2011 NFL Draft: Top Five Offensive Tackles
Every year, it seems an offensive tackle is one of the first few picks off the board. This year, the first tackle may slip down to the No. 9 pick held by the Dallas Cowboys. This would be the latest for a tackle to be drafted since 2005 when the New Orleans Saints wisely selected Jammal Brown with the No. 13 pick.
The 2008 NFL Draft is what really put offensive tackles on the map for the first round. That year, Michigan’s Jake Long went No. 1 to Miami, followed by seven more tackles in the first round. That’s eight tackles or 25% of the first round!
As stated, this year won’t live up to that by any means. Eight tackles may not even be selected in the first two rounds. In this class, there is an established “Big Four” who you may hear draft analysts talk about.
The big question, and there are millions of dollars riding on it, is the argument of who is the fifth best tackle.
1. Tyron Smith, USC (JR, 6’5″, 307)
Every analyst compares him to former University of Virginia standout D’Brickashaw Ferguson, currently the New York Jets’ left tackle. This is intended to be a compliment of course, but what the heck does it mean? Well Ferguson was an undersized player who struggled to keep on weight. In spite of that, he was highly athletic, good footwork, nice flexibility and a huge wingspan (87″!). In any case, Smith is similar. Physically, he looks the part. He’s built like a jacked-up tight end. At only 20 years old, Smith’s ceiling very high. And when keeping in mind how fast pass rushers are in the NFL today, Smith’s athleticism and long-term potential are what make him the best offensive tackle prospect in this year’s draft.
2. Nate Solder – Colorado (SR, 6’8″, 319)
Solder is typically the No. 3 prospect on this sort of list if not lower. This is likely because Like Smith, Solder is another high-ceiling prospect who will need to add more bulk to his frame to succeed at the next level. Solder is huge and possesses very quick feet. Coaches will need to tweak a few fundamental issues but there is a very solid foundation here. What puts him above Castonzo is simply his athleticism. Castonzo is solid but guys like Solder and Smith are truly athletic freaks. They both look leaner and their movements are smoother. He will need a year to develop and grow further into his immense body, but Solder is absolutely a first-round lock.
3. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College – (SR, 6’7″, 311)
The appeal with Castonzo is he is a player who teams can plug-in immediately and more or less know what to expect. He’s not especially strong, but he plays tough. He’s not that quick, but he moves well with a good first step. He doesn’t have the high ceiling like Smith, but he has a better floor. Between Castonzo and Smith, it all depends upon what a team needs. For those who can wait a year or two for Smith and Solder to get their game together, they are the better choice. For teams looking to compete immediately in the next three years, Castonzo may be the preferred choice.
4. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin – (SR, 6’7″, 314)
Carimi faced some legit first-round talent playing in the Big Ten. He’s already played against Adrian Clayborn, Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Jordan and he went up against teammate J.J. Watt everyday in practice. There are some injury concerns with his knees but Carimi is the real deal. The biggest question mark is whether he can play left tackle in the NFL. Most analysts don’t believe he can and I’m in agreement. He’s simply not fast enough. Carimi is a mauler, he’s a guy who beats you with strength, will and technique. Ultimately, he’ll be one of the better right tackles in the NFL for years to come but since he likely will never play left tackle, this locks him in as the fourth best OT prospect.
5. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State – (SR, 6’5″, 321)
The drop-off from No. 4 to No. 5 is very distinct. Sherrod, while a late one to early two, is simply not on the same level as the “Big Four” in this year’s draft. That being said, Sherrod’s best attributes are his size and length. He doesn’t make many mistakes. The issue here is strength and an inability to make good blitz reads. These two issues lead coaching staffs to believe he doesn’t have much of a work ethic which is an unfair assumption. All the scouting reports note his humility and intelligence so these concerns may be off-base.
6. Marcus Cannon (OT/G), TCU
7. Marcus Gilbert, Florida
8. Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova
9. Lee Ziemba, Auburn
10. Chris Hairston, Clemson
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