Word of Muth: Free Agent Tackles Part I

Word of Muth: Free Agent Tackles Part I
Word of Muth: Free Agent Tackles Part I
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

It’s the offseason, which means the action has moved from the field to the front offices of the NFL. Readers of this site would probably agree that the draft is the most effective way to build and improve your team. It’s young, cheap labor that can grow into star-level players at replacement-level prices.

But the draft isn’t until April, and you can go out and get an All-Pro right now (well, technically, next week) if you’re willing to pony up. This is especially true if you need an offensive tackle, where the current free agent crop offers multiple Pro-Bowlers and former first-round picks. This week I’ll look at the top handful of bookends in my eyes and evaluate some of their strengths and weaknesses. They’re discussed in order of who I would target if money was not a concern at all.

One last note before we start: I watched Ryan Clady and William Beatty for this column before they signed deals to remain with their current teams. I won’t go into too much detail except to say I love Clady (he would be on top of this list) and wasting his pass set on a Tim Tebow-led offense is like entering your Ferrari in a demolition derby. He’s an above average run blocker too, but the reason he’s going to get paid is because of his pass set. Gorgeous. I may talk about Beatty in our next article, as he fits more into that second tier of tackles.

Sebastian Vollmer: Right Tackle, New England Patriots

Since the Patriots were one of the teams I covered this year, I got to see a lot of Sebastian Vollmer. Clearly I’m a big fan of his, as I’ve raved about his play a couple of times this year. He’s a good run blocker, though not a truly dominating one (like a Joe Staley). He's also a top-flight pass protector, particularly for a right tackle.

What makes Vollmer such an effective pass blocker is maintaining proper body leverage and being effective with his hands. By proper body leverage, I mean where he keeps his body in relation to the quarterback and the pass rusher. He’ll change up his pass set throughout games (jump setting, vertical setting, 45 degree setting, and quick sets that turn into aggressive sets), but he always has great leverage on the defender. He rarely engages without his outside foot splitting the defender right down the middle, which is exactly where you want to be in pass protection. (For diagrams or further in depth analysis go here or here).

J.J. Cooper's "Under Pressure" charting marked Vollmer as responsible for 3.5 sacks this year. I can think of 1.5 or possible 2.5 (depending on crediting) that Vollmer gave up to Cameron Wake his first week back from a back injury. He looked stiff and immobile and frankly like a different guy that game.

That back injury is my only real concern with Vollmer. The good news is that he got healthier later in the season and played well through the postseason. That means his back isn’t totally shot, and that he can manage it even if it gets bad on him midseason. The bad news is that he’s been dealing with back injuries since college (it’s the reason he fell out of the first round) and big guys with bad backs are a historically dicey situation. He only missed one game this year, but he missed 11 in 2011.

That being said, without having any actual medical information, I can only go by what I see. And from what I see in Vollmer is a 28-year-old tackle who got banged up in the middle of the season but then got healthy enough to play like the best right tackle in football in the postseason. I’d be willing to spend big money on him.

Branden Albert: Left Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs

I had a real hard time deciding whether to put Albert or Bengals right tackle Andre Smith in this spot. I think their talent level is about the same, so it comes down to how you value their strengths and weaknesses. For me, I’ll take the better pass blocker with a creaky back over a player who has physical strength but past weight and work ethic issues.

Albert is a guy that grows on you as you watch him. He was only responsible for one sack all year (again, according to Cooper’s charting). Granted, he did miss some time, but giving up just one sack in 13 games is still really impressive. It’s even more impressive when you watch him pass block because it’s not conventional at all.

I don’t know how describe his pass blocking technique except to say that it’s never the same thing twice. He’ll get hunched over, on one foot, or sometimes completely turned around. But no matter what his body position looks like he always keeps the rusher away from the quarterback, and at the end of the day that’s what the job is.

