Lions’ 2010 NFL Draft Needs: Offensive Tackle

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If I were the GM of the Lions my number one position I would target in the draft is offensive tackle.  This is not a popular view amongst Lions fans, but neither was drafting Matthew Stafford last year.  So before rushing to judgement, follow the logic.

The Lions made a huge investment in Matthew Stafford last year, and that investment finished the season on injured reserve.  Young quarterbacks require better pass protection than veterans because they don’t have enough experience for their reads to be second nature yet.  They take longer to make decisions which is why defenses blitz young quarterbacks so much.  Look at some of the more successful young quarterbacks and they usually have an upper echelon left tackle protecting them.

  • Carson Palmer had Levi Jones
  • Mark Sanchez has D’Brickashaw Ferguson
  • Joe Flacco has Jared Gaither and Michael Oher
  • Jay Cutler had Ryan Clady with the Broncos
  • Philip Rivers has Marcus McNeill
  • Tony Romo had Flozell Adams
  • Aaron Rogers has Chad Clifton
  • Matt Ryan has Sam Baker

Jeff Backus is a better left tackle than most think, but he is not going to be around for the next 10 years.  Elite left tackles are rarely found outside of the first round, and the recently or soon to be retired Hall of Fame bound left tackles Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones were all top 10 picks.  The Lions can move Backus to right tackle to compete with Gosder Cherilus and he can back up all of the offensive line positions except center. 

The other advantage of having an elite left tackle is it helps out the running game.  Five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round the last two years, three of them had winning records and made the playoffs as rookies  Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez all have elite left tackles and top 10 rushing attacks.  Stafford and Josh Freeman do not have that luxury. 

Lastly, here is a well researched look at why drafting a left tackle (specifically Russell Okung) is the best move for the Lions and why offensive tackles are a safer pick than defensive tackles provided by www.walterfootball.com.

There are only two tackles that I would consider with the second overall pick:

  1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State – Great athleticism, size and intangibles he is the best left tackle to come out in the last three years.  He struggles some blocking downfield on screens and in the running game, but that is his only noticeable weakness.  Okung is athletic and technically sound, he is a more natural pass blocker than run blocker.
  2. Trent Williams, Oklahoma – Prototypical size, powerful run blocker, high motor and has great upside .  Limited experience as a left tackle, shorter arms than preferred.  Williams is more of a mauler and road grater type.

If the Lions manage to trade down into the middle to late portion of the first round, this is the second tier of tackles.   I have doubts about three of the four tackles that would be on the board.  I rank them as follows:

  1. Charles Brown, USC - Brown is a converted tight end with excellent athleticism.  He is probably the second best pass blocker behind Okung, but like Okung is not an elite run blocker yet.  He has limited experience at left tackle, so he is a bit of a projection but has good upside.
  2. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa - Technically sound, well coached and has a high motor.  He has short arms and is not an elite athlete.  I see a Jeff Backus clone, safe but doesn’t have huge upside.
  3. Bruce Campbell, Maryland - Campbell is a freak of nature athletically with great upper body strength and long arms.  He has all the talent in the world but has not lived up to it.  Boom or bust player.
  4. Anthony Davis, Rutgers - Good athleticism and prototypical size, but he has immaturity and weight issues.  He needs more technique work and is also a boom or bust type prospect.

The next tier of tackles could start coming off the board in the  second through fourth rounds.  Very few of these players could step in at left tackle on day one and be an improvement over Backus.

  1. Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale – Small school player with big time athleticism.  He dominated in practice in the Texas vs. The Nation Bowl and has high character and motor.  He has shorter arms than preferred and it’s a big jump in competition from Hillsdale to the NFL.
  2. Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts – Good athlete with size and big frame.  Very raw in technique due to limited experience playing football.  Has good upside but is a project.
  3. Ed Wang, Virginia Tech – Wang is a very raw player who is also a converted tight end.  He is a great athlete but needs technique work and needs to be more aggressive on the field.  Has a high ceiling, but has a ways to go to reach it.
  4. Jason Fox, Miami – Fox is a technicianwith a bit of an injury history.  He is very consistent and is a high motor guy, but he doesn’t have the athleticism to be an elite left tackle.
  5. Kyle Calloway, Iowa – Calloway has a big frame, decent athleticism and great technique.  He was primarily a right tackle in college, but could potentially make the switch to left tackle.
  6. Roger Saffold, Indiana – Saffold has better athleticism than the previous two on the list but he struggles too much with speed rushers for my liking.  Maybe with more technique work he can improve, but he has pretty good technique as it is.
  7. Selvish Capers, West Virginia – Has the athletic tools to succeed as a left tackle, but limited experience playing in a three point stance and inconsistent footwork are his main weaknesses.  Could end up as a guard.

