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NFC West draft watch: Offensive linemen

11/12/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. passes along a "thank you" to those who left thoughts and comments in the recent item soliciting feedback about 2010 draft priorities for NFC West teams. Steve read through the comments in preparation for our first in-season discussion matching projected team needs with available talent.

We covered offensive linemen in this discussion, figuring the Seahawks and 49ers in particular could target tackles as early as the first round. I spend all of my time watching NFC West teams. Steve spends his time evaluating college prospects. It was nice to compare notes.

Muench sees Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung as a potential top-five overall selection. We discussed several other prospects, beginning with the top two listed on the chart.

Steve Muench: I don’t think Russell Okung or Trent Williams have has been as dominant this year as they were last season. Williams has struggled with speed rushers since moving from the right to the left side. I think he quickly develops into an excellent right tackle, but there is clearly some question about his ability to hold up on the left side in the NFL. Okung’s future is clearly on the left side. Though he doesn’t have elite athletic ability, he gets set quickly and he shows excellent balance.

Mike Sando: We've seen runs on tackles in some recent drafts. How does the first round project for tackles in 2010?

Steve Muench: We have given five offensive tackles first-round grades this year. They are Okung (No. 4 overall), Williams (18), Bulaga (21), Brown (22) and Davis (25). Bulaga and Davis are juniors. There's a big dropoff after Okung. We have Charles Brown lower because he isn’t as strong overall, but he is a better left tackle prospect than Williams. He was recruited as a tight end and is really athletic. As the season has progressed, my opinion of him has risen. The Ohio State game exposed his lack of physicality, but in the games since then, he has come off the ball harder. He needs to improve still in his overall strength as a drive blocker.

Mike Sando: Seattle has adopted more zone concepts in its running game. How do these players project?

Steve Muench: Williams would fit very well in a zone scheme. Okung would also be a great fit for the zone scheme. What Okung did with Brandon Pettigrew last year, in 2008 -- they were excellent together at sealing the edge. You see the same thing with USC's Charles Brown and their tight end, Anthony McCoy. They do a good job of passing off guys from one another, keeping their heads up and reacting to the defense.

Mike Sando: What is the book on Bulaga?

Steve Muench: At 6-6 and 311 pounds, he moves well for his size and uses his long arms to ride edge rushers past the pocket. He also has the potential to develop into an effective NFL left tackle.

Mike Sando: The 49ers might be in the market for a right tackle. They'll have two first-round picks, possibly somewhere in the middle of the round.

Steve Muench: Trent Williams is going to be an excellent right tackle. I’m not as confident in his abiliy to line up on the left side. He has had problems with speed rushers. He is a powerful guy. Bulaga can also drive people off the ball. They have that junkyard-dog mentality you really look for in a right offensive tackle in that kind of scheme. They could also wait til the second round and wait for guy like Sam Young from Notre Dame. He would not thrive in a pass-heavy offense, but with man-scheme blocking up front, he could be a solid right tackle, too.

The other guy I am really impressed with is Kyle Calloway, the tackle opposite Bulaga at Iowa. Against Northwestern, he faced off primarily against Corey Wootton, who is a defensive end we have ranked in the second-round range. Calloway really held his own in that matchup. He is rising. We have him as a third-round grade.

Mike Sando: The 49ers could use help at guard, too, but I wouldn't think they would look for one early.

Steve Muench: There are three guards ranked ahead of the three I am going to talk about. But as far as third-round values go, there is a kid from UMass named Vladimir Ducasse and then Zane Beadles from Utah and then Sergio Render from Virginia Tech. I have talked to a couple guys who have seen him and really liked the way Ducasse has moved for a big 328-pound guy.

Beadles is lining up at tackle for Utah, and they are a big running team. Because of athletic limitations, he will kick inside in the NFL. We have seen guys do that in the past. Robert Gallery is one example. Pretty good guard. If you are targeting him in the third round with that value, good value. Same with Ducasse. Render’s market has settled. Any earlier than the third round and you are reaching. He has some physical limitations as far as athletic ability. He is never going to be a great pass-blocker. Because of that, third round, but he could start and be a good fit for what San Francisco wants. He is nasty and you want guards to have that mentality. You want a guy who is mad at the world. Whether or not he is, he plays like it.

Mike Sando: You said there's a drop-off from Okung to Williams. I'll assume there's another one after Davis, whom you have 25th.

Steve Muench: Yes. One small-school guy to watch is Tony Washington from Abilene Christian, a tackle. For a 6-6, 300-pounder, he really impressed me with his athletic ability. He looks like a second-round guy right now, but he has that potential to develop into a left tackle. The concern would be the level of competition he has faced so far. We’re hoping we get to see him at the Senior Bowl to see how he handles the bright lights a little bit. He is an intriguing small-school guy a team might find in second round.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the knowledge. Let's talk quarterbacks next time.