One week away from the 2012 NFL Draft, and with mock drafters everywhere still desperate to pencil an offensive tackle into the No. 10 overall pick belonging to the Buffalo Bills. Georgia senior Cordy Glenn is finally gaining traction in discussions for the Bills in Round 1. This despite the fact that WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia has been talking up Glenn as a legitimate option since February's scouting combine.
The other inevitable shoe to drop regarding Glenn projections: he's now being compared to former San Diego Chargers second-round pick Marcus McNeill. Bills GM Buddy Nix was with San Diego when they took McNeill in 2006.
"Glenn's game is eerily similar to former Buddy Nix pick Marcus McNeill's," writes Evan Silva of Rotoworld in his latest mock draft. "Both are athletic, physically dominant 'waist benders' whose technique is criticized despite exceptional down-to-down play."
While it may be true that the players are similar on the field - and they're similar athletically, too - these are two different stories entirely, and that's worth fleshing out.
Coming out of Auburn after the 2005 season, McNeill was a highly-regarded tackle prospect with 28 total starts at tackle under his belt. That's the first important difference between McNeill and Glenn: the latter started 46 games at Georgia, but only 18 of those came at left tackle (including four in his sophomore season in a fill-in capacity). Glenn is highly regarded as a guard and an athlete, but there haven't been many - if any - strong cases made for him as a tackle, particularly one worthy of being selected in Round 1.
McNeill was considered a Round 1-worthy tackle as a prospect, but fell to the second round essentially for one reason: teams were concerned about his injury history. McNeill had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, and scouts feared that the affliction would lead to a career plagued with back problems. They were partially right; he made the Pro Bowl in his first two professional seasons (doing so with both hands broken at various points), but he's missed 14 games in the past two seasons, had major surgery and is now a street free agent at the should-be-in-his-prime age of 28.
Obviously, those specific concerns don't exist for Glenn - but then, he's simply not viewed as highly as a tackle prospect as McNeill was. Glenn has been considered a potential first-round pick as a guard for quite some time, but the common theme on him as a tackle has been as follows: he was generally terrible at left tackle early in his senior season, and then improved to the point where pro scouts think he has a shot to stick at the position, and not necessarily on the left side. He was helped immensely in the formulation of that opinion by a strong performance at the Senior Bowl.
Athletically, the comparisons are obvious: McNeill was a 6'7", 337-pound tackle with 35.4-inch arms; he had the required length and range that the league - and the Bills specifically - look for in tackles. Glenn isn't quite as tall, but is nearly as impressive a physical specimen, coming in at 6'5", 345 pounds and with 35.8-inch arms and the light feet needed to play on the edge. Glenn, too, fits the physical requirements of what the Bills look for in a left tackle, and the team has said as much publicly.
"For us, a guy with that size and that type of foot athlete, you try him out at tackle," Assistant GM Doug Whaley said of Glenn on Wednesday. "We believe that he's got a chance to play there and produce there at a high level."
In the end, the Chargers seemingly felt comfortable taking a chance on McNeill because he was a highly athletic and productive tackle with upside that they snagged with a second-round pick based on injury concerns. That's a significantly smaller risk than blowing a Top 10 pick on a similarly-skilled athlete with significantly worse (and significantly more inconsistent) tape at the position. Silva's account of "exceptional down-to-down performance" by Glenn has the flavor of an entirely new evaluation of Glenn as a tackle. It's hard to buy it after all these months.
Maybe Nix and the Bills see some McNeill in Glenn; if they do, it's almost certainly based on athletic prowess, and not necessarily how the guys grade out as left tackles. That's important to keep in mind if you're inclined to wield the McNeill/Glenn comparison the way Silva does - as supporting evidence of a mock draft projection of Glenn to Buffalo. There's a different level of investment with Glenn than there was with McNeill, and there's an entirely different set of concerns.