By Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune reporter
2:14 PM PDT, April 13, 2013
This class looks pretty enticing to a tackle-needy NFL. Three tackles figure to be top 10 picks. The talent drops off a little after that, but a number of others have enough ability to be starters pretty quickly. As many as a dozen tackles could be chosen in the first three rounds.
1. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, 6-7, 306: He is the best pass protector in the draft, and front office men think he has more potential than any other tackle. Fisher has excellent flexibility and foot quickness. He uses his hands well. He finishes his blocks. He has a long torso and has the potential to put on more weight. He did not play against the same caliber of competition that some of the other tackles did, but he fared well against whoever he went up against. Fisher is very coachable. Said one general manager, "There is not very much not to like." Another described him as "smart, quiet and patient."
2. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M, 6-6, 306: He played against some of the best pass rushers in the country and played at a very high level. If you are looking for a can't-miss player at any position, look no further. Said an NFC general manager, "He is what every NFL team is looking for in a left tackle." Joeckel has excellent body control, feet, toughness, strength and ability to recover. He has been taught well. Even though he's entering the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining, he is as ready for the pros as a player can be. He started all 37 games of his career. "He takes such good angles," an AFC general manager said. "Everything is perfect with him. He is technically smooth and so instinctive." Scouts think Joeckel can improve with better hand use.
3. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma, 6-6, 303: His stock has been on a steady climb. One veteran scout said he never saw a player improve over the course of a season as much as Johnson. He had a fine season, a fine Senior Bowl and an excellent scouting combine. Johnson is a former quarterback, tight end and defensive lineman who still is learning. He has played offensive line for only two seasons. But one front office man said he uses his hands better than Joeckel or Fisher. He also said he is the best athlete of all the tackles. Another scout said Johnson gets to the second level better than any tackle in the draft. He has a good frame for the position, with long (351/4-inch) arms. Johnson has a narrow build. He isn't very physical and needs to develop his strength. He is tough and competitive. "As a run blocker, he gets tossed and pushed back," one talent evaluator said. "But as a pass blocker, he rarely gets beat."
4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama, 6-5, 339: He is a humungous, powerful right tackle prospect. "He can block out the sun," one general manager said. "He's one of the biggest, most physically impressive kids I've ever seen." His arms measure 363/4 inches, and they give him a reach advantage over probably every defender in the league. Fluker is a better on the run thatn the pass. He is extremely passionate, and he is a tone-setter. He has heavy hands, and can unload on defenders from his hips.
5. Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine Bluff, 6-5, 306: His stock has shot up since the end of the season. Armstead played well in the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl, and he had an impressive workout (he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash). A native of downstate Cahokia, Ill., Armstead played at a smaller college and did not dominate consistently. He needs to develop strength. He isn't polished, but his athleticism is excellent. His feet are very quick, quick enough to play left tackle. If he takes to NFL coaching, he can be an outstanding pro.
6. Kyle Long, Oregon, 6-6, 313: He is the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and the brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long. He started out at Florida State as a baseball pitcher and the White Sox drafted him. He transferred to a junior college and played defensive end for a year. Since landing at Oregon, he started only four games. Some teams see him as a guard, the position he played at Oregon, but others believe he has the quick feet to play left tackle. Long still is learning how to block, and he has upside. He is especially intriguing for a team with a zone scheme.
7. Menelik Watson, Florida State, 6-5, 310: He is a very athletic former boxer and basketball player from England who doesn't really know how to play the position yet. Watson left school a year early, and he really needed another year of experience. He is what scouts call a "one year wonder." He is explosive and light on his feet, and has the potential to be an excellent pass blocker. Watson still is developing in the run game. He doesn't play angles very well. "He has some technique issues because he hasn't played the position," a high ranking team executive said. "He is a ball of clay." Watson was a right tackle in college but could develop into a left tackle in the NFL. He is considered a wild card in the draft because of his tremendous potential. But he probably is not NFL ready. Some have questioned his dedication.
8. Justin Pugh, Syracuse, 6-5, 307: The tape on Pugh is pretty impressive. "The pass (protection) is good and the run blocking is good," one general manager said. He had a good Senior Bowl. The drawback with Pugh is he has arms that measure only 32 inches. "Those are short arms — cornerback size," a college scouting director said. As a result, some teams will want to move him to guard. He appears to have some natural strength and a good lower body, but whether he is powerful enough for guard is a concern. Pugh, who left school with a year of eligibility left, was a three-year starter. He has solid intangibles.
9. David Bakhtiari, Colorado, 6-4, 299: He has the feet to play left tackle, but he might not have the length. Some teams consider the early draft entree a guard or even a center. He played tackle at Colorado and was up and down. He is a raw prospect who needs to add bulk and strength. He has some natural punch and explosiveness to build on. He has good initial quickness.
10. Brennan Williams, North Carolina, 6-6, 318: He is coming off a shoulder surgery that knocked him out for the season. Williams is big and athletic and was thought of pretty highly before his injury. He can recover after a misstep. He is athletic enough to be a starter at right tackle, and also might have the flexibility to be used at guard. He plays with good effort. He uses his hands well. Williams needs technique refinement, and might need a little time to develop.
11. Xavier Nixon, Florida, 6-6, 321: He is a very large, pretty athletic blocker who can pass protect. His run blocking is below average, however, and he does not always anchor well. He has been an inconsistent player over his career and he is prone to mental errors. As a result, some might see him as an NFL backup at tackle, or possibly a guard.
12. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin, 6-6, 308: He is a similar prospect to Gabe Carimi, the player he replaced in the lineup. Wagner is more athletic than Carimi and not as powerful. He played left tackle at Wisconsin but projects to right tackle in the pros because he does not have ideal foot quickness. He is pretty effective in both pass blocking and run blocking, but is somewhat of a finesse blocker. One scout said he thought Wagner lacked core strength. He was a better basketball player than football player in high school, and walked on at Wisconsin as a tight end.
13. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee, 6-5, 306: He probably is either a right tackle or guard, though one national scout said he thinks Thomas could play left tackle. He has experience at guard and tackle. He is not the most physical blocker, and it shows up in the run game. One front office man compares him to Chris Williams, but says he isn't as good. "On tape you don't see the instincts and he misses blocks," he said. His motor runs hot and cold. Scouts do laud Thomas for his quickness. He has good flexibility and can get to the second level. Thomas injured his shoulder at the Senior Bowl and still is recovering.
14. Chris Faulk, Louisiana State, 6-6, 331: He is a huge man who is difficult to get around. One front office man thinks Faulk lacks the athleticism to play tackle, and is too big for guard. He struggles on pulling blocks. He is a physical blocker with long arms and can help a team in the running game. Faulk missed almost all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Getting heavy might be an issue.
15. Oday Aboushi, Virginia, 6-6, 308: He played on the left side in college but is likely a right tackle or guard in the NFL. Aboushi is tough and competitive and an above-average athlete, but lacks strength and balance. His pass protection is average. He is a little short-armed. He gets a little sloppy with his technique at times.
16. Vinston Painter, Virginia Tech, 6-4, 306: His stock is up after testing well at the combine. Painter is athletic and has long arms. There is a chance he could develop into a solid starter, but he probably will take some time. He also has experience at guard and could end up there.
17. Nick Becton, Virginia Tech, 6-5, 323: Becton has a big, strong lower body, and he plays with heavy hands. He anchors well, and can control the point of attack. "He is the kind of lineman the Steelers would like in that power-man scheme they play," one executive said. Becton has average movement skills. He did not become a starter until last season. He was a left tackle in college, but some teams think he should switch positions to guard in the pros.
18. Reid Fragel, Ohio State, 6-8, 308: He is a former tight end who has only one year of experience at tackle. Fragel isn't the most physical blocker, but he is a very good athlete. He is raw and needs to get with a patient, effective teacher. He was an undisciplined player at times, probably because of his inexperience.
19. Luke Marquardt, Asuza Pacific, 6-9, 315: As the draft approaches, there has been some buzz about him. Offensive line coaches have taken a liking to Marquardt. He is a former tight end who grew into an offensive tackle. Coached by NFL Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, Marquardt has developed at a nice pace. He has decent quickness for his size. Marquardt is a little too tall, and he sometimes allows defenders to get under his pads. He is coming off a broken foot.
20. Jordan Devey, Memphis, 6-7, 317: He caught the attention of NFL scouts at the East-West Shrine game. Devey has played left tackle, right tackle and guard. He did not play football in high school, instead playing the tuba in the school band. After graduating, he went on a church mission before enrolling in college and taking up the sport. He is 25, considerably older than most rookies.
21. Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas, 6-5, 298: He is a tough blocker who would fit in a zone scheme because of his ability to move and play well in space. He started out as a tight end, and also played some defensive end. Scouts see him as a right tackle, and a probable backup in the NFL. Hawkinson started 48 games at Kansas.
22. David Quessenberry, San Jose State, 6-5, 302: He is smart, competitive and tough, but limited as an athlete. He is an aggressive blocker who plays to the echo of the whistle. He has been a solid left tackle for three years. Improved lower body strength would help him. Quessenberry is yet another former tight end.
23. Jordan Mills, Louisiana Tech, 6-5, 316: He is a thick, powerful, aggressive blocker who can make space for running backs. His athleticism isn't the best, and he subsequently will lunge at times. He is the cousin of Packers cornerback Tramon Williams.
24. Emmett Cleary, Boston College, 6-7, 316: He is a college left tackle who likely will have to play right tackle in the NFL, according to scouts. He also could be a backup as guard. He is a typical Boston College blocker — tough, heady and physical, but not quick-footed. With his size, there likely is a place in the NFL for this St. Viator High School grad.
Terron Jones, Alabama State
Jamaal Johnson-Webb, Alabama A&M
Rogers Gaines, Tennessee State
Patrick Ward, Northwestern
Bradon Brown, Brigham Young
John Wetzel, Boston College
Mark Jackson, Glenville State
Carter Bykowski, Iowa State
Oscar Johnson, Louisiana Tech
Jason Weaver, Southern Mississippi
Matt Sewell, McMaster
Dann O'Neill, Western Michigan
Manase Foketi, West Texas A&M
The free agent signing of Jermon Bushrod significantly lessens the Bears' need here. But the possibility of them taking a tackle should not be ruled out, even with their first pick. Bushrod will play left tackle. J'Marcus Webb is shifting to the right side. If a tackle is available general manager Phil Emery believes is better than Webb, and is better than any one else on the board, the Bears suddenly could have a surplus at the position.
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