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How the NFL finds starting offensive tackles 2016-2020

How have the Broncos done it and how does it compare to the rest of the league?

NFL: Denver Broncos-Practice Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the injury to Ja’Wuan James, the Denver Broncos find themselves in familiar position. The position of having a big fat question mark starting at right tackle. I have documented how over the past eleven drafts the Broncos have generally NOT drafted offensive tackles. The Broncos have drafted exactly three (Orlando Franklin, Ty Sambrailo and Garett Bolles). That becomes four if you include Dalton Risner who played tackle in college, but has played guard at the NFL level.

Over the last eleven drafts the Broncos have drafted four offensive tackles which is tied with two other teams for last place over that time period (in terms of number of drafted tackles). This does not mean that the Broncos have completely neglected the offensive tackle position in the draft. If you count Risner, every tackle we have drafted has been a first or a second round pick. So the Broncos have invested a decent amount of draft capital in offensive tackle even if the total number of picks is not great.

The data is below for players drafted as “tackles” (some are guards in the NFL) by team for the years 2011-2021:

Rank Team OTs drafted 2011-2021 Draft Capital Invested Investment per OT
1 MIA 8 87.4 10.9
2 NYG 9 77.2 8.6
3 MIN 10 69.6 7.0
4 JAX 5 68.4 13.7
5 LVR 8 68.0 8.5
6 LAR 8 65.2 8.2
7 TEN 6 65.0 10.8
8 KAN 4 57.8 14.5
9 DET 5 56.4 11.3
10 BAL 9 56.3 6.3
11 NWE 8 50.5 6.3
12 ATL 5 49.6 9.9
13 CLE 8 49.5 6.2
14 TAM 6 47.2 7.9
15 LAC 5 47.0 9.4
16 WAS 5 47.0 9.4
17 PHI 7 46.8 6.7
18 IND 9 45.9 5.1
19 DEN 4 45.3 11.3
20 NOR 5 42.4 8.5
21 DAL 5 39.5 7.9
22 CIN 5 38.6 7.7
23 HOU 6 38.2 6.4
24 NYJ 5 34.3 6.9
25 GNB 8 34.1 4.3
26 BUF 5 33.8 6.8
27 SFO 6 31.7 5.3
28 ARI 8 31.1 3.9
29 PIT 7 31.1 4.4
30 CHI 6 28.3 4.7
31 SEA 6 25.5 4.3
32 CAR 4 19.7 4.9

The Broncos check in at 19th in draft capital invested in offensive tackles (again, still counting Risner as a tackle) with the Dolphins leading the league and the Panthers dead last in OT draft capital. Looking at the Dolphins they have gotten their ten starting offensive tackles during the last five seasons once from a free agent signing (Branden Albert), once from a trade (Julie’n Davenport), once from an undrafted college free agent that they developed (Jesse Davis) and seven times from players that they drafted. The Panthers have had four free agents (Mike Remmers, Matt Kalil, Chris Clark and Russell Okung) along with six instances of player that they drafted. Two of their free agents are former Broncos.

Like the Broncos the Chiefs have only drafted four offensive tackles in the last eleven drafts, but the Chiefs rank first in draft capital per OT - with 14.5 AV units per pick. That equates to an average of using the 23rd pick in terms of career AV by draft slot. The Broncos are tied for fourth with the Lions at 11.3 AV units. That equates to the 39th overall pick. The team with the least average capital per tackle is the Cardinals. The have taken eight OTs but have only averaged 3.9 AV units per tackle. That equates to the 124th overall pick which is a day three pick.

Over the last eleven drafts their have been 205 offensive tackles drafted and the league has invested 1528.4 AV units on the position. That works out to 7.5 AV units per tackle which equates to 70th overall pick. For reference, there was 156.7 AV units of draft capital spent on the QB position in the 2021 draft on ten players for an average of 15.7 AV units per pick which equates to 19th overall pick on average. The first three QBs taken (with picks one, two and three) accounted for two thirds of that draft capital (92.4 units) while the remaining seven QBs accounted for the other third.

The Broncos have only had two starters at left tackles over the past five seasons, Okung in 2016 and Bolles ever since. Conversely they have had a different player as the main starting RT every season since 2016. That will continue in 2021.

