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    In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Separating the Elite OT Prospects of the 2009 NFL Draft
    by Sigmund Bloom on 02/08/09

    After a first round that saw no less than seven offensive tackles go off the board last year, we could see a run of tackles in the top half of the first this year that rivals 1985 (four in the top 12 picks including Lomas Brown, Jim Lachey, and Ken Ruettgers—and one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, Kevin Allen) and 1992 (four in the top 13, led by Bob Whitfield). Many factors have converged to create this possibility - the dearth of franchise players at other positions, the massive success of the Miami Dolphins offense last year after they went with LT Jake Long at #1 overall, similar success stories in Denver (Ryan Clady at #12), Carolina (Jeff Otah at #19), and Atlanta (Sam Baker at #21), and most of all, the high quality of the top four offensive tackle prospects this year. Even the second tier of offensive tackle prospects includes at least two players who could break into the first, so back to back years with seven tackles in the first 32 picks is not out of the question (although arguably Branden Albert made it eight last year). For now, we’ll focus on the elite top tier and answer the question “What separates them as NFL talents, and how will teams value them in relation to each other?”

    Body Type
    Eugene Monroe - Monroe is right off the assembly line - around 6’5” 315, with long arms and well-distributed bulk. His lower body could be a little thicker to anchor better, and his midsection could be tighter, but one look at Monroe tells you why Virginia kept 2008 first round pick Branden Albert at guard.
    Jason Smith - Smith is another in a long line of players who come to college as a TE and leave as a LT, and he looks the part. At 6’5” 305, he’s got room to bulk up, but he’s got the long-limbed, well proportioned frame of an NFL LT.
    Michael Oher - Oher is another prototype at 6’5” 309 (and good, but not exceptional 33 1/4” arms), and his numbers are confirmed pre-combine, since he showed up for Senior Bowl week in Mobile.
    Andre Smith - One of these things is definitely not like the others, and it’s Andre Smith’s 6’4” 330-340 frame. He’s top heavy, and carrying a lot of extra weight around the middle. He’s also got shorter than ideal arms (let’s see what the combine measurements reveal), and the thick thighs of a interior lineman.

    Athleticism
    Jason Smith - Smith is the king here. He still moves with the quickness and burst of a skill player, even though he’s in the trenches. There’s no doubt that his speed and coordination are very rare in left tackle sized young men.
    Eugene Monroe - Monroe is no slouch when it comes to overall athleticism. He has great feet to mirror speed rushers inside and outside, and he can move well enough to find targets at the second level. He’s very quick and agile out of his stance and fits the elite prospect profile.
    Michael Oher - Oher might have the most explosive phone-booth quickness of this group. He pops into his stance and he can mirror the elite speed rushers with ease. Oher is also basically ideal in this category, but he gets a slight asterisk, because he seems to have the most trouble consistently harnessing his natural athleticism with good technique.
    Andre Smith - The key word here is surprising. Smith is surprisingly quick out of his stance vs. the run, quick to get to the second level, nimble in his deep kick slide to mirror speed rushers, all of which looks a bit strange because of his body type. Smith is not a rare specimen like the other three elite OT prospects, but there’s no doubt that there’s plenty of athleticism, and one could argue that even though he’s not a supreme athlete, he gets the most out of his gifts. The knock on Smith is more aestethic than functional, but his quickness into his stance vs. the pass and lateral agility are negatives.

    Punch/Power/Strength/Aggressiveness
    Andre Smith - Smith staggers his opponent in pass pro and drives his opponent out of the play while run blocking more than any other elite OT prospect. He’s not consistently dominant, when he’s on, he blots out his opponent. Smith also seems to look to attack his opponent more than any of his peers. He’ll need to get more consistent using his punch in pass pro, but when it’s there, it’s the most impressive of this class.
    Michael Oher - Oher is plenty strong, he plays with a mean streak, and he’s probably the most fiery of this foursome. His punch can stop a rusher dead in his tracks, but Oher is very inconsistent in this department, relying more on his feet and frame to neutralize rush ends. Oher has great lower body strength that creates results in the run game, but usually only stalemates to slight wins instead of domination.
    Eugene Monroe - Monroe flashes the strength to jolt pass rushers and the push to make holes for RBs, but he’s not a combative mauler. If there’s any hole in Monroe’s game it’s here - he doesn’t always “take the game to his opponent” and could stand to play nastier and stronger.
    Jason Smith - Smith has a mean streak, but he’s played more of a finesse OT style in Baylor’s spread attack, so he’s a work in progress. He has to develop a stronger punch and more push in the run game, but he does display the gladiator mentality, even though his offensive scheme rarely asked him to be the aggressor.


