2011 NFL Draft Results: Patriots Pick Up Project, B Grade, with Nate Solder
Colorado's Nate Solder is widely viewed as a project, though the New England Patriots must obviously be banking on the 17th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft becoming an elite left tackle over time.
As I wrote earlier in regards to USC's Tyron Smith, the "project" label always makes me a bit uneasy, especially at offensive tackle. You can afford to learn the ropes slowly at some positions, offensive tackle is not one of them. The Patriots should hope that Solder is mentally-tough, otherwise he stands to take personally what are sure to be some sharp growing pains.
I love Solder's athleticism and potential at the pro level. You can easily see why he could develop into a good left tackle...over time. When I saw Solder at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, I thought he looked like a power forward. He's still lanky and lacking ideal muscle or bulk for the position. Luckily, strength can always be gained. Talent cannot.
Solder is talented, but is definitely a project. The converted tight end has not played tackle long enough to allow anyone to make any argument otherwise. I would grade New England lower for this pick if Solder wasn't projected to go between 15-20 on most 2011 NFL Mock Drafts, and if the Patriots didn't have the personnel in place to allow Solder to grow at his own pace.
(And, hey, we all probably said the same things about Sebastian Vollmer, didn't we?)
New England was an ideal landing spot for Solder. Still, I don't expect much out of him. Yet. Check back in three years.