Upon recently reading Michael Lewis’ bestselling book The Blind Side, about the improbable rise of now Baltimore Raven offensive tackle Michael Oher that was the basis of the popular movie of the same name that inexplicably won Sandra Bullock an Academy Award, two things came to my mind.
Who’s Jesse James and why did he give Sandra Bullock the clap?
(My other line was going to be “After seeing Sandra Bullock at the Oscars maybe she should start to watch her Blind Side” because her butt looked kinda big in that dress).
I actually haven’t seen the movie yet, but I enjoyed the book despite Michael Lewis’ story writing occasionally tip-toeing into Afterschool Special territory. But while the Oher story is remarkable, what I most enjoyed was the sort of Cliffs Notes version that Lewis gives about the rise of the “Left Tackle” in professional football and how this once interchangeable part of an offensive line has now become the 2nd most important (and 2nd highest paid) position on most teams right behind the quarterback. This is largely credited to the transcendent play of former New York Giant and “Any Given Sunday” star Lawrence Taylor. He was so dominant, so feared, so unstoppable coming from the quarterbacks “Blind Side” that teams had to begin looking for that rare athlete who could both handle the strength and power needed to be an offensive lineman but also have the agility and quickness to stop the likes of Taylor and his subsequent brethren Derrick Thomas, Andre Tippett, Ricky Jackson, Chris Doleman and on and on and on. (Somewhat ironically, Oher actually plays Right Tackle for the Ravens, with Left Tackle being handled fairly capably by Jared Gaither).
BK was on the left tackle bandwagon long before Michael Lewis even knew how to spell “Left Tackle” (true story, he literally had a mental block which did not allow him to type the word “left” and “tackle” right after one another and it wasn’t until his wife and former MTV News Hottie Tabitha Soren kicked him in his left nut sack that he finally was able to overcome his trepidation and write the book).
BK was always looking for the New York Giants, and for that matter virtually any other team, to “Take the Tackle” as he liked to say. “Take the Tackle” became BK’s third favorite phrase behind “I’ll have El Pollo sans the loco please” and “What does $40 get me?”
This obsession primarily began when BK pushed hard for the Giants to draft a tackle in the 1st round of 1999. They did, but according to BK, they drafted the wrong tackle when they selected Luke Pettigout from Notre Dame with the 19th pick, passing on Eastern Michigan’s L.J. Shelton and Wisconsin’s Aaron Gibson. This enraged BK who openly questioned Giants upper management. “Someone needs to tell me how they can justify this pick. It defies all known forms of logic.” When Pettigout was moved to guard to start the season and eventually was replaced all together by late round pick Mike Rosenthal, also from Notre Dame but unlike Pettigout, probably Jewish, this seemed to cement in BK’s mind the error of the Giants ways – although he had to admit the Giants offensive line was acting in a much more fiscally responsible manner after Rosenthal became a starter.
Pettigout was never great but he would develop into a decent left tackle and had a more consistent career than the bounced around L.J. Shelton or the literally obese Gibson, who ballooned up to over 400 lbs. while still in the NFL.
But perhaps what’s most interesting about that year is the best tackle to be drafted was Jon Jansen from Michigan was who selected by the Redskins in the 2nd round and behind 6 other tackles. While the first overall tackle selected that year (BYU’s John Tait, selected 14th by the Chiefs) also had some good years in the league that 1999 draft also may have been the beginning of teams coming up with the idea that an offensive lineman – even the all important left tackle – could be “taught” how to excel in their position and that expending an early round pick on a tackle might be wasteful.
BK doesn’t buy into that theory which is why in 2004 he felt the Giants should strongly consider moving up not to draft Eli Manning or even Philip Rivers – but Robert Gallery, the can’t miss left tackle from Iowa who – well missed and was looking like the next Tony Mandarich before eventually being mercifully moved to guard where he became serviceable.
And BK isn’t alone in his thinking. Andre Smith was drafted 6th last year despite all sorts of red flags of an Aaron Gibson like career. And the year previous to that 7 tackles were drafted in the first round including the likes of USC’s Chris Baker who some folks didn’t have coming off their board until the 3rd round.
However, the growing counter argument isn’t that high-round draft picks spent on tackles all turn out to be wastes a la Mike Williams by the Bills in 2002, but rather they don’t necessarily turn out to be better than players drafted much lower.
