The offensive tackle position is one of the premier positions in today’s NFL and it’s showing in each draft. With the NFL slowly becoming a pass happy league that does everything in it’s power to protect the quarterback, having a premier offensive tackle is a priority.
This year’s class will be judged by the junior talent, despite having a couple of senior tackles that are fringe first round prospects. The senior class was looking bleak at the start of the season but Lane Johnson’s emergence and the continued growth of Dallas Thomas and Oday Aboushi will significantly impact the quality of this senior class.
A pair of Texas A&M junior tackles could go in the first round of April’s draft, while Michigan’s Taylor Lewan figures to challenge those two as the top tackle in this class. A name to watch out for as the draft nears is Justin Pugh, the Syracuse LT. Pugh missed some time due to injury this season but he projects as a solid LT in the NFL. If Pugh decides to declare early, he could surprise some as a fringe first round prospect.
Here’s a look at the offensive tackle class for the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. Eric Fisher I Central Michigan I 6’7” I 305
Our top senior tackle comes from the MAC. Fisher is drawing comparisons to former Central Michigan first round tackle, Joe Staley and for good reason. He’s big and athletic with the movement skills to excel on the left side in the NFL. Fisher could be the next in line as a first round MAC tackle.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 1-2
2. Dallas Thomas I Tennessee I 6’5” I 300
Normally a move inside to guard as a senior is a bad sign for a prospect but not for Thomas. Thomas can play inside or right tackle at the next level. He is an impressive athlete with a nice frame. He will have to work out technique issues and show the ability to consistently handle speed rushers on Sunday’s. Thomas’ versatility should find him a spot early on day, if not late on Thursday.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 1-2
3. Lane Johnson I Oklahoma I 6’6” I 303
Lane Johnson was considered a late round pick before the season began. He is now looked as a 2nd to 3rd round prospect with some connecting his name with a surprise first round pick. He’s a long athlete with vines for arms. He’s powerful with his ability to control defenders with a solid base and strong hands. Johnson has held up against some of the best Big XII pass rushers including holding Jackson Jeffcoat without a sack. I think he’s a solid 2nd round pick at this point with a high ceiling.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2
4. Oday Aboushi I Virginia I 6’6” I 310
Aboushi could step in immediately as an NFL pass protector. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for this ability as a run blocker. Aboushi is a hard worker who could work his way into an NFL starter with time. He will need to work his technique in the run game and cut down on penalties if he wants to be an effective NFL starter at some point in his career.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2
5. Kyle Long I Oregon I 6’7″ I 311
Kyle Long has emerged from Florida State baseball player to Oregon tackle. Long is the son of Howie Long that came on as a senior and earned the eye of many in the scouting world. He’s an athletic tackle with a ton of upside and probably works his way into the 2nd to 3rd round range of April’s draft
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2-3
6. Brennan Williams I North Carolina I 6’7” I 310
Williams will lock down the right tackle spot for an NFL team for a long time. Unlike Fisher and Thomas, I don’t see any future at left tackle which is the reason for him falling to No. 3 on our senior tackle rankings. He possesses optimum size and has become a better pass protector in 2012 which should earn him a spot at the top of round two, possibly the end of day one.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2
7. Ricky Wagner I Wisconsin I 6’6” I 322
Wagner was once touted as the top senior tackle and likely first round pick but he has been exposed this season and fallen back to reality. That said, Wagner possesses the size and strength to be an effective run blocker if he can clean up his technique. He has a tendency to bend at the waist and isn’t a natural knee bender. If Wagner can work on some of his technique issues he could be a value in round three.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 3
7. Brian Winters I Kent State I 6’6” I 296 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 3
8. Braden Brown I BYU I 6’5″ I 302 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4-5
9. Reid Fragel I Ohio State I 6’7″ I 298 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4
10. LaAdrian Waddle I Texas Tech I 6’6” I 332 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 5-6
11. David Quesenberry I San Jose State I 6’5 I 295 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4-5
12. Luke Marquardt I Asuza Pacific I 6’8″ I 312 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 5-6
13. Oscar Johnson I Louisiana Tech I 6’6″ I 330 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 6
14. Xavier Nixon I Florida I 6’5” I 292 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 4-5
15. Manase Foketi I West Texas A&M I 6’5” I 325 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 6
16. John Wetzel I Boston College I 6’8” I 302 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 6
17. Alex Hurst I LSU I 6’6” I 340 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 5
18. Tanner Hawkinson I Kansas I 6’6” I 295 I DRAFT PROJECTION: 5-6
1. Luke Joeckel I Texas A&M I 6’5” I 310
Joeckel is the class of this class. Graded as a top ten prospect in the draft, he would be wise to end his collegiate career early and take his talents to the NFL. Joeckel has handled the best the SEC has to offer thus far in 2012 and his overall skill level could see him move into the top five of the 2013 NFL Draft.
2. Jake Matthews I Texas A&M I 6’5” I 305
The other half of Texas A&M’s duo is living up to his namesake. Matthews is a pure right tackle with top twenty ability. Teams may be looking to move Matthews to the left side, which would increase his draft stock. He’s a plug and play type player that could be an impactful run blocker at right tackle from day one. He’s not the athlete that Joeckel is but makes up for it with his functional strength and technique.
3. Taylor Lewan I Michigan I 6’8” I 302
I had written Lewan off as a project before this season and into one game this season. Week to week he is proving me wrong in showing top ten ability. He’s not the finished product that Joeckel is at this point but has an enormous ceiling. I love his demeanor and athleticism at the position.
4. Justin Pugh I Syracuse I 6’6″ I 298
5. Jack Mewhort I Ohio State I 6’6” I 312
6. D.J. Fluker I Alabama I 6’6” I 335
7. James Hurst I North Carolina I 6’7” I 310