Albert isn’t as strong in the running game. He fails to generate movement on inside zone plays and isn’t great on the second level. He does do one thing very well though and that’s reach people on the play side of outsidezone. Albert does a great job with hat placement basically every time the Chiefs run the play to his side. As a result he either gets the edge defender to over compensate and stretch too far outside, or he seals the defender inside allowing Jamaal Charles to bounce it around the corner.

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Being great at that one play was perfect for Kansas City because they ran the hell out of it, but Albert’s impact in the running game takes a considerable hit if he goes to a team that doesn’t run stretch plays as much. Still, he’s an elite level pass blocker as a left tackle and that carries a lot of value. I think it’s worth putting aside health concerns even if you’re a team that doesn’t run much outside zone but still needs a tackle upgrade. He would be a great addition for the Steelers or Cardinals.

Andre Smith: Right Tackle, Cincinnati Bengals

As I said, the difference is razor thin between Smith and Albert, so which one a particular team targets should largely come down to scheme. Smith’s biggest asset is his size. He’s big and heavy and can absolutely swallow defenders up. He reminds a lot of Lincoln Kennedy, in that he’ll fire off, grab defenders, and just hold them in place. It’s almost like he’s sealing them off in a tomb. The first play of the Week 15 Eagles game offers a great example of this.

Cincinnati was in an I-Right Twins formation and running an outside zone concept with a pin and pull by the right tackle (Smith) and guard (Kevin Zeitler). Philadelphia was in a base 4-3 over alignment. Smith was down-blocking on the three-technique (Cullen Jenkins) which isn’t a particularly difficult block, but it illustrates Smith’s engulf technique.

Smith fires off and immediately turns his hips to seal the defensive tackle inside. After this, he stops his feet completely and just braces/leans against Jenkins. Notice that Smith’s man is in exactly the same place he was before the snap. Jenkins has maybe moved six inches.

By the time Jenkins gets off the bock, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is ten yards outside with two lead blockers. The Bengals gained 29 yards on this play and Smith was a small part, but you can see how defenders struggle to escape from Andre Smith’s natural gravitational pull.

The problem with the fire-out-and-brace technique is that Smith will sacrifice generating any movement of his own when he does this. It’s great when the Bengals are running outside of him or if Kevin Zeitler gets great movement next to him, but it can clog up running lanes if people around him aren’t great in their execution. There are times on Power and Inside Zone where Smith does the exact same thing and essentially performs the same function as a Sam Adams type nose tackle. His man won’t make the play, but the running back has a lot less room to find a seam.

What’s frustrating about Smith’s run blocking is that there are times when he does keep his feet moving after contact and he generates good movement. He just doesn’t do it frequently enough. While preventing your own man from making tackles is good, knocking him off the ball three yards is better.

In pass protection, Andre Smith is the proverbial dancing bear. He’s huge, but his pass set is surprisingly nimble and quick footed. He occasionally steps underneath himself (picks up his outside foot and brings it right back down without gaining any ground) on his first kick but for the most part he has a very nice pass set.

His punch isn’t very good, he tends to be more of a catcher, but it’s not really a big issue with him because he’s so big and gets such a good initial set. Guys either have to run too far outside to get around or try to bull rush him and risk disappearing in his mass.

The times that Smith gets into trouble in pass protection are typically due to a lack of overall athleticism. I mentioned he has light and quick feet in his pass set, but that’s literally the only time he has shows any agility. He runs terribly and isn’t great at stopping and changing direction. So after his initial pass set, first three kicks (which are a combination of learned skill and natural aptitude), if he hasn’t engaged a defender it can get pretty hairy out there for him.

It’s the reason he struggled so much against the Eagles. The first game I watched for this column was the Bengals' playoff loss to the Texans. I thought Smith played pretty well considering he was matched against the DPOY for most of the game. But as I was watching I thought he could struggle against wide rushers, so I was thrilled to learn that Cincinnati played Philadelphia in Week 15. It turns out Smith can and did struggle against wide-nine techniques.

