Can Trevor Penning play a competent left tackle in the NFL?
The hard reality facing us is that no amount of medical or training staff reports will answer if or when Ronnie Stanley will be ready to play and at what level. More importantly, if he does return, for how long can he do so? We may well find that in spite of his best efforts his ankle will not stand up to the rigors of professional play. Stanley's certain uncertainty compels the rostering of another who can acceptably play LT for us.
It surely sucks that in a year where the greater weight of team needs are defensive, facing a draft full of tremendous defensive talent, well situated for the re-tooling & re-invigoration our defense needs, we've got to deal with this. But we saw last year the unacceptable result of pass pro chaos. Keeping our fingers crossed for Stanley is not problem solving. Can we solve this problem in the draft?
While it's always tough to project any rookie to come in and be ready to play competently at LT, I think that can be done with reasonable confidence with any of the consensus top three of Neal, Ekwonu, or Cross. Certainly no one would complain of their selection at 14. But of course, neither Neal, Kwonu, or Cross will be there. Which leads us Penning.
We all love his size, physical play, and will to dominate. Yet, his balance, tendency to get grabby, and needed pass pro development are cause for concern. If Penning's an above average, better than most, LT, he's worthy of choice at 14, ahead of some compelling defenders. It solves the Stanley/LT problem and gets it behind us. Draft Penning and then go mine the defensive gold! If he's just a RT, then no go. I'd sure like to be, but I'm not convinced.