POSITION OVERVIEW: Guard is one of the most interesting positions on draft weekend because it not only includes the top college guard prospects, but also a slew of offensive tackles that aren't expected to be able to transition to tackle in the pros. It dilutes the draft need for pure guards and drops the urgency for teams to take guards high in the draft. However, this year's draft class is one of the strongest in years at the guard position – headed by David DeCastro of Stanford and Cordy Glenn of Georgia. They will both be first-round prospects and the second and third rounds will likely see another handful of players come off the board as well, making the usually nondescript position much more intriguing this year.
VIKINGS' GUARDS:Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco, Geoff Schwartz, Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Butch Lewis, Jose Valdez.
VIKINGS' NEEDS: This position as it currently stands looks like a mess after the release of starters Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, but it might not be as desperate as it looks. While we can't automatically assume the Vikings are going to draft Matt Kalil with the third pick, it is the conventional wisdom at this point. If that happens, starting left tackle Charlie Johnson will be moved inside, giving the Vikings Johnson and Schwartz as their starting guards. There is plenty of competition for backup spots, but the Vikings may look to take a guard on Day 3 of the draft that they like to compete for a position.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
David DeCastro, Stanford, 6-5, 316 – Fourth-year junior…Started all 39 games of his college career at right guard…A first-team All-America in 2011…Ideal strength for the position…Extremely effectively pass protector who rarely got pushed backward…Uses leverage well in the run game and re-directs defenders…Has good agility and rarely gets his feet tangled when asked to go into space…Good awareness for blitz pickup…Has a jolting hand punch…Durable team leader…Isn't a pure natural athlete…Could add 10-15 pounds…Doesn't always drive defenders off the ball…Ran a 5.32 40 at the Combine with 34 reps of 225 pounds, a 29½-inch vertical jump and an 8-2 broad jump. PROJECTION: There wasn't much reason for him to come back for his senior season because he was already the pre-eminent guard in the college game. He is the best run blocker in the draft and, given his work ethic in practice and the weight room, there isn't a scheme he can't fit in or a locker room he can't assimilate into. A top-15 talent who may go even higher.
Cordy Glenn, Georgia, 6-6, 345 – Fourth-year senior…Started 50 of 53 career games, making 36 starts at guard his first three seasons and all 14 games of his senior year at left tackle…Moved to left tackle for the good of the team and was named first-team All-SEC – no small feat given the talent in the conference…Has outstanding size and 35-inch arms to keep defenders off of him…Great lower-body strength to anchor and redirect defenders…A good drive blocker in the run game…Has an excellent hand punch…Effective on the move on pulls and screens…Struggles at times with speed rushers and counter moves and will get out of position and off balance…Doesn't always play with the same level of intensity…Doesn't always drive off the snap and allows defenders to get a head of steam before contact…Needs to work on his fundamentals in run blocking…Ran a 5.08 40 at the Combine with 31 reps, a 23½-inch vertical jump and a 7-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: A durable, four-year starter who gives a team versatility with his experience at both guard and left tackle. He projects inside at the pros, where he could be a perennial Pro Bowler for years to come – making him a first-round lock.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin, 6-4, 314 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter at right guard and first-team All-Big Ten as a senior…Two-time All-Big Ten academic selection…Plays with a low center of gravity and has a wide body to help in both pass protection and run blocking…Technically sound and intelligent on the fly…Good adjustment skills to counteract speed rushers…Extremely good upper-body strength to maul defenders and keep them at bay…Not very agile on the move and looks clumsy at times trying to make blocks at the second level…Tries to use too much finesse against smaller defenders instead of attacking them…Has struggled with ankle injuries during his career…Comes out of his stance high at times and will need some refinement…Ran a 5.32 40 at the Combine with 32 reps of 225 pounds, a 29-inch vertical jump and an 8-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: A very solid prospect who doesn't have great feet or elite athleticism, but gets the job done in the trenches by mauling opponents and grading out well, making him a solid Day 2 prospect.
Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State (Texas), 6-4, 311 – Fifth-year senior…Played two seasons at San Joaquin Delta College (Calif.) before sitting out the 2009 season due to transfer rules after failing to be academically eligible when he attempted to transfer to Nevada…Started all 19 games he played his final two seasons…Was a Division II All-America at left tackle last year and the first in school history to get invited to the Senior Bowl…Has very quick feet and explodes off the snap…Has a strong hand punch to push back defenders…Has good lateral agility to slide and mirror…Seals off defenders well in the run game…Has played far inferior competition at the D-II level and will need a lot of refinement…Will have to move inside, where he hasn't played…Is always running 100 m.p.h. and takes himself out of position too often…Hurt his own stock by pulling a hamstring at Senior Bowl and missing a golden opportunity to show he could hang with the best…Ran a 5.33 40 at the Combine with 28 reps, a 31½-inch vertical jump and an 8-11 broad jump. PROJECTION: Has all the physical tools to be a first-round pick, but his game is going to require a lot of adjustment to make the move to the NFL level. As a result, he will likely drop well into the second or even the third round, but, if he lands in the right system, could be an excellent pro for years to come.
Brandon Brooks, Miami (Ohio), 6-5, 346 – Fifth-year senior…Started 43 of 45 career games…Missed five games as a junior with a hamstring injury…Arrived on campus as a 293-pound freshman…A versatile athlete who started at left tackle and both guard positions during his career…Has massive size to engulf defenders…Excellent lower-body strength to maintain his position and re-direct defenders…Plays with good leverage…Smart player who processes information quickly, he made the line calls at Miami…Has a strong hand punch…Doesn't have quick feet and lumbers in space on pulls at the second level…Isn't a "glass eater" and some teams will take his passivity as a sign of weakness…Is not a weight room dynamo and his weight fluctuates when he stops conditioning…Grabs at defenders and gets called for too many penalties…Was not among those invited to work out at the Combine. PROJECTION: A massive player that has the potential to be a very good pro guard, but has a lot of work to do and will need a patient coaching staff. His experience at both guard spots and tackle will be a plus, which should bring him off the board somewhere in the third round range.
Joe Looney, Wake Forest, 6-3, 309 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his true freshman season and started 41 of 48 career games…Tore ligaments in his left foot at the Senior Bowl and required surgery…Uses his hands extremely well to force the issue with defenders…Has excellent upper-body strength…A team leader and captain…Explodes off the snap and gets into position very quickly to use angles and technique on defenders…Has good lateral quickness and looks natural in space – finding defenders to bury at the second level…Has short arms and big defenders can get into his body too easily…Has a narrow base and doesn't have elite lower-body strength…Comes out of his stance too high in pass protection and is vulnerable to small, powerful pass rushers…Needs to work on his technique because he gets out of position much too often and NFL defenders will toss him aside if that continues with any regularity…Did not run or jump at the Combine due to the left foot injury at the Senior Bowl, but did 26 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: The type of player coaches love, he is a committed worker who, if he gets the right type of coaching, could develop into a solid pro. However, his downside is pronounced and work will be needed, which makes him a candidate to come off the board late in Day 2 or be a priority-type pick on Day 3.
THE BEST OF THE REST
James Brown, Troy, 6-3, 306 – Fifth-year senior…Redshirted in 2007 and played one season at Southwest Mississippi Community College…Started all 37 games he played for the Trojans at left tackle, being named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference left tackle all three seasons…Was only penalized twice as a senior...Has very long arms and big hands to jolt defenders…Has very good footwork and covers a lot of ground…Explodes off the snap and gets into his stance very quickly…Has a mean streak and plays hard to the whistle on every play…Rarely ends up on the ground…Is raw in NFL terms and will need time to adjust…Only played left tackle in college, but is too short to project there in the pros, so he will have to learn a new position…Never played top competition in college…Dropped nearly 50 pounds of "bad weight" during his college career and will have to regain bulk strength to be successful at the next level…Played weak competition in college…Ran a 5.19 40 at the Combine with just 24 reps of 225 pounds, a 25½-inch vertical and an 8-6 broad jump. PROJECTION: A raw left tackle prospect who has many of the physical tools he needs to make the transition to the pros, learning a new position will make him a project-type player that will likely remain undrafted until Day 3.
