Detroit Lions NFL Draft: Who Would You Rather? Offensive Tackle Edition
This is the second article in a series that I am calling "Who Would You Rather?"
No, I don't mean the juvenile (yet entertaining) game played by virtually every teenage boy in America. Instead, this will be my attempt at objectively scouting players and giving Detroit Lions fans an outlet for expressing which prospects they like better.
In this edition, we'll be looking at prospects that the Lions could take at offensive tackle in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
There is a possibility that the Lions trade down to a later position in the first round so I will be including all tackles that have first round potential.
Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Jeff Golden/Getty Images
Note: Smith is playing right tackle in this video and is #70.
Strengths- Smith has extremely long arms (the longest of any tackle in the draft) and good upper body strength (put up 33 reps in the bench press, the second most of any tackle tested). He is a natural knee bender who has decent feet and moves well laterally. In addition to his laterally quickness that will help against speed rushers, he shows the ability to anchor against a bull rush (play at 1:45). It's hard to tell from the tape but it appears that Tyron uses his hands very well in pass protection and delivers a nice early punch with his long arms. Smith is very athletic and has the ability to get on the outside edge of defenders and set the corner on edge runs. He easily gets to the second level on running plays and keeps his legs driving past the point of attack. I wouldn't call it a nasty streak, but when given the opportunity he will finish blocks and plant defenders (2:19, which by the way is by no means a hold in my book).
Weaknesses- Smith could certainly use to add some bulk to his lower body as he looks and plays a bit top heavy at times. He needs to be better at the point of attack and improve his ability to engage blockers down the field on running plays. It's not as evident in this tape, but in others he spends a little bit too much time on the ground. Does he have the ability to switch to the left side after playing right tackle his entire career at USC?
Overall, Smith is a very athletic tackle who shows great lateral mobility and good footwork. Despite playing RT at USC, Smith is best in pass protection as he is a natural knee bender who doesn't over extend himself allowing rushers to get around him. He is able to get to the second level on run plays but doesn't always do the best job of engaging his assignments and allowing quicker players past him. Despite reportedly putting on 25 pounds since the end of USC's season (from 285 to 310) Tyron could use to add some bulk to his lower body, particularly his butt and thighs. However, he has the 6'5" frame to do so easily and not lose a step. He probably has the highest upside of any tackle in the draft and should be considered with the #13 pick.
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Castonzo is #74 and is playing LT.
Strengths- Castonzo is a very smart lineman and realizes his limitations. Three out of the first six plays, all of which are inside runs, he allows and even invites Quinn to get up field and take himself out of the play. It may not seem like much, and to some of you it may seem like he is getting beat, but that is absolutely planned and is a reflection on his work in the film room to realize he can allow Quinn to overrun the play like that. It contributes to the mind games as eventually Quinn stops coming full throttle every play because he's afraid one shove will take him out of it completely. Castonzo consistently shows the ability to hold up against the bull rush. Started at tackle all four years, two on the right side and two on the left (versatility is a plus). He is a very polished player who doesn't need a lot of coaching and could likely start right away.
Weaknesses- As you may have noticed from the tape, Castonzo is not the most athletic tackle around. His drop steps put him in good position to pass block, but those can likely be attributed to years of practice rather than his lateral quickness. He may occasionally struggle getting to the second level or sealing a DE on outside runs. As you saw with Quinn, elite outside rushers could give him a lot of trouble at the next level.
I'm going to draw a comparison to Castonzo that may get mixed reviews from people. If there is an NFL player that Castonzo reminds me of, it's Jeff Backus. He's a smart guy who is not all that athletic and does all of the little things right. However, there is a clear lack of elite athleticism to me and because of that I'm just not sure how high his ceiling really is. Castonzo will be a solid starting tackle for the next 10 years but I don't think he'll ever crack the top ten in the league. Thus, at pick #13 I think he would be a reach, but might offer good value if the Lions traded back in the first round.
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Note: Solder is playing LT and is #78.
Strengths- Solder has a massive frame at 6'8" and can certainly add some bulk. I hate to say it, because it's become a cliche at this point, but as a former TE Solder is fairly athletic. His massive frame and long arms allow him to engage blockers at the point of attack and he is easily able to get to the second level on running plays. There is definitely untapped potential as he has only been playing tackle a few years. Solder generally holds up well against the bull rush despite that most rushers can use their leverage (because they are much shorter) against him which shows a good amount of lower and upper body strength.
Weaknesses- For someone as athletic as Solder is, his drop steps in pass protection are very mechanical and he doesn't show very good change of direction skills or lateral mobility. His height may actually hurt him at the next level against shorter rushers because he is a waist bender and overextends himself fairly regularly. As you can see from the video, speed rushers certainly give him a problem. Solder has questionable instincts at this point (likely because its still a new position). There is a noticeable difference in his pass protection from when he is standing and when his hand in the dirt. Watch at around the 40 second mark how with his hand in the dirt he gets completely blown by. He is very slow out of his stance with his hand on the ground.
There's a lot to like about Solder's potential, but his lack of polish is very evident. It's clear that he needs quite a bit of coaching, but the athleticism is there and more time at the position will help work out some of the kinks with his drop steps and waist bending (I think). Somebody will take a chance on him in the first round, but it should not be the Lions at #13. A potential trade back into the mid to late 20's might make Solder a viable candidate, however.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
#79 Derek Sherrod
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Disclaimer: This scouting report on Sherrod is based on the very limited amount of time I've seen him play. The only video I could find on Youtube was a very poorly done highlights film, and I refuse to use that as a tool to evaluate him.Instead, here is a film of his combine workout. It highlights his strengths fairly well in my opinion.
Strengths- Sherrod is another very athletic tackle who is very light on his feet and can move laterally and mirror speed rushers well. Might be the best current pass protector in the draft. He is technically sound enough as he shows good drop steps in pass protection and uses his hands well. He would likely be able to step in and start right away.
Weaknesses- Sherrod doesn't show the leg drive you look for while run blocking and could use to add some bulk to his lower body. He occasionally has balance issues as well due to the fact that he is maybe a bit top heavy. From what I understand, he lacks the demeanor you look for and doesn't finish off a lot of blocks.
Basically, Sherrod is a finesse player who is a very athletic and has tremendous feet. When talking about left tackles, a players feet are supremely important and Sherrod may have the best in this class. He could be an elite pass protector but will likely not be a great all around tackle, but as this is a passing league somebody will take him in the early to mid 20's of the 2011 NFL Draft. Thus, once again, he is a target if the Lions decide to trade back in the first round.
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Note: Carimi is playing LT and is #68.
Strengths- Carimi is a tremendous run blocker (even though he has some problems with Adrian Clayborne) which is kind of a prerequisite to playing at Wisconsin. He is able to engage blockers and generally shows good leg drive. Carimi holds up extremely well against the bull rush. Definitely has a mean streak in him and a competitive attitude.
Weaknesses- Carimi has a ton of problems with speed off the edge. He doesn't have a lot of lateral mobility and has fairly slow feet; not a very good combination if you're trying to play LT at the NFL level. He is definitely not a natural knee bender and over extends himself by bending at the waist (to try to make up for his lack of quickness).
Overall, Carimi is the exact opposite of Sherrod. Honestly, I think he would be better suited to play right tackle or even guard. I personally would not take him in the first round but included him to be thorough.
This concludes this edition of "Who Would You Rather?" As it is a slide show I could not include a poll, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section!