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The St. Louis Rams must address the offensive tackle position this off-season. Which teams stand in their way?
The St. Louis Rams need a tackle. Fortunately, the 2013 draft looks to contain plenty of solid options at tackle. Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones looking to upgrade at the tackle position. Matching up value, talent, and draft position may cause the Rams to wait to draft a tackle with their 2nd pick in the first or in one of the subsequent rounds. Here is a look at the teams drafting ahead of the Rams who have a need at the offensive tackle position.
Tackle Needy Teams
Right off the bat the with the first pick, the Kansas City Chiefs could draft a tackle. The Chiefs current left tackle, Branden Albert, is about to become a free agent. If the Chiefs don't strike a deal with Albert and choose not to franchise tag him, they could be in desperate need of a tackle. Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher both grade out high enough to warrant being the first overall selection in the NFL Draft.
Albert is a solid left tackle, so I believe the Chiefs will figure out a way to retain him allowing them to use the #1 overall pick on another need, but you never know.
Next, drafting in the three spot, the Oakland Raiders could use an upgrade at tackle. Matter of fact, I waded through a Raiders forum while doing research for this article and here are the titles of three threads on the first page - "Branden Albert", "Jake Long might fit with Raiders", and "Why Not Eric Fisher?"
With Eric Fisher's meteoric rise up draft boards, it's not crazy to think that the Raiders could look to solidify their line in a year that's weak at the QB position.
Out of the teams listed thus far, the Eagles have the most pressing need at tackle. To say the Eagles had major issues on the offensive line this year may be a bit of an understatement - just check out Marcus Vick's Twitter timeline. Plugging in Jason Peters could fix things on one side if he comes back 100%. But their line needs more than a one-side fix. Drafting Joeckel or Fisher will allow them to kick Todd Herrmans inside to guard where he belongs.
The Lions, with the 5th selection, have much more pressing needs, but if Gosder Cherilus leaves via free agency, that could leave the Lions wanting. Riley Reiff and Jeff Backus would then be the Lions two options. Talk about opposites. Reiff is young and inexperienced, while Backus has seen his day. I doubt the Lions go tackle this early, but it remains a need for them.
Offensive tackle is second only to quarterback on the Cardinals list of holes to fill. The Cardinals hold pick #7. Levi Brown is a decent enough player, but he will be coming back after tearing his triceps. Other than Brown, the Cardinals have nothing. If Joeckel or Fisher are there, tackle has to be the pick unless they want to dip their toe into this years murky QB class.
The Jets are similar to the Cardinals in that the need for a tackle ranks only behind the need for a signal caller. Heck, the Jets TRADED FOR JASON SMITH - which is equally indicting as the Rams trading for Wayne Hunter. I expect the Jets to address this need early, as it looks as if they are going to give Sanchez another shot and forego drafting a QB. The Jets hold the 9th pick in the draft.
The Chargers need not one, but two tackles. Unfortunately for the Chargers, I don't expect Fisher or Joeckel to be available at pick #11. That leaves the Chargers with three options: trade up for one of them, fill the need in free agency, or reach for a prospect like Lane Johnson. Either way, the Chargers could hold the linchpin in how the Rams draft unfolds.
The Dolphins need at tackle all hinges on whether or not they bring Jake Long back. The Phins have oodles of cap space so re-signing Long looks like the best bet. If they can't bring Long back, the Dolphins are in trouble. Jonathon Martin, who the Dolphins drafted last season, struggled and they aren't in a position to nab either of the top two tackles. My bet is the Dolphins do what it takes to retain Long.
The Panthers have vital needs on the defensive side of the ball, but Cam Newton needs better protection. I fully expect the Panthers to go defense in round 1, but if the Rams follow suit, the Panthers could snatch some day 2 prospects out from under them. If D.J. Fluker is there at #42 for the Panthers, I doubt they pass him up.
The New Orleans Saints need two tackles to try and keep Drew Brees upright. The Saints tackles were porous in pass protection last season and I expect the Saints to address this need early in the draft or in free agency. Fortunately for the Rams, the Saints have much bigger needs on the defensive side of the ball which may prevent them from drafting a tackle in the first.
After the Saints at #15, the Rams pick at #16, followed by the Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, Bears, and Bengals. Out of those teams, the Giants, and Bears have major needs at tackle before the Rams' number is called again at #22.
Rams Draft Outlook
Although there are ten teams with potential needs at tackle drafting ahead of the Rams, some needs will be filled via free agency, some teams have more pressing needs, and some teams wont take a linemen in the first due to draft strategy. The Rams will almost certainly miss out on Joeckel and Fisher, but Lane Johnson, D.J. Fluker, and Oday Aboushi are solid options - Lane Johnson being the only one I would consider in the first. The draft could end with the Rams waiting until pick #22 or the 2nd round to get the value to match up with draft position.