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Patriots Rookie Projections: Nate Solder

[Editor's Note: Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been dealing with final exams the past two weeks and have been extremely preoccupied.  Nonetheless, we're moving forwards with a new series of posts that will predict what roles the Patriots' rookies might play for the team next season.  Of course, we have never seen these guys step onto the field, so making actual statistical predictions is difficult, but with the lockout in full effect, I will give it a shot.] -Greg

The first in a series looking at the Patriots' 2011 NFL Draft picks, and the roles they might play for the Patriots next year.

Name: Nate Solder

School: Colorado

Position: Offensive Tackle

Drafted: 1st Round, 17th Overall

Projected Stats: 16 Games Played, 5 Starts

Projected Role: Nate Solder's rookie season with the Patriots could go one of two ways.  The first, is that Solder becomes the starting left tackle from day one.  This will happen if the Patriots do not come to an agreement with free agent to be and incumbent left tackle Matt Light.  The second option is that the Patriots sign Matt Light to a new deal (probably two years).  In this scenario, Nate Solder becomes the top reserve tackle for the team, plays a few snaps each game, and has a chance to develop for a year, before coming the full-time left tackle in 2012.  Either way, I see Solder playing in all 16 games not only as a back-up tackle, but as an extra blocker in goal line sets as well as on special teams.  With his size, versatility, and athleticism, I'm sure that the team will find a way to use him in some capacity as a rookie, even if he is not a starter immediately.

Bottom Line: Top back-up rookie season, starter by 2012 or 2013 the latest