- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If they deem offensive tackle a priority, an early look at this year’s NFL Draft would seem to put the Washington Redskins in an advantageous position.

A year after eight tackles went in the first round, as many as five could earn opening-round grades during the evaluation process, which heats up during next week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis.

One problem - by the time the Redskins draft at No. 13, it could be slim pickings.

According to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, three tackles could be selected in the first 11 picks: Baylor’s Jason Smith, Virginia’s Eugene Monroe and Alabama’s Andre Smith. That would leave Mississippi’s Michael Oher on the board; the fifth tackle, Arizona’s Eben Britton, is projected as only a middle to late pick in the first round.

“Most teams have a priority of positions, and on offense it starts with the quarterback and then left tackle,” Mayock said in a conference call Tuesday. “Last year, there was a run on tackles, and a guy I gave a third-round grade to, Duane Brown from Virginia Tech, went in the first round.”

The Redskins enter the offseason with the entire starting offensive line in their 30s and a defensive line that is also aging. Left guard Pete Kendall is a free agent, but the other four remain under contract.

The Redskins don’t have a lot of ammunition - only four picks - so trading into the top 10 to draft one of the coveted tackles isn’t likely. Last year, several tackles started right away, and Miami’s Jake Long made the Pro Bowl.

Mayock ranks Jason Smith (6-foot-5, 305 pounds) as the best of the bunch.

“He reminds me of [Denver’s] Ryan Clady - athletic with great speed - and he can develop into a better run blocker than he is today,” he said. “He can be a very good pass blocker from day one.”

Monroe (6-6, 315) comes from a Virginia program that has developed past first-rounders D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Branden Albert.

“A great pass protector,” Mayock said of Monroe. “I would like to see him be more physical in the run game.”

Andre Smith (6-4, 330) is an underclassman who was suspended from the Crimson Tide’s Sugar Bowl loss to Utah for reportedly meeting with an agent.

“He has the ability to be a great combination of pass and run blocker,” Mayock said. “He has incredible feet for his size, and watching him pull into the second level is breathtaking, but he’s always fought weight problems, and that’s a little bit of a red flag.”

If St. Louis (second), Cincinnati (sixth) and San Francisco (10th) all take tackles, that would leave Oher on the board.

“He’s inconsistent with his technique,” Mayock said. “Sometimes it’s beautiful; sometimes it’s lazy. He’s either going to be a tremendous Pro Bowl player or four, five years from now a footnote.”

The Redskins haven’t use a first-round pick on an offensive or defensive lineman since taking left tackle Chris Samuels in 2000.

Overall, Mayock’s prediction for the top three selections are quarterback Matthew Stafford to Detroit, Baylor’s Smith to Detroit and Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry to Kansas City.

Mayock said the top two quarterbacks - Georgia’s Stafford and Southern Cal’s Mark Sanchez - are tougher to evaluate because of their inexperience.

“It’s easier for me to evaluate offensive linemen, and that’s not a coincidence because most of them are fifth-year seniors - they have a history on and off the field,” Mayock said. “Last year, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were easy to evaluate because of their experience. Now we’re talking about a third-year guy [in Stafford] and a guy with 16 starts [in Sanchez].”

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