Offensive Tackles: Here’s the fifth of a series of articles looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (read here for the rationale for this series, here for quarterbacks, here for running backs, here for wide receivers and here for tight ends). This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what offensive tackles are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.
Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt. But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion. Also listed below are also two offensive tackles in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.
Statistics of offensive tackles drafted by the Packers:
What the Packers are looking for: Offensive tackles are considered incredibly safe picks; offensive lineman are the most likely to start as rookies of any position, command cheaper contracts in comparison to other picks (such as quarterbacks and defensive ends), and finally a high draft pick left tackle will be given thee chance to play right tackle and then either guard position should he fail at tackle (Such as with Robert Gallery).
While it remains unknown whether offensive tackles are given a higher value due to their low “bust” probability, chances are GM Ted Thompson does factor in “risk” in the BPA approach. Ironically enough, even with all that being said, Thompson hasn’t drafted many offensive tackles; with the noticeable exception of Bryan Bulaga, who I’ve written was believed to have fallen about 10-15 picks (a fantastic value), no other offensive tackle has been drafted higher than the 4th round. In part that probably has to do with the fact that Thompson inherited one of the best bookend combos in Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher when he became GM in 2005 and only in the last two years has really had to worry about the position.
Of the late round picks, the majority have been a huge disappointment; Allen Barbre was considered the most physically gifted tackle on the squad but somehow managed to do nothing with it as he consistently faltered at right tackle until he was released in 2010. Breno Giacomini was a converted tight end and all he did was take up space on the 53 man roster. Jamon Meredith never even managed to make it past the Turk and was picked up by Buffalo.
The only one exception would be TJ Lang, who filled in admirably during the 2009 season and was projected to possibly be a tackle of the future; unfortunately he hurt his hand and Bryan Bulaga took over as the backup tackle both of which delayed his progression. On the plus side, once Tauscher went onto IR and Bulaga became a starter it’s highly likely that Lang was again the backup tackle and next season has a chance as a starter as a guard or a tackle.
Ironically no drills have a relatively low standard deviation when it comes to offensive tackles, mostly because Breno Giacomini was such an aberration as compared to the rest of the tackles. By excluding Giacomini, who was a converted tight end, a more accurate depiction of what GM Thompson probably looks for in an offensive tackle becomes apparent. The drills where offensive tackles had the lowest relative standard deviation (thus implying the highest importance) are height, weight and broad jump.
Its not surprising that there is so much deviation between results of the majority of the drills since the standard offensive tackle move, the kick step, isn’t a vertical or lateral move and is more about technique than physical ability until contact. Broad jump does make sense as an important factor for offensive tackles since in the running game tackles must be able to drive block with the other offensive lineman. One interesting topic that is very relevant to this years draft is that fact that no Packers tackle, on the current roster or drafted is higher than 6’5”, again if you exclude Giacomini (which I think everyone would agree was a failed experiment). This means that the majority of the top tier tackles this year (Carimi, Solder, Castanzo) might be too tall for the Packers taste.
As for specific skills, the Packers have mentioned that they would rather prefer two “left” tackles as opposed to the traditional pass blocking left tackle and run blocking right tackle. That does mean that if the draft does produce another offensive tackle its not unforeseeable that Bryan Bulaga could stay at right tackle for the near future; I wouldn’t consider this much of a demotion since modern defenses often have linemen shifting all over the place so a primer pass rusher will now line up against the weakest tackle and not just on the blind side. The Packers like their offensive linemen to be pass blockers first and run blockers second; having to protect Aaron Rodgers will only exacerbate this as protecting the important player on the team will always be the priority. The Packers also seem to have better success with players who have good technique rather than good athleticism.
Comparable offensive tackles in the 2011 draft (analysis taken from NFL.com):
Tyron Smith USC/6’5”/307 lbs/DNP 40-yard dash/DNP broad (did not participate in workout drills due to injury):
- Ideal height and size
- Surprisingly quick
- Good mean streak
- Could add bulk
- Overall football IQ and awareness is lacking
- Not great at picking up the blitz
Willie Smith East Carolina/6’5”/310 lbs/5.40 40-yard dash/8’10” broad:
- Good height and size with good athleticism
- Best suited for the zone blocking scheme
- Hard worker
- Lacks bulk and strength
- Lacking in run blocking
- Susceptible to bull rushes
Conclusion: At the moment, there is no clear consensus on big boards as to where the top tier offensive tackles rank; its quite possible that Smith could fall to 32, where he seems much like a fellow USC offensive tackle Charles Brown, who was taken at the bottom of the 2nd by the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. Willie Smith on the other hand reminds me a lot of CJ Wilson, another East Carolina Pirate who was drafted late, while more of a developmental project than Smith, he fits the scheme that the Packers employ (like Wilson). In either case the Packers have a slight advantage in the fact that they have one bookend tackle set for certain in Bryan Bulaga and can probably get a couple more games out of Chad Clifton and TJ Lang (if he doesn’t end up at guard), so rookies won’t have to start right off the bat.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.