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Monday, April 23, 2012

Decastro v/s Reiff

Following Matt Kalil, the next best linemen are Iowa’s Riley Reiff and Stanford’s David Decastro.  Alliteration aside, the pair share lots of similarities at this point – they’re both longterm starters at a high level (which dramatically increases a lineman’s chances of translating the skill level as a senior, to the pros).  Both played in a pro-style zone scheme, both coincidentally developed out of the same Coryell lineage that Carolina runs (Harbaugh and Ferentz were even with the same Coryell team in late 90s Baltimore).
Both look to be in range of the #9 pick Carolina posesses, and the team does have a need for linemen.  After letting Travelle Wharton walk, they brought back interim RG Geoff Hangartner, and added occasional Colts starter Mike Pollak, both of which likely fight Garry Williams for the two starting jobs.  Jeff Otah played well when able, and Byron Bell was a nice story, but the combined to make RT the glaring weakness.  They do have both, and Bell should improve going into his second year, but Otah is unrealiable and going into a contract year.  So the argument could be made for either player – the almost franchise level upgrade at guard, or the tough-nosed tackle to protect the edge. 
Both protect the investment of the various offensive skill players.  Both provide value because linemen tend to play more snaps than any other position.  Compare the impact of a lineman on almost every of the 1200 plays an offense might run, compared to the value added by a WR pick in the same term (on a team with Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, and three good receiving backs).  So, there’s a need.  It’s not the fun thing to do, but it might be coming.   So which one?

I hate to go with conventional thought, but a guard at 9 is just too high.  Outside of Wharton, the Panthers have had pretty good lines since 2008 relying on guards that were 5th-7th round picks or street pickups.  While Reiff isn’t likely to be as good a guard for one year, the long term is that Reiff at RT longterm is an upgrade that can, if required, play LT. Decastro could very well be a Hall of Fame player, though I don’t find any real difference between the two in skill set, work ethic, technique, and so on.  I’m sure there is- I just don’t discern much and it’s hard to compare the two positions in some ways.
And, in value terms, either player will make a great deal less than their veteran counterparts, but tackles have naturally better value. Reiff is definitely better than the average tackle in the 2nd round, but is Decastro significantly better than the average 2nd, or even 4th, round guard?  It’s less easy to say so in some cases.  Interior linemen can be hit or miss, but good ones are still there later, and you can more adequately survive with a roleplayer that does one thing very well, or both things at an average level.
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