NFL Draft: Offensive Tackle Is A Gamble
The 1989 NFL Draft featured an amazing group in the top five picks. The five draft picks include four hall of famers and … Tony Mandarich? That’s right, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders were picks one, three, four, and five respectively. Michigan State’s Tony Mandarich was the can’t miss prospect who came complete with his own, now famous Sports Illustrated cover. Dubbed “The Incredible Bulk,” Mandarich battle personal demons with Green Bay Packers until being released after his third season.
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There seems to be a popular opinion from fans and draft guys alike that tackles are a can’t miss safe bet. To ensure a team has a successful draft, just draft offensive linemen. Every pick. If you take offensive lineman and pass rushers, you win the draft. But, the praise from analysts doesn’t equate to success on the field.
The Saint Louis Rams received praises for their 2014 draft class. Granted, Aaron Donald and Lamarcus Joyner came out of this class, but offensive tackle Greg Robinson anchored this class. So far, Robinson is huge dud. After being drafted with the second overall pick, Pro Football Focus rated him 74th out of 76 NFL tackles. You don’t have to be good at math to know that is bad.
Since the 1991 draft, 94 tackles have been taken in the first round. Of those, only 29 (30.8%) made the Pro Bowl. As a comparison within the same time period, 60 quarterbacks were taken creating 23 (38.3%) Pro Bowlers. Quarterbacks, who spend more time in the spotlight, seem more likely to be boom or bust, but it is selective memory. We remember Ryan Leaf, Rick Mirer, and JaMarcus Russell. Their crash and burn careers were front and center in the media spotlight. We quickly forget the epic tackle failures like Jason Smith, Robert Gallery, and Bernard Williams.
Currently, talks of Mississippi State’s Laremy Tunsil dropping down to the Ravens at six are gathering steam. Tunsil, once thought to be the number one overall pick before the Titans traded down, evaluates as the top tackle in the draft, but that doesn’t make him a safe pick. Recently, reports have come out stating that some teams prefer Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) over Tunsil. Like most positions, grades will differ depending on the evaluator.
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Teams have until May 2 to pick up the fifth year option for first round picks from the 2013 draft. Now, it isn’t like many of them have actually been optioned yet as 22 still remain in limbo, but surprisingly, the number one and number two overall picks remain within that group.
If you don’t remember who the top two picks were that year, they were both tackles. Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel were taken with the first two picks by Kansas City and Jacksonville respectively. Fisher started his career poorly, but he began to make strides this past season while Joeckel continued to struggle in Jacksonville. Both teams are waiting until after the draft to make their decision on the players.
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I’m not predicting Tunsil or Stanley will be a bust, but I think offensive lineman seem like a safe pick when they are just as prone to failing as any other position. The Ravens draft pick should be based on the largest impact a player can create. For my money, I’d put my eggs in Ezekiel Elliott’s basket, but no pick is without risk.