Now that Carolina’s trade of Jeff Otah to the New York Jets has been voided because he couldn’t pass a physical, it might be a good time to revisit the 2008 draft as it pertains to offensive tackles and NFC South teams.
There’s an old school of thought that you’re not getting any sure things with an offensive tackle unless you take one in the top half of the first round. That, very much, holds true when you look back at what happened in 2008 and how the careers of the tackles have played out.
The No. 1 overall pick in that draft was Jake Long by Miami. He was viewed as a sure thing then and that’s turned out to be true. Long has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. Denver selected Ryan Clady at No. 11 overall and he’s been to two Pro Bowls.
After those two is when you start to see a drop off. Kansas City selected Branden Albert at No. 15. He’s started 60 games, but hasn’t been to any Pro Bowls. It’s a similar story for Gosder Cherilus, who went to Detroit at No. 17. He’s started a lot of games, but doesn’t have any real accolades on his résumé.
Now, we’re getting toward the back half of the first round where there’s an even bigger drop off and, sadly, that’s where the NFC South comes into the equation.
The Panthers already had drafted running back Jonathan Stewart, but they felt they really needed a tackle and they saw the good ones were coming off the board in rapid order. They made a trade to get Otah at No. 19. Otah was pretty good his first two seasons, but he was playing right tackle. You don’t need to reach for a right tackle (the Panthers had and still have Jordan Gross on the left side), and I think time has shown the Panthers reached on this one. Otah started having knee problems and played in only four games the past two years. At least for the moment, the Panthers hold his rights. But they’re ready to go with Byron Bell at right tackle and they have some depth behind him. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Panthers work out an injury settlement and release Otah. I would be surprised if he ever plays for Carolina again.
Carolina general manager Marty Hurney has made a lot of good draft picks through the years. But the final verdict is in on Otah and he clearly was not a good draft pick.
The final verdict isn’t in on Sam Baker just yet. The Falcons still hope Baker can overcome injury problems and be their starting left tackle this season. If Baker doesn’t have a good season, then you can label him as a bad draft pick. At the time, a lot of people said the Falcons were reaching when they traded to get Baker at No. 21. That may turn out to be true in the final analysis.
But the Falcons wanted a left tackle to protect the blind side of quarterback Matt Ryan, who they selected third overall in that draft. They didn’t have the currency to move up any higher and there weren’t many other options. The only other tackle taken in the first round was Duane Brown by Houston at No. 26. He’s been a solid starter for the Texans, but the Falcons must have had Baker rated higher.
After Brown, no tackle was taken until the third round. John Greco went to St. Louis with the No. 65 overall pick. Chad Rinehart (Redskins) and Oniel Cousins (Ravens) were selected late in the third round. Greco has made four career starts. Rinehart spent two seasons in Washington before moving onto Buffalo, where he became a starter at guard last season. Cousins has made only five career starts.
The lesson here is pretty obvious. If you want an elite tackle, chances are good you’re not going to get one unless you’ve got a pick in the first half of the first round.