Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top five NFL Draft 2013 offensive tackle prospects.
2013 Top 5 Offensive Tackles
The offensive tackle group is one of the deepest position groups in this year’s draft. There are at least 5-6 good young left tackles, along with a handful of quality right tackles. They typically are not the “sexy” pick most fans are drawn to, but a strong offensive line, led by dominant bookend tackles, can propel a woeful offense into a high-powered machine. The best example of this is the San Francisco 49ers. With Joe Staley and Anthony Davis as tackle and Mike Iupati in the interior, they quickly formed a new identity for their offense. Alex Smith went from a mediocre-type quarterback into an efficient, capable leader.
1. Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M): The Aggies had one of the best offensive lines in the country, with Luke Joeckel leading the way at the left tackle position. Joeckel was a man amongst boys in the SEC this past season, consistently shutting down the nation’s top pass rushers. At 6’6” and 306 lbs., he possesses the prototypical size and speed needed for an elite NFL offensive left tackle.
A durable player who started all 37 games of his career, Joeckel played in two different offensive systems in college. Under former head coach Mike Sherman, Joeckel played in a pro-style offense with current Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill under center. This past season, he played in a high-power spread offense with the mobile Johnny Manziel under center.
A physical blocker who is willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone, Joeckel is not just a finesse player. He can handle the bull rush with ease, quickly setting his anchor, re-engaging and holding his ground. He handles both speed- and power-rush moves and anticipates counter-rush moves.
He is a dominant run blocker, consistently opening up outside running lanes. Joeckel almost makes it look effortless in getting to the second level to make his blocks and has the ability to play in both man- and zone-blocking schemes.
Able to consistently handle pressure from some of the nation’s top pass rushers, he only gave up one sack and eight quarterback pressures all seasons.
His combination of strength and power, combined with the ability to handle different types of pass rushers, is reminiscent of current Houston Texan Duane Brown.
2. Lane Johnson (Oklahoma): Arguably the most athletic offensive tackle in this year’s draft class, Johnson impressed scouts at the Combine, where he finished in the top-5 in five of the drills. A former quarterback turned tight end, who was then moved to left tackle, Johnson has the athletic ability to handle even the nation’s most elite outside pass rushers.
Hi athletic ability is quickly seen in his run blocking; he sets up his block with little wasted movement, gets to the second level and picks up the block on a consistent basis.
He does a good job at using his hands to keep defenders at bay by picking them up when they cross his face. He is also effective at cut blocks, which a number of zone blocking teams use. Johnson is excellent in the screen game and able to quickly get into the second and third level, clearing a path for the ball carrier.
In his final college game against Texas A&M, Johnson shut out one of the nation’s top sack leaders in Damontre Moore. Moore had zero sacks and zero quarterback pressures throughout the game. Johnson also held Texas’s defensive end Alex Okafor, another top pass rusher, from recording any quarterback hurries or sacks this season. Johnson and his Oklahoma offensive lineman were 17th in the country in sacks allowed, giving up only 15 all season.
Johnson does tend to get a little high in blocks. At the snap, he sometimes wants to rise out of his stance versus letting his weight drop and resetting. His hand technique is solid, though he will need to work on his initial punch. With time, practice and training, he should become an elite player.
With his athletic ability and versatility, he reminds me of current Philadelphia Eagle Jason Peters. Like Peters, Johnson was a former tight end.
Andy Reid calls more screens than any other coach in the NFL, so don’t be shocked if he drops down in the draft and selects Johnson.
3. Eric Fisher (Central Michigan): One of the tallest offensive linemen in the year’s draft, Fisher stands at 6’7”, and weighs 308 lbs. A balanced athlete who stays low, he can move laterally with ease and is able to handle the outside speed rushers with little wasted movement.
His time at the Senior Bowl gave Fisher an opportunity to show scouts he can handle both speed and power rush combinations that he didn’t see while playing at Central Michigan. He shows a good kick step, and with his arm length, he can handle the outside edge.
Fisher flashed the ability to drive through defenders and move his man off the line and away from his gap. He has good balance and is always under control; rarely will you see him get turned sideways. A quality open field blocker, he easily locates his man to pick up the downfield block.
Fisher and his fellow offensive linemen gave up only 15 sacks all season, which has them tied for 17th in the country in fewest sacks allowed. A hardnosed player who plays with an attitude, Fisher didn’t back down from any of the top players in the country at the Senior Bowl. Consistently, he was able to sustain his blocks till the final whistle.
A first round-talent, he reminds me of Nate Solder. With their size and athletic ability, they showcase a truly rare combination in today’s NFL.
4. D.J. Fluker (Alabama): Part of the nation’s top offensive line, Fluker is an absolute road-grader at the right tackle position. A massive 6’6” and 335 lbs., physical and tenacious, he can man-handle just about everyone who gets in his way. Once he is able to get his hands on a defender, it is lights out. He will move his opponent to whatever side of the field he wants to move him to.
With his size, he could be susceptible to the outside speed rush or double moves. Against Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Fluker gave up two sacks. He is an intelligent player, though, having only two penalties as a senior.
His footwork will need to improve, and he does get crossed up at times with opponents going across his face. His hand work will also need some refinement. Fluker has always been stronger than everyone else, but that won’t be the case in the NFL. An intelligent player who can set the tone for any offense, he reminds me of Anthony Davis of the San Francisco 49ers.
5. Oday Aboushi (Virginia): A two-year starter at left tackle for the University of Virginia Cavaliers, Oday Aboushi has the functional size (6’5”, 320 lbs.) that NFL teams are looking for in a right tackle.
Aboushi is able to handle the stunts and speed rushers thrown at him. What causes him fits is the inside rip move. He will set up too far outside and lose leverage, which allows his man to go underneath his block and get a clean shot at the quarterback. This doesn’t happen on a consistent basis but enough times that NFL linemen will notice.
Thickly built with above-average upper body power, Aboushi is almost always in good position and will knock defenders back with his initial pop. He works to finish, shows toughness to drive his man off the ball, has a good anchor and is able to set up and battle against the bull rush.
Aboushi doesn’t have a nasty streak but seems content to take care of his own business and move onto the next play. His size and athletic ability could push him into the second or third round. Nothing flashy, Aboushi is just a consistent producer. He reminds me of former Seattle Seahawks right tackle Sean Locklear.
2013 NFL Draft Content Schedule: