When the NFL lockout ends, one of the big questions to be answered is how quickly rookies might be able to contribute without the benefit of being part of spring camps/organized team activities and having fully digested a playbook under the watch of coaches.
In New England, the position many will be watching is left tackle, because that's where first-round draft choice Nate Solder plays. Can Solder do what Matt Light did as a rookie in 2001, starting the majority of the team's games (15 of 19) at such an important position?
In his Sunday football notes piece for the Boston Globe, Greg A. Bedard quotes four anonymous NFL scouting executives, and three of them pick Solder as the Patriots’ draft pick most likely to contribute this season.
In a blog entry, Bedard himself expresses some surprise at that, which highlights the differing views on the topic.
From this perspective, Solder is going to need more time. I'd be surprised if he's a Day 1 starter.
In a related note, the Colts seem to be thinking along the same lines with their first-round pick, left tackle Anthony Castonzo of Boston College (see "Things I Didn't Used to Know" section of Dan Pompei's Sunday Blitz piece on National Football Post).
One factor to consider with the Patriots is the status of the offensive line as a whole. If Light doesn't return (he's an unrestricted free agent), that could thrust Solder into the mix quicker. Other options include moving Sebastian Vollmer from right tackle to left tackle, or simply inserting Nick Kaczur, Mark LeVoir or Steve Maneri at left tackle.
Elsewhere on the line, there is some uncertainty with starting left guard Logan Mankins, who has been assigned the franchise tag. Will he sign it? In addition, starting right guard Stephen Neal retired, opening that spot on the first unit, with Dan Connolly a top candidate.
When all those factors are considered, what do you think when it comes to Solder and the likelihood he could start at left tackle from Day 1?
Vote in the accompanying poll and/or share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.