The only primary starter at offensive tackle that the Broncos have used over the past five season who was drafted by the Broncos is Bolles. Elijah Wilkinson was an undrafted college free agent that the Broncos developed. The other five primary starting tackles that the Broncos have employed since we won the Super Bowl have been free agent signings. Okung, Donald Stephenson, Menelik Watson, Jared Veldheer and Demar Dotson. Even though Wilkinson had more snaps at RT, he only started seven games there while Dotson started eight - hence Dotson is listed as the primary starting RT, not Wilkinson.

This brings us to the point of how other teams have acquired their offensive tackles over the past five seasons.

How Acquired? Count %
Draft 189 59%
Free agent 77 24%
UDCFA 40 13%
Trade 14 4%

Of the possible 320 primary starting OT spots in the NFL over the past five seasons, 189 of those spots have been filled by players drafted by the team for which they were playing. That is almost 60 percent. About one quarter have been free agent signings, while about one eighth have been undrafted college free agents developed by the team for which they were starting. Only four percent of the starting OT spots have been filled by players who were acquired via trade. Note that players drafted with a pick obtained via trade are still counted as “drafted” and not as “trade” in the massive table that is to follow.

This format is a little easier to read than the image I dropped in my twitter feed above.

2016 Acquired? 2017 Acquired? 2018 Acquired? 2019 Acquired? 2020 Acquired?
BUF LT Cordy Glenn Draft Dion Dawkins Draft Dion Dawkins Draft Dion Dawkins Draft Dion Dawkins Draft
BUF RT Jordan Mills Free agent Jordan Mills Free agent Jordan Mills Free agent Cody Ford Draft Daryl Williams Free Agent
MIA LT Branden Albert Free agent Laremy Tunsil Draft Laremy Tunsil Draft Julie'n Davenport Trade Austin Jackson Draft
MIA RT Ja'Wuan James Draft Ja'Wuan James Draft Ja'Wuan James Draft Jesse Davis UDCFA Robert Hunt Draft
NE LT Nate Solder Draft Nate Solder Draft Trent Brown Trade Isaiah Wynn Draft Isaiah Wynn Draft
NE RT Marcus Cannon Draft Marcus Cannon Draft Marcus Cannon Draft Marcus Cannon Draft Micahel Onwenu Draft
NYJ LT Ryan Clady Trade Kelvin Beachum Free agent Kelvin Beachum Free agent Kelvin Beachum Free agent Mekhi Becton Draft
NYJ RT Ben Ijalane Free agent Brandon Shell Draft Brandon Shell Draft Brandon Shell Draft George Fant Free Agent
BAL LT Ronnie Stanley Draft Ronnie Stanley Draft Ronnie Stanley Draft Ronnie Stanley Draft Orlando Brown Draft
BAL RT Rickey Wagner Draft Austin Howard Free agent Orlando Brown Draft Orlando Brown Draft D.J. Fluker Free Agent
CIN LT Andrew Whitworth Draft Cedric Ogbuehi Draft Cordy Glenn Trade Andre Smith Draft Jonah Williams Draft
CIN RT Cedric Ogbuehi Draft Andre Smith Draft Bobby Hart Free agent Bobby Hart Free agent Bobby Hart Free agent
CLE LT Joe Thomas Draft Spencer Drango Draft Greg Robinson Free agent Greg Robinson Free agent Jedrick Wills Draft
CLE RT Austin Pasztor UDCFA Shon Coleman Draft Chris Hubbard UDCFA Chris Hubbard UDCFA Jack Conklin Free Agent
PIT LT Alejandro Villanueva UDCFA Alejandro Villanueva UDCFA Alejandro Villanueva UDCFA Alejandro Villanueva UDCFA Alejandro Villanueva UDCFA
PIT RT Marcus Gilbert Draft Chris Hubbard UDCFA Matt Feiler UDCFA Matt Feiler UDCFA Chukwuma Okorafor Draft
