Green Bay Packers NFL Draft Preview: Elite Five Guards

With Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang entering their final season under contract, guard could be a position of significant interest with an early-round pick.

With Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang scheduled to become free agents at the end of the upcoming season, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson must have guard on his mind heading into next week’s draft.

“Not at all,” Thompson said on Wednesday when asked if contract status would impact his draft plans. “We feel like it’s best to stay true to form and try to take the best player available. We’re not going to stray off that. You might have a quote-unquote expiring contract, but you also might be in a position where you’re hopeful to do a reconstruction.”

The Packers’ history suggests Thompson will draft an offensive tackle capable of playing guard. Lang played left tackle at Eastern Michigan and Sitton played right tackle at Central Florida. Of our top five guards, three played offensive tackle in college. Of our top nine, six played tackle. Our rankings take ability to play in a zone-blocking scheme into account.

Stats are from STATS via Real Football, though the comparisons, sack rates and run-disruption rates are from Packer Report.

CODY WHITEHAIR, Kansas State

Position rank: 1

Height: 6-foot-3 3/4. Weight: 301. Bench: 16. Broad jump: 9-2. Vertical jump: 25.5.

Notes: As a senior, he started all 13 games at left tackle and was chosen first-team all-Big 12. He was an honorable mention for Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, the team’s co-offensive MVP and a first-team all-conference academic selection. Whitehair allowed two sacks and nine total pressures for a pressure rate of 2.47 percent, which ranks eighth among our top 20 guards. Remember, though, that he played left tackle, so he faced tougher matchups on the edge. More importantly, he allowed six run disruptions for a rate of 1.24 percent, best among the guards. He was flagged twice for holding and once for a false start. Whitehair started the final 41 games of his career, including his final two seasons at left tackle. Earlier in his career, he started at right tackle as a freshman and left guard as a sophomore.

WORLD'S BEST GUARDS CHART: Rankings and stats you won't find anywhere else

Scouting: Whitehair’s bench-press numbers raised questions about his ability to hold up inside, but that supposed lack of strength didn’t show up on tape, with Whitehair being beaten badly by a bull rush just once last season.“As a run blocker, Whitehair is not a mauler who can simply use his size to take over blocks, lock on and grind it out with the more physical defenders,” longtime NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas said, “but his positioning technique has seen him do a solid job of using his size to take over defenders, lock on to them and grind it out until the whistle. What he lacks in brute strength, he makes up in good hand usage and a decent punch. He has the ability to wall off and screen edge players, but must improve his base power in order to finish at the next level. In pass protection, he might not have the strongest anchor you will find in a left tackle, but has the recovery quickness and slide agility to stay in front of the edge rushers. The thing I like is his ability to sink his hips, slide and shuffle his feet and recoil his hands quick enough to generate another punch. It is rare to see him over-extend or get too aggressive, as he plays with a good tempo and vision." He wins with overall strength, an excellent punch, balance and technique. “If you want a mauler, he’s not your guy,” a scout said, “but he’s perfect for what you guys do. The comparison to (Cowboys All-Pro) Zach Martin is a good one.” His 32-inch arms are a bit troubling but he impressed during Senior Bowl week — more so in space than against the powerful defensive linemen. “Possessing excellent girth, balance and knee bend, he was extremely consistent and secure during the practices,” said Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, the former general manager of the Ravens. “Just a natural football player, he should go on to a long NFL career.”

Personally: Whitehair played left tackle out of necessity for Kansas State, saying he was a “guard body playing tackle.” He knows guard will be his home in the NFL. His versatility and experience in a zone scheme would make him an intriguing possibility for the Packers. “Probably guard,” he said of his best spot in the NFL. “I would say guard, but at the end of the day, I think I can play both guard and tackle. If somebody needed me to play center as well, I feel like I can master that, as well.”

CONNOR McGOVERN, Missouri

Position rank: 2

Height: 6-foot-4 1/4. Weight: 306. Bench: 33. Broad jump: 9-1. Vertical jump: 33.

Notes: McGovern started the final 40 games of his career. He played center as a freshman before moving into the starting lineup at right guard as a sophomore. As a junior, he started the first four games at right tackle before moving back to right guard for the final 10 games. He was on the move again as a senior, opening all 12 games at left tackle. McGovern gave up four sacks and 16 total pressures for a pressure rate of 4.00 percent, which ranked just 17th of our top 20 guards. However, he was much better in the run game, with seven run disruptions for a rate of 1.91 percent, which ranked fifth. He was penalized only twice (once for holding).
Scouting: A scout whose team is looking for a guard said McGovern is high on his team’s list. “I would think Green Bay would like him, too,” the scout said, “because he’s a tackle and because he’s a great fit in a zone scheme.” Of the interior linemen, he probably was the best tester at the Combine, with a 5.11 in the 40 to go with the numbers listed above. Most of his struggles at Missouri came against speed rushers, which wouldn’t be an issue if moved inside. “At the snap, he is the first to get on a defender in the rushing attack and has the strength and leg drive to take defenders out of the play,” said Optimum Scouting’s Austin Baumer. “He isn't the quickest guard at getting to the second level, but he will get there and create for his backs. In pass protection, McGovern has an unbelievable anchor that is also translated to his superior strength and power rushers often are not a factor.”

Personally: McGovern, who was North Dakota’s Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, is the son of a bodybuilder. In June, he broke the school record in the squat — a staggering 690 pounds. Not once but five times. “I enjoy the weight room,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve grown up with and I enjoy. It’s fun having a dad because he gets it – he gets what I’m talking about. There are some kids who are into weight lifting or sports and their dads were never into weight lifting stuff. Me and my dad can sit and if I hit a bit lift or something, I’ll send him the video or send him a text and he gets all excited about it. It’s awesome. Whatever I do, he’s done, so we can share the moments. It’s a lot of fun.”