This play is from the second quarter. Smith’s initial pass set from the waist down is good here. He gained a lot of ground with his first step and has a good relationship with the rusher at this point. I hate his airplane arms because it takes too long to punch with your hands down by your thighs, but Smith isn’t much of a puncher anyway.

But as the play progressed he got uncomfortable with the space between him and the rusher. So, rather than continuing to kick and waiting patiently to punch, Smith ducked his head and reached for the d-end (Brandon Graham). Now he’s completely straight legged and on top of that he can’t see the Graham. During the draft you are going to here the term “natural knee-bender” roughly 1.3 million times. The above picture is what a waist-bender looks like. It is better to be a knee bender.

Because it’s a slippery slope from waist-bender to planker. Despite what Darren Rovell will tell you, planking was never cool. It won’t get you more twitter followers, but it will get you the X of Great Shame.

Despite that last diagram, I do like Andre Smith a lot. Maybe not $9 million a year a lot, but I think he’ll get close to that. i just wanted to show how it can and does go bad for him.

In a few days, Part II of our look at free agent tackles will cover Jake Long, Jermon Bushrod and Phil Loadholdt. See you then.


50 comments, Last at 11 Mar 2013, 7:04pm

#1 by rageon // Mar 04, 2013 - 2:54pm

Would the handed-ness of your quarterback be a factor in the Albert vs. Smith debate? If you had a lefthanded QB, would Smith's experience on the right side make him a more valuable player than Albert?

I'm thinking either because of the increased value of a player on that side with lefty QB, or perhaps because of his familarity playing on that side in the event a team wanted to move their best blocker to that side.

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#10 by Pottsville Mar… // Mar 04, 2013 - 5:17pm

So basically, the question is whether your team is the Eagles or not? Vick is the only left-handed starting QB in the NFL, and given his age and Foles' emergence I would bet that the Eagles aren't making any long-term signings with him in mind.

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#13 by rageon // Mar 04, 2013 - 5:25pm

Actually I wasn't thinking about the Eagles. I knew Vick is lefthanded but I really had no idea there weren't more lefthanded QBs in the NFL. Wow, that surprises me.

I guess my question is moot. Unless......TEBOW, TEBOW, TEBOW!!#$@#$#!!!

At what level are people moving all the lefthanded football players to other positions? (high school, college?) Or do all tall, athletic lefties just self-select becoming pitches instead?

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#43 by Tomrigid (not verified) // Mar 06, 2013 - 7:01pm

There's little natural advantage for a lefty in any football position. Baseball, boxing, golf, and fencing all offer significant incentives for lefties, who would naturally gravitate toward their easier excellence in those sports.

Especially fencing. That's probably where you'll find them.

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#45 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 07, 2013 - 9:24am

There's nothing funnier in fencing than watching two lefties fence each other, standing there dumbfounded, because neither one of them has any clue how to go about fencing against a lefty either.

It's sort of like baseball, though -- being left-handed makes it easier to advance through the ranks, because of the unusualness of it, but it's an advantage that disappears at elite levels, because they become so common.

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#50 by Kevin from Philly // Mar 11, 2013 - 7:04pm

I am smiling because I know something you don't - I'm not really left handed!

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#2 by DEW (not verified) // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:00pm

I was wondering how you'd get an X of Great Shame out of an article on the best free-agent tackles in the league. Glad to see it.

That said, it's nice to see the commentary about what's out there. Albert's an interesting player, from what you've said, in that he's weak in run blocking generally but good in the run blocking his team actually needs, and is very, very good in pass blocking on a team that doesn't pass a whole lot. If Alex Smith has truly stepped up to "above-average NFL quarterback" level, bringing back Albert makes more sense to the Chiefs, who are going to need someone to protect his back side and who can get more out of him in the run game than some other teams.

Also, if Peyton Manning intends to play more than another season in Denver, I suspect he's already been on the phone with Elway about Clady saying, "Pay this man, now. (And "Find a competent backup guard while you're at it," but that's a different Denver line issue.)

