pass-blocker, the lowest-risk prospect at the position, the first to reach the Pro Bowl and the tackle who will be the best in five years.
It's high praise, and he's earned it.
Joeckel is athletic, and he shut down some of college football's best pass-rushers on a consistent basis in 2012. The only knock against him is that he could do better work with his hands, which Stoner points out:
Joeckel’s pad level and surge off the ball are impressive. However, his lack of upper body strength shows up in his punch and extension, and he can lose the hand battle against stronger defensive linemen.
Regardless, he's an instant starter at left tackle and should be successful immediately.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 2, Jacksonville Jaguars
You can read Eric Stoner's full scouting report for Lane Johnson here.
Johnson, a left tackle from Oklahoma, saw his draft stock soar after his Senior Bowl and scouting combine appearances. The combine in particular truly highlighted his elite athleticism and cemented Johnson as an early first-round prospect.
He'll need to add weight in the NFL and work on his run-blocking and hands, according to Stoner:
At this point, Johnson is neither a technician nor a mauler in the run game—he’s simply a high-effort player who needs technique work. He does play with a mean streak and tries to finish blocks off, but he needs a lot of work in regards to aiming points and attacking the defender’s correct shoulder. Johnson needs work on aiming points/attacking defender’s correct shoulder because his man slips off and disengages too often due to balance and technique issues.
These issues should be easily correctable. After all, Johnson went from playing defensive end and tight end in 2010 to starting left tackle for the Sooners, so he shouldn't have any trouble picking up any new directions. Miller notes him as the tackle with the greatest potential in this draft.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 4, Philadelphia Eagles
You can read Eric Stoner's full scouting report on D.J. Fluker here.
Alabama's D.J. Fluker is Miller's highest-ranked right tackle of the 2013 draft class, and for good reason. While the Crimson Tide are known for their string of talented running backs, none would have been successful without a great offensive line, of which he has been a major part.
While weak as a pass protector, Fluker will be a perfect first-round selection for a team that wants better blocking for its running backs. There are no other tackles as adept at creating running lanes in this year's draft, which puts him in high demand.
Stoner says of Fluker's run-blocking ability:
Fluker’s humongous, strong hands, ridiculous arm-length and extension, and heavy, powerful base give him the best drive blocking ability off the ball in this class. His punch jolts defenders off the ball and his arm extension resets the line of scrimmage as he drives his target off the line of scrimmage.
He also shows a nasty temperament and the desire to bury his man into the ground or drive him out of the frame on video. For a heavy-footed offensive lineman, Fluker isn’t restricted getting to the second level and either engulfing or pancaking linebackers.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 11, San Diego Chargers
You can read Jon Dove's full scouting report for Kyle Long here.
Oregon tackle Kyle Long can be summed up in two words: raw and athletic.
Long played just one season at Oregon. He began his collegiate athletic career as a baseball player at Florida State, was kicked out of school, spent time in junior college and then ended up in Oregon. Even with his limited time with the Ducks, Long displayed enough talent to be taken in the first few rounds of this year's draft.
Long needs to improve his technique—namely, he has to keep his pad level lower. Dove notes:
Long’s upright approach limits his leverage and allows the defender into his body. Leverage and inside hand position are the key to winning at the point of attack.
The hard work that will take shouldn't be difficult for him, considering he knows intimately how much time one must put in to be a success in the NFL. His father, Howie Long, is a Hall of Famer, and his brother, Chris, is a Pro Bowler.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 20, Chicago Bears
You can read Eric Stoner's full scouting report on Menelik Watson here.
An English import and former basketball player, Florida State tackle Menelik Watson is certainly athletic and agile. But he's also a very good football player with the skills to be a starting right tackle immediately. With improved technique, he could easily be moved to the left after a season or two.
He also has a lot of experience in different situations, according to Stoner:
Florida State played in a formationally diverse offense. Watson was asked to do a bit of everything— zone-blocking style runs, some pulling, straight drop-back passing, moving pockets and play-action. He started for just one season in college, but played in a system that asked him to do many different things, making him a fairly easy NFL projection.
Watson is 24 years old, and he will be 25 by the time the season begins. While this may be a liability for other positions, for Watson, it means he's more mature than many of his draft counterparts, which could be a good selling point for him.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 10 (42 Overall), Oakland Raiders
Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report for Terron Armstead can be found here.
Miller says Arkansas Pine-Bluff tackle Terron Armstead has the biggest bust potential of this year's crop of offensive tackles and is therefore also the biggest risk.
