What to Expect: Anthony Castonzo

What to Expect is a week long series on each of the Colts’ draft picks.  Fans tend to create unrealistic expectations for players based more on hopes and wishes than attainable standards.

The series kicks off today with the Colts’ first selection, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo.  My sense is that the fan expectation for Castonzo will be that he will be a week one starter at tackle and hold down the job for years to come.  For once, fans’ expectations are reasonable.

From 2004-2009*, there have been 8 tackles taken between picks 16 to 32 of the first round.  

Oeher (23rd, 2009), Cherlius (16th 2008), Otah (19th 2008), Baker (21st 2008), Brown (26th 2008), Staley (28th 2007), Barron 19th (2005), Carey (19th 2004)

All eight became multiple year starters in the NFL.  Six of the eight started at least 11 games their rookie year. Three of the eight started all 16 games.  However, six of the eight tackles wound up playing at right tackle in their rookie year. With only Baker getting 5 starts at left tackle and Brown who started 16 games at left tackle.

Interestingly enough, no tackle taken in the back half of the first round has made a Pro Bowl since Tarik Glenn (selected in 1997).  That does not necessarily mean that such tackles don’t play well, but because name recognition is such a factor in Pro Bowl balloting, perhaps there has been a bias in favor of more highly drafted players.  There often isn’t much turnover at the line positions in the Pro Bowl.

Finally six of the eight tackles taken since 2004 are still in the NFL.

*Bulaga went 23rd in 2010, starting 12 games at RT. I had left 2010 off the list because we don’t know what happened in year two.

It’s also informative to see how linemen drafted highly by the Colts have fared. Generally, I only run numbers for the Colts back to 2002 (the arrival of Dungy), however, in this case it leaves us with too small a sample.  Going back to 1997, the Colts have only drafted five linemen in the first four rounds of the draft.

They are: Tony Ugoh (42nd, 2007), Mike Pollak (59th, 2008), Ryan Diem (118th, 2001), Tarik Glenn (19th, 1997), Adam Meadows (47th, 1997)

All five started heavily their rookie years.  Ugoh started 11 games at left tackle. Pollak started 13 games at right guard. Diem started 8 games at right guard. Glenn started 16 games at right guard. Meadows started 16 games at left tackle.  It wasn’t until the following year that Meadows moved to right tackle and Glenn was switched to left tackle.

Conclusions:

It’s perfectly reasonable to expect Anthony Castonzo to start every game his rookie year. In fact, given the state of the Colts’ line, anything less would be a legitimate disappointment.  However, it’s also entirely possible that Castonzo could start at right tackle not left.  It is not at all unusual for a rookie lineman to start at the easier of the tackle positions. It is not a black mark on his career or a warning sign of any kind.  He could easily start at right tackle (or even guard) and become a left tackle in the future.

For those hoping that Castonzo turns into a perennial All-Pro or Pro Bowl level player, that is probably not a legitimate expectation.  Based on how other similarly drafted players have performed, the Colts can expect a strong starter at tackle for the next five seasons at least.  The ceiling for Castonzo is probably a career like Tarik Glenn’s (3 Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring).  At the very least, the Colts should hope to have drafted the next Adam Meadows who was an immediate starter for the Colts and fixture on the line for six seasons.  Anything less would be legitimately disappointing.

Mid-to-late first round tackles tend to be solid starters right away, but rarely develop into super-star tackles.

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