This is a deep and talented draft, but there are only two prospects with no glaring weaknesses or areas of concern.  This highlights the difficulty of finding an elite left tackle, which is why the Lions should take advantage of the opportunity.  There are 10-15 defensive tackles that will be able to step in and play right away in this draft, there are about six left tackles that can do the same.  It’s a much safer pick, much harder to fill and is worth the investment because it helps Stafford realize his potential.


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23 Responses to “Lions’ 2010 NFL Draft Needs: Offensive Tackle”

  1. john says:

    “only two prospects with no glaring weaknesses or areas of concern”

    Where? You even pointed out Okung cn’t do screen blocks, and Williams has limited experience, hmm sounds like concerns to me.

    Laast time I checked Suh had no concerns.

    • John-

      Struggling on screen blocks and limited experience are not glaring weaknesses. Having a history of under performing or limited athleticism are glaring weaknesses.

      Suh has major medical concerns with two recent knee surgeries, which for a 300 lb player can become chronic.

      • Beyonder says:

        Last I heared, Suh has had no injury concerns for two years, and with all of the scrutiny that goes with being BPA, if there were any real concern about Suh’s knees we would certainly have about it by now, unless you’ve got a hidden medical report that you’d like to share with all of us. If not, I’ll take Suh over a guy who wouldn’t beat out Backus at LT this year!

      • Knee injuries for 300lb players are a big problem, and just because Mel Kiper and Todd McShay don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it’s not a concern.

  2. dubz says:

    i swear, a movie comes out and all of a sudden everybody thinks LT is the new QB..

    • dubz says:

      listen, the only position you draft high and pay millions of dollars to and then sit him his rookie year is QB.

      no sense in drafting a 42 million dollar tackle when the position is set.

      no sense in using this as a smokescreen, the other 31 teams know who backus is.

      you protect your QB by cutting his workload in half by improving the DEFENSE. if they didn’t need that 5th TD against cleveland, stafford would’ve never got hurt, and don’t tell me one of these guys would have held off 7 guys for those 15 seconds that stafford was scrambling all over the field.

  3. Dubz-

    First of all, I have been a proponent of drafting a left tackle for the last three years, and I haven’t seen “The Blind Side.”

    I have covered the NFL draft for the last 18 years and in those 18 years there has not been a position that produced more busts in the top 10 than defensive tackle.

    People need to stop focusing on the play against Cleveland when talking about Stafford’s injuries. He got hurt against the Bears, he got obliterated by the Packers he got pounded on by the Vikings, etc. Culpepper got sacked 5 times against the Steelers.

    The two most successful quarterbacks of the last 10 years coincidentally are the two least sacked, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

    • Beyonder says:

      Sounds like somebody needs a statics course! That there have been some inordinate number of “busts” at DT is no indication of the probability that ANY future DT will bust! If a team evaluates a player, based on his athleticism, work ethic, character, health, etc., and he grades higher than another player at some other position then there is no logic in not taking that player. Period. This is especially true when the need for the better is as great, if not greater!

    • dubz says:

      lol, neither have i..

      • DT is not an impact position, left tackle is. It’s that simple, I provided examples of left tackles that made an impact on young quarterbacks, you provide me some examples that prove a dominant DT helps a young QB.

        I’m a finance major, so I know all about statistics and pasts results don’t guarantee future performance. But I also know you can’t argue a point without proof. I gave 8 examples of left tackles helping young QBs in the last 7 years, I would like to see 8 examples of a DT benefitting a young QB.

        Also, you’re not factoring in positional value. Teams do. That’s why linebackers, tight ends, safeties, cornerbacks, guards and centers rarely go in the top 5. The three elite positions in the NFL are QB, LT and DE/pass rusher. Why do you think a spread option quarterback coming off of major shoulder surgery is about to be drafted #1 ahead of Suh, and McCoy who are supposedly higher rated players? Positional value.

