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Analyzing the Top Tier Offensive Tackles in 2012 NFL Draft | The DC Times

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Analyzing the Top Tier Offensive Tackles in 2012 NFL Draft

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Justin Shoemaker

Editor’s Note: A few days ago, we had an article published in the Dallas Observer which argued why Doug Free should be moved to guard.  In addition to his contract being a sunk cost and rookie right tackle Tyron Smith being ready to make the switch to the left side, there will also (likely) be a top tier offensive tackle available for Dallas with the 14th overall selection.  While the team needs all the help it can get on defense, selecting an OT in the first round would instantly upgrade two positions.  DCT contributor Justin Shoemaker took some time to analyze the top three offensive tackle prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Matt Kalil (USC)

– sole reason Tyron Smith played right tackle for USC

-incredible footwork and very nimble for a  6’7” guy. . .has the size to dominate in the power running game but the quickness to get out on counters, tosses and screens

– very comparable to Joe Thomas and Jake Long. . .has tools to be All-Pro

– unless Dallas moves up, he will be out of reach (likely No. 2 overall)

– Note from Jonathan: When I began studying Tyron Smith last year, I just assumed he was a left tackle.  After a couple plays I realized the player I was reviewing was white, so I had a pretty good idea I wasn’t watching Smith.  I kept watching, though, because that player (Kalil) was absolutely dominant.  I can say I wholeheartedly believe Kalil is the top offensive tackle prospect I have seen. . .ever.  He’s superior to Thomas and Long, in my opinions, and he will be an All-Pro for a decade.

Jonathan Martin (Stanford)

– has protected Andrew Luck, but may have looked better than reality due to Luck’s quick release (in much the same way Peyton Manning has made his average line look elite)

– surprisingly better in run blocking than pass protection

– versatile enough to play RT or LT; can set the edge, but still has agility to get to second level

– can play aggressively and with an attitude at times, but then becomes defensive and gives up too much ground to the pass rusher.

– seems to struggle when matched up on nine-technique players or 3-4 outside linebackers; thrives against “power” seven or five-technique rushers

– still has plenty of room to improve technique; would be instant upgrade over Free, even at right tackle

Riley Reiff (Iowa)

-typical Big 10 lineman, which means everyone loves the run blocking ability. . .will have more knocks on his pass protection

-can get a little stiff and awkward in both run blocking and pass protection; not a natural athlete like Kalil or Martin

-great awareness of the pocket and pushing the defender beyond it; will let defenders rush themselves out of play

-could be beast in various run blocking schemes, but may not fit as well for the Cowboys if they plan to incorporate more “finesse” runs with Murray and Jones

– no quit attitude until the whistle blows, play contagious to teammates (he’s a Marc Colombo with skill)

-very much like fellow Hawkeye Bryan Bulaga,

– probably not enough value at No. 14

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8 Responses to Analyzing the Top Tier Offensive Tackles in 2012 NFL Draft

  1. Vince_Grey says:

    Unless you could land a Kalil, meaning an almost certain future All-Pro, I wouldn’t even consider an O-lineman at 14. Now, if we traded down a bit (Later in the 1st, NOT out of the 1st) and picked up another 2nd, or a future 1st, then that is a viable option.

  2. Mont Seventeen says:

    This is the problem with Jerry… he over evaluates his talent particularly his draft picks . In todays NFL that problem is 2 fold, salary cap implication and drafting. From day 1 the Valley Ranch sales office has billed Doug Free as the starting LT, this assertion was skeptical among fans that wondered if he was good enough to play LT in the future why isn’t he good enough to play OG for what Romo-Lovers call the worse Oline in history.

    This development of Free forced the Cowboys to make a decision on a free agent with only a hand full of starts on his resume. Not truly knowing what they had in Free, a poor move that was painfully obvious after Free performance v. Top pass rushers. I’m willing to bet every LT signing a 2cd contract in the NFL, has had more starts than Doug Free at the time of signing, every one!

    Conventional Jerry-logic has him moving Tron to LT and Free to RT, but if Free gets beat at LT, it almost assured defenses will wear him out at RT too. The Iggs wide 9, the Skins have Orakpo and Kerrigan, the Gs have 4 or 5 guys that crack up when the see Doug Free’s foot work. Drafting a top tier OT at 14 only makes perfect sense based on the NFC east opponents and what Jerry expects from the money pit known as a Romo-friendly offense.

    As stated above moving Free to OG is the obvious move, but anyone that knows how Jerry runs this organization knows that’s not happening, Jerry will save face. Jerry being able to come to grips with that kind of money to the Oline, is a tall order. This is the same GM that witnessed the 07 Gs steal his Super Bowl appearance away with a pass-rush that dominated Tom Brady in his prime. He responds with a 50 million and a 1st and 3rd for Roy, a “Special Teams draft”, a 4th round OG playing LT, an injury prone RB bc he shares his last name. Dont forget an undrafted FA starting center, Marty B with a 2cd rounder, Derrick Dockery (who? The dude cut by the Skins) and another over-rated WR and another injury prone RB. But I digress…

    But, luckily for the Jerry apologist, Jerry may not get a shot at Martin or the Iowa kid at 14, too many teams in front of Jerry with very young QBs. But if they do drop, does anyone really see Jerry moving his 4th round gem to OG? With his recent track record?

    So not only did Jerry pay overpay an inexperienced OG to play LT, he will likely pass on a highly ranked OT to play the overpaid OG out of position. All the while his supporters will defend him and his cap management, if you wanna call it management.

    The worst part as fans, we don’t really know if Free can play OG, besides his play his development suggest otherwise. The years when Kosier was hurt, Davis was out to lunch, Montrae was useless and everyone and their mother crying ab the Oline, Free rode the pine. Great!

    Who knows if Free can play RT or OG, according to Jerry he is a LT but unfortunately Jerry is almost always wrong on talent evaluations and competitions for a position at Valley Ranch have always been American Idol format, and from what I understand, Doug Free can carry a tune.

    But seriously, Jerry wouldnt be such a train wreck at GM if he stopped trying to one up the ghost of Landry and Jimmy on draft day. What he doesn’t realize is Landry and Jimmy had 12 rounds to get creative, in a 7 round draft you can’t take risk on guys like Quincy Carter, AOA and Isaiah Stanback EVERY SINGLE YEAR! Jerry exacerbates the problem by taking risks on these projects with high draft picks, and ppl wonder how you go from a young 13-3 to only 1 playoff win the next 5 seasons.

    The silver lining in all of this, the harder Jerry tries to take credit he created the 90s Cowboys the more its sooooo painfully obvious he had nothing to do with it outside of signing paychecks and saying “yes Jimmy!”.

    I wish you luck young Cowboy fans!

  3. Rick says:

    How, exactly, do we know that Doug Free would be an effective guard? He had a bad season but neither his body nor his skillset changed. He’s still a tackle.

    If they draft a lineman 14th overall, it should be David DeCastro.

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    To Vince, I don’t get the argument of NOT drafting an O lineman higher than 14.

    If you look back in history, since 1988 there has been an at least 1 OT drafted in the 1st 14 picks of every single draft; in all a total of 41 OTs drafted in that timeframe. Of that 41, 21 have been to a Pro Bowl – that’s more than 1/2. Of those that went, many have been to multiple pro bowls. On the contrary, of ALL the other OTs drafted pick 15 and beyond, of which there were several, only 19 made pro bowl appearances (according to Pro-Football Reference.com). Reiff, Kalil and Martin are all worthy of a pick in the top 14 (Kalil especially).


    Completely agree about JJ and overating players. Doug Fre is an OG if I’ve ever seen one. You could put him at LT or RT or even FB or DT and he might do OK, but that won’t make him a natural at those other positions. What makes him an OG is his style of play, footwork and arm length. Free is by all means a “finesse” blocker in that he uses leverage more than strength. Leverage is more effective vs. heavier, slower players (like DTs) than it is vs. quicker, lighter players (like DEs and OLBs).

    Finesse blocking emphasizes hand placement (essentially holding the defensive players jersey which is LEGAL if the hands are in the correct position) and maintaining contact w/ the player while directing him with twisting/contorting the opponent by making them off-balance. This requires strength but not as much as just grabbing a guy and driving him back by pure force. Tyron Smith is also a finesse blocker but what makes him better is is hand size (which is substantially larger), arm length (which is 1′ larger – that’s quite a bit of difference) but most important, his FOOTWORK. Tyron has MUCH quicker fee than Free.

    Plus, we’ve all seen Free’s pullling abilities. Dallas’ often has the LT or RT pull – this is mainly due to the Free and Smith being faster than the OGs (which is usually not the case). Free is excellent at standing up for a 3 pt stance, turning his hips parallel to the line of scrimmage, sprinting out wide and finding the 1st guy to cross his face (LB, DB) and mauling them.

    Doug Free is a Guard, plain and simple.

  5. Tom H says:

    Doug Free would have at some point in his time with the Cowboys played at G if he could have. The coaches never put him in after flirting with the idea in the off-season on year (i forget which), instead the let him sit on the bench. I don’t see why anyone would assume he can play guard now. But we do know he looked pretty good when he filled in at RT the season Colombo broke his leg. Tackles are more valuable (they are paid more) so to play him inside where he has never shown any ability to play, but has shown himself to be capable of playing well at RT, wouldn’t be maximizing his talent. Draft RG DeCastro (can’t miss prospect who can play from Day 1)
    And put Free, a natural OT back at RT where he will face less top tier pass rushers, and get more help from the TE if needed.

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    Tyrone – I don’t have any issues with drafting a T at 14 or higher (Little too high for a G or C), but I do in THIS case because (a) we have a viable RT in Free, (b) we just spent a high 1st on an OT last year, and (c) we desperately need defensive help, specifically DL and pass rushing OLB’s. DB’s as well.

    With all our supposed O-line issues last season, we moved the ball very well and scored well, especially when we had Murray in there running. We can get another solid G in free agency fairly cheap, or a great G in Nicks if we want to spend the cheese.

    But our defense has been atrocious these past two seasons.

  7. Mont Seventeen says:

    I understand why ppl want to draft Decastro, he is low hanging fruit. This team has too many resources on O to draft a OG in the first round. Decastro is closer to Danny Watkins than he is Steve Hutchinson, I think drafting decastro is a luxury. If Jerrys Team was better I could see spending a 1 on a OG…

    I will say this Decastro play in his Bowl game was less than stellar… I think he gets a lot of hype from playing with Luck.

    I think the huge OT Ohio state would be perfect, his stock is going to explode after the Senior Bowl.

  8. Mont Seventeen says:

    Bunch of intriguing OT prospects at the Senior Bowl, the kid from Iowa State looks like a freak! I like the kid from Ohio state but he looks slow and is ineffective in the 3pt stance… But worth a look.

    For the decastro fans out there, take a look at the kid from Wisconsin, unlike Decastro he can play center and will not command a first rounder.

    I know most fans like to grab the low hanging fruit but I see the problems at center more of an issue at OG… Granted both OGs need to be upgraded but getting the QB a consistent shotgun snap would do wonders.

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