Another draft is in the books, but this one was a little odd in terms of the trenches.
Most classes contain a premier tackle or two who can rise as high as No. 1 (Eric Fisher was the most recent, in 2013). This year's group didn't have a bonafide stud at the position, instead bringing us a few of what we believe will be solid starters at tackle. The real strength might end up being at guard, as evidenced by Quenton Nelson's selection three spots ahead of Mike McGlinchey's, and the higher quality of game tape.
We're also seeing a bit of a trend in versatile linemen playing one position in college and projecting elsewhere in the NFL, which is making for some murky predictions. This year's choices included but weren't limited to Georgia's Isaiah Wynn (New England Patriots) and Nevada's Austin Corbett (Cleveland Browns), two players who were skilled enough to play tackle in college but look more like professional guards. We'll include another below whose availability will likely also affect the trajectory of a blocker who's already in the league.
Team: New England Patriots
Selection: First round (23rd overall)
New England selected Wynn 23rd overall and has an obvious need at left tackle after the departure of Nate Solder, so it would make sense to see them play Wynn at the position. But when is a player who, at 6-foot-3 and 313 pounds, seems like a logical fit at guard equipped to play tackle?
Wynn bounced between guard and tackle at Georgia, more out of necessity than anything. He did a bang-up job adjusting to help the program.
A quick look at his tape reveals a lineman with defined ability to play tackle. His pass drops are adequate, he displays great strength with extended arms, his vision and target-spotting are excellent and he has good enough feet (and a stable enough base) to block in a variety of situations, including when isolated on an island against an edge rusher. His weaknesses -- a tendency to lunge and occasional chasing of stunts -- can be corrected under renowned offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
Wynn is probably a guard with the majority of NFL teams, but as is often the case in New England, things can be a little different for the Patriots. It's easy to see why Bill Belichick wanted the guy, and equally as simple to foresee him replacing Solder, even if it goes against convention. And if not, the Patriots will have an excellent guard to use as well.
Team: Cleveland Browns
Selection: Second round (33rd overall)
Cleveland lost future Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas to a mid-season triceps tear and then to retirement, exposing a need at a position that had been solidified for a decade. Spencer Drango, a 2016 fifth-round pick out of Baylor, did his best in place of Thomas, but it became painfully clear the Browns needed to address the position in the offseason. They did so in selecting Corbett, another tackle who projects more as a guard at the next level.
Cleveland has experience with this kind of situation. Like Corbett, Joel Bitonio, the Browns' excellent left guard, played tackle at Nevada. The former second-round pick has proven to be one of the best linemen to come out of the 2014 draft, and stands to line up next to a fellow Wolfpack product in a fairly unique situation. Common logic says Bitonio stays at guard while Corbett lines up at tackle, but a similar circle of thought places Corbett at guard, where he can be protected by teammates on each side, and kicks the more experienced Bitonio to tackle to take on the greater challenge.
This makes for an excellent fit either way, because Corbett is walking into a situation where he can both learn from someone who was in his shoes, and also receive on-field help from that same person. It also offers the Browns added versatility along the left side of the line, which is ideal for a team trying to replace a legend at the most important position on the line.
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Selection: Second round (50th overall)
Williams, a Coppell, Texas, native, spent his collegiate days playing at the University of Texas at Austin, where the Longhorns experienced struggles not seen in decades. He endured through two head coaches and even more staff changes, yet emerged as a second-round prospect -- quite the remarkable achievement, all things considered.
"Of course things didn't go according to plan," Williams said of his three seasons at Texas, via NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman. "I had three offensive line coaches and three OCs in three years. I think it's a good thing to go through so you can learn and become a better football player and a better person, because we went through a lot of adversity."
The adversity, and really, the journey came to a head on Day Two of the draft, when Dallas -- Williams' lifelong favorite team -- chose the lineman with the 50th-overall selection. Tears of joy streamed down Williams' cheeks as his dream became reality.
That's the first part of why it's a good fit, but in a more traditional sense Williams also fits in Dallas because he can compete for the starting guard position with La'el Collins, who also has experience playing tackle. It's yet another case of a team opting for versatility when needing to address the tackle position, which is especially wise in a class that wasn't as traditionally strong at the position.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Selection: Third round (83rd overall)
This is the fit storyline to end all.
Brown, who saw his draft stock nosedive after an underwhelming Combine, ended up falling out of the first round...and the second round...right into the laps of the city his late father once called home.
Brown's father, also named Orlando (nicknamed "Zeus"), made his career in Baltimore and Cleveland, starting in 119 games over his career. NFL Network's Mike Mayock noted Brown's father also did not test well prior to his pro career, and that didn't end up mattering very much. The younger Brown steps into a franchise that will be more welcoming than any other, thanks to his father's legacy.
It's also a good situation for him considering the current roster composition. Brown looks like he'll slot into right tackle opposite Ronnie Stanley, the sixth-overall pick of the 2016 draft, giving Baltimore the bookend tackles they've sought since the retirement of Jonathan Ogden. He'll also line up next to one of the game's best guards in Marshal Yanda, making it an ideal setup for a rookie who brings desirable physical skills with plenty of room to grow.