Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to replacing Nate Solder, does selecting offensive tackle high in draft work?

Ryan Hannable
March 21, 2018 - 11:01 am

Looking at the needs on the Patriots roster, it’s pretty clear replacing offensive tackle Nate Solder is priority No. 1.

As the initial waves of free agency have wrapped up, it seems getting a long-term solution at the position is not going to be found via a free agent and rather the draft.

The Patriots have had some success finding left tackles high in the draft, but they haven’t had to do it for quite some time. Nate Solder was a first-round pick in 2010 and before him Matt Light was a second-round pick in 2001.

The offensive tackle class this year isn’t said to be one of the strongest ones in recent memory, so if the Patriots are going to find a starter, they will likely need to use one of their first few picks on one (No. 31 overall or No. 43 overall).

Since 2013, 20 offensive tackles have been drafted in the first round and they have all been primary starters for their teams for at least one season, with Eric Fisher being a starter for Kansas City for all five years since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2013.

Last year is a good year to look to for the Patriots. 

Denver drafted Garett Bolles No. 20 overall and he started all 16 games for the Broncos as a rookie at left tackle. New Orleans drafted Ryan Ramczyk No. 32 overall (the Patriots’ original pick before the Brandin Cooks trade) and he started all 16 games rotating between left and right tackle.

This shows rookies drafted in the first round can make impacts right away at the left tackle position.

Besides last year, the majority of the tackles selected in the first round came in the top half.

Between 2013-16 only two tackles were selected higher than No. 20 overall in the first round — Cedric Ogbuehi and D.J. Humphries — both in 2015. Ogbuehi played in five games as a rookie, but then 14 each of the last two seasons, starting 25 of the 28. Humphries didn’t play at all in 2015 and was the only first-round pick to be inactive for every game that season, but has become a starter since.

The second round hasn’t seen as many tackles selected. Since 2013, just 10 tackles have been selected and only one in each of the last two years, although it is worth noting Cam Robinson, who was selected by the Jaguars No. 34 overall this past year, started 15 games for them.

Bottom line, drafting a left tackle and him making an immediate impact is certainly possible, just not a route many teams opt to go in a given year.

There are three names to keep an eye on — UCLA’s Kolton Miller, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Texas’ Connor Williams. Miller has been the player most connected to the Patriots and it seems that likely would need to come at No. 31 overall. 

At the combine, he actually drew some comparisons to Solder, as their measurables were pretty much the same.

It’s also important to note the Patriots have a veteran in Matt Tobin on the roster as some insurance in case a rookie isn’t ready. Other options on the roster include Andrew Jelks (hasn’t played football in two years), Cole Croston (not really a tackle) and Tony Garcia (got cleared to play football again Tuesday after blood clots in his lungs last year).

Basically, it’s Tobin and whoever else the team brings in.

Finding Solder’s replacement via the draft can be done, it’s just not a guarantee or easy.