Though the 2012 NFL Draft is not as deep as the guard position, offensive tackle provides more than a few promising prospects, should the Baltimore Ravens elect to go in this direction. At tackle for the Ravens, both Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher are under contract and solid performers, with promising second year player Jah Reid providing depth and insurance. Ramon Harewood, who coaches remain high on even though he’s missed two years with knee and ankle injuries, could also be in the mix, though, at this point, he looks like a project player.
While McKinnie is both 32 years old and not the player he was at his peak, Baltimore does not need to add an immediate impact player here, though they will likely look to the draft’s middle or late rounds to bolster their depth at tackle.
After the first wave of tackles goes off the board in rounds one and two, value picks like Boise State’s Nate Potter (6’6” 300), Iowa’s Markus Zusevics (6’5” 300), Oklahoma State’s Levy Adcock (6’6” 322), or Ryan Miller (6’8” 295) from Colorado, could be attractive options for the Ravens. Of these players, Potter and Zusevics would be most appealing. Potter is another athletic lineman, lacking ideal size and girth for most teams, who could showcase his strengths in a zone blocking system.
As a pass blocker, he displays polished footwork and balance, able to slide laterally and maintain leverage even against first rate edge pass rushers. He sits well in his stance, and really locks on to defenders upon engagement, sticking with them till the whistle. In the run game, he lacks power and leg drive, often failing to even turn defenders in the hole, though he possesses the frame to add strength, and that may improve production here. Potter is more effective on the move and out in space, where he runs fluidly and takes good angles to defenders, but, again, lacks punch upon impact, and, at this point in his development, is more of a shield blocker.
Like Potter, Iowa’s Markus Zusevics is a smaller, more agile tackle prospect, who may require a year or two of seasoning before he reaches his full potential. Zusevics, however, is already a punishing run blocker, who needs to refine some aspects of his pass blocking techniques. He possesses, perhaps, the best balance of any tackle in the draft, but is not a finesse player at all. On running plays, repeatedly, he will pound back the defensive end in front of him, then, without missing a step, will pound him again. He is an excellent drive blocker, maintaining ideal pad level through contact, yet is still nimble enough to work out to the inside linebackers, or to get around the edge when required to pull.
As a pass protector, he’s solid but unspectacular, with areas of needed attention. His footwork is steady, and, when he gets his hands on the pass rusher immediately, he successfully thwarts his advance. Where Zusevics struggles is in situations where contact is not initiated at the snap. In these cases, he can get too upright and overextended, allowing the rusher to get under his pads, knocking him backwards. Though they may seem to be small technical mistakes, they can prove disastrous when facing some of the elite athletes who man the edge pass rushing positions in the NFL.
As a late round pick, or possibly as an undrafted free agent, Baltimore might give a look to Jeff Adams (6’6” 305) from Columbia. Adams, possessing a somewhat slight frame that could fill out in time, is an athletic pass protector, and developing run blocker, who opened some eyes with an impressive showing during practices for the East/West Shrine Game.