I get the popular narrative of "playmakers" and their value... and please understand that this is not a personal attack.... but those plays do NOT get made without consistent supremacy in the trenches.
And as long as you're bringing up the Manning era... I would point to the 3rd and 2 opportunity vs. the Chargers with just over 2 minutes left where we could have converted a 1st down, bled out the clock and advanced in the playoffs.... the closing minutes of the first half vs. the Saints in the Super Bowl where we failed to convert and at least add FG, perhaps a TD.... and the Willie McGinest red zone tackle of Edge in a critical matchup with the Patriots.
These are but a few examples where...in key games...our deficiency along the offensive line probably cost us 1-2 more rings.
And as historically amazing a passer as Peyton Manning was.... without "protection problems" (his words, mind you)... Belichick, as well the Chargers defensive staff KNEW that pressure up the middle was a relatively easy point of exploitation. All too often the result was Manning crumpling to the ground like Woody from Toy Story.
Did we get by during the regular season during those years? Sure... thanks to the likes of Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee being reliably mediocre.... at best... and the sugar high of 12-4 seasons was fun.
But come playoff time....it cost us on many occasions.
Fast forward to the Andrew Luck era... and we're wondering if the lad is even gonna play again, and if he does... for how long and at what level.
IMO.... Chris Ballard absolutely put the appropriate amount of emphasis on the interior O-line in this draft.... and even setting aside Andrew Luck running for his life and finally being maimed, there are plenty of critical playoff examples where "playmakers" couldn't make plays.... because the O-line we decided to nickel and dime was just not good enough.
I for one.... heartily welcome the selections of Quentin Nelson at #6 and Braden Smith early in round 2.