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#5 by RickD // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:18pm

Yes, Peyton can make average receivers look great, but he cannot pull of the same trick with left tackles.

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#8 by theslothook // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:45pm

I'm not sure even scheme can protect a lousy offensive line/ left tackle. I know people are all busily diagnosing the demise of Philip Rivers, but I have to believe his o line has given him the same cabin fever that's afflicting Cutler and whatever qb is throwing in Arizona.

I think the moral of the story is - you can probably get away with a mediocre offensive line - maybe even a sub par one-(giants, packers), but the moment your o line hits titanically awful levels, there's no where you can go.

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#11 by Pottsville Mar… // Mar 04, 2013 - 5:19pm

He did pretty well in his final few years in Indianapolis, and the Colts' left tackles ranged from borderline acceptable to awful in the years following Tarik Glenn's retirement.

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#15 by theslothook // Mar 04, 2013 - 6:15pm

That's true. I try to acknowledge my inherent bias and compensate accordingly. For instance, i dislike belichick as a person(skip bayless of all people had the funniest line for him, "would you buy a used car from that man???!!"), but I have no problem saying hes the best coach in the nfl by some distance.

When it comes to manning though, the stretch between 09-2011 really reaffirmed my belief that hes the greatest qb(possibly player) in nfl history. I really do believe that the talent on those teams was mediocre at best and in particular, that 2010 team was just terrible(arguably lesser in talent than their 2011 2-14 team). The fact that he didn't become rivers is nothing short of miraculous.

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#19 by theslothook // Mar 04, 2013 - 7:35pm

Fine, I root against the media portrayed bill belichick. The one the media portrays as arrogant, dismissive, unethical, and a poor sport. I fully acknowledge he might be a very sweet person and a good guy and I would be wrong. Hence, I should have just said root against, not dislike or hate.

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#47 by LionInAZ // Mar 08, 2013 - 12:13am

Skip Bayless sells far more lemons in his so-called sports reporting career than Bill Belichick, so I would find another character witness if I were you.

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#23 by Will Allen // Mar 05, 2013 - 11:41am

Nobody respects Manning more than I do, but it really needs to be emphasized how the mid 70s rule changes, and then the further emphasis on prohibiting contact with receivers a decade ago, hugely expanded what was possible for good qbs, and hugely contracted the importance of blind side tackle performance in the passing game, given good receivers.

The difference is so dramatic that comparing pre '78 qb play to modern qb play, in a meaningful way, is basically impossible, in my view, and even comparing pre 2004 qb play with today's qb play is very problematic.

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#25 by theslothook // Mar 05, 2013 - 2:24pm

That's probably true. But to be honest, the passing game has experienced a consistent yearly growth over time in a way that's not entirely obvious as to why. I can probably point to specific things in the 2000 era(some of it schematic, like using more shotgun, incorporating spread, teams developing attack slot receivers to test other teams lbs, etc etc).

But I get your general point, really hard to compare peyton to other qbs. That's why I prefer to just judge based on which qbs I've seen in their prime and try to subjectively judge them based on the type of offense, scheme, and talent they have.

For instance, I'm sure there's plenty of ints to favre's name that bury him in the all time qb discussion(at least here at FO), but I always got the feeling favre never played with great receiving talent or a qb friendly scheme before. The entire pass game seemed to involve most of his ad libing rather than a consistent based structure. Maybe that was favre getting his way.

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#28 by Will Allen // Mar 05, 2013 - 3:09pm

The Packers' offense when Holmgren was there was very structured, and pretty friendly to a qb, assuming the qb was disciplined. Holmgren coached Favre very, very, hard, and those were Favre's best years.

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#38 by Will Allen // Mar 05, 2013 - 6:46pm

Well, that isn't quite accurate. What is more accurate is to say that by the mid 80s, run blocking had fully became less important, relative to pass blocking, because the full impact of rules changes had taken effect, which meant that it became massively easier to pass than it had been previously. Thus protecting the blind side while passing became more important. Then, when contact with receivers became evem more restricted, about 10 years ago, passing became so easy, given a good qb and receivers, that blind side protection started to recede in importance. It's really interesting to see how rules changes and intepretations have affected relative position importance. We may start to see elite left tackles start to consume a lesser percentage of cap space.

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#44 by Tomrigid (not verified) // Mar 06, 2013 - 7:08pm

At what point, if any, would you expect to see elite OLiners close the gap to TE mobility, as WRs have done with size in the past 15 years?

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#46 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 07, 2013 - 9:25am

WRs have been larger in the past. There were some immense receivers in the 70s and 80s.

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#22 by RDave (not verified) // Mar 05, 2013 - 7:17am

Yes Manning can make left tackles look better. Being a master of presnap reads and releasing the ball quickly can really limit how long a LT must protect. Then there is the whole stepping up into the pocket vs throwing it away reaction.

If you were a LT in a contract year would you rather have Payton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger as your QB?

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#26 by RickD // Mar 05, 2013 - 2:34pm

If I were anybody involved in any way in any football team I would rather have Peyton Manning as my QB over Ben Roethlisberger. But I wouldn't expect him to necessarily do a better job covering up my inadequacies as a lineman.

And let's not dismiss Big Ben's ability to shrug off linemen, nor underrate him as a passer. I think it's clear that he's among the physically toughest of all starting QBs in the league (with Cam Newton also in the conversation). No, he's not as smart as Peyton (OK, I'm giggling as I type that) but he can deal with a pass rush in a different way.

I just don't see how Manning can make an adjustment to account for weak LT play on every single down. There's only so much compensation for a weak link that can be done. And this gets back to the original point, that Clady is one of the best LTs in the league. Esp. with Manning's age and injury history, I don't think he wants to have to deal with mediocre line play right now. OTOH, he's taken the WRs that Denver has, who don't strike me as particularly elite, and managed to get great production out of them.

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#27 by theslothook // Mar 05, 2013 - 2:40pm

I think even the worst LT don't get beat on every single play within 2 sec. Those players get benched. I actually don't know what the average success percentage of LT's are when it comes to pressure, or what a horrible one's success percentage is. In any case, you can compensate if you accurately slide protection, know your presnap read, and go with a quick throw. I doubt current Manning would be so adroit now, given the injuries and age, but earlier manning could.

This was true for NE i think. While I've always felt their interior o line has been stellar, there were times when the tackles were nothing special-especially kazur and late career matt light. Brady's esp and scheme compensated quite well I'd say.

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#30 by commissionerleaf // Mar 05, 2013 - 3:38pm

During the 2010 season CBS did a graphic during a game of how fast the ball came out for Manning's throws on one drive. Some of them were under two seconds. All of them were under three seconds. Peyton Manning's 2010 season may be the most impressive body of work by a quarterback in one year, ever. And he did it with his tricep slowly deteriorating and a cast of special teamers at receiver.

The only season that comes close in my mind is Rodgers' 2011, when he had a career year behind a bad offensive line (not as bad, of course, and he had great receivers. But still.)

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#34 by theslothook // Mar 05, 2013 - 6:21pm

What dings Rodgers season a tad(just a tad mind you) is how well flynn played in his stead in week 17. of course, there are two possibilities that could explain that very well - 1) Flynn really is great 2) it was totally a random blip

But really, I think the 2011 packers just were in such a zone as a team. The o line was not great, but it was actually pretty solid and I have always felt rodgers makes his o line look worse than it actually is(probably his last glaring flaw as a qb at this point). The 2011 rodgers' season was a lot like the 07 season of Brady's or the 2004 season of Manning's. They were just in a complete zone where the receivers were awesome, the blocking was in sync, and everything just fell into place

the 2010 season like you mentioned was unique in a way that is hard to completely appreciate without context. I mean, sure, it was probably the weakest offensive team the colts have fielded since 2001, but it was literally a ragged team that manning more or less dragged to the post season. I remember watching them all year going - my god, how the hell is he doing it? THe entire team seemed to be letting him down. I can't emphasize enough how incredibly terrible that offensive line was. Really had 1 good starter in saturday and 4 really bad players- diem was a corpse at that point and charlie johnson(yes the same johnson that was moved to guard because he sucked so badly as a tackle) was the left tackle.

