Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga has returned to full health after recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2013 season before it started.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig provides complete coverage of the Packers and the 2014 NFL Draft in his 14-part preview. You can find the entire series here.
TODAY’S POSITION: OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Importance (1-to-10 scale): 4
On the roster
The injury to Bryan Bulaga during training camp in 2013 provided an opportunity for then-rookie David Bakhtiari to step into a starting role, and the fourth-round pick out of Colorado did not disappoint. Bakhtiari will return to his left tackle spot in 2014, and if he follows up a solid first year in the NFL by making the Year 2 jump that coach Mike McCarthy always looks for, the Packers could have Aaron Rodgers’ blind side covered for many years to come.
With Bulaga returning to full health after recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2013 season before it ever started, Green Bay’s 2010 first-round pick will move to right tackle — the spot he occupied in his first three NFL seasons. Bulaga has battled injuries in recent years (also missing the end of the 2012 season with a fractured hip), but still just 25 years old, he has a lot of time to settle into a productive career on the right side.
Don Barclay gained invaluable experience as a starter at right tackle over the past two seasons. Undrafted out of West Virginia, Barclay has surpassed all expectations. Now, he’ll likely compete to be the Packers’ new starting center, a project that he did not do well in last year when the team tried it out in training camp. Assuming that job goes to someone else, Barclay will be a very good backup at offensive tackle, one who could also step into either guard position.
More than two years later, 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod should finally be completely healthy after suffering a devastating broken leg injury as a rookie. It’d take quite a leap of faith to believe that Sherrod’s career will ever be what it could have been without that injury, but he just turned 25 years old and still has the right measurables for NFL offensive tackles. Green Bay could do a lot worse than having Sherrod as its emergency offensive tackle.
Last five offensive tackles drafted
Philosophy at the position
General manager Ted Thompson has drafted at least one offensive tackle nearly every year. With injuries taking a toll on the Packers’ offensive tackles on a consistent basis, Thompson has been wise to continue replenishing the position.
However, this could be the year that Thompson addresses other positions and trusts his depth at offensive tackle. Green Bay has its starters in place and quality backups ready to go, so unless Barclay makes a permanent move to the interior, it’s difficult to see how the Packers could keep five tackles on their roster. If Bulaga and Barclay exit next offseason (both are scheduled to be free agents), then Thompson would have to go back to the drawing board and bring in new talent at the position.
Day 1 name to remember (Round 1)
Taylor Lewan, senior, Michigan (6-foot-7, 309 pounds): How about an offensive lineman that can run a 4.79-second 40-yard dash? It’s rare to find someone so big (309 pounds) who can run so fast. He certainly made a lot of fans in NFL front offices with his overall show of athleticism at the Scouting Combine. He has great length, too, but the downside is that all of those tools have led him to be much more of a finesse blocker than a physical blocker. He could be gone long before the Packers are up at No. 21.
Lewan says: "I don’t know if I have swagger. My main focus in my game is to give my running back an opportunity to gain yards and give my quarterback the opportunity to be successful in the pocket. My job doesn’t get my highlights or stuff like that. I love doing what I do, whether it’s right tackle, left tackle, center or guard. It doesn’t matter as long as I have the opportunity."
Cyrus Kouandjio, junior, Alabama (6-7, 322): From the fastest offensive tackle in the draft (Lewan) to the slowest — Kouandijo ran a 5.59-second 40-yard dash. He’s huge, long and strong, but he’s still raw. Kouandijo would be hard-pressed to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL. The biggest thing dropping his draft stock is injury concerns about his knee.
Day 3 name to remember (Rounds 4-7)
Laurent Duverney-Tardif, McGill / Canada (6-5, 321): If he’s still on the board midway through Day 3, Duverney-Tardif would be a good value pick. He could also double as a member of the training staff, as he was working towards his Ph.D. Duverney-Tardif didn’t play great competition in Canada, but he’s known as a physical, smart blocker who still has room to grow as a player.
FOXSports.com’s draft expert Peter Schrager says:
"Lewan would be a steal at 21 but could fall to the Packers if there’s an early run on quarterbacks or cornerbacks. The guy I’m most intrigued by is Kouandjio. The 6-7, 325-pound tackle starred at Alabama, only to be dinged at the Combine for some potential medical concerns with his knee. Well, Nick Saban has said that he’s not aware of any teams failing the big man any physicals, and Kouandjio looked awfully healthy at the Alabama Pro Day in March. Duverney-Tardif is a project, but scouts seem to like him. Could go as early as 4th or 5th round."