Draft has limited options at left tackle, where Patriots have notable void

Prospect Profile: Tyrell Crosby (0:44)

Mel Kiper Jr. says that Tyrell Crosby's versatility makes him one of the best OL prospects in the 2018 NFL draft. (0:44)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- What might the New England Patriots be looking for at the offensive tackle position in the 2018 NFL draft?

Need rating: First

Current personnel: Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Antonio Garcia, Cole Croston, Matt Tobin, Andrew Jelks, Ulrick John

What's missing? Starting experience at left tackle and a clean read on what Garcia, who was selected in the third round last year (No. 85), might be able to provide the Patriots in 2018 after missing his rookie season with an illness.

2018 draft class primer: For the second straight year, this is not considered a strong class at tackle, while it is viewed as especially deep along the interior.

Six who fit for the Patriots: Geron Christian (Louisville), Tyrell Crosby (Oregon), Jamarco Jones (Ohio State), Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), Kolton Miller (UCLA), Brian O’Neill(Pittsburgh).

Key stat: Matt Light (2001-11) and Nate Solder (2012-17) were the Patriots’ last two starting left tackles, which highlights how the position (outside of games missed due to injuries) has mostly been solidified in the Patriots’ last 17 seasons.

My take: Belichick made the point last year about how the team was fortunate to have four quality tackles (Solder, Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Waddle) and that the Patriots needed all of them at various points of the year. He has also noted how tackles are often highly paid in free agency, which highlights the value of the position relative to others. So a team can seldom go wrong picking a solid tackle in the draft with the intention of developing him. Looking back, the Patriots were in the mix to re-sign Solder early in free agency, which indicates that as good as they might feel about Garcia emerging in 2018, they were still heavily pursuing Solder’s return. With that context, it makes sense to think they’ll take a long look at drafting one of the top tackles this year. Crosby and Miller were among the team’s 30 pre-draft visits, with Miller's length and potential for growth sometimes compared by others to Solder when Solder was coming out of the 2011 draft.