Next to quarterback, I view left tackle as the most important position on a football team, ranking it a hair above a lock-down corner, a pass rushing defensive end or outside linebacker, and a game-changing wide receiver.
In this edition of "Building a Franchise", I will take a look at the ever-so-vital left tackle position, and compare what the Redskins have in Trent Williams, with some other prominent, young left tackles around the league. Now remember, just as I did with quarterback, skill, combined with age and potential will be taken into account, so you may not see a player like Jason Peters on my list, even though he's a pretty darn good left tackle.
Trent Williams - Trent Williams has everything you look for in a franchise left tackle. He is a mountain of a man, measuring at 6'5" and weighing north of 325 pounds. He has long arms, thick legs, and plays with an attitude. His best attribute is his quick feet and athleticism. For an offensive linemen, Williams is an athletic freak. He sets up very quickly in his kick-slide in pass protection, and has the ankle flexion to mirror the quickest defenders. His hands are strong, and once he gets them on an opponent, they are not going anywhere. He is excellent in the run game, using that powerful base, strong hands, and good leverage to maul defenders. He may be the best offensive tackle in the league when it comes to playing in space.
Joe Thomas - If you were to build a prototypical left tackle on Madden, you would have Joe Thomas. Thomas is a technician in every sense of the word. There is not a weakness to his game, and his multiple All-Pro nominations will attest to this. Thomas has some of the best hands I've seen on a left tackle since the great Jonathan Ogden. He is a superior run blocker, who can excel in any system. Thomas was one collegiate tackle who came into the league completely NFL ready, and his level of play has been at a Pro Bowl level from day one.
Ryan Clady - It's hard to believe Clady is just 27 years old. It seems like he's been in the league for over a decade. Clady is one of the best pass blockers in the league, and he is no slouch in the run game either. Although he is not seen as a mauler, he uses exceptional foot quickness, perfect hand placement, and flawless technique to dominate defenders. It's hard to believe this guy lasted until the 12th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Eugene Monroe - Monroe has been viewed as one of the NFL's best pass protectors since he entered the league in 2009. He displays flawless technique, and when he's on his game, there are few better. Originally drafted by Jacksonville, Monroe was traded to Baltimore last October, and the Ravens recently extended him through the 2018 season, making him a cornerstone of their offensive line for years to come.
Russell Okung - The Okung/Williams debate may go on for another decade, but I think it's safe to say as of the writing of this piece, that Williams is at a slightly higher level in their respective careers. Injuries have stunted Okung's growth a bit, as he's had some ankle issues he's had to play through, but make no doubt about it, when healthy, Okung is one of the best young tackles in the NFL today. When he first came into the NFL, Okung was viewed as a more polished product, with a little less upside than Trent Williams. Being more NFL ready, certainly helped during his rookie season, and there is no reason to think, barring injury, that he can't further elevate his play to the next level of eliteness.
Tyron Smith - Smith is a notch below the other left tackles on this list, but his potential is enormous. He is a physical specimen, standing at 6'5" 318, and has the athleticism of an NFL tight end. Functional strength is one area Smith needs to improve on, but at 23 years old, he's got plenty of time to do so.