Compare & Contrast: Solder vs. Sherrod

The two names most attached to the Bears' first-round pick are offensive tackles Nate Solder and Derek Sherrod. If both are available, which player would Chicago be better off drafting?

Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State (6-5, 321)

Sherrod is one of the more experienced offensive linemen in the draft. He was a three-year starter at left tackle and split time on the right side his freshman season.

Beyond his experience, Sherrod's greatest asset is his ability as a pass blocker. He's more of a finesse player who has very quick feet and good balance. He mirrors defenders well and uses his extremely long arms (35 3/8 inches) to keep separation. His awareness is also above average and he isn't typically fooled by stunts and double moves.

When Sherrod gets tired, his fundamentals tend to break down. On the first play of the game he'll use a quick kick step, slide his feet and keep his hips down. When he's tired, he'll play too upright and lunge at defenders. Yet what many perceive as laziness is often countered by his intelligence and work ethic.

He was a team captain his senior season and was praised at the Scouting Combine for his high character and personality. He graduated Mississippi State with a 3.54 GPA and was one of only 16 players in the country to earn the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Award, given to exceptional scholar athletes and includes a post-graduate scholarship.

His willingness to learn and absorb information is crucial for an incoming lineman, which is why many teams are convinced he can, over time, fix the deficiencies in his game. One such deficiency is run blocking. Sherrod is a little top heavy and doesn't have an ideal base. As such, he plays too upright and doesn't explode off the ball. He doesn't have great upper body strength either and can't really move defenders out of the hole. He'll need a lot of work on the blocking sled if he's to improve in the run game.

There have been comparisons between him and current Bear Chris Williams. They have similar body types and both are finesse players. Neither carries a mean streak. Given Williams' production so far, this could be worrisome to Bears brass. The biggest difference between the two is arm length. Sherrod has Williams beat by more than three inches an arm, making him better equipped physically to play tackle.

Not everyone is sold on his ability to man the left side right away. Most project him at right tackle, or at least feel a season on the right side would help him make the transition to left tackle. Bears coaches are high on J'Marcuss Webb on the right side though, so if Sherrod is chosen, he'll have to figure out the weak side right quick.

Nate Solder, Colorado (6-8, 319)

Solder was a three-year starter at left tackle for Colorado who never missed a game due to injury. He was a tight end his freshman year but added 30 pounds the following offseason so he could make the transition inside. He was a two-time All Big 12 selection and was named Big 12 Offensive Linemen of the Year last season. He was also one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy and a consensus All-American.

Solder is not your typical, lumbering offensive lineman. He is taller and sleeker than most tackles. No prospect at his position has quicker feet, while his 81-inch wingspan will help him keep defenders at bay. He is still getting comfortable with the intricacies of playing tackle though and will need to work on his fundamentals. His 21 bench-press reps at the Scouting Combine demonstrated a lack of upper-body strength. Time in the weight room will do him good.

There are some concerns about Solder being able to maintain his weight. At Colorado's pro day, just three weeks after the combine, he weighed 307 pounds – 12 less than he did in Indianapolis. That quick weight loss won't give teams a good feeling.

Many scouts believe Solder has the most potential of any tackle in the draft. He's the most athletic player at the position. He plays with good power and is outstanding in the second level against linebackers. The team that takes him will be getting a major talent but no one knows if he'll ever reach his high ceiling. He could bust out in three years just as easily as he could become a Pro Bowler.

He's a pure risk/reward type of player. The problem for Chicago is that Solder most likely won't be able to come in and start right away. Mike Tice will need to spend a lot of time with the former Buffalo to get him prepared for the next level. If the Bears draft Solder, the team will then have to look to free agency to find starter-caliber players with which to upgrade the offensive line.

PICK: Derek Sherrod
Sherrod is established and can start right away, something the Bears desperately need out of a first-round offensive lineman. What you see is what you get with Sherrod and Chicago knows it will be getting a solid, although probably unspectacular, blocker for Cutler's weak side for many years to come. One can't say the same for Solder, whose weight issues are very concerning.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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