Finding a quality right tackle has been one of the off-season’s biggest priorities. Former starter Chris Terry was dismissed from the team midseason due to off the field issues. He has since resurfaced in Seattle and was signed to a new contract by the team. His replacement, Melvin Tuten, played acceptably at times but the team would be more comfortable with him as a reserve player. While a right tackle is preferred, the coaching staff is open towards moving current LT Todd Stuessie to the right side and drafting a left tackle to take his place. Even if the team decides to pass on both Kwame Harris and Jordan Gross with their first pick, several worthy tackles should be available in later rounds.
George Foster, Georgia (6-5, 315) – Foster hurt his wrist last season and finished the second half of the year with a cast on. When fully healthy, Foster is a physically dominant player who is also surprisingly athletic. His size is a real asset in run-blocking and he has the leverage to drive defenders off the ball. Pass protection is not a strong point, but if he can improve his footwork and technique, he has enough natural ability to excel. Foster is a wild-card prospect due to his injury and occasional lack of aggression. Had he not been injured, Foster would have been a sure-fire first round pick. That said, he could still be taken late in the first stanza. Should he fall to the second round, the Panthers would have to take Foster into strong consideration.
Wayne Hunter, Hawaii (6-6, 310) – Hunter is in a close competition with Eric Steinbach as the most athletic tackle in this year’s class. He displayed his strength and speed by benching 37 reps of 225 (the most among linemen) and running a 5.1 in the 40 yard dash. He played in a predominantly passing offense at Hawaii and gave up only 3 sacks last season. His amazing combine performance has really boosted his status and possibly upgraded him to the draft’s 4th best tackle spot. He did little run-blocking in his career and his overall technique in this area needs a lot of refinement. However, he displayed the strength necessary to be more than satisfactory in this area. Since he is a former defensive tackle that only recently began playing on the offensive line, most feel Hunter’s potential is untapped at this point. Still steadily rising on most team’s draft boards, he could viably sneak into the first round if a team was impressed enough.
Ben Johnson, Wisconsin (6-6, 325) – Although he does not possess the fluid athleticism of the top prospects, Johnson is perhaps the best run blocker of any tackle in the draft. He started at left tackle for Wisconsin, but he doesn’t have the quickness to stay there and will be moved to the right side once drafted. As a run blocker, Johnson excels. He has a thick body and once locked onto a defender, he is rarely overpowered. Is not as effective on the move and needs improvement on his footwork. Johnson has some problems protecting against the blitz, but seems to handle speed rushers from the edge better. Since he is limited mobility-wise and struggles to lock onto moving targets, it’s important a team’s blocking scheme matches his strengths.
Tony Pashos, Illinois (6-6, 335) – Pashos is a mammoth tackle, possessing a large wingspan and a thick body. Like Johnson, Pashos works best in short to intermediate areas and struggles on assignments that ask him to pull or reach out to the second level. He can be a mauling run blocker and is very strong when initiating contact. Like many large tackles who focus on the running game, Pashos has trouble against fast edge rushers. He is not very athletic and will get out of position with bad footwork. Some question his intensity, but he showed fire during the postseason exhibition games. Pashos’ measurable statistics and average speed are nothing to get excited about, but he is a bright player who can succeed if put in the right situation.
Jon Stinchcomb, Georgia (6-5, 300) – Stinchcomb has been a solid prospect throughout his senior year, but his stock has really taken a rise during the off-season. There have been numerous questions about his strength, especially his lower body. Stinchcomb silenced many critics when he benched 32 repetitions of 225 at the combine and added nearly 20 pounds since his final collegiate game. A very smart player, Stinchcomb is a technician who is very fundamentally sound. He uses his excellent hands and athletic frame to fend off most speed rushers. Power rushers have beaten Stinchcomb on more than one occasion, and he will have to strengthen his base to improve at that aspect of his game. Currently projecting as a left tackle, Stinchcomb is a hard worker (All-SEC Academic Team) who has the ability to be a solid starter.
Brett Williams, Florida State (6-5, 319) – Consistency is a key part of success along the offensive line, and Williams has been a model of such during his career at Florida State. He possesses good size and has exceptionally long arms, which allows him to push out quicker defensive ends. Is not a standout at any aspect of his game, but finds a way to get the job done. His movements can be a little stiff and at times he plays too high. Williams most impressive moments have been against the highest competition and in the biggest games. Although not the incredible prospect he was deemed earlier in his career, Williams is versatile enough to play both tackle spots and could be an excellent value pick in the late early-middle rounds.
Steve Sciullo, Marshall (6-5, 330) – A powerful blocker in college, Sciullo spend most of his time as Byron Leftwich’s main bodyguard. He will have to become either a right tackle or guard once drafted due to concerns about his movement. Sciullo’s agility is a definite weakness in his game and will likely drop him a few rounds come draft day. Probably a better pass-blocker, but can be very solid at run-blocking as well. He has marginal speed and athleticism, but shows good technique. Sciullo can be an aggressive player and finishes strong. He had a rough week at the Senior Bowl and did not post very impressive times during his workout. Despite all this, Sciullo is a prospect who can contribute and should be an early second-day draft pick.
Will Ofenheusle, Tennessee (6-7, 308) – Ofenheusle has great size and was a very efficient player at Tennessee. Not as athletic as one would like, but very strong as a run blocker and rarely makes a mental mistake. Not as complete when stepping back to guard the quarterback, but has the height and wingspan to become much better with the right coaching. His footwork is suspect from time to time and he will have to improve at this. Exhibits very solid intangibles (earned two degrees during his eligibility) and was named captain his senior year. Ofenheusle has played guard before and would be a solid addition to any offensive line during the mid-rounds.
Wade Smith, Memphis (6-4, 295) – Smith is a late bloomer who only recently began playing the tackle position. He has seen time at right and left tackle, adapting well to both. A former tight end, Smith exhibits quality athleticism and is very quick. Against most pass rushers, Smith can match their lateral speed and has great balance. Although he needs more strength to be a factor at the next level, he is still growing into his frame and could be much thicker after spending time bulking up. He is not a dominating run blocker by any stretch and lacks the explosive drive to move the pile at this point. Because he is so relatively inexperienced at the position and is so athletic, Smith is very enticing due to his upside. Should he find the proper coaching and strengthen his body, Smith has a lot of potential and is clearly one of the draft’s “sleeper” picks.
Jordan Black, Notre Dame (6-6, 310) – Black, a left tackle in college, is a solid player who is fundamentally strong despite a lack of athletic prowess. His frame is not as bulky as desired and he could definitely benefit from more strength. Black may have to make the transition to guard if he cannot handle the outside speed and quickness of defensive ends. He uses leverage well and his footwork leaves him in good position most of the time. His thinner base is exposed when bull-rushers attack him directly, but he compensates with strong hands. Even though he may be a better fit at either guard position, Black has enough experience at tackle to be a solid backup for an established veteran.