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A Look Back At '08 Offensive Tackle Class

Many will remember how the Falcons went about drafting left tackle Sam Baker in the first round of the 2008 draft, but few remember what happened ahead of that selection.

As is often the case on draft night, there was a run on a specific position group and that night it was left tackles. Needing one of their own, the Falcons traded back up into the first round to select Baker at No. 21.

The trade was necessary because of the dwindling first-round players available at the position and the Falcons needed a new cornerstone on the line to protect their other No. 1 pick investment, franchise QB Matt Ryan.

Six left tackles were picked ahead of Baker and while he's had an up-and-down career, a look at some of the selections ahead of him should make most Falcons fans feel pretty good about the job Baker has done while in Atlanta and about him re-signing with the Falcons on Tuesday.

At No. 1 overall was Jake Long, once viewed as the next premier left tackle in the league. A starter in 74 of a possible 80 games since '08, Long appeared well on his way to living up to the No. 1 overall pick, but in recent seasons injuries have slowed him. He's currently a free agent and Miami doesn't appear to be bringing him back.

The 12th overall pick that season was Ryan Clady, Denver's current left tackle and a starter in all 80 games. He's been a strong player and Denver prevented him from hitting free agency this year with the use of the franchise tag.

At No. 14 things start to get interesting. Chicago drafted Chris Williams, who started 38 games, but hasn't met expectations. He's currently on his second team. Branden Albert went 15th to Kansas City and he's started 71 games since '08. Like Clady, he was franchised this year to prevent him from hitting free agency. Gosder Cherilus was drafted at No. 17 and he's started 71 of 80 games. He signed with Indianapolis as a free agent on Tuesday.

Just two picks before Baker was Jeff Otah, the pick of the Carolina Panthers. He started 19 of 29 games he was available for and he was out of football last season.

Although Baker was slowed with injuries early in his career, he still managed to hit the field, starting in 57 of a possible 80 games. Last season Baker was the healthiest he's been in his career and the Falcons were rewarded with a starter at left tackle for every game of the season. Baker was also one of two players to play every snap on offense during the 2013 season.

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