Best of the NFC West: Offensive Tackles

Two offensive tackles will be selected to represent the NFC West. Feel free to share your opinion, and don’t forget to vote!

Offensive Tackles:

Arizona Cardinals: Levi Brown

Brown is a former first-round pick who has spent the majority of his career playing right tackle. In the upcoming season, however, he projects as the starting left tackle in Arizona. Brown doesn’t have the quickest feet, and is commonly criticized for giving up too many sacks. But he is a powerful player who excels in opening up running lanes and overpowering defenders.

Arizona Cardinals: Brandon Keith

Keith is probably the most likely candidate to protect Matt Leinart’s backside in Arizona this season (remember, Leinart is a left-handed quarterback). He is young and still inexperienced, but Keith has good size (6-foot-5, 338 pounds) and impressive athleticism. His footwork still needs to improve, however, and he needs to become a more consistent football player.

San Francisco 49ers: Joe Staley

Staley has developed into a good player for the 49ers and has been the starting left tackle in San Francisco for the past two seasons. He has excellent footwork and quickness, and excels at pass blocking from the left side of the line. He may lack the power necessary for running the football, but Staley has an outstanding work ethic and remains one of the better tackles in the division. In three seasons, he has started 41 games (only 9 last season due to injury).

San Francisco 49ers: Anthony Davis

One of the best tackle prospects selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, Anthony Davis is likely to be the starting right tackle in San Francisco on opening day. His skills need some polishing, but Davis’ frame – 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, 34-inch arms – almost ensures he’ll develop into a good starter in the NFL. His size and athleticism makes a future at left tackle look almost inevitable.

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Okung

Okung, selected by Seattle with the sixth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, enters the league as a starting left tackle and successor to Walter Jones. Fortunately for the Seahawks, Okung is an extremely talented prospect and, while probably incapable matching Walter Jones’ success, should develop into an excellent offensive lineman. Okung needs to get stronger, but he already has the quickness, footwork , and awareness to have immediate success as a left tackle in the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks: Sean Locklear

A former third-round pick who started at right tackle for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, Locklear has been a consistent player in the trenches when healthy. He has experience on both sides of the line, thanks mostly to injuries suffered by Walter Jones, but will probably be Seattle’s starting right tackle for the foreseeable future. Locklear excels as a pass blocker; for a right tackle, his skills are definitely above average.

St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith

Last season, the Rams selected Jason Smith with the second overall pick of the draft. After trying to ease Smith into the professional game at right tackle, the Rams are expected to move him to left tackle in 2010. Smith struggled through injuries in his rookie campaign, so his effectiveness as a professional blocker is somewhat unknown. If he can stay healthy, however, his size (6-foot-5, 310 pounds), aggressiveness, and work ethic create a recipe for success.

St. Louis Rams: Rodger Saffold

Saffold, a rookie selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, projects as the starting right tackle for the St. Louis Rams. As a prospect, he has good size and athleticism, but lacks ideal strength for a lineman in the NFL. He could develop into a good player for St. Louis, but, like their other starting tackle, the jury is still out.

Shaun Dolence’s take:

Only a few years ago, the starting tackles for an All-NFC West team would have been Walter Jones and Orlando Pace. That tandem would have easily been the best in the National Football League, but times have changed.

The NFC West is loaded with young, talented prospects and rookies at the tackle position. Instead of selecting two players based on potential, however, I’m going with a pair of tackles who can help this team win today.

Although neither player is an elite tackle, I think Levi Brown and Joe Staley are probably the best pair of tackles in the division right now. In a few years, we could be talking about Okung, Davis, Smith, or Saffold as future Hall of Famers, but they’re still unproven prospects.

Davis and Staley are both versatile, capable of playing either left or right tackle, and complementary of each other – Brown is overpowering and capable of opening up running lanes, while Staley is quick and athletic, better suited to protect the passer.

Definitely a hard selection. I’d prefer to make this decision in two or three years.

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Tags: Anthony Davis Arizona Cardinals Brandon Keith Jason Smith Joe Staley Levi Brown National Football League NFC West Offensive Tackle Orlando Pace Rodger Saffold Russell Okung San Francisco 49ers Sean Locklear Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams Walter Jones

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