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Offensive Tackle in the NFL Draft and the Seahawks' Priorities

The consensus among Seahawks' fans has pretty much dictated that the Hawks should take a QB/CB/OG/DT in the first round, in some varying order of priority. On the fringe of that, some people are still sticking with the idea that the Hawks could take an offensive tackle to bookend the line with Russell Okung for the next decade. While I haven't hidden my admiration for QB Ryan Mallett, outside of the QB position, I am torn as to what direction the Hawks SHOULD take with the #25 pick, assuming they stay in that spot. I'm beginning to come around to the RT proponents' case.

For the sake of argument, lets say they stay at 25 and Mallett/Locker are long gone by the time they make their selection. If this is the case, my first inclination is to draft a defensive tackle. After that, if there's an elite level CB there, we would need to pick that player. If that option's off the table, we go offensive interior line. I think some sort order of priority exists in all of your minds but the thought that's been creeping into mine as of late is the idea of taking an offensive tackle at #25. 

Former Seahawks' scout and now columnist at Bucky Brooks put together a piece about some of the Draft's top left tackle prospects but then noted that each of them might actually have more success on the right side - which is exactly what the Seahawks would be looking for.

Brooks says:

Right tackles are typically strong run blockers without the footwork, athleticism and quickness to handle matchups against elite pass rushers. They are best described as maulers with the sheer strength to blow defenders off the ball. While they might lack some of the movement skills to hold in isolations against elite rushers, they will need help from others to secure those matchups.

This year's class will test those notions due to the unique talents of Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, Colorado's Nate Solder, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi and USC's Tyron Smith. Each is viewed as a potential franchise-caliber left tackle, but some of their skill sets are better suited for the right side.

He goes on to profile the four prospects mentioned above and describes why each player has the ability to play left tackle in the NFL, but due to their skill sets, may be more effective on the right side. This is pertinent to the Seahawks' situation because as of now there is no real future at the position. John Schneider and Pete Carroll have suggested that they'd like to see Stacy Andrews compete for a job there in 2011 but he's by no means a lock to hold it down. In addition to that, he's due a large bit of scratch that may be weighing on their minds as well. If they aren't in love with any of the CBs or DTs at #25 - could OT actually be a good value for them?

Conventional wisdom dictates that you take a LT early because they're tasked with protecting the QB's blind side but RTs can be chosen later in the draft for better value. However, if the Seahawks are as dedicated to the run as they appear, having a solid RT to spring Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Leon Washington to big runs to the right side would seem to be pretty damn high on their wish list. With Locklear a free agent and Andrews a big question mark - perhaps we've underestimated the priority the RT position has for the Hawks. Maybe getting a first round talent for the right side actually does provide them great value, and with the right horses in place, Tom Cable could really do what we've been waiting for these past few seasons- get the run game going.

Here's what Brooks had to say about a few guys that could actually still be around at #25.

On Anthony Castonzo:

As a run blocker, he is powerful at the point of attack and creates push. His aggressiveness stands out on tape and makes him a viable candidate to play on an offensive line built on toughness. Scouts struggle properly assessing Castonzo's potential due to his vast experience. Some wonder how much improvement he can make as a pro because his bad habits might be so deeply entrenched. However, that might not be enough to dissuade a team from casting its lot with the gritty player.

On Nate Solder:

He is arguably the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft after blowing up the NFL Scouting Combine. As a former tight end, he possesses the combination of quickness, athleticism and movement skills scouts covet. He easily dances with pass rushers, and his nimble feet allow him to maintain balance and body control while engaged. His movement skills shine when he gets to block on pulls or traps in the running game. He quickly gets out of his stance and has the quickness to engage linebackers and defensive backs in space. He struggles to occasionally create push against power players, but he gives relentless effort upon contact and does enough to win the down.

On Gabe Carimi:

He is a physically imposing prospect with an aggressive demeanor that is endearing. He bullies defenders at the point of attack in the running game. His combination of strength, power and tenacity is impressive, and he is certainly comfortable playing in a power-based rush attack that features man- or zone-blocking schemes.  Although he has logged plenty of snaps at the position during his four years as a starter, he looks like a natural right tackle based on his athleticism.

Another guy that is in consideration for round one is Derek Sherrod out of Mississippi State. Though behind the guys mentioned above in most ranking systems, he's close - and some people actually rate him higher than almost any offensive tackle. All these players could potentially be targeted in the first round and I am becoming more convinced that RT is not out of the question for the Seahawks with #25. 

Going back to what Rob Staton said in my last draft question segment about Derek Sherrod:

I think drafting a right tackle in round one is a luxury that should only be afforded to good teams. After all, what is a right tackle? Most of the guys playing the position were blind side blockers in college who weren't considered athletic enough to play the same role in the NFL. They get a lot of tight end help and they're covering the quarterbacks strong side. You can find guys like that later on, no question. James Carpenter, Joseph Barksdale, Will Rackley - these guys can start at right tackle. You don't need to have two first round picks playing tackle to be succesful.

The Seahawks have such a dearth of talent at the premium positions (QB, DE, WR, CB, DT) that I think a right tackle is unlikely this year. You'd have to grade a tackle much higher than anyone else on your board at #25. I think Gabe Carimi is a really limited prospect who I graded in the round 2/3 region. Nate Solder and Anthony Castonzo are finesse tackles with great height and struggle with leverage - not ideal for the right hand side.

The two players I would consider are Tyron Smith and the guy you mention Derek Sherrod. Smith has the athletic qualities to be very good, even if he's largely unproven. He won't make it past the top twelve picks. Sherrod could be there at #25. He has sound technique, he's not a flashy player but he'll get the job done. He can play the left and right hand side which is paramount for me if I'm taking a tackle in round one.

There are too many players I grade at a similar level to Sherrod to go in that direction at #25, but he is the one player in that area that I'd at least have in the discussion.

If the first round RT selection doesn't happen though - rest assured that there are still some very good players available later. While not elite prospects, they still could have the ability to come in and start on day one. As Rob Rang of CBS Sports' draft blog laid out, the depth behind the "Fab Five" is worth highlighting as well:

Teams are quite high on the toughness and consistency of Alabama's James Carpenter and Miami's Orlando Franklin. With a little fine-tuning, TCU's Marcus Cannon, Indiana's James Brewer and Florida's Marcus Gilbert could surprise. Though level of competition questions abound, no one dominated their opponents as consistently as Villanova's Ben Ijalana throughout his respective career. There are a lot of teams very high on the long-term upside of lower level FBS prospects Derek Newton (Arkansas State), Jah Reid (Central Florida), Willie Smith (East Carolina), Byron Stingily (Louisville) and Byron Bell (New Mexico).

Keep an eye on those guys as well if the right tackle position isn't addressed at 1.25.