*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
State of the Position (@NickScurfield)
The Texans have one of the best young left tackles in football in Duane Brown. The 2008 first-round draft pick is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but it would be a surprise if the Texans don't lock him up long-term. A second-team All-Pro in 2011, Brown likely has plenty of Pro Bowls in his future.
The Texans released starting right tackle Eric Winston before the start of free agency. Winston had been in the starting lineup since 2006, so the continuity of the line will obviously take a hit in his absence. But the Texans are confident in Rashad Butler, who was the backup swing tackle behind Winston and Brown for the last three seasons. A third-round pick in 2006, Butler has been with the Texans since 2007 and started four games at left tackle in 2010 when Brown was suspended.
Entering his second season, Derek Newton could compete with Butler for the starting right tackle job. Newton was a seventh-round pick from Arkansas State in 2011. The athletic big man was the Texans' third tackle for most of the season after Butler suffered a season-ending triceps injury in September.
"Butler has started some games in his career," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said in March. "We think a lot of our young kid, Newton, but I'll be honest with you, this thing's gonna be wide open. We've got some good football players. We're not giving any job to anybody, and they're gonna have to go earn it. It'll be very competitive."
Several draft sites have right tackle pegged as a top priority for the Texans in the draft, but that assertion appears to be ill-founded.
DAY 1 OFFENSIVE TACKLE OPTIONS AT 1.26
1. Jonathan Martin, Stanford (6-6, 304): A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011, Martin's got the NFL size, length and overall athletic skill set, but he's not a natural anchor player and doesn't strike us as a guy who is ever going to be real physical at the next level. Martin can mirror in space, but struggles to stick through contact and isn't real heavy-handed. Looks like a finesse tackle who will get over-drafted because of athletic talent, but is going to have a hard time keeping the edge clean at the next level.
2. Mike Adams, Ohio State (6-8, 320): Adams is a talented football player with a big frame, long arms and natural movement skills. He bends well and if he can put it all together and continue to improve his footwork, Adams could certainly mature into a starting caliber left tackle in the NFL. He parlayed a solid senior campaign into second-team All-Big-Ten selection honors at the offensive tackle position last season.
DAY 2 OFFENSIVE TACKLE OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13
1. Mitchell Schwartz, California (6-6, 318): Schwartz displays solid athletic ability, but looks better suited to play on the right side in the NFL vs. less speed. A nice mid-round-type draft pick who could eventually fight for playing time, Schwartz is at his best in the run game where he does a nice job sitting into his three-point stance, keeping his base down and generating a good snap through the hips into contact. Doesn't waste much motion getting upright off the ball, stays down, possesses a strong lower half, runs his legs through contact and gains solid leverage with his hands.
2. Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (6-6, 307): A natural athlete who displays good bend, Sanders struggles at times with power and makes too many linemen look like good pass rushers off the edge because of it. He needs to get stronger to have a chance at the next level, but he is a well-built, athletic-looking tackle prospect with a long set of arms and a naturally thick lower half. Sanders showcases natural range out of his stance in the run game and fires off the ball low, but does waste some motion into contact winding his arms and can be slow to gain leverage.
DAY 3 OFFENSIVE TACKLE OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26
1. James Carmon, Mississippi State (6-7, 320): A former interior defensive lineman with a massive frame and impressive coordination for his size, Carmon is a JUCO transfer who started 10 games last year at left tackle. Displays intriguing body control/athleticism for a player his size. However, Carmon's pad level is the key as he struggles to keep his base down and doesn't play with consistent leverage into and through contact.
2. Nate Potter, Boise State (6-6, 300): Potter—in our assessment—is a poor man's version of former Boston College LT Anthony Castonzo. He exhibits the ability to get around and seal on reach blocks and looks comfortable through contact on the move as well. Potter may currently lack the type of power to really drive NFL-caliber defenders off the ball, but he's sticky through contact, understands angles and does a nice job staying engaged through the play.