Bears draft positional analysis: Tackles

Nate Solder is considered one of the top offensive linemen in the draft, and he may be available to the Bears. AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Playing out of position, veteran Frank Omiyale filled in admirably at left tackle last season, while J’Marcus Webb emerged as a starter on the right side as a rookie.

But it’s no secret the Chicago Bears still need to upgrade the tackle position based on the punishment quarterback Jay Cutler absorbed in taking a career-high 57 sacks, which limited the team’s ability to reach the full potential of Mike Martz’s offensive scheme.

Perhaps that’s why most mock drafts predict the Bears to use their first-round pick (No. 29) on a tackle later this month in the NFL Draft. Here’s a quick look at the top 20 at the tackle position, and what round they’re projected to be taken:

The next 10: 11. Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh, 6-3, 317; 12. Demarcus Love, Arkansas, 6-4, 315; 13. Lee Ziemba, Auburn, 6-6, 317; 14. Joseph Barksdale, LSU, 6-5, 325; 15. Chris Hairston, Clemson, 6-6, 326; 16. Jah Reid, Central Florida, 6-7, 327; 17. Derek Newton, Arkansas State, 6-5, 311; 18. Willie Smith, East Carolina, 6-5, 310; 19. Byron Stingily, Louisville, 6-5, 310; 20. Derek Hall, Stanford, 6-5, 305.

Position grade: B

Analysis: Omiyale lacks the power and athleticism to consistently project Cutler’s blind side. Too many times opposing defenders blasted Omiyale into the backfield at the snap of the ball. Webb, meanwhile, developed somewhat of a penchant for holding. But his progress throughout the season inspires confidence about his future prospects.

Drafted to be the left tackle of the future when the Bears took him in the first round of 2008, Chris Williams disappointed in two games there as a starter last season, and ended up spending the rest of the year at guard, where he didn’t fare much better. The Bears say one of the offseason projects is to find Williams a permanent home on the offensive line, but the club isn’t quite sure where just yet.

It’s true the Bears could “get by” another season with Omiyale and Webb as the starters at tackle. But if the team goes that route again, it’s definitely not considering Cutler’s long-term health.

So expect tackle help for the Bears in the first round.