Offensive tackle, particularly left tackle, is one of the biggest question marks for New England heading into the 2018 season after Nate Solder signed with the New York Giants during the offseason. They have loaded up their depth chart in the hopes of creating a competition that will bring out the best possible option at the position.
*There’s no sense in trying to differentiate between potential right tackles and left tackles. As I will explain, there is potential for many of these players to play at either position.*
After a brilliant 2016 season that saw him as an integral part of the Patriots offensive line, Cannon spent most of 2017 on injured reserve due to ankle issues. This didn’t hamper the team completely, as they still managed to have one of the most successful offenses in the league. However, the loss of Nate Solder means that Cannon is the most talented and experienced tackle on the team. His health will be critical to the 2018 Patriots if they want to succeed. While he has traditionally been a right tackle, it would not be a complete surprise to see him moved to left tackle if the team sees him as the best option.
Waddle had a decent year considering he was only meant to be a backup, yet was thrust into the starting rotation with the injury to Marcus Cannon. He shows flashes of serious skill, but is not always consistent, particularly against speed rushers. However, he is one of the most likely candidates to win one of the starting tackle jobs, so it would be nice to see him improve over this offseason.
A second-year player out of Vanderbilt, Jelks could be a great surprise for the team. The 6’6 307 lb tackle was one of the best tackles in the SEC during his freshman and sophomore years before suffering ACL injuries in back to back seasons to end his college career. After being signed as an undrafted free agent by New England, Jelks ended the year on the non-football injury reserve list, likely due to his continued rehab. While he certainly has a serious injury history, he has plenty of talent. Had he been able to go through his entire collegiate career without injury, he may have developed into a top tackle prospect. If he can recover and regain his early collegiate form, Jelks could end up as a star for New England.
Brown became a Patriot on day two of the NFL draft after New England and San Francisco orchestrated a trade. He could be a potential steal for New England, as he has a dangerous combination of size, strength, and speed. A combination of Brown and Cannon would give the Patriots a menacing offensive line.
Tobin was a rotational player for the Seahawks in 2017, playing in 15 games despite not starting any. He hasn’t started for any team for an entire NFL season and has been less than exceptional. While he is likely a camp body, the Patriots may see something in him that may be brought out by competition.
Croston is a second-year player out of Iowa who was a solid tackle in college, playing on both the right and left sides of the line. He only played in three games for New England during his rookie season, managing garbage time and special teams minutes. While his ceiling does not appear particularly high based off of his usage during his rookie season, he could be an interesting candidate for a rotational tackle position if he improves enough over the offseason and preseason.
The Patriots first pick in the 2018 draft could have a huge impact on the team this year. Wynn is being included in here, and will also be included in the depth chart analysis of interior offensive linemen because his position is uncertain. While he doesn’t have quite the prototypical size of an NFL left tackle, Wynn played remarkably well there in the 2017 season for the Georgia Bulldogs. He has impressive quickness, uses his hands well despite his shorter arm length, and plays with a mean streak. He could certainly perform well for New England. However, if Brown or another tackle on this list shows promise, then Wynn could easily be moved to the interior offensive line. He is an extremely versatile player that could make this one of the best offensive lines that the Patriots have had in years.
While offensive tackle is a big need for New England this season, they have a number of options that could prove to be effective, and potentially even great. This will be one of the most interesting positional battles heading into 2018.
Until next time – B$