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Top Five 2016 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. Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
Bio: Over the last four seasons, Cody Whitehair has proven to be the Wildcat's strongest and most athletic offensive lineman. He has been moved along the line from right tackle to left guard, back to right tackle, and finally to left tackle for his last two seasons. Whatever spot he played, he was one of the best in the Big 12.
Strengths: Four year starter. A machine in the weight room and in practices. Brings a high degree of dependability and consistency to the team. Team-first guy. Played exceptionally well while out of position at left tackle. Ideal body composure and control. In complete control of his body due to above average core strength and balance. Extremely efficient with his movements after the snap. Has played both guard and tackle spots and has roster value at all five positions. Mirrors with a wide, stout base and has great feel for keeping defender squared up throughout the play. Confident, composed and competitive. Smooth and athletic when asked to pull and has the vision to find target and strike an accurate blow. Makes up for shorter arms with giant hands. Consistent with hand placement and sticky blocker. Combines hand strength and balance to control a defender until the whistle blows. Can sink hips at contact and should be able to stalemate bigger defensive linemen. Outstanding body control allows him to successfully redirect defenders who get to the edge.
Weaknesses: Arm length is short for interior lineman. Allows longer defenders into his framework too often. Needs to play with slightly faster hands inside and improve the timing of his first punch. May not be able to carry much more mass on his frame. Has core power but hislack of length and overall girth coulagainst bull rushers. Needs to prove he can fire out of three-point stance and generate push in the running game. May need additional work and reps to get timing and angles right as a guard. Will get caught lunging at times when in space.
Projected Round: 2
Possible landing spot: Philadelphia Eagles
2. Vadal Alexander, LSU
Bio: After starting for two years next to La'el Collins at left guard, Vadal Alexander was moved outside to right tackle. He was named to the All-SEC first team as a senior.
Strengths: Gigantic frame will give him a size advantage over just about everyone he lines up against. At his best as a downhill blocker. Natural power. Can cave in defenders with his downfield blocks and has power in his hands to shock linebackers when he can square them up. Has enough leg drive to generate movement as a base blocker when his pad level is even. Has the frame and natural power to anchor up against bull rushers as a guard. Massive frame includes long arms that can control a defender when he gets his hands on the opponent first. Has length and upper body strength to help him recover against inside moves.
Weaknesses: Slow feet. Has issues redirecting himself to handle sudden change of direction by rushers. Lacks lateral quickness to get to the second level. Struggles to get good angles when blocking linebackers. Below average balance and kbody control. Concerns over lower body stiffness and limited bend. Doesn’t bring feet under him after contact. Has trouble sustaining blocks. Has a low connection rate when climbing up to linebackers on combo blocks. Too passive out of stance, failing to take control of the rep. Only a guard prospect. Not athletic enough to play tackle. Bad habit of using wide hands in pass protection rather than using his length and hands as enforcers. Too many mental mistakes in both run and pass sets.
Projected Round: 2
Possible landing spot: Oakland Raiders
3. Nick Martin, Notre Dame
Bio: As a three year starter for the Fighting Irish, Nick Martin was dominant at both guard and center.
Strengths: Plays the game as physically as he can. Plays with an unmatched mean streak. Will finish a block with authority once he gains the upper hand. Is almost always first into defenders after snap. Despite some hip stiffness, moves fairly well when asked to get out in front of screen plays. Keeps head in motion at all times. Aware of both gaps when in pass protection and uncovered. Plays with wide base in pass protection. Always first to get hands on pass rusher and will get some extension early in the play. Doesn’t have long arms, but gets the most out of what length he has. Team captain and unchallenged leader up front. Has started at guard and center while at Notre Dame so may offer some roster flexibility. NFL bloodlines with older brother being All-Pro Dallas Cowboy guard Zack Martin.
Weaknesses: Hampered in his movement. Stiffness in hips limits ability to sink and anchor. Leads with upper body too often and plays with weight out over his feet. Below average strength and body control. Had issues redirecting with power against pass rushers who gained early advantage. Gets tossed around and has to work extra hard to stay engaged against powerful players. Below average leg strength generated from thin lower half. Sluggish in his initial movements after the snap. Will struggle to reach and secure blocks on the move. Can improve with recognition of blitzes. Knee Injury in 2013 stipend his production his final two seasons.
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible landing spot: Minnesota Vikings
4. Landon Turner, North Carolina
Bio: In his three and half years as a starter at right guard for the Tar Heels, Landon Turner was a dominant run blocker. As a senior, he was a first team All-American.
Strengths: Thick build with a tank for a lower body. Big boy strength with shocking power in his hands. Blows the doors off of defensive linemen that don't have the strength to match up. Explodes with full power into his target, pushes off his victim and runs feet through defenders to finish the job. Seals downfield blocks and can redirect gap rushers as long as he gets his hands on them. Not amazingly flexible, but has enough knee bend at the point of attack for small lanes. Pass protects with good arm extension and decent posture to give him his best shot at changing direction of defenders. Ability to mirror shows promise for a lineman his size. Plays with aggression and looks to impose his will. Pass protection and overall play showed noticeable improvement from where he was as a redshirt junior. His uncle, Jim Braxton, was a fullback for the Bills and Dolphins and Turner plays with the same toughness.
Weaknesses: Smashes opposition with pure power but doesn't have the knee bend to square up hips and sustain blocks longer. Sloppy hand placement. Struggles with lateral movement. Stiff legged mover in space and will be 50/50 when asked to pull and hit targets while on the move. Predictable change of direction. What he sees to how he reacts doesn't always translate. Needs combo blocks to be right in front of him or he tends to miss on second level. Average reactive athleticism limits sustained blocks against active, eager defenders. Could struggle in pass protection against speedy pass rushers inside.
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible landing spot: Seattle Seahawks
5. Spencer Drango, Baylor
Bio: A four year starter at Baylor, Spencer Drango was the intensity and strength of the Bears offensive line. He was a two time All-American and two time All-Big 12 first teamer.
Strengths: Gets the job done. Moving to the inside to guard as a pro will better suit his game. Has a mean streak that will show itself during the game. Loves to mash defenders into the ground with a strong finish when he gets an opportunity. Powerful upper body. Able to push players around if he takes an early lead off the snap. Has ability to seal his down blocks with purpose. Asked to play in space in Baylor running game and will be able to do same as an NFL guard. Quality setup in his pass protection with properly distributed weight.
Weaknesses: Unusual body frame even for an offensive lineman. When attempting to pull, has an unusual and exaggerated hitch out of his stance. Plays like a short-armed lineman rather than a guy with decent arm length. Has a slow, predictable handwork in pass protection which is too easily countered by defenders. Has difficulty landing and maintaining proper hand placement through his run blocks which hinders ability to sustain blocks. Slow to redistribute weight and change direction on pull outs.
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible landing spot: Denver Broncos