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#3 by RickD // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:16pm

Was worried the Great X of Shame might have to take a week off.

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#21 by Jerry // Mar 05, 2013 - 6:26am

I'd rather see the X take a week off than see Ben stretch to award it. (That's not what happened here.) I also hope we don't see a half-dozen nominations in every week's Audibles. Once the X of Great Shame leaves Ben's hands to become a more general meme, it will lose its cachet.

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#4 by zimmy (not verified) // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:17pm

I love these articles but I need to pick you up on the point you make about Vollmer falling out of the 1st round because of injuries he had in college. That simply isn't true and smacks of revisionism - no one ever had him as a 1st round pick and he wasn't even invited to the combine. Even when the Patriots picked him in the 2nd round it was viewed as a massive reach, but turned out to be a great pick. Next you'll be saying that Tavon Wilson fell out of the first round too.

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#6 by Ben Muth // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:24pm

Fair enough. Honestly don't remember much about Vollmer's draft status. Did some homework on his back problems and saw they went back to college where he missed an entire year because of it. Probably projected too much how a physically talented guy like Vollmer could slide. Thanks for pointing out my mistake.

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#7 by RickD // Mar 04, 2013 - 3:24pm

Well, the part about the back injuries during college is true.

Vollmer was definitely a find for the Patriots. He'd played at University of Houston and was not a high-profile guy until he was drafted. As you say, he hadn't been invited to the combine. But his O-line coach apparently had also coached Nick Kaczur. I guess that's how the Patriots heard about him.

Also, he's German. Draft "experts" were saying things like "Why is Belichick drafting a German that nobody's ever heard of?"

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#33 by Chip // Mar 05, 2013 - 6:19pm

He was listed as a 7th round pick in many draft guides.

I remember him distinctly as he was German and never played football before U. Houston. The Bears had a need at OT (when don't they) and thought that it you're going to roll the dice on a late rd prospect, might as we do it on a guy that hasn't played ball for more than 4 yrs and had the size / measurables. That thought was all of 5 secs and then I forgot about it until the Patriots took him.

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#36 by Dean // Mar 05, 2013 - 6:38pm

Draft guides are put out months before the draft, and at that point, nobody knew much about him. By the time the draft came around, those of us who were paying attention thought he was a second round talent who had a decent chance of jumping up into the late first. The only people who were calling him a reach when he went in round two were the ones who weren't paying attention.

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#40 by Chip // Mar 05, 2013 - 11:17pm

You should have been a scout Dean. Google "Offensive tackles" "2009 draft". Steve Wyche didn't have him in the top 10. Walter Football had him at 14th best OT (4-5th rd). SB Nation didn't have him the top 25. SI had him in the 4th rd. These are not great sites- just the ones that still have scouting reports on that draft. Even the better sites like NFL Draft scout had him in rounds 3-4. General consensus was late rounds and some of the smarter analysts had him as a late riser but no better than 3-4. No one had him in the second round. No one. I love me some heuristic biases.

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#42 by Karl Cuba // Mar 06, 2013 - 5:24am

You can probably still find draft lists that have RG3 in the third and Can Newton in the fifth.

He was a slightly lesser version of the Connor Barwin/ Margus Hunt type prospect that is raw but has obvious physical talent, medical issues or some off-field problems. Bruce Irvin would be another guy I'd drop into that category, you'd know about him if you'd done a little digging and you were hoping that your team would be the one to gamble on the high potential player (because as fans we get much too excited by the upside).

