NFL

Deepest position in draft could be OT

Brian Billick and Taylor Jones on the top tackles available in the NFL Draft.
Brian Billick and Taylor Jones on the top tackles available in the NFL Draft.
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Brian Billick

Brian Billick served as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007, winning Super Bowl XXXV. He has also authored books, including More Than A Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL. Follow him on Twitter.

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Most teams in the NFL are in need of at least one offensive tackle, and this is a good year to pick one. In what can typically be a “bad body” group, this year’s group of tackles, and offensive linemen as a whole, are consistently fit but stout. Some, if not most, of these prospects started out as tight ends in college and have that type of body mass and athleticism.

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At the top end of the draft, there are four players who look to be solid picks and could be “plug and play” type players.

At 6-foot-6, 306 pounds, USC’s Matt Kalil is the cream of the crop. He is an elite pass protector who can survive on an island on the left side against the oppostion’s best pass rusher. He has great footwork and works to the second level readily. He is well-schooled in his technique and has excellent bloodlines, being the younger brother of Ryan Kalil, the Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Pathers.

How good is Kalil? He is the reason 2011’s first tackle taken off the board, Tyron Smith, never even played on the blind side in college. Smith proved worthy of his pick, and he will be the face of the Cowboys’ offensive line for years to come. It is hard to imagine that Kalil with get past Minnesota with the third pick overall.

Riley Reiff is just what you would expect from a prospect coached by Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. He is a prototypical Big Ten lineman in that he is big, strong and well-coached. While Reiff isn’t as polished as Kalil in pass protection, he is a mauler who will instantly improve the running game of the team that selects him.

Reiff will likely end up on the right side because he is not as good in space as the elite left side pass protectors, but with teams shuffling their rushers all over the defensive front, having two trustworthy tackles is quickly becoming a necessity. Reiff should be a top-15 pick and will remind people of the 49ersJoe Staley.

While Kalil and Reiff have easily separated themselves from the rest of the class, any of the following three prospects could be selected next. Any of the three may find themselves among the Top 15 overall, and would be attractive to Arizona at No. 13, Philly at No. 15 or the Jets at No. 16.

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Jonathan Martin, best known for keeping Andrew Luck’s blind side clean during his tenure at Stanford, is another “clone” in this year’s draft. All of these players seem to be the same size at just around 6-5, 310 pounds. As you might imagine of the Stanford prospect, Martin is a smart player who is well-schooled. I see a comparison both in skill-set and intellect to Jon Jansen, formerly of the Redskins and Lions.

Martin has the athletic ability to mirror defenders and plays with a low pad level. His future team could put him on the edge on Day One, but that team must understand that there will be a learning curve throughout his rookie season.

Mike Adams from Ohio State created some momentum heading into the NFL Combine, but with only 19 repetitions in the bench press and one of the slowest 10-yard splits, his measurables left a lot to be desired. He has elite size (6-7, 323), and on tape showed good hand placement and was rarely bull rushed.

Before the Senior Bowl, most scouts had Adams tagged as solely a tackle for the right side, but he did show the feet and quickness to deserve a look as a left tackle in the NFL. Adams has as good an upside as anyone in the draft, but again, his combine performance left most teams scratching their heads. Some are comparing him to Alex Barron, which is not particularly a good thing. I see him as a player with similar potential as Barron, but Adams is most likely to reach that potential.

Georgia’s Cordy Glenn was originally being evaluated as a college tackle who would be better off kicking down inside in most NFL schemes. But with a solid Senior Bowl and an excellent combine, he has teams rethinking his potential to be an elite tackle in the NFL.

Glenn mainly lined up on the left side in college, but his capabilities as a mauling run blocker may see him best suited on the right side in the immediate future. When watching his tape, I don’t recall a single time that he was pushed back by a power rush move, and his overall playing style reminds me of Jeff Otah.

Glenn plays with a controlled nasty streak and has the desired momentum post-combine and pre-draft. He ran a sub-5.0-second 40-time, has 35-inch arms, but still put up 31 reps in the bench press.

Tagged: Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Panthers, Mike Adams, Ryan Kalil

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