2012 Path to the Draft: Offensive Tackle

*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply

A position-by-position look at the 2012 NFL Draft (April 26-28), featuring exclusive analysis on potential Texans draft picks from and of the

Path to the Draft: |

State of the Position ()
The Texans have one of the best young left tackles in football in . The 2008 first-round draft pick is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but it would be a surprise if the Texans don’t lock him up long-term. A second-team All-Pro in 2011, Brown likely has plenty of Pro Bowls in his future.

The Texans released starting right tackle Eric Winston before the start of free agency. Winston had been in the starting lineup since 2006, so the continuity of the line will obviously take a hit in his absence. But the Texans are confident in , who was the backup swing tackle behind Winston and Brown for the last three seasons. A third-round pick in 2006, Butler has been with the Texans since 2007 and started four games at left tackle in 2010 when Brown was suspended.

Entering his second season, could compete with Butler for the starting right tackle job. Newton was a seventh-round pick from Arkansas State in 2011. The athletic big man was the Texans’ third tackle for most of the season after Butler suffered a season-ending triceps injury in September.

“Butler has started some games in his career,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said in March. “We think a lot of our young kid, Newton, but I’ll be honest with you, this thing’s gonna be wide open. We’ve got some good football players. We’re not giving any job to anybody, and they’re gonna have to go earn it. It’ll be very competitive.”

Several draft sites have right tackle pegged as a top priority for the Texans in the draft, but that assertion is ill-founded.

National Football Post Analysis (, for HoustonTexans.com)

DAY 1 OFFENSIVE TACKLE OPTIONS AT 1.26

1. Jonathan Martin, Stanford (6-6, 304): A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011, Martin’s got the NFL size, length and overall athletic skill set, but he’s not a natural anchor player and doesn’t strike us as a guy who is ever going to be real physical at the next level. Martin can mirror in space, but struggles to stick through contact and isn’t real heavy-handed. Looks like a finesse tackle who will get over-drafted because of athletic talent, but is going to have a hard time keeping the edge clean at the next level.

2. Mike Adams, Ohio State (6-8, 320): Adams is a talented football player with a big frame, long arms and natural movement skills. He bends well and if he can put it all together and continue to improve his footwork, Adams could certainly mature into a starting caliber left tackle in the NFL. He parlayed a solid senior campaign into second-team All-Big-Ten selection honors at the offensive tackle position last season.

DAY 2 OFFENSIVE TACKLE OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13

1. Mitchell Schwartz, California (6-6, 318): Schwartz displays solid athletic ability, but looks better suited to play on the right side in the NFL vs. less speed. A nice mid-round-type draft pick who could eventually fight for playing time, Schwartz is at his best in the run game where he does a nice job sitting into his three-point stance, keeping his base down and generating a good snap through the hips into contact. Doesn’t waste much motion getting upright off the ball, stays down, possesses a strong lower half, runs his legs through contact and gains solid leverage with his hands.

2. Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (6-6, 307): A natural athlete who displays good bend, Sanders struggles at times with power and makes too many linemen look like good pass rushers off the edge because of it. He needs to get stronger to have a chance at the next level, but he is a well-built, athletic-looking tackle prospect with a long set of arms and a naturally thick lower half. Sanders showcases natural range out of his stance in the run game and fires off the ball low, but does waste some motion into contact winding his arms and can be slow to gain leverage.

DAY 3 OFFENSIVE TACKLE OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26

1. James Carmon, Mississippi State (6-7, 320): A former interior defensive lineman with a massive frame and impressive coordination for his size, Carmon is a JUCO transfer who started 10 games last year at left tackle. Displays intriguing body control/athleticism for a player his size. However, Carmon’s pad level is the key as he struggles to keep his base down and doesn’t play with consistent leverage into and through contact.

2. Nate Potter, Boise State (6-6, 300): Potter—in our assessment—is a poor man’s version of former Boston College LT Anthony Castonzo. He exhibits the ability to get around and seal on reach blocks and looks comfortable through contact on the move as well. Potter may currently lack the type of power to really drive NFL-caliber defenders off the ball, but he’s sticky through contact, understands angles and does a nice job staying engaged through the play.

Tuesday Senior Bowl report

Mobile – The second day of practice for the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl saw both teams put on pads and get more physical at Ladd-Peeples Stadium.

In the morning, from 9:30 to 11, the North squad worked out. The South took to the field from 1:45 until 3:30.

The highlight of the South practice in the afternoon came when Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker was tattooed after catching a pass up the left side. Clemson safety Marcus Gilchrist popped Stocker, dropped him to the ground, but the former Volunteer was able to hold on to the ball and rise to his feet after the collision.

The South squad is coached by Chan Gailey and the ’ staff, and is broken down by position group for the bulk of the practice. The North, meanwhile, is under the direction of Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati coaching staff.

North defensive back Joe Lefeged from Rutgers is primarily a safety, but explained after practice that one of his strengths is his ability to play various positions in the secondary.

“The nickel, the dime and both safety positions,” Lefeged said when asked about the spots where he’s comfortable.

Lefeged also said he shares quite a bit in common with former Rutgers corner and current New England Patriot Devin McCourty, noting that they both excelled as special teamers in New Jersey, and were also captains as seniors.

South corner Curtis Brown played his college ball at Texas, and the former Longhorn was quick to emphasize his strengths when asked.

“I make plays,” Brown said. “I’m coachable. I’ll do what it takes to get on the field: DB, special teams, whatever.”

He has a former teammate on the South squad in defensive lineman Sam Acho, who believes his first couple practices have been solid.

“I think I’ve been doing pretty well,” Acho said. “The first day, I had a great day. The second day, there was definitely some room for improvement for sure. But that’s why we put on the pads, to get out here and compete, and I’m excited.”

The two teams will practice again at the same times on Wednesday.

*For more extensive 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl coverage, check out the HoustonTexans.com blogs by clicking .

McNair talks labor negotiations, rules changes

Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair returned to Houston on Tuesday afternoon from the NFL meetings in New Orleans.

In addition to presenting financial reports at the meetings as part of the league’s Finance Committee, McNair voted in favor of two rules changes that were passed by an overwhelming majority of the owners. Kickoffs will now be at the 35-yard line instead of the 30, and players on the kickoff coverage team will have to line up within five yards of the 35 to eliminate long running starts. The other rule change allows replay officials to review scoring plays at any time during games.

On Wednesday morning, McNair talked with HoustonTexans.com about the rules changes, the state of labor negotiations and more.

How do you feel about the changes to the kickoff and replay rules?

“I think that what we’ve done makes sense. The overriding issue on the rules that we’ve been working on really relate to player safety and trying to figure out how to make the game safer for the players without taking the excitement of the game away from the fans. So that’s a fine line that you walk. This is a contact sport. It’s a very physical sport, and that’s the attraction. And so you can’t take contact away, but we want to try to manage the game in such a way that even though contact might be violent, it might not be creating injuries.”

What do you think about concerns that kickoffs might not be exciting any more?

“Well, we had the kickoffs from the 35 for years, and it was pretty exciting, so I think it’ll still be exciting. But we have a very high percentage of the serious injuries that occur in a game occur on kickoffs. And I think the instance of those injuries is about twice as high as it is on other type of plays, a running play or a normal passing play. And even punts; we don’t have nearly the injuries on punts as we do on kickoffs.”

After meeting with owners and executives from around the league, what are your thoughts on where we stand with the lockout/CBA situation?

“It’s clear that all of the owners want to go back to the negotiating table. We just don’t believe that we’re going to reach an agreement through litigation. That’s going to be long and drawn out and not the proper way to do it. So we have been asking the players to come back to the negotiating table and sit down and start discussing the various issues that we have disagreement on.”

What would you say to fans and others who are eager to see a deal get done?

“Well, I think that the teams are anxious to get something done. We want to get the players back and start our offseason programs. And all of our scouts and coaches and what have you, they’re all working full-time now. We haven’t missed a beat so far. So we’re ready to do it, but it takes two to negotiate. We can’t negotiate with ourselves. Until they agree to come back to the negotiating table, it’s really up to the players.”

Speaking of the offseason, what’s on your schedule moving forward?

“We’re still looking at the draft and we’re looking at free agents. We’re doing the sort of things that we normally do this time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s not a vacation for any of us. Everybody is still working very hard, and I don’t see that changing, because once we get back to the negotiating table and reach some agreement – and we’ll reach an agreement; it’s just a question of when – then we need to be in a position to start playing very soon thereafter. And so you have to be prepared.”

How excited are you about the upcoming draft, and in particular to see what type of players Wade Phillips and the defensive staff might bring in?

“It is exciting, because everybody’s got different ideas as to how you accomplish things. I like the way Wade looks at things. It’s a little different. He’s not quite as structured as some people are. He really looks at it on the basis of number one, are they a football player? And too often because we get so technical and we have the combine and we do all these drills in which everybody is measured against everybody else – that’s fine, you see how they stack up in the drills, but that’s not playing football. He pays attention to those things. If you can get the perfect player who is just the perfect dimensions and also can play football, that’s wonderful, but there are a lot of football players that are good players that maybe they’re a defensive lineman but they’re not 6-4; maybe they’re six feet. And maybe they don’t weight 330, they weigh 290, but they make up for maybe a difference in size with speed or agility or courage or hustle or who knows what. And then that’s what shows up on the playing field, and that determines whether we think somebody’s a player or not.”

The Final Four is coming to Reliant Stadium next weekend. Should be great for the city, shouldn’t it?

“Absolutely. It’s a big event, and you’ve got people coming in from all over the country and tremendous television coverage and discussion. I think it’s great we have it in Houston. It’s a beautiful time of the year. I think frankly, it helps us in terms of our efforts to get another Super Bowl, just to get all these people here and let them see what a nice city Houston really is.”