31

March

According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Offensive Tackles

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:

Name Height Weight 40-Yard 3-Cone Shuttle Vertical Broad Bench
Allen Barbre 6’4” 303.00 4.84 7.40 4.63 32.00 105.00 28.00
Breno Giacomini 6’7” 304.00 5.20 7.56 4.63 22.50 108.00 23.00
T.J. Lang 6’4” 305.00 5.15 4.42 26.50 30.00
Jamon Meredith 6’4” 289.00 5.03 105.00 31.00
Bryan Bulaga 6’5” 315.00 5.22 7.70 4.75 27.50 98.00 26.00
Average 6’4” 303.20 5.09 7.55 4.61 27.13 104.00 27.60
StDev 1.30 9.28 0.16 0.15 0.14 3.90 4.24 3.21

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):

Pros:

  • Ideal height and size
  • Surprisingly quick
  • Good mean streak

Cons:

  • 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:

Pros:

  • Good height and size with good athleticism
  • Best suited for the zone blocking scheme
  • Hard worker

Cons:

  • 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.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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26 Responses to “According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Offensive Tackles”

  1. Pete Kliman says:

    Thompson should let someone else pick the O line. because it’s one of the few areas that he has drafted poorly.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Well to his credit, Bryan Bulaga looked pretty decent as a rookie and all the other picks could be considered serious developmental projects

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  2. STERLING84 says:

    This is just an AWFUL year for offensive tackles. The value isn’t there at #32. Even a guy like Nate Solder…who COULD develop….is too risky a pick. If you want to go with risk, go after a guy like Jimmy Smith who you can at least see is PHYSICALLY ready to play in the NFL at this time. Our coaching staff has not developed an O-Lineman yet….so we should not get a developmental prospect and HOPE that he turns out. Carimi, Costanzo, Solder, etc. They are all shots in the dark. GO A DIFFERENT DIRECTION TT!! GET A GUY THAT ISN’T A BIG GAMBLE!!
    Please Remember: JOHN MICHELS

    We won the super bowl in 1996 and relaxed…we drafted a developmental prospect that was light in the shorts at Tackle. LEARN FROM OUR HISTORY!

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      It’s not AWFUL, but it certainly the weakest year in a while for the OTs. No sure things in my book, except possibly Tyron Smith, but even he will take a year or two.

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  3. PackersRS says:

    Colledge was a tackle at Boise State when he was drafted. So was Marshal Newhouse at TCU. Don’t they count?

    As for OLinemen in general, I”ve noticed a shift, from the more agile guys (Barbre, Giacomini, Colledge, Spitz, Sitton) to the bigger, more run-blocking types lately (T.J. Lang, Bulaga, Newhouse).

    Not only that, but lately we have employed more man-blocking plays. I think MM recognized that without Jagodzinski, there was noone capable of teaching the ZBS, so he’s shifting from it gradually.

    If I’m correct, the traits you’ve spotted regarding the draft can’t be used…

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    • FireMMNow says:

      I think if there is one player on our roster that we need to develop this year it is Newhouse. He is our best bet to be our LT for the next decade. MM is high on him, but this is a big year. Lang did not take the step this year, we need newhouse to do it.

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      • PackersRS says:

        I thought they projected him as our LG of the future, with Lang being the RT and Bulaga the LT…

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          Initially yes, but he showed he has the quick feet for LT, so they want to take a real good look at him there. Needs to keep getting stronger…

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Yah I realize that would be a point of contention, since it seems like when Thompson drafts an offensive lineman, what they played in college doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be projected to play that position in the NFL. I’m pretty sure Colledge was drafted as a guard, and Newhouse was tackle/guard prospect but it seemed like he got slotted as a guard during training camp.

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  4. FireMMNow says:

    I AGREE STERLING 84! okay enough with the caps. there is not a single OT in this draft that looks like a lock to come in and start at LT. all of the guys have potential to do it, but they also have major question marks.

    Tyron Smith: if he is such a dynamic athlete why does he look heavy footed and play RT at USC.

    Nate Solder: decent feet, but weak as hell.

    Carimi: grittiest guy in the bunch and super experienced but looks like he has the feet of a RT. speed on the edges gives him trouble.

    ijalana: great arm length but is short overall and played at villanova. every OT that gets drafted would look good against Montana.

    Castonzo: WEAK

    Sherrod: No idea. Do not know anything about the guy to be honest.