      • Who said Okung would sit behind Backus? Okung would start and Backus swould either move to RT to compete with Cherilus or he would become a backup at LT, LG, RG and RT.

  4. Draftpro08 says:

    Good read. I see your point but I think Okung is not the BPA. When Mayhew looks at his board it will go McCoy, SUH, Williams, Okung, Berry in that order. McCoy over Suh? No one mentions that the agents Suh has are Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes. They were responsible for the lengthy holdout by Michael Crabtree last season. This may make McCoy the more interesting pick plus no injury history. He didn’t have the huge numbers last year but he was still demanding double teams and was highly disruptive in the backfield. Check cfbstats.com to compare and see that Suh VS McCoy when they face ranked teams and winning record teams McCoys #’s fare better where if Suh doesn’t sack McCoy 4 times he only would have 1 sack vs 3 games against top 25 teams. The bench reps are fine due to his technique is great. Okung is just down on their board if they traded out #2 there you go but its not happening.

    • Bradford isn’t the BPA either, but he plays a position that has a higher value that DT, so does Okung.

      Albert Haynesworth is one of the best DTs in the league and Chris Samuels was one of the best LTs in the league. The Redskins fell apart after Samuels got hurt and Haynesworth was healthy all year and made little to no impact.

      • Beyonder says:

        Bradford more importantly, plays a position of need for the Rams. If the Rams were set at QB they wouldn’t even look at Bradford. Positional value has to be tempered with need. Just like our discussion about Suh vs. Okung, while Okung has positional value, that assumes that the Lions are willing to invest Millions of$ on a position that WASN’T THEIR PRIMARY PROBLEM and wont be for some time to come unless Backus’ leg falls off. The Lions made moves in the off season to take care of their #1 offensive line issue; LG. Spending a #2 on a “just OK” LT that will take a year to ready to protect Stafford without help and is a questionable run blocker with no proof that that will change, while you can grab a player with Suh’s talent and work ethic to anchor the WORST DEFENSE IN THE NFL, simply doesn’t make sense.

        Now you have millions of $ sitting on your bench, if Okung is your starter. Even if he comes in and is a decent pass blocker, which I doubt, he’ll be a poor run blocker on a team that already had problems running. I don’t see how you’ve improved your Oline. I it’s a feel-good pick.

        To your response that DT doesn’t help your QB, you’re right, a DT wont help the QB directly; he will help your DEFENSE, and hence, your entire TEAM. Adding Suh to the Lions Dline will put more pressure on the opposing QBs which strengthens the secondaries ability to cover recievers, make the team more difficult to run on by drawing double teams that free up LBs to make tackles. Suh, along with some the off-season moves, will help keep the offense from having to get into shoot-outs with teams, and allow the Lions to RUN the ball more, which will do as much to protect Stafford as ANY LT in league! So indirectly, DT does help your QB!!

        Lastly, in response to your comments on Suh’s knees. I was not referring to Kiper or McShay when I mentioned whether or not his knees are sound. I trust that an NFL team is going to do their do diligence, and make sure that a player that they would select at #2 would be of sound body, and if Suh’s knees are an issue, I would expect that the Lions would not draft him. That is unless you’ve given them a copy of that hidden injury report.

      • First of all, Okung is the highest rated LT prospect in the last three years, how is he not ready to play right away?

        If defensive tackles impact the defense so much why did the Redskins not get significantly better with the addition of Haynesworth last year? Shaun Rogers is an elite defensive tackle, how good was Cleveland?

        This “hidden” injury report I have came from a scout that reviewed the medical data on Suh at the combine. I guarantee that every team in the league has it and it’s one of the reasons that Mike Mayock has McCoy ahead of Suh. I also spoke with a source in the front office of a team within the division and he corroborated the report.

        Bottom line, the impact position that improves defenses is DE, not tackle. Pro Bowl left tackles are drafted in the first round, usually top half. Pro Bowl DTs can be found anywhere in the draft, and they are hardly ever found in the top 5.

  5. Beyonder says:

    Dude, PLAYERS and their skill sets determine impact, not positions. The two DTs you reference were poor in their new surroundings because of their personalities, not decause they were DTs. Both were notorious for taking plays off (why in world do you think Rogers was traded from the Lions in first place?), with Haynesworth putting up big numbers in a contract year to get a big payday.

