17 — New England Patriots — Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Pros: A linebacker and tight end in high school, Solder gained 30 pounds in preparation for his position switch, but didn't lose any of his agility. Absolutely physically dominant player in his ability to outrun, outmuscle, and engulf defenders at the line. Quick and mobile enough to look great when chipping at the line and heading up to linebacker depth - Solder has the skill and technique to make clean blocks up the ladder. Has a really good counter to inside moves off the snap; this may be why he looks so much stronger with a tight end inline. Most of his pass protection issues seem to be to the outside. Agile enough on tackle pulls and down blocks, though he doesn't have a lot of power when crashing down inside. Could probably put 10-15 more pounds on his 6-foot-8, 315-pound frame without losing a lot of quickness.
Cons: Solder doesn't have a finished set of moves in pass protection, and I could see him giving up a lot of NFL sacks in the back half of his dropback outside because he tends to lunge and lurch instead of providing a smooth series of steps. Will slide off defenders too often when trying to establish power inside. With his extreme height, he's going to have issues with defenders getting under his pads and pushing him back. Occasionally comes up late in his stance, leading to disaster when he can't catch up to speed-rushing ends. Kick step looks surprisingly blocky for such an athlete. Seems to have snap-readiness issues out of a three-point stance; his initial pop is a lot quicker when he's standing up.
Conclusion: It's difficult to write about Solder without sounding too negative when I actually think he could be a very good NFL player in the right system and given the time to develop. He's one of three players I see in this draft class - Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker are the others - who are athletic marvels in one way or another, but will be system-dependent to a large degree and will need a lot of coaching before they're ready to do anything of substance in the pros.
In Solder's case, the team that understands his weaknesses and works to accentuate his strengths could be rewarded with an outstanding zone tackle. And with NFL teams running more shotgun than ever before, and more left tackles lining up in two-point stances at the start of their NFL careers, Solder does have a chance to succeed. It's just that the expectations could be too high right off the bat because of his raw athletic ability. What's not in doubt, from all accounts, is that he has the determination and work ethic to make it happen.
18 — San Diego Chargers — Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Pros: Good at engaging and getting past guards using his hands, Liuget may be at his best straight over guard or shading the guard-tackle gap. Tremendous upper-body strength allows him to push blockers back, and he's generally quick to push off to one side or the other to bring a ballcarrier down. Closes in very well inside on an angle, especially over center -- he picks up momentum and brings a load to those situations. Decent outside-to-in spin move allows him to bounce out of blocks. Nice agility and speed in space; can chase down running backs very well. Wraps up as a tackler; doesn't go for ankle hits or kill shots. Gets a great push when he locks in with his hands inside. Can gain the advantage off the snap with a series of hand moves.
Cons: For all his power, I'm not as impressed with Liuget's dynamism when he's trying to split gaps -- he looks a bit too smooth and seems to get lost at times against double teams or chips. Though his swim move is effective, he needs to be more quick and violent with his hands to split those combos. Doesn't always get under pads for better leverage, which he'll need to do more consistently at the NFL level, especially at his size (6-foot-3, 300 pounds). Can be guided outside the inside running play fairly easily from the three-tech position.
Conclusion: Liuget played mostly three-tech in college, and while I think he could be successful in a front where he's headed over guards with a traditional nose or one-tech tackle alongside, his best bet as an Charger could be as a five-tech end in San Diego's hybrid fronts. He doesn't blast through gaps the way you'd like an interior lineman to do consistently, which may be a matter of technique, but he has become a stout run defender with some pass-rush upside.