If I was a betting man (and I am but sadly such a gambling site does not exist) I would be willing to bet the Bucs draft an offensive tackle in the first round. And by all accounts that tackle will most likely be Marcus McNeill out of Auburn. Tom mentioned this a few months back and I mocked him for, but then again apparently I routinely mock him.
Rumors are that the Saints are increasingly becoming interested in defensive end Mario Williams, which means the Bucs should increasingly become interested in a left tackle. Julius Peppers proved the Bucs don't have a single offensive lineman capable of slowing a premier pass rusher, and the addition of John Abraham (and possibly Mario) to the division would make that point more apparent unless the Bucs pick a tackle early come Saturday.
But is a first round pick worth spending on an offensive tackle? Even ignoring McNeill's back problems, what are the chances the Auburn giant would pan out to be a Pro Bowl caliber tackle?
Below is a list of every tackle selected in the first round between 1998 and 2002. If you're looking for encouragement for selecting a tackle you should probably look else where. Outside of the top ten, you're just as likely to pick a bust as not.
7- Bryant McKinnie (Miami), Vikings,
started all 16 games at left tackle for Vikings, 2nd rated left tackle by Football Outsiders
10- Levi Jones (Arizona St), Bengals
started 15 games for the Bengals, left tackle for one of the best offenses in the NFL last year
29- Marc Colombo (Boston College), Bears
now playing for Cowboys, started zero games last season
2- Leonard Davis (Texas), Cardinals
started 15 games for Cardinals, worst starting left tackle in NFL according to Football Outsiders
14- Kenyatta Walker (Florida), Bucs
he's the reason I'm writing this
18- Jeff Backus (Michigan), Lions
started 16 games for Lions at left tackle, middle of the pack left tackle
3- Chris Samuels (Alabama), 'Skins
started all 16 games for 'Skins, home run pick
20- Stockar McDougle (Oklahoma), Lions
started 2 games for Dolphins, fighting for spot on Jaguars' roster
22- Chris McIntosh (Wisconsin), Seahawks
quit playing in 2003 because of a neck injury
14- John Tait (BYU), Chiefs
started 15 games for Bears
18- Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia), Raiders,
started zero games last season, has had only one season ('04 w/ Bucs) where he started all 16 games
19- Luke Petitgout (Notre Dame), Giants
started 15 games last season, most solid first round pick of this draft
21- Lonnie Shelton (Eastern Michigan), Cardinals
started 16 games for Cleveland, now in Miami fighting for starting spot
27- Aaron Gibson (Wisconsin), Lions
started 3 games for Bears last season, has played for 3 teams in 6 years, now with his 4th team (Bills)
7- Kyle Turley (San Diego State), Saints
released a year ago by Rams because of back problems, if he comes back this season it will not be as an offensive tackle
11- Tra Thomas (FSU), Eagles
started 10 games for Eagles last season, before last season started in at least 15 games every season for Eagles
23- Mo Collins (Florida), Raiders
has not played since 2003 because of injuries
27- Victor Riley (Auburn), Chiefs
started 8 games for Texans, currently a free agent, has had difficulty keeping his weight down
Pro Bowls: Samuels (2001, '05), Thomas (2002, '04)
Anyone else notice the Lions spent three first round picks on offensive tackles three straight years? Then again maybe they just needed those first two years of practice to get the pick right.
The Mo Collins selection is just down right eerie. In a pick that would have been the Bucs (and at 23 to boot) the offensive tackle selected has not played since 2003 because of injuries. Miss Cleo-like foreshadowing or simply a case of reading too much into nothing?
Out of 16 picks only two have made the Pro Bowl, Chris Samuels and Tra Thomas.
Huge warning flag, none of the picks between 20 and 32 have worked out. Probably the most successful of these picks has been Lonnie Shelton who started 16 games for Cleveland last season. Shelton is now fighting for a starting spot in Jacksonville.
Admittedly this is a small sample size, but just looking at how big of a disappointment some of these guys turned out to be I would think twice about drafting an offensive tackle in the first round if I were the Bucs. You have about a fifty-fifty chance of the pick panning out.
Offensive Lines 2005 [Football Outsiders]
EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that I failed to list the 4th overall pick in 2002, Mike Williams to Buffalo. Big mistake by me, but the Williams pick is further evidence against picking a tackle in the first. Williams was cut by Buffalo after four disappointing seasons and is now competing for a starting spot in Jacksonville. (4/17)