The pass-happy nature of the NFL has turned talented offensive tackles into hot commodities in war rooms across the league. Coaches and scouts are looking for dominant edge blockers with the size, athleticism and agility to snuff out speedy pass rushers on the perimeter, as evidenced by the four offensive tackles taken in the first round (including three in the first 11 picks) of the 2014 NFL Draft.
With more teams looking for franchise-caliber offensive tackles to protect quarterbacks in a pass-centric league, scouts are already hard at work breaking down the top prospects at the position. Let's take a look at the players that are drawing the most interest heading into the fall.
1. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
It's hard to find big, athletic pass protectors with long arms and quick feet, but scouts will quickly discover that Ogbuehi is a rare player at the position. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior is a technical marvel capable of manning either side of the line on the edges. More importantly, Ogbuehi is a standout performer with the size, athleticism and skill to be a franchise player at the next level. If he continues to put dominant performances on tape in 2014, it is quite possible Ogbuehi will extend the Aggies' streak of first-round offensive tackles to three.
2. Cameron Erving, Florida State
Big, athletic offensive tackles with quick feet and strong hands always shoot to the top of the charts during the pre-draft process. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see Erving's name near the top of the list. The 6-6, 302-pound senior is a dancing bear on the edge, exhibiting outstanding balance and body control on the perimeter. He moves defenders off the ball with ease, yet is nimble enough to shadow elusive rushers on the edges. With another year to master the fundamentals and footwork at the position, Erving should be well positioned to make a run at the top spot by season's end.
3. Brandon Scherff, Iowa
There is always a place in the game for tough, hard-nosed offensive tackles with solid blocking skills in the run game. Scherff is a mauler type with the strength, power and explosiveness to blow defenders off the ball. Although he still needs to refine the finer points of his game as a pass protector (footwork and hand placement), Scherff exhibits all of the traits needed to be a standout player at the next level.
4. La'el Collins, LSU
Scouts looking for a "diamond in the rough" will closely monitor Collins' progress throughout the fall. The LSU standout flashes big-time potential as an edge blocker, but needs some seasoning to join the conversation as an elite prospect. While he certainly possesses the athleticism and physical tools to merit first-round consideration, he needs to display better balance, body control and lateral quickness to convince evaluators that he will be a capable player at left tackle. If Collins can make strides in this area, he could make a significant move up the charts and become a household name by draft day.
5. Andrus Peat, Stanford
Scouts are already paying close attention to Peat after watching the youngster hold his own in matchups with elite rushers in the Pac-12. Despite being a first-year starter in 2013, Peat was sensational, mauling defenders at the point of attack on runs and shadowing slippery pass rushers off the edges. With Peat already displaying a game that's mature beyond his years, the Stanford standout is squarely on the radar of evaluators looking for a future franchise tackle to build around.
6. Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
The Ducks' skill-position players typically garner the most attention from scouts, but evaluators are starting to spend more time studying the front line responsible for setting the table for one of college football's most explosive offenses. Johnstone is a key member of the unit, starting 13 games at left tackle a season ago. He displays tremendous athleticism and agility at the position. While he needs to continue to work on his functional playing strength, Johnstone's sticky blocking tactics keep defenders from harassing QB Marcus Mariota off the edges. If Johnstone continues to progress as a solid overall blocker, it's possible he could work his way to the top spot in the 2016 class.
7. Donovan Smith, Penn State
Head coach James Franklin inherits an impressive collection of talent in Happy Valley. While most observers cite the presence of sophomore QB Christian Hackenberg, it's the return of Smith that should make the bodacious coach smile at the prospect of his good fortune. Smith is a mammoth offensive tackle prospect with a nasty disposition and a polished game. He bullies defenders at the point of attack, yet displays the agility to shadow rushers at the line. Smith needs to continue to work on his hand placement and finish, but his combination of size, strength and athleticism should make him an enticing prospect for NFL scouts down the road.
8. Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
If you're looking for a young offensive tackle with the potential to attract serious interest from scouts down the road, you should pay close attention to Clark's development this fall. The massive offensive tackle possesses the prototypical physical dimensions that scouts covet, while also displaying better than anticipated footwork and body control. With Texas Tech's wide open offense providing him with plenty of opportunities to master his craft in pass protection, scouts have already circled his name heading into the fall.
9. Spencer Drango, Baylor
Head coach Art Briles has transformed Baylor into a bit of a football factory, with a number of early round prospects trekking from Waco to the NFL. Drango could be the next one in line based on his talent and upside on the edge. He shows quick feet and hands when he short-sets against aggressive pass rushers. Drango quickly gets into the chest of pass rushers and does a good job of battling throughout the down. Although he must show evaluators he's capable of handling elite rushers on extended drops and muscling defenders off the ball on power runs, Drango flashes enough potential to warrant a spot on this list heading into the fall.
10. Corey Robinson, South Carolina
Far from a finished product, Robinson intrigues scouts looking for a developmental prospect with prototypical physical dimensions. Robinson possesses size and length to smother elite rushers, but must develop the footwork and lateral quickness to play on an island without help. If he can make strides in this area, Robinson could climb up the charts as a right tackle prospect following the season.