VIKINGS POSITION NEED – With the release of Charlie Johnson, the Vikings have a clear and established need here. Fusco is coming off a serious pectoral injury, Berger is a solid backup but isn’t viewed as a starter. And Yankey and Wentworth didn’t see the light of day last season despite injuries at the guard position. It’s a near certainty that the Vikings will address guard in the draft, perhaps as early as the first round if versatile tackle/guard Brandon Scherff is still on the board at No. 11 or on Day 2 or very early on Day 3.
POSITION ANALYSIS – This is an average crop of guards. If you don’t view Scherff as a guard (in our rankings we don’t), there won’t be a guard taken on the first round and it may be well into Day 2 before one comes off the board. We like the potential of some of these guys, but there isn’t one of them that comes into the draft with the can’t-miss tag, so there will be the need to coach them up and bring out the best in them for the Class of 2015 guards to make an impact in the NFL.
THE CREAM OF THE CROPA.J. Cann, South Carolina, 6-2¾, 313 – Fifth-year senior…Started 51 of 52 career games played at left guard…Was a Freshman All-America and first-team All-SEC as a senior…Is an elite run blocker who consistently steers defenders where he wants them to go…A tough, durable player who is willing to play through injuries…Very sound in both footwork and hand placement…Looks natural in space…Doesn’t have good speed and initial burst, which may turn off zone blocking teams…Will have lapses in his technique and will get a little top-heavy and out of position with his body at times…Doesn’t have good recovery speed when asked to change direction or when he gets off-balance…Didn’t run or jump at the Combine with a left calf strain, but did 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench.
PROJECTION: A big, mauling left guard with a wealth of experience facing elite SEC competition, he may be the most pro-ready guard in the Class of 2015. When guards start coming off the board on Day 2, it could well start with him.
Tre' Jackson, Florida State, 6-3¾, 330 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who made starts in his final 42 games…A two-time All-ACC selection and a first-team All-America in 2014…An explosive run blocker who can push defenders backward on contact…Has good burst and acceleration to take on linebackers at the second level…Uses his hands well in pass protection to shoot a jolting hand punch…Durable player who could be counted on to be in the lineup despite minor injuries…Was much better in 2013 than in 2014, when he gained weight and didn’t look as strong as he did as a junior…Has short arms that allow defenders to get into his body and negate his leverage…Got by on strength at college but will need to improve his lateral agility at the next level…Chose not to lift at the Combine, but ran a 5.52 40 with a 25-inch vertical jump and a 8-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Coming into last season, he had a first-round grade on him, but he didn’t live up to the bar he had set in 2013 and wasn’t as dominant. With the right coaching, he could be a starter for years, but needs to commit himself to working harder because his natural gifts won’t be as overpowering at the next level.
Laken Tomlinson, Duke, 6-3½, 323 – Fifth-year senior…Started all 51 games of his college career at right guard…A three-time All-ACC selection and four-time All-Academic honor in the ACC…Has a prototype NFL guard wide-body and is an adept in-line run blocker…Uses his hands well off the snap and has an explosive hand punch…An intelligent player who sees plays developing and can react on the fly…Has very limited mobility and range and loses a lot when forced to be on the move…Will overextend himself when faced with counter moves and can get off balance and on the ground too often…Is viewed by many as a right guard only at the next level, which will limit the interest some teams will have in him…Ran a 5.33 40 at the Combine with 25 reps, a 31½-inch vertical jump and a 8-foot-7 broad jump.
PROJECTION: An intelligent, durable player who is at his best playing in a small area in a power running scheme. Because of his limitations, he will be likely be a premium pick once the third round begins because he projects as a right guard only, but has the tag of an overachiever who will give maximum effort to make up for his deficiencies.
THE NEXT LEVELJosue Matias, Florida State, 6-5½, 309 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts at the final 41 games of his college career, mostly at left guard, but with a little tackle thrown in…A native of the Dominican Republic…Is quick to set up in pass protection and is able mirror defenders with ease…Has prototype size and long arms to keep defenders away from his body…A student of the game who has excellent field vision and anticipation and is rarely taken by surprise and whiffs on plays…Needs to refine his game as a run blocker, which is a critical draft red flag…Doesn’t look natural in space trying to take on linebackers at the second level…Plays a little too high and finds himself lunging and grabbing at air too often…Chose not to lift at the Combine, but ran a 5.52 40 with a poor 17½-inch vertical jump and a 7-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He didn’t do himself any favors at the Combine by not lifting and having a brutal jump session. However, as a three-year starter and the left guard for Jameis Winston at FSU, every scouting staff has evaluated him on his merits and he will go where he deserves to go on draft day.
Ali Marpet, Hobart, 6-4, 307 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who made starts in his 37 games…Three-time All-Liberty Conference selection…Two-time Division III All-America…First player in school history invited to the Senior Bowl…Has very good anchor strength and very good lower body power…Played left tackle in college but worked with the guards at the Combine and often shined…Very technically sound as both a run blocker and is quick to set up as a pass protector…His biggest red flag will be the lack of elite competition he faced in college, which could drop his stock significantly…Will take time to make the adjustment to moving inside and playing in a phone booth…Will need to put in significant time in the weight room to build up functional core strength…Had an impressive Combine performance, running a 4.98 40 with 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 30½-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He made himself a lot of money at the Senior Bowl and the Combine with strong showings at both, but he will clearly be a project because of the D-III competition he faced and moving to a new position. He may struggle to come off the board in Day 2 but has the intangibles for somebody to jump at some point in the middle rounds.
