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Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects- Guard
These guys will look to open up holes for the franchise's workhorse. Today I rank the top five guards in the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Bio: After redshirting his first year, Quenton Nelson got an opportunity to start at left guard alongside future first round pick Ronnie Stanley. Over the last two seasons, he and potential first round pick Mike McGlinchey dominated the left side of the line.
Strengths: Built like a tank with wide hips, broad chest and powerful limbs. Built a reputation for intimidating power. Rarely beaten by power alone. Comes out of the blocks with good pad level. Unlocks powerful hips into contact. Can raise defenders out of the gap creating massive running lanes. Extremely aggressive at point of attack and isn't satisfied until he dominates the man in front of him. Top tier double team blocker along with Mike McGlinchey. Uses superior leg drive to close in down blocks. Moves laterally and in space with decent fluidity. Works his feet and hips into position to keep blocks secured. Has core strength and body control to make recoveries when beaten on rare occasiona. Great field awareness. Able to adjust his assignment. Pass sets from desired posture with wide base and evenly distributed weight. First punch is compact and powerful. Fires hands like bullets and is almost always first into the frame with burst and extension. Able to lock out rushers and maintain complete control with quality mirror through play. Has hand strength to snatch and sustain in pass protection and running game.
Weaknesses: Has a tendency to drop his head into contact. Will lose sight of his target and whiff against slanting, swim move specialists. Was on the ground more than he should've been against Wake Forest defensive tackles looking to shoot gaps. Has a slight hitch when coming out of his stance on stretch or toss plays. Lingers on secure blocks a hair too long before moving up to linebackers. May have to speed up his pace against NFL defenses. Still room for improvement in pass protection and keeping athletic rushers in place. Has had some injury concerns over the years. Missed some time in 2015 due to an ankle injury.
Projected Round: 1
Compares to: Larry Allen
Possible landing spot: Denver Broncos
2. Will Hernández, Texas- El Paso
Bio: After redshirting his first season, Will Hernández was a fixture at left guard for the Miners for the next four years. In that time he received multiple Conference USA honors as well as being named second team All-American.
Strengths: Has a broad waist with a thick base. Possesses impressive natural movement for a guy his size. Flexible and quick. Knee bender able to unlock his hips and explode into opponents at point of attack. Trunk is wide and steady. Has the feet and momentum to keep run blocks sustained. Contact balance and body control are excellent. Plays with an aggressive, finishing demeanor on every play. Flashes outstanding upper body strength to move defenders out of the run lane. Once he gets his hands into an opponent's frame, its over. Feet are nimble and agile. Quality pull blocker and has feet to mirror most pass rush moves. Above average lateral movement. Keeps head up and back flat in pass protection. Able to push opponents beyond the quarterback when they get to his edge. Has an instant brake and sink anchor. Joined boxing and powerlifting gyms just for the hell of it. Loves the game and all it entails.
Weaknesses: Shorter than ideal for the position. Has short arms and small hands. Players with good arm length are able to get into his frame. Over excited after the snap. Comes out of his stance with lateral jump that can cause him to lose positioning at times. Strong desire to come out fast and land a heavy blow causes hands to miss their mark and ride up high occasionally. Too willing to initiate contact without properly placing feet. Can be hesitant in approach to second level targets and lacks some smoothness in his climb. Needs to play with better pad level in space and on down blocks. In pass sets, inside foot will get stuck when counter rushers force him back inside.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Richie Incognito
Possible landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
Bio: As a true freshman, Isaiah Wynn started 11 games at left guard for Georgia. By 2017, he was a first team All-SEC selection as well as being named second team All-American.
Strengths: Plays with fluidity and desired knee bend throughout the play. Initial quickness is above average. Gets into blocks with tight footwork and runs feet through contact. Stays attached to his blocks and rarely falls off. Looks to finish. Effective as move blocker and base blocker. Takes good angles up to the second level as backside blocker and has technique and athleticism to reach and secure blocks others can't. Offers tackle level pass protection technique if bumped inside. Has body control, balance, and feet to handle counter rush moves. Extremely aware against twists and is quick to respond. Plays with disciplined hand usage, keeping them inside opponent's frame in both run game and pass sets. Very strong hands. Flashes necessary anchor. Has starting experience at both guard and left tackle.
Weaknesses: Lean base with a high-cut frame. Built more like a tackle than a guard, but is packed into a 6'2" frame. Will have to prove he can handle NFL power. Could benefit from getting better arm extension into initial punch as interior blocker in the pros. May lack necessary pop in his hips to displace gap blitzers who stuff running lanes. Will lose patience and chase on occasion rather than standing his ground and allow defenders come to him.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Ronald Leary
Possible landing spot: Miami Dolphins
4. Braden Smith, Auburn
Bio: The Kansas state shot put/discus champion out of high school, Braden Smith played in all 13 games for Auburn as a freshman. Over the last three years, he's been regularly listed on the All-SEC teams.
Strengths: Colossal frame with broad chest, hulking arms, and thick legs. Size allows him to play outside or inside. Both weight room strong and field strong. Good body control into initial contact. Absorbs contact and starts mauling. Grinder with power at the point of attack. Able to fist fight in trenches and hold his own against power rushers. Has strong hands and can lock on for the long haul when he gets a strong first grab. Good drive blocker. Has upper body power to pancake defensive tackles on recovery blocks. Has enough pure power to slow down bull rushers. Punch is decent.
Weaknesses: Slow play speed. Eyes need process quicker. Delayed in seeing and picking up twists. Lacks quick feet to slide and catch blitzers and counter rushers. Allows rushers to get into his frame. Power zone plays affect his balance. Doesn't have reactive athleticism to mirror opponents movements and keep blocks in front of him. Has a major hitch coming out of his stance when asked to pull outside. Needs to play faster with hands. Slow getting to the second level. Plays top heavy at times.
Projected Round: 3-4
Compares to: Kevin Zeitler
Possible landing spot: Atlanta Falcons
5. Tony Adams, NC State
Bio: A top rated center prospect out of high school, Tony Adams found a home at right guard as a true freshman. Over his final two seasons, he was named second All-ACC both years.
Strengths: Carries stocky lower half and good overall girth. Leader of an educated offensive line. Good initial quickness. Fluid pull gets him down the line and looking for his target. Consistent at finding his block and makes adjustment to find work if needed. Athletic fit for Wolfpack's outside zone scheme. First contact is always balanced. Above average body control. Able to connect and swing his hips into position to seal the outside zone. Scheme diverse fitting zone, gap, or power blocking offenses. Initial hand placement is great. Pass protection is balanced with ready hands. First punch is quick and sharp. Decent mirror with ability to redirect against counter moves. Penalized just twice over last two seasons. Has experience at center.
Weaknesses: Shorter than the ideal guard. Punches need to be more consistent. Gives ground to bull-rushers who beat him when they reach his frame. Just average in lateral recovery in pass sets. Needs cautious approach in passing initial twist to maintain proper position for incoming rushers. Longer rushers can gain access to his edge. Overall hand work needs improvement. Finishing will improve if he learns to regain leverage after initial contact.
Projected Round: 4
Compares to: Dan Feeney
Possible landing spot: Philadelphia Eagles