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Offensive Linemen and the Draft

Update [2008-3-27 1:19:35 by TexSkins]: A few things from ESPN. First, this article about how the GOP convention might interfere with football. (The Skins - Giants season opener is on the same Thursday night.) I wonder which one would get more viewers?

And second, ESPN had their nightly "On the Clock" segment for the Redskins, and Mel Kiper brought up three names: Harvey, Talib, and Sweed. He said that he thought Sweed was more of a round 2 pick (which I totally agree with), he said that Talib might be the guy there for the pick, and he said if Harvey is there, you gotta take him. And that is why Mel is the Draft Man. More on the draft tomorrow. G'night.

P.S. Mike Tirico closed with nice parting shot about how it will be nice hearing from the Skins on draft day "for a change." You win this round, Tirico.

I've been saying for a while now that other than a franchise Left Tackle, almost all Offensive Linemen should be drafted in the later rounds of the draft.  Here's my reasoning: first round picks get a lot of money, especially for unproven rookies, and don't work out at any higher rate than rookies drafted later (and who earn less money) or rookies who are undrafted and earn even less money (Stephen Heyer anyone?)  Last year's top OL drafted was Joe Thomas out of Wisconsin by the Browns.  From this article:
Joe Thomas (No. 3 Overall): Five-year contract worth $42.5 million. The deal includes $22-$23 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN.

That's a lot of money to be spent on one player who has yet to play a single down in the NFL.  Granted, Joe Thomas might turn out to be a fabulous player.  But then again, he might just be a huge waste of money.  Being a first round pick doesn't mean that a player will be a Pro Bowl caliber player.  (P.S. Joe Thomas did make the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement this past season.)

Now look at the offensive linemen who made the Pro Bowl last year for the NFC (using the NFL.com page with a few formatting changes.):

Tackle - Flozell Adams, Dallas
Walter Jones, Seattle
Chris Samuels, Washington
Chad Clifton, Green Bay

Guard - Leonard Davis, Dallas
Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota
Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia

Center - Andre Gurode, Dallas
Matt Birk, Minnesota

And the AFC (using the same page, again with a few changes.):

Tackle - Matt Light, New England
Jason Peters, Buffalo
Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore
Marcus McNeill, San Diego
Joe Thomas, Cleveland

Guard - Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh
Logan Mankins, New England
Kris Dielman, San Diego

Center - Jeff Saturday, Indianapols
Dan Koppen, New England

Now, quick... how many are 1st rounders?  No cheating.  Well, you have the aforementioned Joe Thomas (3rd overall), Ogden (4th overall), Logan Mankins (32nd overall), Alan Faneca (26th overall), Samuels (3rd overall), Leonard Davis (2nd overall), Jones (6th overall), Andrews (16th overall), and Hutchinson (17th overall).

Now check these out:  Koppen (5th round), Light (2nd), Saturday (undrafted), Dielman (undrafted), McNeill (2nd), Peters (undrafted), Adams (2nd), Gurode (2nd), Clifton (2nd), and Matt Birk (6th round).  

More than half of last years' Pro Bowlers came outside the first round.  But of those first rounders, only Faneca, Andrews, Mankins and Hutchinson were drafted as any of the 4 spots other than LT.  (Yes, Davis made it last year as a G but he was supposed to be Arizona's left tackle for the next decade.)  And those guys are all guys playing next to the LT.  Coincidence???  (Okay, it probably is a coincidence.)

Anyway, where I'm going with this is that the Skins need depth at the OL position, but I'm not sure they need to spend higher picks, and by extension shell out more money, for that depth.  Maybe it's just me.

The starting line is probably set, with Samuels, Kendall, Rabach, Thomas, and Jansen (moving from LT to RT.)  Heyer probably backs up the Ts and Fabini is slated to backup the Gs.  No backup C at the moment, but that could change.  Of those names, which is to say of the top 7 guys for the 5 spots, only Heyer is under 30.  That's bad.  Real bad.  Alexander could spot fill-in, but he might not be the best long-term option if any of the aforementioned names gets hurt.  And this line gets hurt.

Thomas (torn biceps) and Jansen (dislocated ankle, broken fibula) all had serious injuries.  Fabini, Rabach, backup Todd Wade, and Heyer all missed time.  And the probability of them missing even more time only goes up given the fact that they are all one year older.  Hell, 3 guys went down in the GB game last year.

The team needs to upgrade the backup OL position with youth before it is too late.  I'd just rather see them do it on Day 2 on the Draft and via undrafted FAs.  Every dollar saved can only help the salary cap situation.  

You know, to sign an offensive lineman when someone goes down.