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Tackles: A matter of opinion

(This is the second in a seven-part series previewing the NFL Draft. Today's installment: offensive line.)


There are no Jonathan Ogdens or Tony Bosellis at the top of the tackle class in the 2012 NFL Draft. Those two were Hall-of-Fame caliber talents when they came out of the college ranks.

NFL scouts will have to decide: Do they want to focus on what the top tackles CAN do or CAN'T do?

Such is the case with a strong candidate to be the Buffalo Bills' first-round pick, Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin.

On the "can-do" side: Martin has elite size and protected the blind side of star quarterback Andrew Luck for three full seasons. That's a lot of production. On the "can't-do" side: All of his testing numbers say he's not a phenomenal athlete. While he has quick feet, he doesn't have elite foot speed.

"Good player -- very good player," says Bills General Manager Buddy Nix.

"Jonathan Martin, to me: the prototypical left tackle," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says.

"Gifted athletically, needs to get a little bit stronger. A lot of things I said about (top-five tackle prospect Matt) Kalil, you could say about him. Needs to get a little bit stronger but will protect the quarterback."

"When I watch the tape of Jonathan Martin, I think he's not an elite tackle," said ESPN analyst Todd McShay. "I think that's pretty obvious. He's not elite, I don't think, in any area."

The draftniks, it seems, have reservations about the fact Martin ran the 40-yard dash in a slow 5.4 seconds and bench-pressed 225 pounds only 20 times. He's a finesse tackle, not a physical guy. Of course, NFL teams won't be sending Martin, at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, on any 40-yard go-routes.

Martin's fluid movement and production on the field, combined with the Bills' need for a left tackle, make him the favorite to be the 10th overall pick.

Ohio State's Mike Adams may contend for the Bills' top choice, but more likely only if they trade down from No. 10. He has a bit more heft than Martin, at 6-7, 323, and at least as much athleticism. Adams has started only 25 games (Martin started 37), and his performances for the Buckeyes were more up and down.

Said ESPN's Mel Kiper: "Mike Adams is kind of a hit or miss. Could be really good. Has great feet, great athletic ability. He's gotta get stronger and gotta get more consistent."

Said McShay: "Mike Adams is maybe the second most talented offensive lineman in this draft. But he's inconsistent and you don't trust him. I just don't trust him enough to take the guy at 15."

The top tackle in the draft is Southern Cal's Matt Kalil, the brother of Carolina's fine center, Ryan Kalil. Most draftniks rate Iowa's Riley Reiff as the No. 2 tackle, and there's a good chance he could be off the board in the first nine picks. It's questionable whether Reiff has as much potential to be great as Martin and Adams.

"I just don't know that he's going to be an elite left tackle in the NFL, and that's what you're kind of hoping for and expecting when you draft an offensive tackle in the top 10," McShay said.

If a better player falls to No. 10 and the Bills are forced to take a tackle later on, there are tackle prospects throughout the draft.

Middle-round prospects include California's Mitchell Schwartz (6-5, 318) and Boise State's Nate Potter (6-6, 303).

Aside from BCS schools, tackles with long-range potential in the later rounds include Thomas Compton (6-5, 314) of South Dakota and Jeff Adams (6-6, 306) of Columbia.

The draft is deep in talent for interior offensive linemen. Stanford's David DeCastro is the best guard and a top-20 talent. Wisconsin's Peter Konz is the best center.

NEXT: Defensive line