Draft Riser: Joe Staley

Left tackle is always a priority position in the NFL draft. Blockers who can protect a quarterback's blind side go early and often in the opening rounds. Unfortunately April's draft is void of talent at this area. As a result one of the top prospects at the position, Joe Staley, is zipping up draft boards.

Originally a tight end at Central Michigan, Staley switched to the right tackle position as a sophomore and started eleven games.  Another position switch came the following season when he moved to left tackle.  Staley proceeded to start on the left side as a junior and senior.

The one aspect of Staley's game that has always stood out is his sheer athleticism.  A fluid lineman, Staley looks more like a fast tight end moving about the field rather than a bulky 300-pound blocker.

After a successful season in '06 Staley spent a week at the Senior Bowl and his draft stock started to take off.  Many scouts left Mobile, stamping Staley with a first round grade.

A leg injury limited him during the combine in February yet Staley's pro-day workout was nothing less than brilliant. 

As we reported on March 15th, Staley blew scouts away with his performance.  Running 40-times under 4.8-seconds, all of his marks from that day gave league decision makers plenty to think about.

Staley's draft stock is now soaring quicker than the jumbo jets that are flying him around the country to visit NFL franchises.

Immediately after his pro-day workout was complete the word in scouting circles was the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens were targeting Staley in round one.

While the Bears have John Tait on the left side, a replacement must eventually be found for ten-year veteran Fred Miller, who holds down the right tackle spot.

In similar fashion the Ravens are in the market for a young blocker as Hall of Fame lineman Jonathan Ogden may not have a lot left in the tank.

If either Chicago or Baltimore had their sights set on Staley they'll have to move into the top part of round one to guarantee a chance of selecting him.

A number of teams have moved Staley ahead of Levi Brown on their offensive tackle chart the past month.  Why?  A majority of teams are convinced Staley can play left tackle while not all feel the same way about Brown.

Sources have told us that Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive line coach Larry Zierlein absolutely loves Staley since attending his pro-day workout and has been lobbying the team on his behalf.  These same sources are not so sure the Steelers will be taking a tackle with the 15th pick.

The wildcard in the Staley sweepstakes could be the Atlanta Falcons

Word circulating around the league the past few days is Atlanta wants Staley in the worst way.    With a crying need at several offensive line positions the feeling is Staley's athleticism nicely fits the type of blocking required for Michael Vick.

Conventional thought is the Falcons will try and trade down from the tenth spot, specifically with a team who wants a defensive lineman.  They would then draft Staley in the middle of round one.

Could the Falcons do the inconceivable and take Staley with the tenth pick of the draft?

Believe it or not sources have flatly said that is a definite possibility, and one that would be the first big surprise of April's draft. 

 


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