The talent available at offensive tackle in next April's NFL Draft took a huge leap last Wednesday. Junior Shawn Andrews of Arkansas acknowledged he's leaving for the NFL and is now headed towards a battle with Robert Gallery of Iowa for the top spot at the position.
When breaking down Andrews and Gallery one sees they are two different types of blockers, each outstanding in their own right. And both will be early first round picks in 2004. So who should be rated higher? And who will be drafted first?
The answer may not be the same for both questions.
Gallery has been an outstanding collegian for the Hawkeyes. After initially playing tight end as a freshman he moved to the tackle position and proceeded to start the next 43 consecutive games. A smart lineman with a good feel for the game, Gallery plays with a nasty attitude and loves the physical contact afforded by his position. Gallery has what every NFL scout wants to see in a tackle; great feet. Even at 6-feet 7-inches and almost 320-pounds, Gallery looks effortless as he slides out to protect the blind side of his quarterback. Paying attention to detail, he blocks with great fundamentals, smarts and never gets beat.
For his part Andrews is bigger and more dominant. Measuring in at 6-feet 5-inches and tipping the scales close to 370-pounds, Andrews plays as big as his size. Driving defenders off the line, he is an immovable object that buries opponents into the ground. Yet at the same time one would consider Andrews "nimble" for a man nearing the 400-pound mark as he slides laterally and also displays solid footwork if asked to block in space.
So who's ranked higher? To my mind it is Shawn Andrews; his rare combination of natural size, strength and athleticism gives him an abundant amount of potential for the next level. If Andrews shows up at the combine in shape and turns in a good workout he'll be a high choice. Should he show up to play every down in the NFL Andrews will be an outstanding pro.
Who will be drafted first? Quite possibly Robert Gallery. The fact is Gallery can play left tackle and become a top-notch blind side protector in the NFL, which Andrews cannot do. Edge protectors are always a hot commodity on draft day.
Some say "six" others "one-half-dozen" but whichever you choose both are right. It'll be similar next April if a team must choose between Shawn Andrews or Robert Gallery; whichever way they go there is no wrong choice.