HOU LT Duane Brown Draft Chris Clark Trade Julie'n Davenport Draft Laremy Tunsil Trade Laremy Tunsil Trade
HOU RT Chris Clark Trade Breno Giacomini Free agent Kendall Lamm UDCFA Tytus Howard Draft Tytus Howard Draft
IND LT Anthony Castonzo Draft Anthony Castonzo Draft Anthony Castonzo Draft Anthony Castonzo Draft Anthony Castonzo Draft
IND RT Joe Haeg Draft Joe Haeg Draft Braden Smith Draft Braden Smith Draft Braden Smith Draft
JAX LT Kelvin Beachum Free agent Cam Robinson Draft Ereck Flowers Free agent Cam Robinson Draft Cam Robinson Draft
JAX RT Jermey Parnell UDCFA Jermey Parnell UDCFA Jermey Parnell UDCFA Jawaan Taylor Draft Jawaan Taylor Draft
TEN LT Taylor Lewan Draft Taylor Lewan Draft Taylor Lewan Draft Taylor Lewan Draft David Quessenberry Free Agent
TEN RT Jack Conklin Draft Jack Conklin Draft Jack Conklin Draft Jack Conklin Draft Dennis Kelly Free Agent
DEN LT Russell Okung Free agent Garett Bolles Draft Garett Bolles Draft Garett Bolles Draft Garett Bolles Draft
DEN RT Donald Stephenson Free agent Menelik Watson Free agent Jared Veldheer Free agent Elijah Wilkinson UDCFA Demar Dotson Free Agent
KC LT Eric Fisher Draft Eric Fisher Draft Eric Fisher Draft Cameron Erving Trade Eric Fisher Draft
KC RT Mitchell Scwartz Free agent Mitchell Scwartz Free agent Mitchell Scwartz Free agent Mitchell Scwartz Free agent Mike Remmers Free Agent
LV LT Donald Penn Free agent Donald Penn Free agent Kolton Miller Draft Kolton Miller Draft Kolton Miller Draft
LV RT Austin Howard Free agent Marshall Newhouse Free agent Brandon Parker Draft Trent Brown Free agent Sam Young Free Agent
LAC LT King Dunlap Free agent Russell Okung Free agent Russell Okung Free agent Trenton Scott UDCFA Sam Tevi Draft
LAC RT Joe Barksdale Free agent Joe Barksdale Free agent Sam Tevi Draft Sam Tevi Draft Bryan Bulaga Free Agent
DAL LT Tyron Smith Draft Tyron Smith Draft Tyron Smith Draft Tyron Smith Draft Brandon Knight UDCFA
DAL RT Doug Free Draft La'el Collins UDCFA La'el Collins UDCFA La'el Collins UDCFA Terence Steele UDCFA
NYG LT Ereck Flowers Draft Ereck Flowers Draft Nate Solder Free agent Nate Solder Free agent Andrew Thomas Draft
NYG RT Booby Hart Draft Justin Pugh Draft Chad Wheeler UDCFA Mike Remmers Free agent Cameron Fleming Free Agent
PHI LT Jason Peters UDCFA Halapoulivaati Vaitai Draft Jason Peters UDCFA Jason Peters UDCFA Jordan Mailata Draft
PHI RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai Draft Lane Johnson Draft Lane Johnson Draft Lane Johnson Draft Lane Johnson Draft
WAS LT Trent Williams Draft Trent Williams Draft Trent Williams Draft Donald Penn Free agent Cornelius Lucas UDCFA
WAS RT Morgan Moses Draft Morgan Moses Draft Morgan Moses Draft Morgan Moses Draft Morgan Moses Draft
CHI LT Charles Leno Draft Charles Leno Draft Charles Leno Draft Charles Leno Draft Charles Leno Draft
CHI RT Bobby Massie Free agent Bobby Massie Free agent Bobby Massie Free agent Bobby Massie Free agent Bobby Massie Free agent
DET LT Taylor Decker Draft Taylor Decker Draft Taylor Decker Draft Taylor Decker Draft Taylor Decker Draft
DET RT Reiley Reiff Draft Rickey Wagner Free agent Rickey Wagner Free agent Rickey Wagner Free agent Tyrell Crosby Draft
GNB LT David Bakhtiari Draft David Bakhtiari Draft David Bakhtiari Draft David Bakhtiari Draft David Bakhtiari Draft