Armstead is fast—he ran a 4.71 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, which is unbelievable for someone who is 6'5" and over 300 pounds. That speed is very apparent on the football field; per Bloom:
Armstead moves so well that his size appears to be an optical illusion on film. He can pull like a guard, get in instant position outside the hashes to block for a screen pass and mirror speed rushers like a dance partner. There is a bit of a killer instinct, as Armstead will plant a pass-rusher who gets off balance or otherwise lets Armstead dictate the play.
With the agility, flexibility, and footwork to react to inside moves, Armstead is very hard to solve as a pass blocker.
He's raw, but not deal-breakingly so. The real question is if he can lean so heavily on his speed in the NFL.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 13 (75 Overall), New Orleans Saints
Ryan McCrystal's scouting report for Dallas Thomas can be found here.
Dallas Thomas did not play tackle his senior year at Tennessee—he was shifted to guard—but he spent the previous two years at left tackle. This versatility should warrant him being selected in this year's draft, but there's no guarantee that he'll be a tackle in the NFL.
As McCrystal notes, Thomas is a classic guard-tackle "tweener:"
When viewed as a guard, he lacks the elite size to dominate in the power run game. But when lined up at tackle, Thomas lacks the athleticism to excel in pass protection.
He weighed in at 6'5", 306 pounds at the combine, meeting the minimum requirements for either position, but he lacks the elite measurables to be an obvious fit at either spot.
He'll be a good source of offensive line depth, however, while he tries to find a place where he fits full-time.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 15 (77 Overall), Miami Dolphins
You can find Sean O'Donnell's full scouting report on Brennan Williams here.
Things would be a bit different in this draft for Williams if he hadn't torn his labrum. Prior to the injury, he was an effective run-blocker, and he broke open numerous holes for fellow draft prospect Giovani Bernard. O'Donnell continues:
Williams does have good movement skills behind the line of scrimmage when asked to pull. He does have a bit of a nasty streak in him and can knock down defenders when given an opportunity.
He is able to get to the second level and sustain his block throughout the duration of a play, allowing the ball-carrier to hit the open field.
If Williams can get back to his former self, he should have a good NFL career. The health concerns, however, make him a risky pick. He's also a bit raw and lacks speed.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 27 (89 Overall), Houston Texans
You can find Alex Dunlap's full scouting report on David Bakhtiari here.
Bakhtiari had a solid 2012 season for Colorado and a good showing at the scouting combine, but it doesn't change the fact that he's a bit undersized to play offensive tackle in the NFL.
However, he is explosive, as Dunlap notes:
Bakhtiari plays with an explosiveness that makes an evaluator scratch his or her head at the relatively poor 28 reps and 25.5" vertical he registered at the NFL combine. He pops out of his stance and takes engagement to the defenders in the run game. Bakhtiari plays physically and possesses a terrific motor. He does not get gassed and rarely, if ever, gives up on plays.
Bakhtiari struggles with agility against pass-rushers. He's better suited to play right tackle if teams don't prefer to switch him to guard or even center. There's a lot of upside with Bakhtiari that will convince a team to draft him.
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 12 (109 Overall), Green Bay Packers
You can read Alex Dunlap's full scouting report on Oday Aboushi here.
Aboushi lacks power, which is a big problem for anyone trying to play offensive tackle in the NFL, as Dunlap explains:
Aboushi is not a power guy, and he's not a motor guy. Which pretty much means he isn't a prospect scouts will consider a "tough guy," either. Aboushi is not a hard-nosed tackle who enjoys latching onto defenders and putting their numbers in the dirt. He can play with a hesitancy that scouts hate and seems "picky" about the blocks he will take on, especially when pulling.
While good at pass protection and improving in his run-blocking, nothing particularly stands out as a positive, while his apparent deficiency in toughness and in finishing out his assignments are glaring flaws.
Aboushi needs time and development, but he could someday hit the field as a left tackle. He has a lot of work to do until then, however.
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 8 (141 Overall), New York Jets
Alex Dunlap's scouting report for Tanner Hawkinson can be found here.
A left tackle at Kansas, Hawkinson projects to be either a right tackle or a guard in the NFL.
Though he is fairly quick and agile, he lacks strength and power and is constantly in danger of being pushed back by defenders. As Dunlap explains it:
Hawkinson is always getting shoved backwards. The 13 bench reps really show up upon engagement with defenders, and he'll need to continue filling out and adding strength to have any sort of sustainability at the NFL level.
