The left tackle position has tied itself to the quarterback spot as the key building block in today’s passing league. The most important element needed for a young quarterback to thrive is often viewed to be his protection and comfort in the pocket, starting with his blindside.
Just like a quarterback can make receivers better, a signal-caller playing at an elite level can overcome horrible left tackle play, as Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have proven in recent Super Bowl runs. But it’s still a tried and true formula to complement a budding franchise quarterback with a with a top-notch left tackle, as Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson could attest thanks to Trent Williams and Russell Okung.
As you will see below, the left tackle spot has been the safest place to invest first-round selections recently, with St. Louis Rams selection Jason Smith the only sure-fire bust of the top 10, while Levi Brown is still barely clinging on after ending 2011 looking the part before injury hit in 2012.
In an attempt to evaluate how much value has been returned on first-rounders at this position in recent years, I’ve compiled each first-round selection from 2006-2010 (leaving out any player with less than three seasons of experience) — and added a value rating relative to draft spot.
Each pick is evaluated from -3 to +3 depending on value expected by draft slot versus value delivered and promise shown, and the bolded names went top 10.
Picks in the top 10 of the NFL draft are graded harsher than picks 11-32 due to the heightened value expected from the top. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I’ve included the composite “Safe Rating” value, evaluating the position’s overall return on pick position in recent years. This attempts to compare the risk involved in drafting each position at the top of the draft, not weighting how valuable one position is over another.