Every year, it seems, the premium for an offensive tackle goes up.
And every year, it seems, the Arizona Cardinals are looking for one.
This draft is no different.
But, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, the sense of urgency for the Cardinals to choose one with the 20th overall pick in May's draft can be relaxed because of sheer number of tackles available.
"I think offensive tackle is particularly deep," Mayock said. "You can go three rounds, four rounds deep this year, and get a starting offensive tackle."
At this week's NFL combine, head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim will undoubtedly be scouting the tackles -- which may be end up being a waste of time if the Cardinals can sign a left tackle in free agency. Various mock drafts, including those by ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have the Cardinals going with a tackle at No. 20.
Besides being deep, the tackle pool this year is also talented and Mayock said the draft could see three tackles taken in the first 10 picks. The Cardinals have a history of drafting tackles in the first round. They most recently chose Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007, and after a rocky tenure in Arizona he was traded this past season. Including Brown, the Cardinals have chosen four tackles in the first round since moving to Arizona in 1988 and 15 overall. Only two, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, both from the 2012 draft class, are still on the roster.
Notre Dame's Zack Martin has been linked to the Cardinals, so has Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio. Both, however, may be off the board long before the 20th pick comes up espceially if there's a fire sale on tackles.
Those last few may not be first-round talent and the Cards may treat them as such, but even if the Cardinals pass and the names listed above get scooped up, Arizona could still be in luck.
"I think at 20, sometimes you've got to identify the best player that's there, as opposed to just what your need is," Mayock said. "And I think whether they get the tackle at 20 or in the second or third round, they can get a good one."