    Too many question marks for me. OTs have such a small margin for error. To take one in the first round I would have to be really confident. If a LB is a quarter step slow you can cover it up. If your LT is a quarter step slow Rodgers gets his eggs scrambled and the season is over.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      One interesting thing about this draft does seem to be that there isn’t a clear cut ordering of the tackles this year. Or at least the draft analysts are all over the place, though the actual teams might all be in accordance with each other, who knows. Actually this might play into the favor of the Packers a little bit, at 32 the Packers are hoping someone falls and with the mess at tackles someone might be there. Also keep in mind that a offensive tackle probably isn’t going to be asked to be the starter right away, Clifton probably has enough to at least start the season.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I like Sherrod a lot. he may be the most NFL-ready, after Carimi. I also like James carpenter from Alabama. I would not uses a #1 on an OT this year. Look for someone in rounds 2-3 that could be just as good as the first rounders.

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  5. QUERY85 says:

    anyone from Millikin University going to get drafted this year? I hope not, I am a legend back there still.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Well no players from Milikin University were invited to the combine and I can’t find anything about a pro day so you can probably rest easy.

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  6. Abe Jaroszewski says:

    I don’t think the Packers dislike the tall tackles as much as the good ones don’t last until where the Packers have been picking recently; in the 20s. An OL that I like around 32 is Sherrod from MSU.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Keep in mind that your quarterback has to be able to throw over and even more importantly look over his offensive line, and Aaron Rodgers is a little bit on the small size at 6’2″ and if you have a 6’7″ or 6’8″ lineman in front of him, he might have trouble seeing over him even with the tackle bending.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I think Sherrod is one of those guys teams are not talking about because they all hope he drops to them. I like him as much as anyone except Smith, long-term…

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  7. M.O. Richardson says:

    TT should take the best OL available and not take an OT just to take an OT. The Pouncey kid would be great at 32 if still available. Packers OL would be instantly better with him guard and then he could take over for Wells. He might even be athletic enough to play OT if needed.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I agree, Thompson says he picks the player based on value, so he wouldn’t pick an offensive linemen just to pick an offensive linemen. Pouncey would be a good pick, though I don’t think many predict that he will be available at 32 and I haven’t heard of anyone trying him out at tackle either.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Matt Bowen was saying last night on CheeseheadRadio that at 32, you could end up with the #1 interior lineman in the draft. I could see that, with Colledge probably gone and Wells getting older.

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    • Ken says:

      Pouncey will never get past the Steelers.

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  8. Yoop says:

    The majority of Olinemen TT has either drafted or signed have been tackles in college. Bulaga, Sitton, McDonald, Lang, Deitrich-Smith, Newhouse, Campbell all were Tackles, Sitton was the only RT all the rest were LT’s.
    IMO the most promising RT on the team is Campbell.
    He has the size for a RT at 6-5 328#, another small school prospect that was lacking strength more then anything at the NFL level.
    Interior McDonald is very much a Sitton clone.
    I see McDonald pushing for a starting job either at LG and Center all depends on where they want to put him.
    He spent the entire season going against Raji day in day out and was praised time and again by MM.
    They will have enough competition at the interior spots with the players all ready on the team.
    I’m not really a big fan of Lang, I don’t know where he fits, do not like his play at LG at all, and he is NOT a LT in the NFL. Only way we are going to see if he is a RT is to see him play there more.
    Smith is the best LT prospect in the draft. Carimi is a NFL RT, Solder is the closest to a prototypical LT and well worth developing.
    NONE of those players will come close to make it to #32.
    The only LT prospect that will come close is Derek Sherrod and I don’t think he is worth a #32. IMO there will be more players rated higher at other positions.
    I would look at Brewer from Indiana in the second, other than that find a LT you like and develop him late in the draft or sign as a UDFA.
    The pickings on LT’s in this draft is the worst maybe ever.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Hello Yoop, good to see you again. I know this is your favorite time of year… Agree with most of what you said, but disagree on Sherrod. I think he can be a very good left tackle. I would have to seriously consider him at 32, but it depends on who else is there.

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  9. Yoop says:

    I think Sherrod would be a good LT prospect, I just think there will be more higher rated players at #32.

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  10. Dick King says:

    Everything depends on Cullen Jenkins ! If he leaves, the packers should use the first 2 picks on defense. Reed olb Arizona and and DE. They pick an offensive lineman in the 3rd round.
    Thompson may trade down to aquire extra picks in the 2nd and 3rd round,

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  11. [...] For further reading, check out “According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Offensive Tackles” and “Offensive Interior Lineman” by Thomas Hobbes. *** —————— Chad Toporski, a [...]

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