Hawkinson's lack of power at this point in his career is a huge question mark. It's hard not to like his motor, however. He doesn't take plays off, seems to give his all and rarely seems gassed. He plays until the whistle and seems like a hard-worker.
If he can put on weight and work on his fundamentals, he could be a contributor down the line. His footwork both as a run blocker and pass protector are messy.
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 23 (156 Overall), Cincinnati Bengals
You can read Alex Dunlap's full scouting report for Jordan Mills here.
Jordan Mills saw his draft stock soar after an impressive Senior Bowl performance. Though his footwork needs a lot of improvement, the mean streak he's displayed while at Louisiana Tech, along with his solid run-blocking, makes him a Day 2 right tackle prospect this year.
As Dunlap notes:
Aggressive motor and toughness are the areas where Mills scores off the charts. He's just a tough, salty player. He sticks on blocks for as long as he possibly can and likes putting opponents' numbers in the dirt. He's a "phone booth" player who is better at engaging a defender in close spaces to latch on quickly and dictate his will than he is engaging in free space.
He's not a good pass protector, however, so he'll likely be used situationally his rookie season while he continues to develop his overall technique.
You can find Alex Dunlap's full scouting report on Ricky Wagner here.
Wagner played left tackle at Wisconsin, but may need to move to the right in the NFL, especially after his 2012 season, which exposed some weaknesses in his game after the team had to rework its offensive line.
Wagner's stock took a major hit after he suffered a few injuries in 2012 and didn't look all that great at the Senior Bowl. He's a tough player who lacks power, and his footwork needs a lot of improvement, as Dunlap describes:
Far too often, when the rush comes to the outside, Wagner plants his feet as something of a last defense. He is a player that likes to "latch and drive" in the run game—which is a trait to love—but, as a pass blocker, sometimes he will latch on to a defensive end with planted feet. This can look an awful lot like holding at the NFL level.
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 35 (168 Overall), Baltimore Ravens
You can read Ryan Riddle's full David Quessenberry scouting report here.
Hailing from San Jose State, Quessenberry has great measurables—ideal size, speed, height and so on—but the issue is that he doesn't quite bring it all together. He also lacks aggressiveness, which is certainly a drawback when having a "mean streak" is so prized for NFL linemen, as Riddle notes:
Quessenberry is not overly aggressive with his leg drive or tenacity. He tends to give just enough energy with his run blocking and rarely finishes blocks with aggression or “pancakes.”
Quessenberry has the athleticism to play right tackle and could move to the left with more development. He could also play guard, based on his size, but it's not ideal for his particular skill set.
Drafted: Round 6, Pick 6 (176 Overall), Houston Texans
You can find Jon Dove's scouting report on Garrett Gilkey here.
Gilkey has all the pieces in place to be a successful offensive tackle in the NFL—toughness, meanness, ideal size—but his small-school status and off-balance pass protection makes him a bit risky to draft early on.
He's extremely aggressive as a run-blocker; this may translate into him playing guard at the professional level. Dove explains:
Playing offensive tackle in college provided Gilkey with experience while working in space. However, he doesn’t have the fluidity needed to consistently protect the edge at the next level. [...]
This is the main reason why Gilkey needs to move inside to guard, as he’ll get more protection at this spot.
Gilkey’s strength as a player is his power and aggressiveness. Moving inside to guard will provide him with a better opportunity to quickly get his hands on the pass-rusher. His strength helps him wrap up defensive linemen and control their movements.
That versatility to move from tackle to guard and potentially back again helps his overall considerable upside.
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 21 (227 Overall), Cleveland Browns
You can read Alex Dunlap's full scouting report on Reid Fragel here.
Ohio State's Reid Fragel has just one year of right tackle experience to his name. Prior to his senior season, he was a backup tight end. Still, he appears to be worthy of a draft pick and some long-term development.
He's very strong and vicious on the field with standout power, according to Dunlap:
People close to the athletic program at Ohio State have said that Reid Fragel is one of the nicest persons in the world off the field, and one of the most mean-spirited on it. Fragel plays with a motor, an anger and a love for finishing plays that shows up every time. He plays tough, and flies to his assignments with noticeable control. Fragel showed in his game—and through his impressive strength and measurables at the NFL combine—that power is the last issue in his tool bag that should be cause for any concern.
He seems to have taken to the tackle position quickly and well. Fragel is a good run-blocker and showed constant improvement in his pass protection skills.
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 34 (240 Overall), Cincinnati Bengals