Offensive Tackle

The offensive tackle class of 2008 is one of the best in history. This class features several prospects for each tackle spot that could start as rookies. The entire top of the class could be drafted before the end of Day 1.

With many teams converting to zone blocking schemes, they will be happy to choose from Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Chris Williams, Sam Baker and Anthony Collins. Collins in particular is the biggest boom or bust prospect in this class. His quick feet and athleticism are drawing comparisons to a young Matt Lepsis who, before his retirement earlier this year, was regarded as the best zone-blocking left tackle. Another sleeper to watch for zone-blocking teams is John Greco of Toledo. He may end up moving inside to guard, but he could easily end up a Packer, Bronco or Texan.

For those teams still favoring the maulers, they won’t go home empty handed. Pitt’s massive Jeff Otah is getting a lot of looks as a late first-round pick due to his strength and ability to move the pile on the ground. Clemson’s Barry Richardson, a year ago, looked at as a solid first-round pick, has lost some ground due to questions of his mobility. He may move to the right side in the NFL, but he still projects out as one of the best run blockers in this class. Also, the Fighting Illini’s Akim Millington could be a good developmental right tackle in the NFL.

Top 10

1. Jake Long, OT, Michigan, 6′7, 313
2. Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State, 6′6, 319
3. Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt, 6′6, 320
4. Sam Baker, OT, Southern California, 6′5, 305
5. Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh, 6′6, 340
6. Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College, 6′7, 318
7. Anthony Collins, OT, Kansas, 6′6, 308
8. Barry Richardson, OT, Clemson, 6′7, 320
9. Tony Hills, OT, Texas, 6′6, 300
10. Carl Nicks, OT, Nebraska, 6′5, 343

Best By Trait

Run Blocking - Jeff Otah (Pittsburgh)
Pass Blocking - Jake Long (Michigan)
Quickness - Anthony Collins (Kansas)
Hand Use - Carl Nicks (Nebraska)
Strength - Jeff Otah (Pittsburgh)
Footwork - Chris Williams (Vanderbilt)
Awareness - Jake Long (Michigan)

Stud - Jake Long (Michigan) - Long stands out in this class as an elite prospect, and the top player overall. His athleticism and instincts are solid, and he plays a very steady game. The only sacks he gave up his senior season was against Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston, who’s challenging him for the top spot overall. Long has had few critics say he’s not quick enough to play the blind side, but only after he posted workouts less than what Joe Thomas and D’Brickashaw Ferguson did in previous years.

Sleeper - Chris Williams (Vanderbilt) - With the hype surrounding Long and Boise’s Clady, Williams has flown under the radar. His wingspan and footwork have allowed him to become a great pass-blocking left tackle. He has the frame to add bulk, and carries his weight well. Williams is an unknown because he played for the Commodores, who are not known for a great football program. He will need to be more aggressive at the point of attack, and has issues with his upper body strength, but the upside is huge.

Slipper - Sam Baker (Southern California) - The four-year starter has failed to standout as an elite left tackle prospect. With mixed results, he’s been the weak-side protector of right-handed quarterback John David Booty the past two seasons. Baker looked lost in 2006, but did improve his consistency in 2007. His athleticism and footwork are that of a left tackle, but he’s failed to show any consistency at the position. Look for Baker to be moved to right tackle, or even inside to guard in the pro’s to mask his inability to handle the speed rush.

Grade: A
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