So I decided to take a look at the Top 15 Offensive Tackles in the NFL according to RealScouts and where they were selected in the draft:
- Ryan Clady (1)
- Walter Jones (1)
- Jason Peters (Undrafted)
- Joe Thomas (1)
- Michael Roos (2)
- Jordan Gross (1)
- Jamal Brown (1)
- Jake Long (1)
- Chris Samuels (1)
- Chad Clifton (2)
- Flozell Adams (2)
- Bryant McKinnie (1)
- Jared Gaither (5 – Supplemental)
- David Diehl (5)
- Matt Light (2)
Now we can debate some of the rankings, but the bottom line is – BK is right. Sure you can look at a high pick like D’Brickashaw Ferguson as being just merely acceptable, but the truth is that Jason Peters is really the exception that proves the rule. Spending a high pick on a tackle can prove to be one of the best investments a team can make.
Heading into 2010, we don’t have a tackle who excites people the way Orlando Pace did in 1997. Then again, not many offensive tackles could make pancakes like Orlando.
Ironically enough, Orlando’s Denver Omelette…not so strong.
But we do have a decent group to choose from.
Russell Okung from Okie State has become the universally top overall rated Offensive Tackle in the draft and let me tell you, I’ll take the 38 reps he did at the combine with me to battle each and every time. But my studying of Okung yields a good not great player. Maybe a Jordan Gross type. Not a baked potato with melted cheese, onions and chili but a solid spud with a nice light sour cream and some fresh chives.
Speaking of chives, Bryan Bulaga went to the University of Iowa where they don’t believe in chives because they think it can be grown into fuel and could threaten the need for ethanol. The reason they think this is because most people in Iowa are crazy. But not as crazy as any NFL GM who thinks the oft-injured Bulaga will be able to stay healthy over the course of a grueling NFL season. Injury-plagued linemen scare me more than Filipino Jehovah Witnesses and not just because they both speak Tagalog. I watched Bulaga closely at the combines and I wanted to see something more. I found his athleticism to be average and I think he benefited from a run-heavy, weak Big Ten this year. Worth a grab in round 2 in my opinion, but he’ll likely go in the Top 15 picks.
I’m going to stick with Okung as my #1 overall guy, but I like Trent Williams from Oklahoma quite a lot. Sure, Sam Bradford got smacked around a couple games this year but Williams was solid in play and he’s got left tackles skillz! A sub 5.0 40 at the combine, a solid 20-yard shuttle with broad and vertical jumps that you will write home to mommy about. Sure, his 23 reps are a little concern but take a look at his play. The biggest knock on Williams is he struggles with speed rushers but the physicals seem to indicate that may be more a matter of him refining his technique than an innate inability to handle an NFL caliber pass rush. Not unlike a Suburu, it took a while for those feisty folks to fully develop their models but now they have cars that rock a moderately wild party. Trent Williams is a Subaru Forester.
We’ll wrap it up by focusing on my man and running buddy Anthony Davis from Rutgers. At 6’5″, 323lbs. and coming out of pro-set offense, Anthony Davis looked poised to be a top 15 pick. But as anyone who’s seen “Jersey Shore” knows sometimes One Punch and the Snookie goes down.
Davis’ “Andre Smith” like performance at the Combines didn’t help someone who was already considered a little less intense than is ideal for an offensive tackle. He was slow and let’s face it, I can’t be walking in the back alleys of Point Pleasant with a guy who can only give me 21 on the reps. Sure he jumps pretty high which should come in handy when he needs to jump up on the stage at the many strip bars he’ll no doubt frequent after he gets to the league, but when he didn’t show-up to his own Pro-Day that just brought up more questions about the maturity of a player already leaving school a year early.
My issue with Bulaga is that he’s just too injury prone to take high – but with Davis someone probably will take him in the 2nd round but I wouldn’t go higher than mid 3rd.
BK’s anger over the Pettigout selection has never completely subsided even though he admits the Giants really “dodged a bullet” by not drafting either Shelton or Gibson. What upsets him isn’t that the Giants could have gone after Jon Jansen, one of the few tackles who had some success handling Michael Strahan in his prime. It was more a matter of principle. He can except the fact that Robert Gallery busted out as he clearly was blinded by Gallery’s long-flowing mane and ultimate fighter demeanor. But with Pettigout it was about value. BK still believes if the Giants really wanted Luke he might have still hung around for them in the 2nd. Even after Pettigout left the Giants as a free-agent to go to the Bucs and the G-Men endured a frightening season with Ian Allen at tackle (called by one scout “the worst offensive tackle I’ve ever seen”) BK didn’t completely relent. “Allen sucks cock,” resigned BK, “but having Luke out of there just takes a load off my shoulders I’ve been carryng for nearly a decade.” BK even grew back a 1/16″ of hair after Pettigout’s departure.
