NFL Draft: Breaking down the top tackles

Feb 13, 2013, 7:40 PM | Updated: 8:05 pm

Offensive tackle is regarded by many to be the weakest position on the Arizona Cardinals’ roster. While I disagree with this sentiment, this is a draft where there are guys at the top that would be immediate upgrades to the position if the Cardinals choose to go that route.

The interesting thing in this draft though, is that there are some late prospects that could be more than serviceable at the position.

There’s one prospect in particular that if he checks out medically, could end up being on the same level as the top three tackle prospects in this draft.

Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M – 6-5, 310lbs

As I continue to put my big board together, Joeckel will find himself among the top five, and likely top three prospects in the draft.

Strong in all aspects of the game, Joeckel is elite in his pass block set up, slides well, and wins with his feet more that his hands, sometimes to his detriment.

He can get over-extended when trying to run block on the second level at times, but that’s really just picking nits at this point.

Projection: Top 5

Eric Fisher, Central Michigan – 6-8, 310 lbs

Fisher has grown into his mammoth self over his four years at Central Michigan and has become an elite-level left tackle prospect.

Strong in both the pass and run game, Fisher controls his defenders with his long limbs at the point of attack consistently.

Fisher can get into trouble when he allows the defender to initiate contact, but those instances are few and far between.

Projection: Top 10

Lane Johnson, Oklahoma – 6-7, 300 lbs

Johnson is the guy that may have the most upside at the left tackle position in a class that already boasts two possible franchise left tackles.

Johnson is already excellent in pass protection for such an inexperienced prospect. He started off as a QB, then movied to DE, then to RT, before finally moving to left tackle in 2012.

Johnson looks uncomfortable at times in run blocking, probably because of his inexperience, but has the raw skills that should allow him to improve in this area.

Projection: Top 15

DJ Fluker, Alabama – 6-6, 335 lbs

I have my questions about Fluker as a tackle prospect. He lacks the movement skills in pass protection that you want out of today’s right tackles, and truthfully I see him down the line as a player that will move to guard.

What Fluker does well, though, is dominate in the run game. He is a mauler that wins consistently with power that is rare at the college level.

Projection: First-second round

Menelik Watson, Florida State – 6-6, 320 lbs

Watson is another prospect that is extremely young in his development at the tackle position. He has only played 20 games at the collegiate level.

What Watson has is uncoachable athleticism for his size, and gives a coach a great “blank canvas” to work with.
He moves well at the second level, walls off defenders, and is tenacious in his blocking.

But he has problems with the basics: set up, consistent pad level, hand placement — but that won’t scare teams off.

Projection: First-second round

Brennan Williams, North Carolina – 6-7, 315 lbs

Williams is another massive right tackle prospect in this draft that excels in the run game.

He paved the way for North Carolina running back prospect Gio Bernard, where he used his length to control defenders at every level.

Williams can be slow-footed at times in pass protection, but his long arms allow him to make up for that.

Projection: Second-third round

Justin Pugh, Syracuse 6-4 300lbs

Pugh is another guy that likely will be moving to guard at the NFL level, but I think he gets a look early in his career because of his athleticism.

He moves well in space, and when using his quickness to cut defenders off, rather than rooting them out of their position.

Pugh gets beat on the edge too often with speed when he over-extends himself, or power, where he lacks ideal anchor.

Projection: Second-third round

Oday Aboushi, Virginia – 6-5, 310 lbs

If there is an over-arching theme to this tackle class it is that a lot of them project as better guards than tackles at the next level.

Aboushi is another one of those players. Aboushi is an excellent power run game blocker, where he can line up and block the man in front of him.

Where Aboushi struggles is in space, which is odd for a tackle prospect, and that’s why I see him being a guy who could move down to guard in an in-line blocking scheme and be successful.

Projection: Third-fourth round

Chris Faulk, LSU 6-6 335lbs

Faulk may just be the most intriguing prospect in the 2013 offensive tackle class.

A massive man, Faulk has rare athleticism for his size and is a fantastic blocker in the run game.

Where he surprises most is his ability to move laterally in pass protection, with his quickness and length to control and steer pass rushers away from the quarterback.

Faulk came into 2013 with a first round grade by most draft sites, and then was injured and missed the entire season. Despite that, the junior felt he had done enough in his college career to leave LSU early.

Faulk is a guy that may be worth the risk of an early day three pick if he is still around, because if he checks out physically, he may be the steal of the draft.

Projection: Day three

Jordan Mills, Louisiana Tech – 6-5, 320 lbs

Mills is the one surprise on most lists of prospects moving up draft boards.

He is another guy that excels more in run blocking right now than in pass protection, but he is improving and held up rather well at the Senior Bowl.

Mills latches on to defenders and pushes them around in the run game, where he can, at times, get overzealous and gets close to being a little dirty — not saying that’s a bad thing.

Mills surprised at the Senior Bowl though with his lateral movement in pass pro, where he reached consistently on the edge. While he wasn’t as dominant as Fisher or Johnson, he did enough to impress.

Projection: Day two

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NFL Draft: Breaking down the top tackles