Joel Bitonio was and is the clear answer at left tackle for the Cleveland Browns, knowing that their rookie Austin Corbett isn’t projected there for 2018. That said, the long-term outlook should see a different tackle than Bitonio.
Joel Bitonio is one of the best left guards in all of the NFL. He is a pro bowl guard, temporarily tackle who makes the Cleveland Browns offensive line go. However, being without a legitimate replacement for Joe Thomas, it makes sense for this season to have Bitonio move over.
Bitonio is doing a good job at left tackle but he is not playing, understandably, up to the level he does when he is on the inside. The key, however, is that Bitonio only plays left tackle in 2018. Austin Corbett can be Cleveland’s sixth offensive lineman who spot starts when needed.
In 2019 and beyond though, ideally he would start and to do so, Cleveland would have to move on from Kevin Zeitler or J.C. Tretter. If that does not happen and Corbett has to remain status quo in his role then, so be it, worst scenarios have happened before.
Under the assumption that Corbett moves elsewhere along the line and Bitonio locks back into left guard and dominates there again, there are quality collegiate tackles Cleveland could use. Three tackles who come to mind are Ole Miss’ Greg Little, Alabama’s Jonah Williams, and Washington’s Trey Adams.
Little is the best tackle prospect in terms of blocking against EDGE rushers. Once an EDGE gets near Little, they know they are not going anywhere. Little provides a great frame of balance with very good technique, who I compare to Tennessee Titans’ Taylor Lewan. Little will be one of at least two Ole Miss players who will be first round picks in 2019.
Two areas that working in Williams’ favor are his first step once the ball is snapped and the great footwork he has. The promise is there for Williams who for some is the top tackle prospect entering the season.
The running game protection is more of his strength right now but that is not to say the passing game needs a ton of work. What I’d like to see more is Williams attempting to get his passing game coverage with his pad level, elusiveness, strength against EDGE rushers and ability to block if needed in second level close to his run game blocking.
Adams will be coming back from an ACL injury but given what was seen prior to the injury, I am confident he will get back to being an elite tackle prospect. One area where he needs to work on is his feet work. It is not consistent enough yet he regularly gets the job done due to his pad level.
Once his footwork gets cleaned up a bit, then more physicality will be seen. Being able to block into the second level doe not go unnoticed. Adams is a first rounder in 2019 and depending on those factors will determine how high he goes.
Cleveland could be in play for all three of them once the 2019 draft arrives. Worst case is two of the three and that, of course, does not count the possibility of another top tackle getting into the conversation. The good news for them is that all three are day one left tackle prospects.
While 2018 is filled, the long-term potential is there with Bitonio going back to where he belongs. Stability and consistency can be seen for years to come assuming Cleveland goes after one of these prospects, which is why these future potential options are so promising.