Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. Left tackle is the second most important position on the field, as salaries and a history of early draft picks have indicated. It's fairly simple, actually. If the quarterback is the most important player on the field then he who protects the quarterback is No. 2. And the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 could be a bookend tackle.
1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (6-6, 306)
The big blocker from Arlington, Texas, saw his level of competition increase significantly last season when his Aggies joined the SEC. He faced LSU, Florida and Alabama and gave his team a chance to win each of these games. He has perfect size, power and fundamentals to play the prototypical left tackle position. He was the cornerstone of the line for an offense that was one of, if not the, best in the SEC led by a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
2. D.J. Fluker, Alabama (6-5, 339)
Coming out of high school in Foley, Ala., Fluker was considered one of the biggest prospects in Alabama history, both literally and figuratively. He was a surefire can’t-miss superstar. It took him some time to adapt to the SEC, but he blossomed into one of the better tackles in the nation. He has a huge, powerful frame, has the best coaching in the country, has a national championship ring and has plenty of experience facing the nation’s best defensive linemen. The only thing keeping him from top-five status is the belief that he will stick at right tackle instead of left.
3. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-7, 306)
The scouting report should be fairly easy to pinpoint for the big guy from Rochester, Mich. He has great size and was a steady force on the edge for the Chippewas. His MAC ties do raise a few questions about the level of competition he faced in college, however. While there has been some NFL-ready talent developed by CMU taken in recent drafts, dominating opposing linemen in the MAC doesn’t mean you can block in the NFL. Still, Fisher has one of the best frames in the draft at his position, has demonstrated an ability to hold the edge in pass protection consistently and shows excellent overall athleticism. There is little downside to Mr. Fisher.
4. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (6-6, 303)
Few players have the resume that Johnson possesses. He converted to left tackle from quarterback and has the foot speed, quickness and agility to match. He has a long, rangy frame that will need to carry more weight and strength. His raw athletic ability packaged with his adept understanding of the game gives him as much upside as any player at any position in this draft. He proved during his Sooners career, protecting Landry Jones for years, that he is capable of playing tackle at the highest level.
5. Oday Aboushi, Virginia (6-5, 308)
The Cavs have a sneaky good tradition of offensive linemen and Aboushi is the next one on this list. He won’t be considered elite until he proves he can consistently be a dominant force. At times, he has shown himself to be the prototypical blocker with great size, solid quickness and a killer instinct. Other times, his play was rough around the edges, resulting in him getting beat. Added strength would go a long way towards locking in a starting spot on the next level. He was well-coached and prepared for the next level at a school known for its solid offensive line play.
6. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 306)
He isn’t the most talented prospect in the class so he may not stick at tackle, but he is one of the more versatile. The Volunteers' offensive line as a whole showed marked improvement over the past few seasons thanks in large part to Thomas’ leadership. He played relatively well against elite-level competition in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina during his career. Where scouts evaluate his long-term future will largely determine if he lands in the first round at tackle or slips into the second round as a guard. Either way, he has little downside.
7. Justin Pugh, Syracuse (6-4, 307)
He doesn't have the biggest frame for the tackle position, but exhibits all the needed tools and skills to be successful on the next level. He has loads of experience, excellent fundamentals, solid athleticism and versatility. His smallish frame — e.g., short arms — limits his raw upside, but he should be a dependable part of any NFL team.
8. Brennan Williams, North Carolina (6-6, 318)
The steady road grader has watched his stock steadily climb over the last two seasons after finally earning a starting spot as a junior. A tremendous commodity in the running game, he still needs to prove to teams that he can hold his own against elite pass-rushers. He is one of the bigger players at his position, but scouts need to figure out if the Tar Heels' O-line was greater than the sum of its parts. Williams teamed with elite guard Jonathan Cooper to form one of the better units in the ACC. Quickness and fundamentals will be key to what side of the line he plays on.
9. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin (6-6, 308)
The Bagders have been churning out excellent linemen for the better part of two decades and this offense has been amongst the nation’s best over the last few seasons. Wagner has a solid frame and is an excellent athlete for his size but questions remain about his overall upside. Players like Whitney Mercilus and William Gholston were able to play effectively against him. He might be more of a right tackle as his overall toughness and consistency needs to improve.
10. Reid Fragel, Ohio State (6-8, 308)
Long, rangy prospect who has elite upside, plenty of room to grow and solid athleticism. He also played at an elite program against Big Ten defensive lines. He is still learning the position after a late move to offensive line, so bulking up and studying the finer points of blocking are sure to come early in his NFL career. There is plenty of intrigue with Fragel, but there is plenty of risk involved as well.
Related: Athlon Sports 2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
11. David Quessenberry, San Jose State (6-5, 302)
He owns an impressive all-around set of skills but will need to prove he can get bigger and stronger to stick at left tackle. His versatility, however, makes him a sure-fire contributor somewhere along the line.
12. Menelik Watson, Florida State (6-5, 310)
He is as physically gifted as any player in this class but is extremely raw and will need plenty of work in order to land as a starting left tackle. Learning the position will be paramount for Watson early on.
13. Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (6-5, 306)
A late riser through the draft process, Armstead shows excellent athletic ability. He moves well in space and is quick in pass protection. He will need to get stronger and prove he can play with elite athletes.
14. David Bakhtiari, Colorado (6-4, 299)
He lacks the ideal size, length and strength to excel on the NFL level right out of the gate. But he has an NFL pedigree and proved to be dependable on a bad team.
15. Xavier Nixon, Florida (6-6, 321, Sr.)
Formerly the nation’s No. 1 OL prospect as a recruit, Nixon started the better part of four seasons in Gainesville. He has a huge frame and excellent build but needs to refine the subtle parts of his game to start at left tackle.
16. Chris Faulk, LSU (6-5, 331)
17. Nick Becton, Virginia Tech (6-5, 323)
18. Jordan Milles, Louisiana Tech (6-5, 315)
19. Luke Marquardt, Azusa Pacific (6-8, 315)
20. J.C. Tretter, Cornell (6-4, 307)
21. Braden Brown, BYU (6-5, 310)
22. Mark Jackson, Glenville State (6-5, 328)
23. Manase Foketi, West Texas A&M (6-5, 318)
24. Rogers Gaines, Tennessee State (6-6, 334)
25. John Wetzel, Boston College (6-7, 315)
26. Emmett Clearly, Boston College (6-7, 316)
27. Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas (6-5, 298)
28. Vinston Painter, Virginia Tech (6-4, 306)
29. Jordan Devey, Memphis (6-7, 317)
30. Jamaal Johnson-Webb, Alabama A&M (6-5, 313)
2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers