By TomE. Curran
The Patriots took a massive bookend tackle on Thursday night. Nate Solder, a 6-8,319-poundbehemoth out of Colorado, was selected with the 17th overall pick. With Matt Light a free agent, it would seem Solder becomes the immediate heir apparent to one of the starting offensive tackle spots. Sebastian Vollmer, who also goes 6-8, has played right tackle for the past few seasons but could kick over to Light's left tackle spot. Or Solder could be installed right away at left tackle. A converted tight end, Solder will fall under the guidance of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
With a few surprise picks in the top 15, the Patriots wound up with their pick of players at a variety of positions. They passed on Cal defensive end Cam Jordan, Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara, Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Rams DT Corey Liuget. The Patriots took most of their allotted 10 minutes before turning in the card on Solder. They were working on a deal to move down and add picks but weren't able to get a satisfactory one done and made their selection. Here's the breakdown I did on Solder back on April 11: Nate Solder, 6-8, 319OT, Colorado
The Skinny: Massive football player who entered Colorado as a tight end prospect but was transitioned into a left tackle during his redshirt sophomore season. Started at left tackle the next 38 games consecutively. Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki notes that, on 1,400 career pass plays, he allowed five sacks and 21 pressures. The Patriots have visited extensively with Solder, a player described as being very professional, dedicated and coachable. One of the reasons they may have spent significant time with him, though, was to figure if that long frame can put more weight on without sacrificing too much athleticism and to find out if his relatively meager 21 bench press reps were indicative of a guy who will struggle with bull rushes.
Gotta Have Him: Smart, diligent, a "Patriots type" player. With Matt Light a free agent and on in years, the new guy - whether it be right tackle Sebastian Vollmer or a draftee - needs to be groomed. Solder has been ticketed to the Eagles with the 23rd overall pick. He's going to get better as he goes and - under the watch of line coach Dante Scarnecchia, he could be a long-time fixture at left tackle.
Don't Need Him: Not sure if he has the versatility the Patriots covet in their prospects. While a guy like Baylor's Danny Watkins can play guard or tackle on either side, Solder seems a guy who will just be a tackle. And when you have a guy who's that long, it's sometimes difficult for them to keep players from getting under them and driving them back.
Forecast: He's got a lot of things the Patriots will like. And playing for Colorado he was against solid competition that gives the team a good read on his performance level. The height issue didn't scare them off Sebastian Vollmer. Still, if there were one lineman in the early part of this draft that seems to play to their strengths, it seems to be Watkins.
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran