Yesterday we covered Boston College's Anthony Castonzo. Today, it's Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi.
The trend you will notice is we plan to do a ton of profiles on offensive tackles. The reasons for this are simple: If the Colts do not improve their offensive line, they aren't a Super Bowl caliber team. Heck, they might not even be playoff caliber. The need is literally THAT important, and a first round talent at tackle is a quick and efficient way to fill that need.
If you followed college football at all last year, you knew that Wisconsin's offensive line was dominant. Not kinda good. Not decent. Dominant! The Badgers had the No. 5 scoring offense in the entire country (41.5 ppg), and Carimi was the Big Ten's Offensive Linemen of the Year.
But, as we've all seen, being great in college means little in the pros. Can Carimi be a great pro prospect, and, if so, can the Indianapolis Colts draft him?
Carimi stands 6'7 and is roughly 320 pounds, making him as tall as Anthony Castonzo, but about 25 pounds heavier than Castonzo. Like Castonzo, Carimi is tough. He was a four-year starter at Wisconsin. In fact, he replaced Joe Thomas when Thomas left to become the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Today, Thomas is arguably the best left tackle in football.
I guess they grow them well in Wisconsin.
Now, despite Carimi's toughness and pedigree, there are mixed opinions on how good he is. Some say he is the No. 2 tackle in the entire draft. Others rank him as a third rounder. We'll do our best here to find the truth.
Tony Pauline, CBS Sports draft guru:
Solid pass protecting left tackle that needs to improve his overall body strength but offers a good amount of upside. Offers starting potential on the NFL level.
• Prototypical size with long arms and large hands
• Solid in pass pro with nimble feet to slide / mirror
• Fairly stout at point and gets good push in run game
• Decent strength and delivers a violent initial punch
• Polished technician with great hand use and footwork
• Intelligent with excellent instincts and awareness
• Very tough and willingly plays through pain / injuries
• Mature, hard working and is respected by teammates
• A ton of experience against top-notch competition
Wes Bunting at National Football Post [emphasis mine]:
A long, well put together offensive tackle prospect who has some real nasty to his game and possesses good overall strength for the position.
Let's stop here and focus for a second on Wes' comment regarding Carimi having 'nasty' game. In the past, we've heard Colts 'vice chairman' Bill Polian talk about how he likes offensive linemen with a nasty streak. He often lauds Jamey Richard for this attribute. Too bad Richard uses that to compensate for his total lack of talent.
With Carimi, the word is he has talent AND a 'nasty' streak, which could make him very attractive to Polian should he have to pick between him and a player like, say, Derek Sherrod (who we will profile later).
CBS Sports, via NFLDraftScout.com:
Pass blocking: Has the elite agility and nimble feet to protect the quarterback's blindside. Very difficult to turn the corner against because of his lateral movement and solid footwork. Also protects the inside lane. Delivers a strong hand punch capable of knocking back an opponent, and is able to recoil and extend. Uses his length to block his man with one hand and knock an edge blitzer off his path with the other. Quick to cut on bubble screens and reverses, though he could get more of his man's legs to be truly effective. Bends at the waist while engaged; usually holds on to prevent secondary rush but will also end up on the ground too often.
Run blocking: His true strength is as a blocker for the Badger run game. Has strong upper- and lower-body builds despite his height. Plays with leverage against stout defensive ends and tackles on the edge, can get under their pads and churn his legs to move them down or off the line. Effective combo blocker, gets a hand on inside rusher and still manages to push defensive ends and linebackers out of the play on rushing plays designed to go behind him. Leans or bends at the waist to latch on at times and gets shed and loses his balance.
Wisconsin's top three running backs averaged a little under six yards a carry in 2010. Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien was only sacked 13 times in 266 drop backs. In their regular season win over then-No. 1 Ohio State, Wisconsin ran for 184 yards and did not allow a sack.
So, as you can see, lots of positives for this kid. But, why the mixed bag of opinions on him?
To answer that, let's see some of the weaknesses in his game.
However, isn't the most flexible of linemen when asked to sit into his stance. Struggles to consistently keep his base down and footwork compact on his kick-slide and can be bullied at the point at times because of his overextended footwork.
Impression: Isn't a guy who I would trust on the left side at this stage in the NFL, but he can win for you in the run game and looks more like a very solid right tackle prospect to me.
• Merely average athleticism, agility and balance
• Issues with speed and struggles to protect edge
• Not a knee bender, plays tall and leverage suffers
• Will too often gets caught reaching and leaning
• Falls off of blocks and does not sustain very well
• Has some trouble in space and at the second level
• Is not a finisher and may lack a killer instinct
• A history of injuries and durability is a concern
If you read CBS Sports' report, it's tough to find anything negative about the kid. After looking at all these, I've come to the conclusion that the issue is his supposed lack of athleticism. At 6'7, 325 pounds, Carimi isn't what one would call an athletic tackle. This is a big kid. A 'mauler' as they say, and for some a player of his type will struggle against the Dwight Freeney's of the NFL.