CHRISTIAN WESTERMAN, Arizona State

Position rank: 3

Height: 6-foot-3 1/8. Weight: 298. Bench: 34. Broad jump: 8-2. Vertical jump: 25.

Notes: Westerman spent two years at Auburn before returning to his native Arizona and starting 25 games at left guard for the Sun Devils. He was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team as a junior before winning first-team accolades as a senior. He won the school’s Randall McDaniel Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award as a senior. He excelled as a pass blocker, with 2.5 sacks and 11 total pressures for a pressure rate of 1.68 percent, which ranked fourth. However, his 30 run disruptions were the worst of our top 20, with that 6.12 percent ranking 16th.

WORLD'S BEST GUARDS CHART: Rankings and stats you won't find anywhere else

Scouting: With his ability to hit moving targets on the second level, Westerman is a perfect zone-scheme fit. He’s a tremendous pass blocker, which showed up not only at Arizona State but at the Senior Bowl. However, that big bench-press number doesn’t show up often enough in the run game. “He needs a year to get bigger and more sound, otherwise he’s going to get manhandled” by powerful defensive tackles, a scout said. Savage liked what he saw during Senior Bowl week. “Christian has all the traits needed to become a starting NFL guard in the near future. He has bulk, can bend and plays with a controlled power. He demonstrated the ability to anchor, but also has enough movement skills to pull and deliver a punch.”

Personally: Westerman’s father was a three-year starting offensive lineman at Cal and his mom is a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Westerman was a five-star recruit out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz. Before that, he was far too big to play in youth football. So, he played baseball and basketball and spent five years training as a boxer. “I’ve been working out since I was 13 years old,” he said. “Benching, power lifting. Definitely one of my favorite things to do.”

JOSHUA GARNETT, Stanford

Position rank: 4

Height: 6-foot-4 3/8. Weight: 312. Bench: 30. Broad jump: 8-3. Vertical jump: 29.

Notes: As a senior, Garnett became the first Stanford offensive lineman to win the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top interior lineman (offense or defense). The two-year starter also became the ninth unanimous first-team All-American in school history and won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s best offensive lineman. Garnett was rather mediocre in his negative-play stats. He allowed two sacks and 13 total pressures, giving him a pressure rate of 3.89 percent that ranked 16th in our top 20. For all of his prowess as a finisher in the run game, he allowed 26 run disruptions — tied for second-most in our top 20 — and ranked 13th with a rate of 4.61 percent. He was penalized once for holding and three times for false starts.

Scouting: “He looks to kick the snot out of everyone, which gets him in trouble sometimes,” a scout said. “You don’t have to pancake someone to win the block.” The scout said Garnett would be best in a power-run scheme but thought he was “athletic enough” to succeed in a zone scheme. Even Garnett admitted that he can be overaggressive sometimes. “I feel like my strengths are my ability to finish blocks and my ability to get into blocks,” he said in offering his own scouting report. “That was something I really prided myself in, my ability to down block, my pulling ability, my ability to get on blocks and really finish people. That’s something that teams are really interested in, my aggressiveness. Something I need to work on, conversely, is not being too aggressive in pass pro situations. I want to just lock on somebody and finish them. Maybe I can just grab them and then finish them.” Garnett is a power player who did well at the second level, in spite of some athletic limitations. “He was extremely impressive in Mobile,” Savage said. “He can anchor the bottom of the pocket because of his knee bend, lower-body strength and hand punch. He is a very aware player and understands what it takes to play at a high level as an interior lineman. Josh will likely be a plug-in-and-play starter as a rookie.”

Personally: Garnett, the son of former NFL nose tackle Scott Garnett, is a punishing blocker. If whoever’s in his way gets hurt, at least he’ll be in good hands. Once his football career is over, he wants to become an emergency-room doctor. He likes to say you “run through their soul” while blocking a guy in space. “I can fix the legs, I don’t know about the soul,” he said with a laugh.

SPENCER DRANGO, Baylor

Position rank: 5

Height: 6-foot-5 5/8. Weight: 315. Bench: 30. Broad jump: 8-4. Vertical jump: 27.

Notes: Drango enters the draft as one of the most decorated prospects, regardless of position. The two-time consensus first-team All-American was the Big 12’s Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior after sharing the honor in 2014, and a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the best lineman in the nation on either side of the ball. Drango allowed only one sack and six total pressures for a pressure rate of 1.62 percent, which ranked third among our top 20 guards. He was excellent in the run game, too, with 17 run disruptions and a rate of 2.75 percent, which ranked sixth. He was flagged twice for holding and twice for false starts. Drango also was one of 12 National Scholar Athletes and a finalist for the William Campbell Trophy, aka the Academic Heisman Trophy, in 2015. Drango started all 48 games of his career — all at left tackle — starting with earning Freshman All-America honors in 2012.

Scouting: “It’s not pretty but he gets the job done,” a scout said. “Those spread-offense guys always need some time, so you don’t want him to play right away.” He’s a so-so athlete (5.27 in the 40) but has length (33 3/4-inch arms). He needs to use that length to his advantage more often. He played a lot in space, which should help him in the zone and screen game. “He’s top-heavy and he’s this and he’s that but you don’t see his guy around the ball. At some point (in the scouting process), results matter.”

Personally: The academic accolades are especially impressive in light of his early struggles. In fourth grade, it was discovered he had dyslexia. “It proves that hard work and dedication pays off,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate and blessed with the people that have been in my life to help me out. My parents have done an amazing job raising me and they’re very supportive. They got me the classes that I needed to take to be able to overcome dyslexia and once I got rolling and learned how to learn again, everything kind of clicked and it was just a bunch of hard work. It was really cool coming from that background to be in a place like that.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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