Tony Bergstrom, Utah, 6-5, 313 – Fourth-year senior…Started all 38 games he played in his final three seasons at right tackle…A first-team All-Pac 10 pick as a senior and helped his stock significantly at the Senior Bowl…Married the sister of Ravens DE Paul Kruger and they have a daughter…Graduated high school in 2005 and went on a Morman mission for two years…Has good hands and will get into the body of defenders quickly…Has a strong hand punch…Has good agility and natural movement skills to get to the second level…A tireless worker who doesn't take plays off…Looked good playing guard at the Senior Bowl…Is over-aged – he will turn 26 before the start of the 2012 season…Has almost no game experience playing guard, where he projects in the pros…Doesn't have quickness to make up for mistakes off the snap…Has short arms and small hands, which allow defenders to get into his body…Has a hard time resetting and establishing his position against power rushers…Ran a 5.19 40 at the Combine with 32 reps, a 29½-inch vertical jump and an 8-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: Made big strides as a senior and turned heads at the Senior Bowl. However, all his experience is at right tackle – a position he doesn't project at in the pros because of his athletic limitations. He could develop into a long-term starting guard in the NFL, but will need time and patience, which will drop him into the project category as a priority Day 3 prospect.
Lucas Nix, Pitt, 6-5, 317 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who started all 33 games he played in that span – 19 at right guard and 14 at right tackle…Missed four games his senior season with a dislocated kneecap and strained knee ligaments…His brother Nate played five years with the Panthers…Has a big body with room to add bulk…Plays with a lot of intensity and is an on-field leader…Explodes off the snap and gets into blocking position quickly…Has the toughness to be a strong drive blocker in short-yardage and goal-line situations…Has good anchor strength…Has a history of injuries that will have some questioning his durability…Struggles at time in pass protection vs. defenders with an array of pass-rush moves…Falls off blocks too easily and ends up on the ground too often…Has a troubling list of run-ins with the law that could have some teams putting a red flag next to his name…Did not lift at the Combine because of a pectoral strain, but ran a 5.36 40 with a 29½-inch vertical jump and an 8-6 broad jump. PROJECTION: An intense short-area blocker who could thrive at the guard position, his improvement over the last two years has elevated him to a mid-round commodity. However, if enough teams have concerns about his off-field character and injury history, he could slip into the fifth or sixth round despite being a fourth-round talent.
Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, 6-6, 333 – Fifth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his redshirt freshman year and started all 38 games he played his final three seasons at left tackle…Has the size, base and strength to be a dominant interior lineman…Has a massive 84-inch wingspan…Had huge hands and strong hand punch to neutralize defenders…Has solid technique in both pass protection and run blocking and rarely gets off his spot…Has been prone to his weight fluctuating and he isn't a dedicated workout warrior…Needs to refine his game because he has no chance of playing left tackle in the NFL…Played marginal competition in college…Doesn't play nearly as dominant as his physical ability would lead you to believe and got schooled too often at the Senior Bowl practices…Ran a 5.22 40 at the Combine with 32 reps of 225 pounds, a 26½-inch vertical jump and an 8-8 broad jump. PROJECTION: A frustrating prospect because he has all the tools to be a very good pro, but he has never committed himself to being the best he can and, with the inevitable move inside, he will have to work twice as hard to get up to speed. He passes the eyeball test and could get drafted much higher than we have him projected, but in a crop of players who are high-energy, high-intensity gym rats, his lackadaisical attitude could make him a boom-bust prospect with more seeing bust than boom.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech, 6-2, 310
Adam Gettis, Iowa, 6-2, 293
Rishaw Johnson, California (Pa.), 6-3, 313
Senio Kelemete, Washington, 6-4, 307
Ronald Leary, Memphis, 6-3, 315
Ryan Miller, Colorado, 6-7, 321
Andrew Tiller, Syracuse, 6-4, 324
Brandon Washington, Miami, 6-3, 320
Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina, 6-4, 338
Desmond Wynn, Rutgers, 6-6, 303
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Position analysis: Guards
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