Arie Kouandjio, Alabama, 6-4¾, 310 – Fifth-year senior…A two-year starter who made starts in his final 27 games at left guard…Had multiple knee surgeries after his freshman season that kept him extremely limited as a sophomore…First team All-SEC as a senior…His brother Cyrus was a second-round pick of the Bills last year…A mauler who enjoys contact and is at his best in the run game…Has very good power and can move defenders…Has extremely good hand placement to drive defenders where he wants them to go…Injury/surgery history is a big red flag for some teams…Limited starting experience for most guards in the draft…Too often on tape appears to be the last player to react to the snap…Did not work out at the Combine by his own choice.
PROJECTION: Did himself a disservice by not working out at the Combine despite not having any known injuries. Perhaps it was his brother’s lackluster performance at the Combine a year ago that prompted that decision. He has the intangibles to be a very good NFL guard, but his injury red flags will likely push him into Day 3.
THE BEST OF THE RESTJohn Miller, Louisville, 6-2½, 303 – Fourth-year senior…Started 46 of 48 career games, playing both left and right guard…A powerful presence in the run game with the ability to blow defenders off the ball and open running lanes…Plays to the whistle and has the kind of temperament coaches and scouts look for…Generates good power from his lower body, as well as a jolting hand punch…Gets off-balance far too often and will end up on the ground far too often, susceptible to double moves and counters…Struggles to make plays at the second level…Has some bad technique issues that will take quite of bit of work to refine and correct…Ran a 5.33 40 at the Combine with 29 reps of 225 pounds, a 27-inch vertical jump and a 8-8 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A player with experience at both guard positions and no questions about durability, he will be a priority prospect on Day 3 given his versatility and experience, but he has to be viewed as a project player who will need to clean up some technical flaws to reach his fill potential.
Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M, 6-4¼, 330 – Fourth-year senior…Started 38 of 47 career games…Has prototype size and the power needed to be a player at the next level…Has very good foot movement and looks natural making plays at the linebacker level…Has good balance and can hold up well in both run blocking and pass protection…Has battled weight issues that has seen his weight fluctuate badly because he hasn’t committed himself to a workout regimen year-round…Doesn’t always play to the whistle or show consistent commitment to improving his game – on the field, in practice or the weight room…Some have publicly questioned his passion for the game because he doesn’t always play with the same level of intensity from one game to the next…Ran a 5.19 40 at the Combine with 26 reps of 225 pounds, a 29½-inch vertical jump and a 8-6 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Few players carry bigger boom-bust potential than Harrison. At times, he can look as dominant as any guard prospect in the draft class. At other times, he has demonstrated that football is a means to an end, not something he has a passion for. He will likely get drafted higher than we have him ranked, but there will be teams that likely won’t have him on their draft board until the very late stages of the draft.
Robert Myers, Tennessee State, 6-4¾, 326 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who started 34 of 36 games in that span, making starts at both tackle positions and right guard…Got invited to the Senior Bowl, a rarity for small-college players…Has a prototype NFL frame with long arms and a body capable of adding more bulk and core strength…Has good intangibles, both in quickness in setting up for pass protection and natural movement skill at the second level to take on linebackers…Has good anchor strength and natural knee bend…Struggled against speed rushers…Has a long way to go to make it at the next level because he is limited in guard experience and doesn’t have the natural core strength to currently take on strong NFL defenders…Doesn’t have an explosive hand punch and tends to clutch and grab…Did not lift at the Combine with a left pectoral injury, but ran a 5.44 40 with a 27½-inch vertical jump and a 7-10 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A small-college prospect with good size and upside, but is a significant project. The team that drafts him will have to be willing to take their time in hopes of developing him, which typically translates to being drafted late with hopes that he takes to the coaching they provide and justify their confidence in him.
Jamil Douglas, Arizona State, 6-4, 304 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in the final 40 games of his college career…Named first-team All-Pac 12 at left tackle in 2014…Has excellent versatility, having played four line positions, just not center…Plays with consistent leverage in pass protection and rarely gets beaten off the snap…Has good lateral agility and can make up for double moves and counters from defenders…Plays with good football intelligence and reacts well to stunts and blitzes…Has short arms and struggles to handle defenders when they get into his body…Does not play with power or ferocity and has been labeled a “finesse player” by scouts, which is a death wish for offensive linemen…Is not dominant in the run game…Ran a 5.25 40 at the Combine with 28 reps, a 29-inch vertical jump and a 8-3 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A player with all the natural gifts you look for in the later rounds, but he doesn’t play with a lot of passion, which will turn off some teams and reduce the number of the teams that will be interested in him. He will be a project that will have to be harnessed to be a pro who hangs out for a long time.
OTHERS TO WATCHBen Beckwith, Mississippi State, 6-4, 317
Brett Boyko, UNLV, 6-6¾, 301
Trenton Brown, Florida, 6-8½, 355
Miles Dieffenbach, Penn State, 6-3, 303
Jon Feliciano, Miami, 6-4, 323
Mark Glowinski, West Virginia, 6-4½, 307
Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech, 6-5, 310
Darrian Miller, Kentucky, 6-5, 307
Adam Shead, Oklahoma, 6-3¾, 338
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