Please note that I am not in any way, shape or form making the case that Lamar Holmes will a great left tackle or a horrible one. I'm just viewing this pick through the Falcons' eyes, in the sense that Holmes is a big, hulking developmental guy with upside.
That out of the way, I wanted to take a look around at the rest of the league and talk a little bit about why drafting a left tackle based on upside makes a hell of a lot of sense after the first round. The Falcons let Mike Adams, Kelechi Osemele, Donald Stephenson and Bobby Massie all go by in favor of Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes, and at the time there was some (perfectly reasonable) angst about that.
Where are these gentlemen now, you ask? After the jump, let's take a look.
Mike Adams. Drafted by Pittsburgh shortly after the Konz pick, Adams was hyped all throughout training camp as a prototypical left tackle, a guy who despite some very real problems in college was penciled in as the Steelers' week one starter. Then pre-season happened.
Now, Adams has lost his starting job, having played disastrously throughout pre-season. He still has plenty of upside, but all the questions that dogged him from college have hitched a ride in his NFL carry-ons. He would not have been a solution for the Falcons this season, quite obviously.
- Kelechi Osemele. A damn fine lineman and someone I liked a lot going into the draft, Osemele is a possible starter for the Ravens...but more likely at guard than tackle, and if at tackle, on the right side. He's really more of an excellent run blocker with some pass-blocking skills than a left tackle, something the Ravens have openly acknowledged. Still a great pick for the Ravens, but would not have solved the team's left tackle problem.
- Donald Stephenson. A slight cheat on my part, since many people considered Stephenson a bit of a reach. Still, he's the early favorite for top backup and possible swing tackle in Kansas City. I think he's a little more polished than Holmes, but his upside isn't nearly as high.
- Bobby Massie. The only one on this list who is a sure-fire starter at tackle...and it's at right tackle. Many scouts believed that Massie was too slow-footed to play left tackle in the pros, and the Cardinals seem to share that belief. He should be good on the right side, though.
Now, again, we can quibble a little bit about where Holmes went. I think it's fair to assume that the Falcons thought he would be gone by the time their next pick rolled around, or they wouldn't have pulled the trigger on him in the third round. If you still think it's a reach, well, that's fair. He's going to have to prove it out on the field.
Still, looking at some of these tackles that fans were hoping for instead of Holmes, you see that picking an LT after the first round is fraught with danger. You can have slow development (Adams), capped upside (Stephenson) and good ol' fashioned inability to play left tackle (Osemele, Massie). Maybe history will be unkind to the Falcons and their selection of Holmes—though he's looked better than I would have expected in pre-season thus far, at least—but it's awfully tough to pick on them right now and say they should have gotten someone who could push Sam Baker this season.
There wasn't anyone fitting that description left on the board.