    Okung couldn’t hold Joe Thomas’ jock strap! He may a good pass blocker, but he sucks as a run blocker, so as far as I’m concerned, guy is half a LT, and you dont take half a LT at #2 in the draft. If the Lions were to trade down, then I might consider Okung around 4 or 5. If you can tell that by the end of the year Okung will be a better run blocker than Backus, then I would consider him at #2. If not, then I’m in no better shape than I would be with Backus. And that I say a resounding NO to.

    If your contact with the injury report is correct, then I expect the Lions to pass on Suh (and hopefully take a hard look at McCoy). If, however this is just more FUD, then I expect the Lions to take the player that will improve the team the most…and that’s Suh.

    • “PLAYERS and their skill sets determine impact, not positions.”

      Eric Berry is considered the biggest impact player in the draft, why isn’t he going to be selected in the top five? Because he does not play an impact position. I have covered the NFL Draft for 18 years, I am telling you these are facts. Sure there are teams that do roll the dice on DTs or CBs or WRs inside the top 5, but generally speaking teams will value QBs, LTs and DEs higher than any other position in the top 5.

      Does this mean the Lions will? I have no idea, I am just saying if I were Mayhew I would go with the LT and find a DT later in the draft. Mayhew found a starting DT in the 5th round last year and it was a bad draft for DTs. This is a great draft for DTs, so SUh and McCoy may be elite talents, but for about $25 million less, they can get a guy who is almost as good.

  6. Beyonder says:

    Who are these guys that are “almost as good?” Tell us all who this plethera DTs are that have had the same disruptive impact that either Suh or McCoy have had in their college careers? And the notion that a defensive back like Berry would even come close to having the kind of impact that players like Suh/McCoy would have on the current Lions team is just specious! Berry would be just another DB in the Lions’ backfield being toasted by opposing QBs. Without the ability to stop the run and rush the passer, the Lions can prepare themselves for another double-digit loss season. But hey, at least they’ll have a bright shinny new LT!!

    • Beyonder says:

      I’m sorry; HALF a LT!

      • I will be posting my DT evaluations within the next few days. Two things:

        1.) Defensive tackles are one of the most difficult evaluations for scouts. Protection schemes in college are far more simplistic, the spread offense keeps fewer blockers in to pass protect, interior o-lineman don’t have as good of technique as in the pros, etc. Dewayne Robertson was supposed to be the next Reggie White too, he’s out of the league. FYI most scouts disregard stats when evaluating D-lineman because stats are so misleading at that position. Tommie Harris did not put up great stats at Oklahoma, but it was because they played their DTs a certain number of snaps to keep them fresh. His stats compared poorly to other DTs yet he was highly drafted.

        2.) I have provided a number of examples to back my theories, you haven’t provided one. You show me a top 5 defensive tackle that has made an impact on his team, just one! Dan Wilkenson was the “greatest DT prospect ever” and he was a bust. Steve Emtman, Ryan Sims, Glenn Dorsey, Dewayne Robinson, Gerard Warren…how did those guys turn out?” All were highly rated “can’t miss” prospects. Glenn Dorsey was higher rated than Jake Long and Matt Ryan, he was a “can’t miss” prospect too.

        I also checked with one of my sources on Okung and asked him to compare him to Joe Thomas. He said Thomas is a better run blocker, but Okung is the better pass blocker. He said that all things considered, they would grade out almost equally with Thomas a little higher for his team.

  7. Closetlionfan says:

    I dont mean to change the subject – I’d go with Suh – anyone who says defense is not the Lions #1 problem is blind! but WHEN will the Lions replace Hanson and why are kickers so undervalued? How many games come down to the last second field goal? 30%? and why dont people see the value of the touchback on kickoffs? I wonder what the avg. starting field position was for Lions opponents last year.

    • Closet-

      The Lions would be foolish to ever think about replacing Jason Hanson until Hanson decides he’s done. He’s one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and just because he has one down season doesn’t mean you ignore the previous decade and a half.

  8. C d.o.t says:

    it is really sad. i cant even tell you when the Lions had a good o line..do you know of any teams that have won a super bowl with an o line ranked in the bottom 5? seems like they missed out today but im still excited for this coming up season and im hopeful that they can get a couple guys for the o line

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