Thus, you get comments like this from NFL Draft Countdown, who thinks Carimi is a second or even third round prospect:
Overrated blocker with all the tools to be a starter at the next level but is not the elite blindside protector and early first rounder that some have made him out to be.
Carimi's great strength seems to be his ability to blow people off the ball and get to the next level for the running backs. Pass blocking, according to some, is his weakness. Normally, this would scratch Carimi off the list because Indy typically looks for pass blockers first, run blockers second. This mindset likely explains why the Colts running game has been so dismal over the years.
For 2011, Indianapolis must change their way of thinking when it comes to linemen. The 'pass blockers first, run blockers second' mindset is a failure. Indy's o-line is an embarrassment. What they have always lacked is a guy who can line up and blast people off the line.
Gabe Carimi is that guy.
It also helps that Carimi is smart. He was Academic All-Big Ten four straight years.
Now, the warning signs that should flash are the 'durability' concerns NFL Draft Countdown cites. A history of injuries at the college level often means the kid is brittle as glass in the pros. Injured players are useless players, and the Colts cannot afford to blow another first rounder on a kid who cannot stay on the field.
Missed three games in 2008 with right MCL sprain, but played through maladies in 2009: slight tear in right MCL scarring, left AC joint (shoulder) sprain, H1N1 virus. Fasted for 24 hours before 2008 game against Iowa in observance of Yom Kippur.
It's also worth noting that Carimi is diligently observant of Jewish holidays and customs during those holidays. This means he will likely fast prior to Yom Kippur, which is usually observed in September or October. This year, it's October 7-8th, which is right before a game on October 9th.
Now, in years past, the Colts are very understanding of players when it comes to their religion. However, this has always been in regards to the Christian faith, which the Colts organizations often cites as a source of strength and guidance for them. I have not seen them make reference to other faiths, and if Jim Caldwell is quoting the Bible's New Testament in his pregame chats to the team, a player like Carimi might take offense to that. And should the Colts not draft Carimi simply because he is an observant Jew, that so illegal and disgusting it isn't even funny to joke about or discuss further.
I merely bring this 'faith factor' up because I don't recall the Colts ever drafting a person of committed, non-Christian faith like Carimi. They are known for drafting and signing strong Christians, like Gary Brackett. Jeff Saturday, and Jerraud Powers. Heck, during his introductory news conference in 2009, Jim Caldwell very much flaunted his faith and used it to define who he is:
Another question one may ask is 'Who is Jim Caldwell?' Number one, I am a Christian. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but i try to live my life accordingly.
Also during his introductory speech, Caldwell praised former Colts coach Tony Dungy for never compromising his 'Christian values.' After the Super Bowl, during the March 2010 owners meeting, Caldwell quoted the New Testament (Paul and Barnabas in Acts, Chapter 13) when asked about the Colts off-season approach after losing to the New Orleans Saints:
In the Bible, they have an old saying, you shake the dust off your sandals and move forward. That's what we have to do.''
Again, there is nothing 'wrong' with Caldwell mentioning things like this, but if he were to use this kind of language and these sorts of Christian references to talk to someone like Carimi, Carimi could get annoyed or offended by it. I know I would if I was in his shoes, which is why I sort of wish the Colts would tone down all the Christian stuff.
It's about winning football games, not promoting a specific religious faith.
Also, anyone who gets 'upset' that we bring up the whole Christian thing can kindly take a walk. The Colts market and pitch themselves as a team of 'faith.' That faith isn't Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddist, or anything else other than Christian. And when talking about a potential stud NFL draft prospect like Gabe Carimi, who is strongly observant of his Jewish beliefs, this 'faith' the Colts like to project definitely factors into the discussion as to whether or not Carimi would 'fit' within this organization. It also brings to light the fact that the Colts probably should tone done on all the Jesus stuff, because one's religious faith should have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they would work well within an organization. Anyone who thinks differently, anyone who feels that a Colts player 'must be a Christian' in order for them to root for said player isn't someone I care to see comment here.
Again, this is about winning football games.
If the Colts want to continue to win games, drafting a prospect like Carimi could get us back to the land of the elite. If Carimi isn't ready to play left tackle, right tackle or guard are always options. Plugging a talent like Carimi anywhere on the line would make this team better. Watch the first few seconds of this video to see what I mean. Carimi takes the Iowa defender five yards back, allowing the Wisconsin running back a clean hole to run through. The back isn't touched until ten yards down the field.