GNB RT Bryan Bulaga Draft Justin McCray UDCFA Bryan Bulaga Draft Bryan Bulaga Draft Billy Turner Free Agent
MIN LT T.J. Clemmings Draft Riley Reiff Free agent Riley Reiff Free agent Riley Reiff Free agent Riley Reiff Free agent
MIN RT Jeremiah Sirles UDCFA Mike Remmers Free agent Brian O'Neill Draft Brian O'Neill Draft Brian O'Neill Draft
ATL LT Levine Toilolo Draft Jake Matthews Draft Jake Matthews Draft Jake Matthews Draft Jake Matthews Draft
ATL RT Ryan Schraeder UDCFA Ryan Schraeder UDCFA Ryan Schraeder UDCFA Kaleb McGary Draft Kaleb McGary Draft
CAR LT Mike Remmers Free agent Matt Kalil Free agent Chris Clark Free agent Dennis Daley Draft Russell Okung Free Agent
CAR RT Daryl Williams Draft Daryl Williams Draft Taylor Moton Draft Taylor Moton Draft Taylor Moton Draft
NOR LT Terron Armstead Draft Terron Armstead Draft Terron Armstead Draft Terron Armstead Draft Terron Armstead Draft
NOR RT Zach Strief Draft Ryan Ramczyk Draft Ryan Ramczyk Draft Ryan Ramczyk Draft Ryan Ramczyk Draft
TAM LT Donovan Smith Draft Donovan Smith Draft Donovan Smith Draft Donovan Smith Draft Donovan Smith Draft
TAM RT Demar Dotson UDCFA Demar Dotson UDCFA Demar Dotson UDCFA Demar Dotson UDCFA Tristan Wirfs Draft
AZ LT Jared Veldheer Free agent D.J. Humphries Draft D.J. Humphries Draft D.J. Humphries Draft D.J. Humphries Draft
AZ RT D.J. Humphries Draft Jared Veldheer Free agent Andre Smith Free agent Justin Murray UDCFA Kelvin Beachum Free Agent
LAR LT Greg Robinson Draft Andrew Whitworth Free agent Andrew Whitworth Free agent Andrew Whitworth Free agent Andrew Whitworth Free agent
LAR RT Rob Haverstein Draft Rob Haverstein Draft Rob Haverstein Draft Rob Haverstein Draft Rob Haverstein Draft
SF LT Joe Staley Draft Joe Staley Draft Joe Staley Draft Justin Skule Draft Trent Williams Trade
SF RT Trent Brown Draft Trent Brown Draft Mike McGlinchey Draft Mike McGlinchey Draft Mike McGlinchey Draft
SEA LT George Fant UDCFA Duane Brown Trade Duane Brown Trade Duane Brown Trade Duane Brown Trade
SEA RT Garry Gilliam UDCFA Germain Ifedi Draft Germain Ifedi Draft Germain Ifedi Draft Brandon Shell Free Agent

Unless Dalton Risner moves to RT for the Broncos (which seems highly unlikely since he has played almost every snap for us at LG over the past two seasons), the Broncos will have either another in a long line of free agents as our primary RT, or we will have Calvin Anderson. Anderson would continue the tradition of the Broncos relying on undrafted offensive tackles as starters. A tradition that goes back at least to the late 90s with Tony Jones.

As of right now, the Broncos have four five offensive tackles on the roster with the very recent signing of Ryan Pope. Pope has never played in an NFL regular season game, and neither has Drew Himmelman (who we signed as an UDCFA after the 2021 draft). Bailey has appeared on eight special teams snaps in NFL career. Calvin Anderson is the “veteran” of the potential RTs currently on the roster and he has 132 career offensive snaps.

Poll

Who will be our primary right tackle in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Calvin Anderson
    (67 votes)
  • 7%
    Dalton Risner
    (55 votes)
  • 1%
    Quinn Bailey
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    Drew Himmelman
    (12 votes)
  • 3%
    Ryan Pope
    (29 votes)
  • 76%
    a free agent who is not currently on the roster
    (566 votes)
741 votes total Vote Now