What to do about the offensive tackle position is an interesting issue for the Green Bay Packers this offseason. Two out of the last three first round picks have been used to help reinforce the tackles and protect Aaron Rodgers, but injuries have kept the unit a continual question mark. We continue our look at some possibilities for the first and second round by breaking down some prospects that should be able to help keep Rodgers upright should the Packers go in that direction again.
First-Round Prospect (26 overall)
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
In many ways Fluker sounds an awful lot like Phil Loadholt from the Vikings. He’s a big, long, mauler offensive lineman. He’s great in the run game and struggles in pass protection. Adding a bit of nasty could be a great asset to the Packers offensive line, but having a tackle who struggles at pass blocking may not be a wise idea for the Packers. If he did end up with the Packers he may also move to the inside and help reinforce the guard position which would be very helpful too.
Second Round Prospects (55 overall)
Justin Pugh, T/G, Syracuse
Pugh is an experienced tackle who has started every game over the last three seasons. He appears to have the speed and athleticism the Packers look for in an offensive lineman and generally good technique and body control for pass blocking. It does appear he suffers the same short arm syndrome that Bryan Bulaga suffers though. As you may recall, those suffering this affliction are written off by many as right tackle or guard instead of a left tackle at the NFL level. Pugh’s stock has been on the rise as of late and there has even been some chatter of him creeping into the bottom part of the first round. Therefore he may not be there at 55, but if the Packers trade down he could be an interesting option to reinforce the offensive line and hedge the bets for Bulaga and Derek Sherrod returning from injury.
Kyle Long, T/G, Oregon
Long is another one of those "bloodline" players who has deep family connections to the NFL (his dad is HOF defensive end & Fox Broadcaster Howie Long and his brother is Chris Long of the St. Louis Rams). Kyle is the most athletic of the Longs, but that does not mean he is as good a football player. Long started his college athletic career by playing baseball at Florida State, attempting to do something different from the rest of his family. This ended after a DUI charge. He then spent two years playing DE and OT in JUCO before transferring to Oregon. While at Oregon he shifted between left guard and left tackle. He has all the athletic tools to play the position, but often failed to pick up stunts and recognize blitzes. He has a high ceiling and may be worth a high round pick to add depth early on and iron out some of the wrinkles in his game.
Menlik Watson, T, Florida State
Although some may think Watson as a first round player, the better value for him is probably in the second round. Watson oozes upside and is just about the perfect model of what a left tackle should look like with long arms, great balance, and a powerful frame. The problem is that he is also very green and will probably be a long term project for whatever team drafts him. It’s an understandable problem for the young man to have since he did not grow up playing football (he’s originally from England) and first tried basketball and boxing before coming to the United States to try football out. Watson could be a valuable find for the Packers, but may be the plug and play starter that many are looking for along the offensive line right now.
Terron Armstead, T, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Another prospect who rates as a fantastic athlete but work in progress on the field, Armstead has been a small school prospect climbing draft boards after strong performances at the East-West Shrine Game and the Combine. Armstead is fast (he ran a 4.71 40 yard dash) and nimble on his feet, which is a good combination for the Packers zone blocking, pass happy offense. He has had problems anchoring against the bull rush and finishing blocks in college. Once again, high upside but will probably need some work with technique and in the weight room. Teams considering Armstead also need to consider the talent that he played against. Arkansas-Pine Bluff isn't exactly in the SEC, and so there there will be some questions about how he transitions to the NFL level. This is not to say he and all other small school prospects are doomed from the start, but merely that the question hangs in the air unlike those who have faced the top competition at the collegiate level.