Last week I previewed the Center position for the 2011 NFL Draft. This week we move outside to the bookend positions of the offensive line, the offensive tackles. Usually there is at least one OT who is a for sure top 10 pick. This draft is unique in that it does not. Current projection has the first OT going after the top ten. Also, considering the quality that exists on the defensive side of the ball in this draft, it is possible that the OTs could slide. Even if they don’t slide and they go where they are projected, the sweet spot seems to be in the bottom half of the draft to pick them.
What this means is that for the Kansas City Chiefs (who pick at 21) is that they may have an opportunity to take the best OT in this draft. One might question why they might pick an OT with so many seemingly more important holes to fill. I would argue that the Chiefs’ OTs aren’t good enough that an upgrade would be out of the question. Especially at right tackle where both 2009 and 2010 starting RTs for the Chiefs will be free agents this offseason. Left tackle Branden Albert hasn’t played well enough either to say that bringing in competition for his position would hurt. It is true, though, that this is not quite a primary need for the Chiefs. However, there could be good value at this position for the Chiefs at 21.
So what are some names of offensive tackles for Chiefs fans to know going into the draft? Here are three.
Gabe Carimi Wisconsin 6’7” 314 lbs. Round Projection: 1
The 2010 Outland Trophy winner, Carimi was given the unenviable job of replacing Joe Thomas at the University of Wisconsin. While Carimi played well, he didn’t play as well as Thomas. Then again, who does? Carimi is not a great athlete, but is good enough to have a first round projection. He’s been referred to as a “plug-and-play right tackle” by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Analysts seem to be sold that Carimi can be a great right tackle in the NFL, but are unsure about him being a left tackle.
Carimi is a hard worker who was Academic All-Big Ten 2007-2009. He also plays with intensity and the nastiness scouts look for in offensive linemen. He has not been without injury in his college career but, with the exception of missing three games with an MCL sprain, he has played through his injuries. This demonstrates a toughness that should serve him well in the NFL. If the Chiefs go OT in the 1st round I would not be surprised if it was Carimi.
James Carpenter Alabama 6’4” 321 lbs. Round Projection: 3
Carpenter spent only 2 years at Alabama but he spent both of them playing left tackle for the Crimson Tide. He’s a good athlete although he has some tightness in his hips. He came on my radar at the Senior Bowl where he caught a few others eyes. He has a few problems with his footwork which has lowered his stock, but if that gets worked out he could be a good tackle for the team that gets him.
It should be noted that academic problems caused Carpenter to spend some time at a community college to get eligible to play for Alabama. The fact that he overcame these problems should actually be a mark in his favor. He’s a durable player and has not suffered any injuries. Chiefs’ General Manager Scott Pioli seems to have a fondness for SEC players (see first 3 picks in 2010 Draft) and so it would not be a giant surprise to see Carpenter picked in the 3rd round.
Marcus Gilbert Florida 6’6” 330 lbs. Round Projection: 3
Gilbert possesses good base strength and has a good first step for a player his size. His footwork is only okay and will need to be worked on. He will also need practice cut blocking as he is not very effective at it. He anchors well, but will lunge and lose balance after a strong initial contact. This is an indicator of a need to become more consistent in his body control. Despite these issues, his athleticism and strength will convince a team to pick him.
Gilbert is a well-liked player that consistently gives good effort. Gilbert has played both guard and tackle for Florida. He hasn’t won any awards but has been quietly consistent in his play. It should also be noted that improvement in his play can be seen from 2009 which indicates that he is willing to put in the time to get better. This is not a surprise if he takes after his father, Jeff, who was a Secret Service agent for the last three Presidents. While not necessarily fitting the mold for the Chiefs in that he wasn’t a team captain, Gilbert does seem to have the kind of mature attitude that the Chiefs like.
This Draft is not a great one for offensive tackles. The depth is not great and the elite of the group seem not to be all that elite. Having said that, and with free agency being so uncertain, the idea of the Chiefs deciding to pick an OT in the first round seems more and more possible to me. The only WRs that have a first round grade will probably be gone. The only first round NT has character concerns. The only first round center may already be gone. When that is taken into account, picking as OT at 21 doesn’t seem so out of the realm of possibility.
So what do you think? Could the Chiefs go offensive tackle with their first pick? Is that the right move or an error? Speak your mind in the comments.