With a lot of talk flying around about Zebrie Sanders being a potential draft target for the Atlanta Falcons, I’d like to take a look at another guy from the Florida State roster: Andrew Datko.
Datko is the true left tackle from the Florida State team. At least he’s the one FSU would have wanted to start if he hadn’t been injured for a big part of 2010, and nearly all of 2011. And injuries are the place to start and end the conversation on Datko.
Datko suffered a shoulder injury in the 2010 preseason, was set for the first couple games, was injured again against Oklahoma and missed three games, then finished out the season. He then suffered a dislocation in one shoulder, and a torn labrum in the other. He underwent surgery in the preseason, yet was able to start the first four games of the season. However, he was hurting from an injury, and didn’t play again for the rest of the season.
There are positive signs. First, Florida State was willing to go with a guy who had recently had shoulder surgery at LT over a healthy Zebrie Sanders; that either says a lot about Datko, or a lot about Sanders. Since Sanders is a decent prospect, it would lead me to believe that Datko is a much better talent when healthy. That’s the only problem though, he hasn’t been healthy the last two seasons.
In the 2011 preseason, Datko was an early candidate for multiple offseason awards, such as the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Trophy (the one for great college linemen and linebackers). He has obvious talent, but when he was on the field he noticeably was affected by his injuries–he didn’t fully extend on blocks, or couldn’t due to his injuries. There was a reason the Seminoles tried to keep him on the field so long, and there is just as valid a reason that they eventually pulled him off it.
Other than the injuries, Datko is a fine specimen. He weighs 315, is 6’6, has good enough footwork to handle the speed rush, can anchor against the bull-rush (although he had a tendency to give up too much ground on the power-rushers), and run block effectively. He also has great leadership, is a smart guy (All-ACC academic team), and works hard to improve. He would be a great locker room guy.
A healthy Datko could be a tremendous asset. I doubt he would ever be an elite talent in the NFL, and given that he suffered these injuries in college, there is little doubt they he would continue to experience them at the next level. However, it has to be noted that the Seminoles started fresh-from-under-the-knife Datko over 100% Zebrie Sanders for the LT position. His injuries would make him a very low draft pick, 6th or 7th round, and its possible he could even go undrafted. If he were available really really late, perhaps the Falcons would take a flyer on him, or try him out as an undrafted free-agent. He would be risky as a draft pick in any round, but the potential upside is a player who could start in the NFL, and hold the Falcons over until they can acquire the LT they really want for the future.