RAVENS DRAFT ANALYSIS: STACKING UP THE TACKLES

NFL Draft RAVENS DRAFT ANALYSIS: STACKING UP THE TACKLES

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Arron Sears, 6’3”, 319, Tennessee
 
Arron Sears is the last of the group of three OG/OT prospects to be discussed.  After playing quite well as a tackle at Tennessee, many believe that he will be unable to translate that type of performance to the next level at the exterior position.  Many sites list strengths as size, bulk, and intelligence, which happens for about every sure fire first and second round selection.  Oh, and of course he is the leader of the Volunteers’ offensive unit.  Unfortunately for Sears, the real question doesn’t stick with those positives, but rather with questions about his true position.  If Sears can sell himself as a tackle he might be able to sneak into the first round, but if he is viewed as a guard, the middle of the second round might be more realistic.  Compared to Shawn Andrews of the Eagles, Sears has the great burst to attack defenders but is much less effective when asked to move, hence the suggested move to guard where the ability to quickly adjust direction is less necessary than at tackle.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK:  Sears is certainly a good player and for a few weeks was really gathering support as the Ravens #2 selection after Justin Blalock.  This support rapidly dropped off once it was apparent that Sears might not be able to play tackle and a 5.44 forty yard dash was recorded.  Given the various deficiencies of his game and the projected middle second round selection, it seems that not only is Sears not the right player for the Ravens, but he likely won’t be available in the second to select anyhow.
 
Joe Staley, 6’6”, 306, Central Michigan
 
Every year there is one player that shocks the world when information-starved fans examine numbers.  Say hello to Joe Staley, the lightning fast riser from Central Michigan.  How athletic is Joe Staley?  Let’s compare him to the Ravens’ fan favorite super athlete lineman Chris Chester.  Chester ran a 4.9 40, 7.31 in the three cone agility test.  Staley, on the other hand ran a 4.79 40 and hit 7.09 in the three cone drill.  By comparison, Joe Thomas managed 7.95 seconds in the three cone drill and a 4.92 forty.  It’s quickly apparent how significant those numbers are when you view this tackle prospect.
 
However, football isn’t just numbers or the Lions would just draft Staley and call it a day.  Staley has not had the level of competition that others have had in their collegiate days and is also a bit light for the professional game at 306 pounds.  Oftentimes Staley will rely on his athletic talent to make plays by leaning on a defender or not getting low enough in his stance but bailing himself out with speed and agility.  Even with these questions, teams see a hard worker who could be a very special player if he manages to develop. 
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK: Staley was relatively unknown amongst draftnicks and is suddenly rocketing up the draft boards and seems to be back and forth with Justin Blalock as the projected Ravens 1st round selection.  But will Staley even be available at #29 even if the team wanted him?  That is becoming more and more doubtful.  Many so called experts have Staley going to the Giants at 20, Houston at 21, or either of the Patriots’ first round selections among others.  In fact many drafts flat out state that if Staley falls to the 28th pick, the Patriots would take him on potential….and to keep him from going to what may become intra division rival Baltimore.  If Staley is around at 29, it would be hard to say no to a player that could play a tackle position for the next 10 years opposite Adam Terry.  Fortunately for those afraid of linemen whose strength is not their mauling run blocking, Staley probably won’t be around for the Ravens to create a message board controversy.
 
Levi Brown, 6’6”, 323, Penn State
 
Levi Brown is the only one of the top tackles that appears to project only to right tackle.  His solid hand punch is quite effective and has a nice ability to kick slide out to handle edge rushers.  If a team wants an elite right tackle, look no further, period.  The complete game is here, though oftentimes Brown may get too high in his stance or lose concentration on the snap count.  Many sources of information tend to use this loss of concentration to make a statement about his demeanor or question his desire to reach his full potential.  Even with the hot and cold problems and recent struggles with injuries, if the right things do happen, this is a player that can lock down a tackle position for years at the highest levels.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK:  Off and on there will be a mock draft that has Levi Brown dropping all the way to #29.  That simply isn’t realistic.  It is possible that Brown could go as high as the Cardinals selection and if he managed to slip past the offensive-line starved New York Giants and Houston Texans someone should sue the teams for mismanagement. 
 
Joe Thomas, 6’7”, 311, Wisconsin
 
There are a lot of good things to say about Joe Thomas but there really isn’t a point in discussing a surefire top 5 selection for a team with the 29th pick.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK: Probably better off playing the Maryland Lottery.
 
Doug Free, 6’6”, 324, Northern Illinois
 
Doug Free is an interesting prospect that might be available at the end of the first day or even the fourth round depending on how the chips fall earlier in the draft.   A former tight end that might be looked at as a guard prospect, Free still stands an impressive 6’ 6” at a solid 324 pounds.  However, the Northern Illinois product is more of a pass-protector and finesse blocker than a lineman who will go out and hit the defense in the mouth.  That will scare off many Ravens fans, but the fact of the matter is that the new Ravens’ line is moving more towards versatility or pass protection as a primary strength as opposed to run blocking.  Free could be a good fit in the mix if given a year to develop and get used to playing against top competition.  Compared to current Colt starter Ryan Diem, Free is a much better talent coming out of college and he may even be able to play left tackle if needed.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK:  Depending on how the chips fall, picking up a player like Doug Free in the fourth round would be a coup.  While he might need one year to get ready, he could potentially step in at left or right tackle after likely Hall of Fame bound Jonathan Ogden.  Will this be what happens?  Probably not as many view Free as a potential third round selection, making it highly unlikely that he wears purple in the coming season.
 
 
For all other Ravens’ draft outlooks by position, click on the archive button above.
 
Ravens currently hold the following picks in the 2007 NFL Draft: Nos. 29, 61 (Round 2), 134 & 137 (Round 4 Compensatory Picks), 166 (Round 5), 174 (Round 5 Compensatory Pick), 203  (Round 6) & 207 (Round 6 Compensatory Pick).

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Matt Ennis

About Matt Ennis

Matt is another of a growing list of NFL draft junkies.  He comes to 24×7 by way of Chicago as a respected member of our message board who charts draft eligible player projections.  You can follow this year’s projections here.

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