For the purposes of this study I separated left and right tackles because, well, they’re both drafted and paid very much differently. Eight players were drafted in the top 10 to play left tackle between 2006 and 2010 with only one, Cincinnati Bengals near-bust Andre Smith, used on the right side. As Pro Football Focus founder Neil Hornsby points out, 13 of the top 14 highest-paid tackles in the game today hail from the left side and the other, Doug Free, signed his contract when he was still at left tackle.
It may be time to give the right side some more respect, however, with the rise of mobile quarterbacks and short drop-backs mitigating the value of the blindside over the right side. Michael Oher became world-famous due to his notoriety as blindside protector and general inspiration, but the Baltimore Ravens found no shame in instantly inserting him at right tackle where he has found success for a majority of his career.
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.