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#9 by big_jgke // Mar 04, 2013 - 4:49pm

The line: 'For me, I’ll take the better pass blocker with a creaky back over a player who has physical strength but past weight and work ethic issues.' Really stood out, mostly because I couldn't disagree more. There is absolutely no way that if I had to choose between two players of similar skill/talent that I would take the guy with proven medical issues over a guy whose issues could be solved by proper coaching/motivation.

To me it seems the medical-problems guy has the downside of turning into Marcus Mcneill, whereas the talented-unmotivated guy has the downside of turning into... Andre Smith.

Maybe you could explain this a little better?

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#12 by Pottsville Mar… // Mar 04, 2013 - 5:24pm

I would say that the downside for Andre Smith isn't current Andre Smith, who is gunning for a new contract and whose coaching staff has had several years to learn how to push his buttons. I would say it's more like Albert Haynesworth, who got paid and decided he could stop trying. Fat guys with motivational issues, even athletic ones, are always one offseason away from being too out-of-shape to bother giving effort.

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#14 by Ben Muth // Mar 04, 2013 - 5:31pm

Bingo. Downside of lazy guys is Jamarcus Russell or Haynesworth. They're useless on the field and cancers in the locker room. The worst part is you end up playing them anyway because you're paying them so much. If your big free agent is hurt at least you can't put him in.

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#16 by theslothook // Mar 04, 2013 - 6:18pm

Course the opposite is Moss/To, mercenary hot doggers who(when motivated) become absolute terrors and game changers that you end up kicking yourself for letting them go. Im pretty sure, despite the plethora of headaches, each team was happy overall with having both of those players on their rosters.(except for maybe oakland)

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#32 by ericxihn (not verified) // Mar 05, 2013 - 5:44pm

You can live with a deep threat wide receiver who drifts in and out of games, or even seasons. But an offensive tackle who drifts in and out of games is going to get your quarterback permanently associated with Dr James Andrews in google searchs.

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#35 by theslothook // Mar 05, 2013 - 6:25pm

Well, the offensive lineman counterpart to Moss and Owens would probably be McKinney. Somehow, a lackluster, out of shape, sloth like sieve in Minnesota cobbled himself together(not coincidentally after his career in the nf was in jeopardy) to a very solid left tackle for the eventual sb champs.

I wonder if McKinney's performance is still galling to Vikes fans, what say you will?

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#24 by Will Allen // Mar 05, 2013 - 12:36pm

The Titans did pretty well with Haynesworth. The key is to understand why your lazy tub of blubber suddenly played great in the last year of his contract, and then let Dan Snyder throw 50 million at him, while you get some compensatory picks. You get some decent to great play for a few years, and hopefully some draft value, while a competitor gets his cap space consumed by a guy who kills his locker room, while eating potato chips and donuts. WIN! WIN! WIN!

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#18 by Megamanic // Mar 04, 2013 - 6:36pm

He rarely engages without his outside foot splitting the defender right down the middle

Is this a euphemism for "Kicks the DE in the balls"?

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#20 by JonFrum // Mar 04, 2013 - 7:38pm

Vollmer has also filled in at LT and didn't get Brady killed. I'd rather have him on the right side, where he's one of the best in the league, but in a pinch he can fill in on the left and not lose you any games.

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#41 by JCutler6 // Mar 06, 2013 - 2:37am

Thanks Ben, great read. As a Bears fan this has me somewhat optimistic about free-agency

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#49 by BlueStarDude // Mar 08, 2013 - 10:41am

Late in having time to read this article (which is great as always), and I have to say as a GM I'd be wary of signing any of these guys even though they're obviously good players.

Vollmer will be 29 before pre-season even gets here and Albert turns 29 mid-season. And while Smith is three years younger there's no way I could trust that his work ethic will be adequate once he gets paid (of course a GM may have better inside info, but based on what is public: no way Jose).

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