    Run Blocking
    Andre Smith - Smith pushes defenders like they are mere blocking sleds in the run game - always keeping his legs churning. He finds targets at the second level and pushes them into the secondary, and usually he steers his opponent on the defensive line in whatever direction he wants. To put it simply, Smith creates holes for his running backs, and Alabama often ran behind him.
    Eugene Monroe - Much like his strength and fire, Monroe sometimes looks perfect, but sometimes looks merely average. He can drive second level targets into oblivion when he gets good leverage and drive, and when he senses his opponent is off balance, he usually finishes them. Monroe is not a liability as a run blocker, but he doesn’t consistently perform at a top level either.
    Michael Oher - This would have been a big hole for Oher if he had come out last year, but he made strides as a run blocker this year. He rarely dominates his opponent, but he’s at least neutralizing his opponents at the line of scrimmage and finding them at the second level and in open field.
    Jason Smith - Smith has not been asked to traditionally drive block out of a three point stance in the run game as often as his peers, so it’s unfair to evaluate him on the same terms. He does look like an ideal zone blocking scheme run blocker with his terrific movement and he looks the best of the group when pulling or trapping. He’s not a mauler, but he does put his man on the ground when he gets the opportunity - but when he doesn’t get his man off balance, they often elude him after the initial push, because Smith loses his base.

    Pass Blocking
    Eugene Monroe - Monroe has terrific feet to get into his pass blocking stance, and he uses them to mirror the speed rushers outside and recover when initially beaten. He generally uses his long arms to keep the pass rusher at bay, and he is strong enough to absorb most bullrushes without a problem. Monroe is also heady enough to recognize the blitz and switch smoothly on stunts and other plays when the defense challenges him to think on his feet. His technique is also the most polished of the elite four.
    Jason Smith - Smith is the best equipped to mirror the James Harrison and Demarcus Ware type “shot out of a gun” outside speed rusher. He’s so light on his feet that he’s easy to mistake for a tight end. Smith has played most of his career in a two point stance, so he moves very naturally in pass pro, although his technique is still very raw. Smith has Walter Jones/Orlando Pace upside as a pass blocker, but he’s still “under construction”.
    Michael Oher - Oher can pass block with the best of them. His sudden quickness for a man-mountain allows him to mirror speed rushers, and usually the battle is over once Oher gets his hands on his opponent. He can be beaten by savvy and quick handfighting and second moves, and some doubt his ability to adjust and win the mental battle in pass pro. Oher’s technique is inconsistent, and at times he gets off balance and beaten because he lunges and waist bends instead of moving his feet. He’ll also look clumsy in his kick step when he’s off.
    Andre Smith - Once again, the way Smith looks vs. the results of his play causes some cognitive dissonance. He doesn’t look cat quick, but there he is, mirroring the SEC’s top athletes at DE and rarely allowing a sack (just one this season). He recovers well when initially beaten (which happens because he’s not always quick into his stance), and Smith is nearly impossible to bullrush. You can catch Smith leaning and reaching for faster ends, which could become a bigger problem in the NFL. He’s very heady vs. the blitz and switching assignments and rivals Monroe in this area. Smith is exceptional when he’s sound, but inconsistent. Sometimes he looks like the best of this group, sometimes he looks like a guy with holes that will be exploited at the next level.

    Risk/Reward
    Eugene Monroe - This is another place where Monroe is head and shoulders above the rest of this group. Monroe looks to be at worst an adequate starter at LT with no glaring holes in his game. If he gets a little fire in his belly, he could come close to the elite Pace/Jones/Ogden level of play. He is the guy a GM can take and feel comfortable about his job security, and he’s also the most likely to have a Jake Long stabilizing impact on his new team.
    Andre Smith - Smith’s inconsistency, non-standard body-type, and whispers about his suspension from the Sugar Bowl being about more than his contact with an agent do cast a shadow over his draft stock. Weight issues can be an indicator of work ethic issues, so it would be nice to see him surprise by weighing in closer to 325 at the combine. On the flipside, Smith’s good tape is the most impressive of anyone in this class, and even if he doesn’t work out as a left tackle, he could be an all-pro guard.
    Jason Smith - Whether or not Jason Smith works out will likely depend on patience and how he is used. He’s somewhat similar to Ryan Clady in that he’s the type that should flourish in a zone blocking running game, and he has the athletic tools to hang right away in pass pro. He’s not as thick as Clady, but he’s got more natural aggression. You have to account for some bust risk because Smith only moved to left tackle while he was at Baylor, and he played in an offense that didn’t ask him to do the kinds of things he’ll have to do in the pros, but Clady’s instant success in Denver illustrates the upside of a player like Smith to offset the bust risk.
    Michael Oher - Oher probably has the widest risk/reward span in the class. Concerns about his intelligence have been raised, and one well-known draft expert said that “smoke comes out of his ears” when he has to change directions in pass pro. His background is unique - Oher was basically adopted at age 16 after a rough childhood and only really started playing football in his junior year of high school. It’s hard to anticipate how he will react to the pressures of the NFL, but on the other hand, he could definitely become the best of this group when the dust settles.


