2016 Draft – Position Group – Offensive Guard
Offensive Guard is a strange group when it comes to the NFL Draft. There are two main species of Guard prospects: 1. The player who has been a Guard his whole career, excelled there in the College game, and is ready to move up to the NFL, OR 2. The Offensive Tackle who was the best player on his college Offensive Line, but probably isn’t really an elite Tackle and will have to move to Guard in the NFL. Often times this 2nd species of Guard has started all over the line for their team in college.
Of the Type 1 Guards, the top man has to be Joshua Garnett (Stanford) who doubled as the college equivalent of The Mountain That Rides. Also in this bunch are players like Christian Westerman (Arizona State), Landon Turner (North Carolina), and Sebastian Tretola (Arkansas).
For Type 2 Guards, Cody Whitehair (Kansas State) is setting the pace and may actually get some RT looks in the NFL. Also in this versatile group would be Vadal Alexander (LSU), Connor McGovern (Missouri), Spencer Drango (Baylor), Joe Dahl (Washington State), and Rees Odhiambo (Boise State).
A lot of people are saying that this isn’t a strong crop of Guards, and though the numbers will end up low on total Guards drafted, there are a number of players who look like they’ll make an impact. There are 3-4 Guards who have Pro Bowl potential in this draft that will go in the 2nd or 3rd Round, and a number of players who for one reason or another look to be Day 3 picks and will be starting somewhere by the end of the season. A thin crop? Perhaps…but not a weak crop.
1. Cody Whitehair – Kansas State – 6’4 301Lbs
Whitehair was productive all over the field for Kansas State, logging significant time at LT, LG, and RT while earning a Big 12 Honorable Mention, 2 All Big 12 2nd Team nods, and a 1st Team All Big 12 look as a Senior. He is a leader, hard working, and a very heads up player. His technique is strong everywhere, allowing him to hold his own at LT despite lacking the desired size or length. He has strong balance, finishes blocks in the pass and run games, uses his hand to jar and deliver a good blow to defenders, and can call upon core strength and balance to get deep in order to hold up against stronger defenders.
He does have shorter arms though, which allows defenders to get into his chest. He can’t carry a lot of weight and he played a lot out of a 2-point stance, which puts a cap on his upside. That being said, his upside is as a Pro Bowl Guard who could probably play RT in a pinch, and someone who could likely excel in a Zone Blocking scheme that wants players who move well and track defenders around the field. Whitehair keeps pulling the Zach Martin comparison, and I think that is a good one. He is probably the only Guard with a shot to go in Round 1 to a team like the Vikings or Seahawks, but if he drops into Round 2 he will go quick with a team maybe even moving up to get him.
2. Joshua Garnett – Stanford – 6’4 312Lbs
Joshua Garnett is the player that you think of when someone talks about a big, physical Guard. He is wipe bodied, has a real nasty streak, and is a smart player who uses his strength and side to bully defenders. In the running game he man handles Linebackers when he moves to the second level, and knows how to use his size to wall off defenders and create lanes. In pass protection he uses his arm length to keep defenders off his body and generates a ton of power to push defenders around.
With his thickness and physicality comes some limitations. Garnett has fairly average in terms of quickness out of his stance, and struggles to move all his bulk to the 2nd level in the run game. At times he relies too much on his long arms and tries to out muscle people, which will get him beat in the NFL. He profiles as a great run blocker with the potential to be a top shelf all around guard. He will go somewhere in the 2nd Round, be plugged directly in as a starting Guard, and will help his team right away.
3. Christian Westerman – Arizona State – 6’3 298Lbs
Westerman is a weight room warrior, testing very well in the combine and looking like an athletic and physical guard. His size is not elite, but he has big hands and good length that he uses to his advantage to keep defenders off his chest. He blocks well on the move, gets himself squared up quickly, and has good technique in both pass blocking and run blocking.
While he tests well in strength, Westerman doesn’t have ideal bulk for playing on the inside and does not play to the strength his weightlifting may indicate. He doesn’t seem to be able to generate the push that you’d want and often fights to a draw, which isn’t ideal in the Red Zone. With size concern he could maybe get a try at Center by some teams, but in the right scheme and with a bit more strength he can be a very good Guard. Most likely he will go somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd Round to a team looking for an immediate starter in a scheme that prefers athleticism over size.
3 MORE TO WATCH
1. Vadal Alexander – LSU – 6’5 326Lbs
Alexander has played both Tackle and Guard in the SEC, so he has faced a high level of competition across many starts. He has plenty of bulk and natural strength, which when paired with long arms and a wide body he is really hard to get around or through on the inside. On the outside, he may get a run at Right Tackle but against good speed rushers he can’t keep his technique and is likely to get burned. As a Guard his power and size play better, but he still gets a bit lazy and needs to improve his footwork and hands. He has tons of talent, and could have been a 1st Rounder, but he’ll probably go around the 3rd to a team that wants some bulk up front.
2.Spencer Drango – Baylor – 6’6 315Lbs
Drango is another player who has experience at Tackle, having started for 4 years at Left Tackle at Baylor. However, it seems more likely he ends up at Guard in the NFL (possibly getting a look at RT). He has a lot of power in his upper body, and a mean streak as a blocker. He is quick out of his stance, but his technique isn’t great and he is coming from a spread system. For all his upper body size and strength, he is pretty average in the lower body and is going to need to get better instead of just relying on being bigger in the NFL. He’ll go somewhere around the 4th Round and could pay off if coached up as a solid Guard.
3. Joe Dahl – Washington State – 6’4 304Lbs
Dahl spent a year starting at Left Guard before playing Left Tackle his final two years at Washington State. He plays with good discipline and technique, keeping balance and using his hands very well. A lack of length means he is most likely a Guard in the NFL, where he may not have the strength to be a plus run blocker, but ought to play well in pass blocking. He isn’t a tremendous athlete, but he has some tools and he plays to his potential. He has a floor as a reliable backup at both Guard and Right Tackle in a pinch, and a ceiling of a really solid Left Guard. I would be surprised if he lasted past the 5th Round.