Ranking the AFC West: Offensive tackle

Doug Pensinger

Well, this is topical.

The timing of this article is purely coincidental. I am working my way through the offense. The last AFC West ranking was of the tight ends so the offensive tackles are next. We all know how important the tackles are to a successful football team. The quarterback lives and dies by the protection he receives from them.

Let's see where each AFC West team stacks up based on their offensive tackles:

1. Denver Broncos - Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin

These two didn't have great numbers in 2011 with Tim Tebow running around like a Benny Hill sketch. As soon as Peyton Manning came to town, these guys became one of the better tandems in the NFL. Clady was widely considered one of the better left tackles in the league but his sack totals had gone up in 2010 and 2011 following being named All Pro in 2009. With the stability at quarterback once again, Clady was once again All Pro.

2. Kansas City Chiefs - Branden Albert, Eric Fisher

Albert may not have been willing to take one for the team and move to right tackle, but that has a lot to do with how good he is as a left tackle. And left tackles get paid a lot more money as well. So, the Chiefs used their number one overall pick and got Eric Fisher. Fisher is a top left tackle prospect who will be at right tackle this season with the plan being to shift him to the left side next year and worry about right tackle then. As for this season, they have possibly two of the better left tackles playing both sides. If Fisher can prove worthy of his draft spot, they could rival the Broncos for best tackles in the division.

3. San Diego Chargers - King Dunlap, D.J. Fluker

In most any other division in football, the Chargers would have easily the worst offensive tackles. Dunlap comes over as a free agent from the Eagles to replace Jared Gaither whose back may have given out for good this time. Dunlap started 13 games last season but wasn't highly sought after as a free agent this off-season. Prior to last season, he had started just seven games in three years. He is bookended by rookie first round pick, DJ Fluker. He is a great fit for the Chargers right tackle job but he is still a rookie who, at the 11 spot, saw three offensive tackles taken ahead of him. The real issue here is the unknown. We just don't know how this career backup and rookie will perform this season. But they belong right here in the AFC West ranking even if they play well.

4. Oakland Raiders - Alex Barron, Khalif Barnes

The Raiders predicament at offensive tackle is the reason the Chargers are third in the division. There may not be a worse offensive tackle situation in football. It looked decent up until yesterday when it was revealed Jared Veldheer will need surgery to repair a torn triceps muscle that could very likely have him on partial season injured reserve. Barron starts after having been out of football for two seasons and the Raiders were the only team who even gave him a workout. He and Barnes together may just set a penalties record as both have had chronic problems with false starts. Barnes was supposed to have some competition from rookie round two pick, Menelik Watson, but he has been out with injury all of training camp and the likelihood of him taking the job now is slim to none. This looks like the duo as of this moment. And it doesn't look good.

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