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Offensive tackle crop at NFL Draft looks remarkably anemic

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 7:45 p.m.

Projections for this year's NFL Draft class have a group of seniors and underclassmen who are exceptional cornerbacks, edge rushers, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends.

Offensive tackles? Um, not so much.

The big boys who get paid to protect the quarterback and pancake defenders in the running game are harder to find than Pirates power hitters.

“As good as this draft is,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said, “that is where the weakness is.”

Even the guard/center grouping, also lacking in numbers, is considered deeper than the tackles who will be picked Thursday through Sunday.

“In a typical year, an average of 10 offensive tackles get taken in the first three rounds,” Mayock said. “I've got four with grades in the first three rounds.”

The first tackle on NFLDraftScout.com's board, Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, is graded as the No. 18 overall player.

Contrast that to 2016, when two of the top eight picks — and four of the first 16 — were tackles. Or 2014, when two tackles were selected in the first six picks and five of the first 19.

“To tell you where this draft is for tackles, the two top guys (Ramczyk and Utah's Garett Bolles) are both one-year starters in major college football, which is kind of amazing,” Mayock said. “If Ramczyk was in last year's draft, he would be the fourth or fifth guy taken.”

Ramczyk sat out a year after graduating high school. He then attended Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point and transferred to Wisconsin when Paul Chryst left Pitt to become the Badgers coach. After sitting out a year, Ramczyk was named first-team All-Big Ten and was an Associated Press All-American.

A hip injury that required surgery in January has prevented Ramczyk from taking part in predraft workouts.

“Offensive line workouts are not massively important, but there are still things to take from certain results,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “Sometimes it just comes down to a tie. If you have a similar grade for (Ramczyk and Bolles), and Bolles worked out well and you have more information, maybe that becomes the tiebreaker.”

Bolles also has an unusual background. Suspended throughout his high school years for being a self-proclaimed troublemaker, Bolles found religion and went on a two-year Latter Day Saints mission. When he returned, he enrolled at Snow College in rural Utah. He moved on to Utah last season and became first-team All-Pac-12. He will be 25 when his rookie season starts.

Pitt's Adam Bisnowaty, of Fox Chapel, is rated the No. 11 tackle on the draft board and is viewed as a fourth-round pick. Bisnowaty started 44 games at left tackle in college but said he can play anywhere on the line.

“In the past, you'll see where in unbalanced formations I'm playing right tackle, right tight end, as well,” he said. “So I've shown I can play both sides, both positions. And I can also snap. So for me, I think I can play all five positions, which I think is a huge quality that I have.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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