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Thursday, June 24, 2010
Are left tackles overvalued by the NFL?


When it comes to the high value placed on left tackles, KC Joyner has a loud response.

"O-ver-rated!"

Clap! Clap! Clap, clap, clap!

"O-ver-rated!"

Clap! Clap! Clap, clap, clap!

In a column for ESPN Insider, Joyner (aka the Football Scientist) presents as myth the importance for a great left tackle to make an offense work.

Joyner's opinion might buoy Buffalo Bills fans' expectations of their offensive line. The Bills refused to pay two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters last year and for the past two offseasons declined to address the void through free agency. They didn't draft a tackle last spring and waited until the fifth round to take Ed Wang this year.

The other AFC East clubs have a left tackle who has been to at least one Pro Bowl in the past four seasons. Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins and Matt Light of the New England Patriots have been to two apiece.

Joyner wrote the book "Blindsided: Why the Left Tackle is Overrated and Other Contrarian Football Thoughts" in response to Michael Lewis' book "The Blind Side," which chronicled the rise of the NFL left tackle juxtaposed with the inspirational story of Michael Oher, a Baltimore Ravens first-round pick last year.

Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland based their organizations future on the more traditional theory, taking Long first overall ahead of quarterback Matt Ryan.

Joyner states his case by taking a look at how few championship teams have had an elite left tackle. Of the past nine Super Bowl winners, only one featured a first-round pick at left tackle.
There could be many explanations for these incidents, but the Occam's Razor version is that teams are examining the evidence and realizing they don't need an elite left tackle to win. ...

Overall, four of the last nine Super Bowl winners had a left tackle who was drafted in the third round or later. It's not as if these players were lower-round selections who built themselves into elite starters, either, as they had only seven Pro Bowl selections and one All-Pro pick in a combined 56 seasons between them.

The Patriots won all three Super Bowls with Light at left tackle. They drafted him 48th overall in 2001. His heir apparent, Sebastian Vollmer, was considered a reach at 58th overall last year but has proved quality tackles can be found deeper in the draft.