Devotees of magnificent offensive line play have been waiting patiently since 1997 for the next franchise tackle to be drafted. On Thursday, Auburn's Greg Robinson could bring back the echoes of the five cornerstones — Willie Roaf, Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones — who arrived in the mid-1990s to revolutionize the tackle position. "He's so heavy-handed and so athletic, I think he's going to be the next Orlando Pace," said an executive in personnel for an AFC team. "He's got a chance to be a Hall of Famer some day." In a Journal Sentinel poll asking 20 personnel people to name the best player in the draft, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney easily carried the day, but Robinson did tie for second place with two votes. Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, the other leading man in a draft chock full of tackles, also received a vote. "I do," Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff replied to the idea that one or more of the tackles could become one of those "dancing bears" of the past. "The top end for tackles is very good this year. "Greg is a massive man with top-notch athleticism for the position. He's got a lot of natural ability with the arrow definitely pointing up." Roaf (11 Pro Bowls) already has been inducted into Canton. Ogden (11), Pace (seven) and Jones (nine) probably will some day, and Boselli (five) was headed there, too, before injury cut short his career after seven seasons. The last Pro Bowl appearance by the big five was Jones' in 2008. Since then, Cleveland's Joe Thomas (seven seasons, seven Pro Bowls), the No. 3 selection in 2007, has been the most consistent and probably the NFL's finest tackle, but he seldom dominates like his predecessors did. As Robinson (6 feet 5 inches, 329 pounds, 4.91-second time in the 40-yard dash) prepares to be a single-digit selection, it's instructive to look back at how the greats entered the league. Roaf (6-4½, 307, 5.01), the No. 8 pick by New Orleans in 1993, started four years at weak-side tackle for Louisiana Tech and was overpowering. "I don't see any negative right now," said the late John Butler, then GM of the Buffalo Bills. "He has almost natural pass pro ability." Boselli (6-7, 323, 5.12), another four-year starter, was rated Southern California's best tackle since Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, who ran 4.9 at 285 coming out in 1980. Boselli went No. 2 to Jacksonville in 1995. "Mike Kenn's a better pass blocker but not as physical as this guy," Miami scouting director Tom Braatz said. "He's great." Ogden (6-8, 318, 5.05) went No. 4 to Baltimore after starting for 3½ years at UCLA. "Has all the tools in the world but, unless he becomes a more physical and aggressive player, he will never become as great as he can become," the late Joel Buchsbaum wrote in his 1996 Pro Football Weekly draft guide. "Is a better athlete than Tony Boselli, (John) Hannah and (Mike) Munchak were. Has unlimited, Anthony Munoz-type potential." In 1997, the debate for No. 1 tackle raged between Pace (6-7, 328, 4.97), a third-year junior from Ohio State, and Jones (6-5, 303, 4.70), another underclassman who played merely one season at Florida State. Of Pace, who went No. 1 to St. Louis, Saints GM Bill Kuharich said, "He just toyed with people. The amazing thing was, in all the games I saw he was on the ground maybe once or twice. He'll play well forever." Of Jones, who went No. 6 to Seattle, New England scouting director Charley Armey said, "He's the best player in this draft. Two years from now he'll be an all-pro for 12 straight years. He's better than Pace. More athletic, and quicker." Make an evaluation. Exercise a pick. Get one end of the line shut down for a decade. Players of that ilk made personnel work seem so simple.
Auburn tackle Greg Robinson stands out in talented lineman class
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | May 3