TOP 24 TACKLES
1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
Solid on the field, solid with his DDI and his BK-o-Meter don’t suck either
2. Trent Williams, Oklahoma
DDI is off the charts and the BK-o-Meter registers him high too. He’s a
good kick-step away from Pro Bowl stardom
3. Charles Brown, USC
Good physicals, high DDI, comes from a pro-set and he doesn’t have to deal with Lucy pulling away the ball anymore
Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Even if he stays healthy and despite high BK-o-Meter, this DDI points to an average player
Rodger Safford, Indiana
Good player at Indiana with a decently high BK-o-Meter but his DDI isn’t that great because Indiana linemen aren’t tough enough for me. I’m basing this on one single player – Eric Moore – back in the late 80’s.
Bruce Campbell, Maryland
Great physicals – so impressive that he’s jumped to the #2 OT position on some boards. 34 reps, a sub 5.0 40 and a decent 20-yard shuttle time certainly pushes up a BK-o-Meter but DDI is low because I need more actual field performance. More raw than Sushi Pho, I don’t know if I’ve got the time to wait.
Anthony Davis, Rutgers
Sometimes after one punch the kid goes down.
Selvish Capers, West Virginia
I hope when he gets to the NFL he changes his name to Selfish and then donates his entire first year salary to charity. Now that would be ironic.
Marshall Newhouse, TCU
If Jason Smith can make it, Marshall Newhouse can’t be terrible. Decent DDI, not particularly high BK-o-Meter but TCU moved the ball most of the year (except against Boise State) and guys named Newhouse always have solid fundamentals.
Jason Fox, Miami (FL)
Low DDI as I’m not sold on this guy, but it’s all there for him to make it in the league.
Ciron Black, LSU
3rd team All-American in good (albeit run-based) program. He’s slow, but so was that girl who played the lead in Precious and she received an Oscar nomination so a 3rd round pick for Black and a starting right tackle in 3 years seems plausible.
Tony Washington, Abilene Christian
I’ve got a feeling on Tony Washington and give him a high DDI because in “The Blind Side” the guy who first took care of Michael Oher was named “Big Tony” and this guy’s named Tony and at 6-6, 311 he’s pretty big too.
Sam Young, Notre Dame
He’s almost 6-8 and spent a lot of time pass blocking so the upside should be there creating a high DDI despite a low BK-o-Meter.
Kyle Calloway, Iowa
Talk about slow, he makes Ciron Black look like Marion Jones pre-positive drug test – OH SNAP! Plus he doesn’t jump as long as Marion Jones does pre- or post-positive drug test. OH DOUBLE SNAP!
Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale
I’m skeptical about these NFL Combine athletic freaks. 6’8, 5.09 40 with 32 reps, a 33 inch vert and 9+ horizontal and 20-yard shuttle time that quite frankly made me pee in my pants. But I did have a lot of coffee that day. I just don’t know if he can make such a big leap in competition.
Ed Wang, Virginia Tech
Eugene Chang proved you can make it as an offensive lineman with an Asian last name in the NFL.
Derek Hardman, Eastern Kentucky
Lots of funny lines for Derek if he makes the league and starts visiting strip bars with Anthony Davis. “Can I make you hard Mr. Man” – “I already am hardman ma’am”. Alright, that was lame but it’s getting late.
Zane Beadles, Utah
Speaking of Strip Bars, I once knew a girl name Zane B (can’t say the full last name) and she was the model for the sign at Sam’s Hoff Brau in downtown Los Angeles. In an unrelated story, Zane Beadles is an OT from Utah who only pulled off 20 reps at the Combine.
Drew Davis, Alabama
He started on a line that won the national championship. Possible Sleeper.
Kevin Haslem, Rutgers
Gutty like his name sake, Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem, and from the fighting Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The intangibles raise his DDI which is good because his BK-o-Meter is nearly non-existent after he was too tired to run a 2nd 40 at his pro day. Then again when you blister a 40 at 5.65 you’d be tired too.
Kevin Landolt, Penn State
Can hard work and solid technique find itself a home in the NFL. Well we may find out with one Kevin Landolt, a third-team All-American who doesn’t know what the word “quit” means. Literally, he was given social promotions all throughout high school and doesn’t actually know the definition of the word “quit”…or “start” either which could make coaching him up difficult.
Kyle Jolley, North Carolina
Unimpressive Combine put him down down down on the BK-o-Meter but he’s got good technique and held his own in the getting better ACC.
Mike Tepper, California
He’s a player who’s strong and has size and smarts all of which pump up his DDI. He’s slow and lacks some athleticism but there’s a place for him.
Chris Scott, Tennessee
Not a bad player at UT, but his physicals don’t add up at all to an NFL career. Low DDI and BK-o-Meter
BK’s LUCKY NUMBER 25
Casey Knips, South Dakota State
Although BK is still bitter after the voters ousted Tom Daschle, Knips has got room to grow in his 6’8 frame and a nearly svelt 300. A potential Scott Gragg, BK is salivating at what he would have done at the combines – BK-o-Meters predicts 29 reps.