Teams rush to draft OTs

NEW YORK -- It was supposed to be a draft of linebackers and defensive backs, but the surprise position Saturday on Day 1 of the 2006 NFL draft was offensive line.

Ten offensive tackles went during the first three rounds. That's the most since 2000, when 10 tackles went in a year that produced Chris Samuels of the Redskins, Mark Tauscher of the Packers and Marvel Smith of the Steelers.

Even though D'Brickashaw Ferguson was the only tackle to go in the first round, nine went between picks 39 and 89.

One reason so many tackles went in the first 89 picks is that the position is thin. Teams felt more urgency to draft offensive linemen in the first day.

"There aren't a lot of offensive linemen, and the class is pretty thin," Steelers vice president Kevin Colbert said. "There aren't a lot as you go forward."

The second round was full of surprises. The Packers raised a few eyebrows by taking Daryn Colledge from Boise State in the second round with the 47th pick after Winston Justice of USC went to the Eagles with the 39th pick. Colledge is considered a pretty good developmental tackle, but it was surprising to see him go before Marcus McNeill of Auburn.

Tthe bigger surprises came when the Vikings used a second-round pick on tackle Ryan Cook of New Mexico, and the Panthers used a third-rounder on Rashad Butler of Miami. Another surprise was the Raiders taking Weber State's Paul McQuistan in the third. Those three all were considered second-day prospects.

"If you are going to go for an offensive lineman, you have to go for them a little earlier, because there aren't a lot of them," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said.

The rush to draft tackles cost guards, a position that usually gets hot in the second and third rounds. Only four guards went in first three rounds. Two of big name guards -- Max Jean-Gilles of Georgia and Fred Matua of USC -- sat through the first day without being selected.

Teams had to be strategic in getting their linemen. Credit the Jets with being smart. But, of course, they had the most urgent needs. The Jets might have had the least-talented offensinve line in the NFL heading into Sautrday. But after drafting Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in the first round, that will change. Both are considered to be among the best at their positions in the past few years.

The Texans might have been the luckiest team in terms of offensive linemen. After years of waiting for the offensive line to come together, the Texans sat back and grabbed tackle Eric Winston of Miami and guard Charles Spencer of Pitt with the 65th and 66th picks, giving them second-round values in the third round.

"We were fortunate to get Winston and Spencer after the second round," Texans general manager Charley Casserley said. "We think they could really help us."

Overall, it was a strange day for offensive linemen. More tackles went than expected, and it could be a thin draft for blockers after the fourth round, when some of the top remaining guards will go.

Teams still needing offensive line help will have to tackle the already depleted free-agent market.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.b