So, let’s take a look at arguably the top seven offensive tackles in this year’s draft — Tyron Smith (USC), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), Marcus Cannon (TCU), and Orlando Franklin (Miami). The first five of these tackles are considered first round prospects.
Now, before I get into the analysis, I want to remind you all about taking a tackle in the draft and moving him to guard. First, I believe the two positions are significantly different and don’t really like the idea of starting a rookie’s career by learning a new position. In selecting a tackle, one looks at his kick-out first step which places him in the position to pass block. In selecting a guard, one looks at his pull first step which places him in a position to run block. Keep in mind, there is muscle memory in these two techniques that must be overcome in making a switch. Second, I strongly believe that a prospect’s lateral quickness (for the guard position) is indicated by his 3-cone drill time. Case in point, the Dolphins chose John Jerrry in the third round last year. He was a right tackle in his senior year at Ole Miss, although he did play right guard in his early college seasons. Jerry ran a relatively slow 7.93 seconds in the 3-cone drill at the combine. So, the Dolphins moved him from right tackle to right guard and wonder why he failed to get to the second blocking level. He had to re-learn the guard position in his very first NFL season and did not really have the necessary quickness in the run game.
Here is the tabular look at these top seven tackles — you can click on the chart below to enlarge. I have included in the table their college and age as well as some key results from the NFL Combine. I also included the number of starts they played in college and the positions they played in those starts, their projected NFL position, all-american and all-conference honors (if you are interested), and their 2010 team statistics for rushing and passing. I included these team stats because I was interested in whether their college team was a predominately rushing or passing team. Tony Sparano stated the Dolphins would still be a run first team. The Dolphins need the offensive line to perform better in the run game. So, I wanted to see what their experience base was in college — run or pass.
The first thing that struck me about these tackles is that only one had guard experience in college — Orlando Franklin. But, Franklin and Marcus Cannon had very slow times (more than 8 seconds) in the 3-cone drill. This indicates a lack of lateral quickness. Their 3-cone drill times were roughly 10% slower than the other tackles and most of the guards and centers in the draft. Franklin had off-season knee surgery after the 2010 season to repair a torn meniscus and said he was 98% at the NFL Combine. This may be the reason for his slow time. However, I do not believe either is worth of a first round pick and there are better guards likely to be available in the second round.
Tyron Smith was a two year starter at right tackle for USC and was named 2010 first team All-PAC10. He is the highest rated tackle in the draft largely due to his measureables, but he only has 25 starts in his college career leaving after his junior season. He is 6′ 5″ and 307 pounds with really long arms (36.25″). He has good upper body strength (29 reps in the bench press), good lower body strength (109″ in the broad jump), and good quickness (7.48 seconds in the 3-cone drill). All these measurables are actually good numbers for a guard. However, it should be noted that in 2009 he missed one game (against Boston College … hummm) because he was academically ineligible. That’s a red flag especially considering the possible position change to guard.
Anthony Castonzo was named third team 2010 AP All-American and first team All-ACC playing both tackle positions at Boston College. He is big (6′ 7″ and 311 pounds), good upper body strength (28 reps in the bench press), good lower body strength (105″ in the broad jump), and exceptional quickness (7.25 seconds in the 3-cone drill). He was faster in the 3-cone drill than prospective running backs DeMarco Murray (7.28), and Jaquizz Rodgers (7.31) and almost beat the times of Mark Ingram (7.13), Da’Rel Scott (7.15), and Jordan Todman (7.24). He is very intelligent (National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete, straight “A” student in biochemistry, and scored second highest this year on the Wonderlick), a team captain, and holds the record for career starts at Boston College with 54. All his measurables and non-measurables indicate that he could handle the switch to the guard position to include that he played the position in the Senior Bowl (albeit, some say he struggled a bit). BUT, it should be noted that there is only one successful guard currently in the NFL over 6′ 5″ — Robert Gallery (Raiders) who was drafted as a tackle and switched to guard. The question is whether Castonzo will be comfortable playing in a box on the inside.
Gabe Carimi was the 2010 Outland Trophy winner and first team 2010 AP All-American at left tackle for Wisconsin. He is big (6′ 7″ and 314 pounds), good upper body strength (29 reps in the bench press) and good lower body strength (109″ in the broad jump). He is a four year starter (49 games) and teamed with John Moffitt on the left side of the Wisconsin line to pave the way for two 1,000 rushers (John Clay and James White) in 2010. With all his honors and experience, I liked Gabe Carimi — A LOT! That is, until I learned that he did not run the 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine nor at his pro day due to “an ankle sprain”. He is known to have trouble with speed rushers due to his lack of quickness. This, combined with his 6′ 7″ frame, makes it risky to start him off in the NFL at the guard position. I wish he would have run the 3-cone drill for a point of comparison with Castonzo.
Nate Solder was a finalist for the 2010 Outland Trophy, named first team 2010 AP All-American at right tackle for Colorado, and named Big-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. He started all 24 games in 2010 and 2009 at tackle and played tight end in 2008 and 2007. He is very tall (6′ 8″ and 319 pounds), good lower body strength (110″ in the broad jump), and good quickness (7.44 seconds in the 3-cone drill). However, he is suspect in his upper body strength (21 reps in the bench press). I believe his height and suspect upper body strength somewhat precludes him for playing the guard position.
Derek Sherrod was named second team 2010 AP All-American starting 34 games at left tackle for Mississippi State. Sherrod helped the Bulldogs finish 9th nationally in 2009 with 227.6 rushing yards per game and 15th in 2010 with 219.3 rushing yards per game. He has good size (6′ 5″ and 321 pounds and long arms at 35.25″), fair upper body strength (23 reps in the bench press), fair lower body strength (97″ in the broad jump), and good quickness (7.43 seconds in the 3-cone drill). These measurables are actually more consistent with other guards in the draft and with good quickness may be able to readily transition to the that position in the pros. But, I wonder whether he is worthy of the 15th pick in the draft over Pouncey.
Okay, so there you have it! This is my take on the top tackles in the upcoming NFL Draft. What do you think? Should the Dolphins take one of these tackles at the 15th pick, if they do not trade down? I believe Castonzo and maybe Carimi are worth picking.