February 23, 2012 07:56PM
Top Tackles Jockey For Position

By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – Ask just about anyone who follows the NFL Draft about which player is the best offensive tackle in this year’s draft and you’re almost certain to get the same answer: Southern California’s Matt Kalil.

Ask Kalil the same question and you’ll see that he too sides with the majority.

“I would definitely say I am the best tackle in the draft,” Kalil said. “At my position or quarterback position or any big time position, confidence is definitely a big part of your game and I think they want to hear that you are the best tackle in the draft. I think I am. I think I have definitely worked hard and going through SC, I worked on everything I can to become a better player and I am definitely ready to take my skills to the next level.”

And while Kalil certainly has the resume to back up that claim, not to mention the support of the various draft analysts, there are plenty of other tackles looking to stake a claim to the throne between now and April.

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke sees a lot of talent on the offensive line in this year’s draft.

“I think it's a good group top to bottom,” Baalke said. “The film is pretty good. How they do here has never been a big decision-maker for us. We look at the film and the eye in the sky and talent doesn't lie. We like the group that is here in a lot of ways, not only how they play but the types of individuals that are here. It's a quality group.”

Iowa’s Riley Reiff, Ohio State’s Mike Adams, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and even Georgia’s Cordy Glenn all are hoping to make enough of an impression to bolster their stock at this weekend’s scouting combine.

Out of that group, it’s Reiff that many think has the best chance to unseat Kalil but he’s also the only one who doesn’t seem too concerned with garnering that honor.

“The cards will fold where they fold,” Reiff said. “First, 20th. That’s not for me to decide.”

At 6’5, 313 pounds, Reiff brings excellent size and has drawn comparisons to former Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga, who has been solid with Green Bay so far in his young career.

While Reiff opted for the more humble answer, Adams and Martin make no bones about their desire to be considered the top tackle in the draft.

Adams grew up a huge fan of former Rams legend Orlando Pace, going so far as wearing Pace’s number with the Buckeyes.

“Orlando Pace is definitely my favorite former player,” Adams said. “In high school, we were at the Ohio State camp going into my sophomore year. He was actually there and sat down and talked to me and Brewster and a few guys, it was great to get to meet him there. I also got to meet him when he came back to be inducted into the Hall of Fame so anytime I get to talk to him or see him or anything like that, it was really exciting. He’s one of the best to ever play the position. That’s part of the reason I wanted to wear his number at Ohio State to try to follow in his footsteps.”

At 6’7, 323 pounds Adams cuts an imposing figure and possesses strength and athleticism. His questions come more from character issues after having a couple of off the field incidents while in Columbus.

Adams says he’s learned from his mistakes and is taking aim at the top tackle spot after having a strong outing at the Senior Bowl.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Adams said. “Since high school it’s been a big competition with recruiting wars and all of that kind of stuff with rankings. It will be interesting to see what happens but it’s definitely always a goal of mine to be the best I can be, to be the best period at my position. That’s what I’m going for.”

Martin, meanwhile, probably knows the competition better than anyone. He played against Kalil and the Trojans multiple times in college and says he has the skills and size (6’5, 312 pounds) to be every bit as good or better than Kalil.

Oh yeah, without a doubt,” Martin said. “As a competitor, you have got to think you’re the best. Matt is a tremendous player but I think I am better than he is. I just believe in myself as a player. There’s nothing cocky about it, it’s just that’s how I approach my game.”

LYING IN WAIT: While there has been plenty of speculation about which direction the Rams will go with the No. 2 overall pick and even more scuttlebutt about a potential trade down from that spot, some have overlooked the fact that the team picking third might also be in play to auction that pick.

That team happens to be Minnesota and though the Rams’ pick would guarantee landing either Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck or Baylor signal caller Robert Griffin III, there is a school of thought that since the Rams likely won’t draft either player, teams might only have to move up to No. 3 to get above Cleveland to land Luck or Griffin.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Thursday that, much like the Rams, his team is interested in making a move.

“To take advantage of that No. 3 is going to be huge for the success of our organization moving forward,” Spielman said. “With the new CBA and the financial commitment to the top five picks not as significant as it has been in the past, I think there will be a lot of potential movement, especially in that top five, depending on where these quarterbacks fall, the top two quarterbacks in the draft and who's going to need quarterbacks. There could be a lot of activity that first day and especially those first three spots.”

For its part, Minnesota used the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft on quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder had some good moments in his rookie season and is still viewed as the team’s franchise quarterback but Spielman isn’t ruling out the possibility that Luck or Griffin could be the object of the Vikings’ desire should they be available when they pick on draft day.

In fact, Minnesota will meet with both players privately while in Indianapolis.

"We're definitely open to moving,” Spielman said. “We have a lot of confidence in Christian Ponder and what he's going to bring to our franchise. But we're also going to do our due diligence on Andrew Luck and RGIII to make sure if we're in a scenario and they are sitting there at three, what are we going to do?"

WHITHER WALLACE?: One wide receiver that many teams have been eyeing in the buildup to the start of free agency on March 13 is Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace.

Although Wallace is restricted, he’s also considered one of the league’s true game breakers, a guy with the speed and agility to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball.

That ability has made Wallace a hot topic because the Steelers don’t have much in the way of cap room and even though they could tender him at the first-round level – meaning a signing team would have to give up a first-rounder to get him – there are some that think teams near the bottom of the first round would be willing to give up that pick for an accomplished player such as Wallace.

On Thursday, Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers have no intention of letting Wallace go and acknowledged the team might even use its franchise tag on Wallace which would require a team to give up two No. 1 picks and a big-money contract to land the speedy wideout.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Mike Wallace remains a Pittsburgh Steeler,” Colbert said. “And I think that’s Mike’s hope as well. Usually when you have two parties that share the same goal, it’s easier to achieve that goal.”

RICHARDSON WILL SIT: One of the players that has draft analysts most excited is Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Mayock said in a conference call last week that Richardson could be the best back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. That’s heady company but Richardson’s blend of size, speed and power is intriguing for teams in the top 10.

Unfortunately, Richardson will not get the opportunity to prove that he belongs in that group here or at Alabama’s Pro Day on March 7. That’s because Richardson suffered a knee injury in practice leading up to the BCS National Championship game against LSU.

Richardson played in that game anyway but was forced to have arthroscopic knee surgery after the season. That scope was considered minor but it’s enough to keep him from displaying his skills at the combine.

According to NFL Network, Richardson will hold a separate workout on March 27.

  Top Tackles Jockey For Position/Wagoner

RamBill172February 23, 2012 07:56PM