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Threesome of tackles vying to be first lineman selected

Alix Drawec / NFL
Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is the self-proclaimed top tackle prospect in the 2011 draft.


Football has always been won or lost in the trenches, so it is essential for contenders to stock their rosters full of big, physical players with dominant ability.

In looking at this year's draft, the depth and talent available in the early rounds will allow several teams to put the finishing touches on offensive lines capable of leading a title run.

With the left tackle position viewed as the premier spot along the front, the focus should be on the performances of Colorado's Nate Solder, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi in the run up to the draft.

Each has flashed big-time talent and potential throughout their careers, and their intriguing skills has made it tough for scouts to come up consensus order for the group.

While some would rank Solder as the top choice for the position based on his size, athleticism and upside, others would opt for Castonzo because of his sound footwork, fundamentals and experience. He has logged 54 career starts at the position, and that will help him jump right into the lineup as a rookie.

Castonzo, who has been viewed as a potential right tackle or guard on the next level, is a darkhorse candidate to end up as the top player at the position. He is solid technician with good overall skills, but scouts question his athleticism on the edge. He has used the NFL Scouting Combine and private workouts to dispel some of those notions, but he has to continue to impress evaluators with his skill set.

With Southern California's Tyron Smith also emerging as a viable candidate, the race for the top spot is bound to get tighter over the coming weeks.

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

His experience as a former tight end paid off handsomely as he blew up the athletic drills at the combine. He ranked near the top of his position group in the 40-yard dash, vertical, broad jump, short shuttle and three-cone drill. His quickness, agility and lateral quickness was impressive to watch, and his verified numbers reflect his dynamic athleticism. With skills that stand out on tape, Solder has all of the tools to blossom into a franchise left tackle as a pro.

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

After showing more athleticism than anticipated in agility drills, Castonzo is making a strong push to become the top prospect at the position. He showed balance and body control while running through agility drills, and his nimble footwork shined when facing rushers in one-on-one matchups. With the athleticism, footwork and fundamentals to thrive on the backside, several teams are high on Castonzo's potential as an elite left tackle.

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

He declared himself the top tackle in the draft, and nearly validated the statement with his strong workout in Indy. He moved around like a dancing bear on the turf, and showed sound footwork and fundamentals in drills. His combination of balance, body control and power is intriguing, and he warrants consideration as a left tackle based on the potential that he has displayed throughout the postseason. With several teams in need of a franchise tackle, Carimi will certainly get a chance to fail at left tackle before being forced to move.

Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida

He didn't blow scouts away with his performance at the combine, but his overall combination of skills have garnered high praise. His intelligence and instincts standout on tape, but his balance, body control and quickness was impressive to watch in person. He is quick and efficient with his steps, and displayed a strong punch attacking the bags. While he might not live up to the lofty standard established by his brother (the Steelers' Maurkice Pouncey), he has the ability to be a stellar performer immediately as a pro.

Ryan Bartholomew, C, Syracuse

A workout in shorts is not a true indicator of a player's ability, but it can raise awareness about his potential. Bartholomew's blazing 40-yard time (4.97) has raised his value from an obscure prospect to an intriguing late-round talent. While he must show that he has skills to function as the pivotal piece of a physical offensive line, his quickness and athleticism gives him a chance to earn a roster spot as a potential swing player (center or guard) in the middle. With another set of workouts to prove his worth, Bartholomew could creep up draft boards across the league.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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