As offenses become more complex, and passing rules the day more than ever, offensive linemen are asked to do much more. Recognition of advanced defenses and the ability to block man-on-man are just starting points now. The modern tackle, whether he comes from a spread or traditional offense, arrives at the pro level with the need to do everything well – pass protection, run blocking, pulls and the ability to get to the second level quickly. Of the many offensive tackles looking to confirm their first-round status, Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin and Nate Solder of Colorado are perhaps the two who could benefit most from Senior Bowl week, if they can show more to personnel evaluators.
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Nate Solder, Colorado
Pros: Carimi is extremely active and persistent right off the snap; he gets engaged early and maintains hand-punches in extended pass protection. Very good at taking the first step outside and pushing a defender that way to open rushing lanes. Quick in down-blocking and will drive defenders out of the way once he gets going. In goal-line situations, has the valuable strength to chip off an initial potential tackler and hit the second level quickly. Very strong kick-step technique in pass protection, and he consistently leads the pass-rushing end out of the backfield. Good form there keeps him from allowing sacks at the end of that half-circle. Good at adjusting to inside moves.
Pros: Solder rises up well and connects with a good punch when run-blocking. He has developed a good, if sometimes abrupt, rise-up and backstep out of a three-point stance into pass blocking. Very agile when driving through a front-line defender or chipping to get to the second level, and he has excellent footwork when he gets there. He doesn't look out of place in space. Frequently asked to block inside with a tight end outside him at Colorado, and generally had no issue dealing with three-technique tackles inside. Has excellent work ethic and leadership. Very intelligent player.
Cons: Carimi has just average inline power, and he can be bulled over by defensive tackles at times when he doesn't get low in his base. If he doesn't get a head start inside, he's more vulnerable. Somewhat questionable footwork at the second level has him looking as if he's on ice at linebacker depth; it usually takes a second for him to regain his power there. Decent mobility in short tackle pulls when asked to do so, but tends to lunge when he gets to the defender. Seems to benefit from the rise-up out of the three-point stance – tends to lose power and initial quickness from a two-point, which is unusual.
Cons: Solder tends to engulf collegiate rush ends who try to get outside and around him. While this worked for him at Colorado, he'll need to refine his technique against the more advanced speed rushers of the NFL. Tends to lurch outside in pass pro too quickly and could be susceptible to inside moves and fakes because of that. Could give up sacks out of the back end of the pocket because he chases more than he blocks at the end of that half-circle. Does not possess that nice "fanning" motion (think of the arc of an opening door, and refer to the Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas(notes) as the best example of this technique) most often required to maintain power all the way through his blocks against pass rushers. Acceleration of his outside kick-step needs work; he could get beaten in the step or so it takes him to get up to speed when backtracking. Will slide off run-blocks at times instead of staying engaged.
Conclusion: While Carimi has everything you'd want in a draft-eligible pass-blocker, the Senior Bowl week will be valuable for him because NFL coaches will see what he needs to work on. It's not likely that Carimi will be a dominant inline blocker, but with the right kind of coaching, he has the potential to be one of the best of the new wave of taller tackles with speed and agility in place of pure power.
Conclusion: With Solder, it's all about technique – and very often, the lack thereof. He'll get a lot of high looks because of his size and agility, and any line coach running the traditional zone-blocking scheme who requires a left tackle to take it upfield against linebackers will see him as the perfect fit. But like the Oakland Raiders' Robert Gallery(notes), Solder may struggle at the NFL level and give up more sacks than expected because he lacks fundamentals. It will be interesting to see how Solder fares during Senior Bowl practice week with pro coaching and going up against dominant defensive ends most of the time.
Pro comparison: Robert Gallery, Oakland Raiders
Doug Farrar is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner