What is the value of a top-notch tackle?

Is Derrick Deese a liability on the 49ers offensive line? Would Blake Brockermeyer be a major upgrade? All valid questions for the 49ers right now as the speculation rises over the potential signing of Brockermeyer.

All valid questions for the 49ers right now as the speculation rises over the potential signing of Brockermeyer. So I have researched the numbers and found some interesting statistical realities indeed.

First off let me explain my research. My statistics are based on numbers gathered at http://www.stats.com  Stats, Inc. The numbers arent truly a reflection of the individual left tackle but rather an accumulation of the left guard and left tackle, hence, the left side of the offensive line.

My first observation was that the Chicago Bears gave up zero, zilch, sacks from the blindside. That was a pleasant discovery about the play of Brockermeyer in 2001. I also noticed that the Bears ran 187 times to the left for a 4.2 average. That was actually a little less than anticipated. Nonetheless, I came away from my research feeling Brockermeyer had a very solid season for the Bears, probably worthy of Pro Bowl consideration, despite playing through knee and shoulder injuries.

After reviewing Brockermeyer I decided to check out the numbers for the 49ers on the leftside to get a better grasp of the season, statistically, that Derrick Deese put together. The 49ers gave up 3 blindside sacks and rushed 143 times for a 4.5 average. The run offense was less "right-handed" in 2001 than it was in 2000 and though still not counted on more than 9 times a game I felt it was better than expected. To get a better idea of how these players stacked up I decided to go further and add Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden, Chris Samuels, Tarik Glenn, and Flozell Adams into the equation and was stunned by the numbers. Bear in mind that these numbers are reflections of the leftside of the line and not the individual player but none of the five listed above were as effective against the pass rush.

The Rams gave up 4 sacks though they were very effective running the ball to the left with 174 carries for a superb 5.7 average. The Cowboys gave up 7 blindside sacks but were very powerful running left with 222 rushes and a 4.7 average, though Larry Allen was likely a key reason why. The Ravens gave up 5 blindside sacks and ran 184 times for a 4.2 average which were very modest numbers for Jonathan Ogden and company. The Colts gave up 6 blindside sacks and ran 174 times for a 4.9 average. Lastly I came away feeling Chris Samuels has a way to go in Washington as the Redskins gave up 8 leftside sacks and rushed 170 times for a 4.2 average.

Eager to be thorough I decided to go ahead and compare all 31 NFL left tackles based on leftside production. Walter Jones was very solid and relied upon in run blocking but Seattle gave up 9 blindside sacks (same as the 2000 season). He was franchised, as was Flozell Adams. I was shocked to see that Miami, with their makeshift offensive line, gave up no sacks on the blindside. They werent real effective running left however and I give alot of the pass protection credit to Chan Gailey for keeping Fiedler on the move. Jacksonville gave up a whopping 15 leftside sacks to top the league and that isnt even Mark Brunell's blindside so he had a chance to see the pass rush coming.

Back to the study at hand. I did a positional ranking system in 2000 and based my ratings for left tackles on run success, run dependency, sacks per pass, sacks total, and health. In that research Blake Brockermeyer ranked 23rd among 31 Left Tackles as he gave up 9 sacks that season. Derrick Deese was an effective pass protector but because the 49ers seldom ran left his overall rating was hurt and he finished up 11th in the ratings. By the way, Tony Jones, Tarik Glenn, and Brad Hopkins rated out as the top all-around left tackles for the 2000 season.

Now its time to answer the original questions. I'll start with "Is Derrick Deese a liability on the 49ers offensive line"? Based on the evidence presented I believe the answer is a resounding No! He is very much an asset and is vastly underrated. In 2001 the 49ers had more balance, to my surprise, in their running game and were very solid in pass protection on the blindside.

Next question: "Would Blake Brockermeyer be an upgrade"? Based on his 2001 performance Brockermeyer would appear to be a minor upgrade over Deese but I cant help but feel that 2001 may be an aberration. In 2000 he was much less effective and though I cant substantiate it I remember Carolina giving up alot of sacks in 1999. A case can be made that Brockermeyer is just now hitting his prime but I really dont see him as much of an upgrade over Deese, if at all.

Lastly, I posed the question "What is the value of a topnotch left tackle"? Flozell Adams and Walter Jones were key components of dominant leftside running teams and both were franchised. However both teams allowed more than average sacks on the blindside. Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden are widely considered to be the elite Left Tackles in the game but a strong case can be made that Brockermeyer and Deese had better seasons in 2001 than Ogden, Jones, and Adams, based on the numbers. The numbers dont lie. Oftentimes players in the NFL live on reputation and go to Pro Bowls based on popularity or past performance.

The bottom line on this research is the 49ers should be thrilled to have Derrick Deese as their left tackle, particularly at the price they are paying. Adding Blake Brockermeyer doesnt really look like a necessary move though it would still be enticing, provided his contract value is no greater than Deese's. Its difficult to determine who would be the more effective left guard, Derrick Deese or Dave Fiore, but that is another issue for another article.

In concluding, I feel the 49ers are fortunate to have Deese and would be supremely fortunate to land Brockermeyer at a reasonable price, and keep Deese and Fiore in the mix as well. Would there be enough snaps to keep everyone happy? Its tough to say but it would be a nice luxury for the 49ers to have that much quality on their offensive line. If the 49ers decide to back off in their pursuit of Brockermeyer because his contract demands are too high I feel good in knowing that Derrick Deese has evolved into a topnotch left tackle, and the 49ers will be strong at Left Tackle with or without Brockermeyer.

This article was written by Pete Toole of www.ninerfanatic.com.

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