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Before offensive tackles fly off draft boards, consider supply and demand


Stanford's Jonathan Martin figures to go in the first round. There will be plenty of demand. (Getty Images)  
Stanford's Jonathan Martin figures to go in the first round. There will be plenty of demand. (Getty Images)  

The reality of the draft is that supply and demand play into talent selection. In plain English, if 15 teams are looking to fill the same position and all 32 draft boards say only 10 players are projected as eventual starters at that spot, you will see these 10 guys all gone earlier than predicted.

A lot of names remain in free agency, and some teams will look to a veteran as a short-term answer to a long-term problem, but it's not the preferred way of building a roster for most personnel directors. Weighing a 32-year-old player with a medical history and/or an inflated sense of his market value vs. a 22-year-old that may need a year or two to develop always makes for an interesting discussion in the front office.

As draft boards take shape, head coaches are starting to get nervous. With the first wave of free agency over, it's becoming clear where teams might have trouble filling a few positions. Coaches know they don't have time to develop players -- or they'll surrender winning to get it done. Most head coaches I know will start to push their GM to think about moving up or trading future picks to get what they need.

In the next few weeks before the draft, I will look at most positions with an eye toward equating need with supply.

The first stop is offensive tackle, and it really doesn't look good for the teams that need a tackle given this draft's supply. More teams need an offensive tackle than there are tackles projected as impact players.

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If a team is looking for a young, unpolished tackle who might spend a year or two on the practice squad or the inactive list, there are always a number of guys who fit that criteria, so I don't consider that a pressing need.

But supply becomes an issue for those teams that now need an instant starter or at worst a third tackle because their starter is old or banged up. For example, once the Eagles lost Jason Peters to an Achilles' injury, demand on a limited draft pool could have tightened further. But the Eagles signed Demetress Bell and took some of the edge off the potential rush for tackles. It's possible the Eagles took a look at the draft list and realized they either had to get a veteran or use their first-round pick for a tackle or just sit tight with what they had.

I was at the Senior Bowl in January and it was not a good year for the tackles. Usually the Senior Bowl has most of the good tackles and a few more get discovered throughout the week. Last year's draft saw six offensive tackles go in the first round, two in the second and two more in the third, just from Senior Bowl rosters. This year, there may be 10 tackles picked in the first three rounds, and only that many because teams will be reaching to get one.

Here's a look at the 17 teams currently in need of a tackle and the names of the eight tackles projected to play early in their careers and worthy of selection in the first three rounds.

When tackles start coming off the board early and analysts begin proclaiming these prospects were drafted too early, you'll know why teams are making those moves.

Top offensive tackles projected by round:

 1st round: Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin, Cordy Glenn
 2nd round: Mike Adams, Zebrie Sanders
 3rd round: Bobbie Mas sie, Mitchell Schwartz

Teams in need:

Atlanta Falcons: A lot of people think the Falcons will try to replace Sam Baker at LT, but this is a team that could go with what it has because the Falcons do not have a first-round pick.

Arizona Cardinals: Levi Brown is the only starter on the roster and there are questions about his ability. The Cardinals gave up 54 sacks last year. I wouldn't be surprised if they drafted two tackles.

Baltimore Ravens: They may try to get by with Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie. The Ravens would love an upgrade on the left side, but it may not be possible.

Buffalo Bills: Demetrius Bell is gone and an impact left tackle is needed in the draft.

Chicago Bears: The big question is whether J'Marcus Webb is steady enough to protect Jay Cutler's blind side. I think so because of Mike Tice's offense, but don't be surprised if the Bears are thinking tackle early in the draft.

Cleveland Browns: They need a starter at right tackle. Tony Pashos is done and Artis Hicks is gone.

Detroit Lions: Jeff Backus re-signed, but he's 34 years old and coming off surgery for a torn biceps. His potential replacement should be Jason Fox, but he has injury history.

Houston Texans: Eric Winston probably deserved Pro Bowl recognition last year and now is with the Chiefs.

Indianapolis Colts: They traded for stop-gap Winston Justice at right tackle, but a top rookie would be a preference they have to consider.

Jacksonville Jaguars: There is a void at right tackle that can only be temporarily filled by Guy Whimpler or guard Eben Britton.

Minnesota Vikings: Charlie Johnson is not the answer on the left side. Maybe at guard, but this line gave up 49 sacks last season.

Miami Dolphins: The left side of the Dolphins' offensive line is solved, but the right side needs an instant starter. If they don't draft one early, they will have to re-sign guard Vernon Carey and move him back to RT.

New York Giants: Right tackle Kareem McKenzie is gone, and sooner or later the Giants will need to replace David Diehl on the left side. There are questions about Will Beatty, and finding another tackle in the draft is necessary.

New York Jets: Wayne Hunter is not the answer at right tackle. The Jets need a rookie starter.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers say they look forward to the return of Willie Colon at RT, but he has injury history. The left tackle probably goes to Marcus Gilbert. They may pass on this in the draft this year, but they need another player.

St. Louis Rams: Rams tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith have injury histories and were on injured reserve last year. Both seem better at right tackle, which means the club could look for a left tackle in the draft.

Washington Redskins: Some people think the 'Skins need at least one tackle early in the draft. A right tackle should be the priority. Trent Williams is on the left side and is one failed drug test away from a year-long suspension.

Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.

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