    The Verdict

    Note: The combine will likely cause the draft stock of some of this group to gain momentum and some to lose steam, and of course, there’s always more film review to be done, but here’s where they stand right now in my view:

    Eugene Monroe has to be the odds on favorite to go first in this group because of his high floor, even though he might have the lowest ceiling, and he’s ready to step in right away in just about any scheme - sounds like Jake Long, doesn’t it? I don’t expect Monroe to fall past Seattle even in the worst case scenario. Jason Smith is almost a sure thing to be off the board by the time the top 10 is chosen because of zone blocking teams like Green Bay and Oakland that could use a long term LT in that 7-10 range. Smith’s upside and rare athleticism could easily convince a top five team like Seattle or St. Louis to take him (assuming Monroe is off the board) if he interviews well and otherwise gains the confidence of NFL organizations during the combine and pre-draft workouts. Andre Smith should be third off the board, and I could see a team convincing themselves to take him second in this group, or maybe even first if he shows up at the combine in good shape and in top form. Any organization that values production over upside could favor the Alabama product, and I could see him going off the board as early as Seattle or Cincinnati, and no later than Jacksonville, unless major character concerns come up over the next few months. Oher could scare off teams in the top 10 if he doesn’t interview well, but players like him should not fall out of the top 20, and I would guess his slide stops around Washington (#13), Houston (#15), or San Diego (#16) in any scenario.


  2. #2
    Shan the Ram Man's Avatar
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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Nick
    I think the Lions take Eugene Monroe with the 1st pick. Lions take QB with 2nd first round pick. What do you think the Rams would do if Eugene Monroe is gone?
    Would they still go OT?

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Shan the Ram Man View Post
    Nick
    I think the Lions take Eugene Monroe with the 1st pick. Lions take QB with 2nd first round pick. What do you think the Rams would do if Eugene Monroe is gone?
    Would they still go OT?
    That scenario actually wouldn't surprise me; the Lions don't want to bust out with their pick, so they may target someone they perceive as being relatively safe. The thing I keep hearing about Monroe is "high ceiling," so he may be an option for them. Curry wouldn't surprise me either.

    As for who we'd take, it all depends on what our board looks like. Either of the Smiths become an option if they're high up there, or if Crabtree's at the top, he could be the pick. I don't see the Rams reaching for need either way, so it'll probably be someone at the top of their board or at least near it.

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick
    Either of the Smiths become an option if they're high up there
    Just for argument's sake, let's say after Combine and Pro Days, Andre S. projects to an interior lineman, and Jason S. really is as athletic as early results indicate. Does Jason S.'s fit for zone blocking deter the Rams from drafting him in their scheme?
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Separating the Elite OT Prospects of the 2009 NFL Draft
    by Sigmund Bloom on 02/08/09

    After a first round that saw no less than seven offensive tackles go off the board last year, we could see a run of tackles in the top half of the first this year that rivals 1985 (four in the top 12 picks including Lomas Brown, Jim Lachey, and Ken Ruettgers—and one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, Kevin Allen) and 1992 (four in the top 13, led by Bob Whitfield). Many factors have converged to create this possibility - the dearth of franchise players at other positions, the massive success of the Miami Dolphins offense last year after they went with LT Jake Long at #1 overall, similar success stories in Denver (Ryan Clady at #12), Carolina (Jeff Otah at #19), and Atlanta (Sam Baker at #21), and most of all, the high quality of the top four offensive tackle prospects this year. Even the second tier of offensive tackle prospects includes at least two players who could break into the first, so back to back years with seven tackles in the first 32 picks is not out of the question (although arguably Branden Albert made it eight last year). For now, we’ll focus on the elite top tier and answer the question “What separates them as NFL talents, and how will teams value them in relation to each other?”.
    I love how they related successs of these teams to drafting a OT as if no other factors contributed to the teams improvements.

    LETS START WITH MIAMI
    For example, Picking up a solid QB like Chad had nothing to do with it. How about a healthy Ronnie Brown and coaching staff who game planned using it's talent wisley? ie the WILDCAT...

    LETS LOOK AT THE FALCONS
    Picking up a Turner the Burner did not help. How about the play of the rookie QB. Finally, the break out of Mr. White???

    It takes more than just drafting a talented OT

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    Does Jason S.'s fit for zone blocking deter the Rams from drafting him in their scheme?
    Not if the Rams are confident he can add a bit of strength and bulk to improve his drive blocking, but it is something to watch out for. The fact that he's so aggressive might help him transition, but schematically it's not a perfect fit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominating D View Post
    It takes more than just drafting a talented OT
    It takes more than just drafting a talented ____________ as well. Fill in the blank with any position and your statement is still true. There isn't some magic position the Rams can draft that all by itself shifts this team from a two-win team to a ten-win team.

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Not if the Rams are confident he can add a bit of strength and bulk to improve his drive blocking, but it is something to watch out for. The fact that he's so aggressive might help him transition, but schematically it's not a perfect fit.
    If he shows up at the Combine around 315 and still moves well, he will have my attention.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    If he shows up at the Combine around 315 and still moves well, he will have my attention.
    Agreed. I'll also be anxious to see what he does on the bench. Last year, Clady showed up at 309 pounds but only managed 24 reps on the bench. That's not horrible, but personally I'd like to see something in the later 20s and early 30s if we're going to consider a guy.

    Then again, Smith has so much to work on in terms of pro technique that he's likely not going to get rushed on the field. While he's working on that, he'll also be working to get stronger if that turns out to be an issue, too.

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Great article Nick. Really enjoyed reading it. As a Brit it's tough to always have a good knowledge about draft prospects other than the typical "has long arms and a quick first step. Is explosive..." blah blah blah, but your article really fleshed out their skill sets and helped me understand how they all compare.

    Would you mind if I posted it on my Rams blog?? Referencing you as the author of course!

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Andre Smith - The key word here is surprising. Smith is surprisingly quick out of his stance vs. the run, quick to get to the second level,
    nimble in his deep kick slide to mirror speed rushers, all of which looks a bit strange because of his body type. Smith is not a rare specimen like the other three elite OT prospects, but there’s no doubt that there’s plenty of athleticism, and one could argue that even though he’s not a supreme athlete, he gets the most out of his gifts. The knock on Smith is more aestethic than functional, but his quickness into his stance vs. the pass and lateral agility are negatives.
    Great find NicK! Excellent read! The highlighted sentence confuses me a bit .. Should this read: The knock on Smith is more aesthetic than functional, but his lack of quickness into his stance vs. the pass and lack of lateral agility are negatives. What is confusing to me is that Mr Bloom states "he is nimble in his deep kick slide to mirror speed rushers, all of which looks a bit strange because of his body type." Isn't that lateral movement?
    Sure would like to be a fly on the wall when Billy and Spags rate these guys !!

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Weddle View Post
    Would you mind if I posted it on my Rams blog?? Referencing you as the author of course!
    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Separating the Elite OT Prospects of the 2009 NFL Draft
    by Sigmund Bloom on 02/08/09
    I'm not the author, just passing along the info as I come by it on my Web travels.

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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    I'm really disapointed Jason Smith didn't go to the Senior Bowl. He could have made himself the number 1 tackle to get drafted. I wanted to see him coming out of the 3 point stance in a pro style offense against elite competition. The combine really isn't doing that for me. As of right now Monroe is still my guy, unless we see something Spectacular from Jason Smith.

  13. #13
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    Re: In-depth examination of the top four offensive tackles

    He would have only hurt himself there IMO...he's probably working around the clock getting accustomed to a more pro style offensive line stance...he was smart to stay out of the game and let people just buzz about the guy from Baylor no one has actually seen play while he goes behind closed doors and works on what he needs to work on to get ready for the NFL workouts...

    I think Andre Smith is going to nose dive...I just have a feeling that he's going to get in front of those scouts and GM's at the Combine with his shirt off and get a bad reading of body fat in that cocoon looking thing...he reminds me too much of Shawn Andrews to think the Eagles wouldn't be interested in him if he drops down far enough...

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