David Seelig/Associated Press
I recently heard from a reader who was baffled as to why mock drafts frequently have the Rams pursuing a tackle when both starters—Joe Barksdale and Jake Long—are viable options.
Why is Barksdale in particular so overlooked after a solid 2013 season?
It's an honest question. He performed well beyond expectations and has yet to receive proper credit.
According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN, Barksdale was a consistent positive for the Rams at right tackle:
The 6-foot-5, 326-pound Barksdale seemed to fit the mold of what the Rams are looking for at tackle. Although he's not the most athletic or strongest tackle you'll find, Barksdale competed well and was mostly a net positive in 2013. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus gave Barksdale an overall grade of 12.2 for the season, with an 11.9 in pass protection. Barksdale earned a negative grade just three times.
The lack of respect for him stems from the fact that he entered the season as a backup. Since he was the No. 3 tackle, people automatically assume he was merely a temporary solution and hardly a long-term answer at right tackle.
That couldn't be further from the truth. Barksdale will start in 2014 and be one of the more reliable men on the line in the upcoming season.
As far as the team's need for a tackle in the upcoming draft, it's a bit early to draw any concrete conclusions.
If the Rams re-signs Rodger Saffold in free agency, there's virtually no chance they take a tackle early in the draft. If that happens, he will serve as both a starting guard and the No. 3 tackle.
But if he walks, there's a good chance the Rams will draft a tackle at some point. Entering the season with Barksdale and an injured Long, with no depth whatsoever, is a frightening thought.