TEAM NEED: A clear and pressing need, the Minnesota Vikings officially list just three players as guards following the release of Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris and one of them those listed is their starting center (Joe Berger). The Vikings have a demonstrated need here, unless they intend to move some of the players they’re currently listing as tackles inside to guard spots. This could easily be the source of the team’s first pick of the draft in the second round and it wouldn’t be a shock if they add at least one, if not more, guards in the draft.
POSITION ANALYSIS: Unlike offensive tackle, where the pickings are pretty slim and many of the tackle prospects are viewed as guards in the NFL, the crop of pure guards is pretty good, highlighted by Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, either of whom could slide off the board in the first round or slide outside and play tackle. This is a pretty deep class throughout, which should be seen as good news for teams that have a clear need at the guard spot.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky, 6-3¾, 309 – Fifth-year senior…Started all 51 games he played, including his last 48 at left tackle…A two-time All-Conference USA first-team selection and two-time team captain…Allowed just three sacks in his final three seasons…Left the Senior Bowl after one day after suffering a high ankle sprain during the first day of practices…Has very good technique and hand use, both as a run blocker and pass protector…Keeps his hips low and rides and steers defenders…Has extremely good upper-body strength (see below) and uses his power to his advantage consistently…Is a passionate player who puts in the time in the film room and in practice to constantly improve his technique…Is undersized for an NFL left tackle and has short arms, which is why he worked out with guards at the Combine…Will get out of position due to his own aggressiveness and will get burned by defenders with multiple pass rush moves…Has a history of wrist injuries and played with braces on both his wrists as a senior……Ran a 4.99 40 at the Combine (second-fastest among offensive linemen) with 34 reps of 225 pounds (second among O-linemen), a 27½-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: A college left tackle who doesn’t have the size or wingspan to excel at the position in the pros, he is expected to be a dominant guard at the next level. He gets mentioned as a possible first-round pick, but more likely he will land in the second round and potentially be pushed into the starting lineup from Day One.
Dan Feeney, Indiana, 6-4, 305 – Fifth-year senior who received a medical redshirt as a sophomore with a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot…Started all 37 games at right guard in his first three seasons and, as a senior, started five games at right tackle and four at right guard…Has natural athletic ability and gets to the second level with ease as a pulling guard…Has good initial quickness off the snap and gets into position in a hurry…Has a jolting hand punch and can stop defenders in their tracks and steer them in the run game…A versatile player who filled in a right tackle as a senior and showed he could also play center by working out with the centers at the Combine as well as the guards…Will take a cheat-step when pass protecting because he doesn’t have long arms and wants to avoid power rushers from getting an early advantage on him…Doesn’t always play with good balance and will get caught lunging and ends up on the ground too often…Ran a 5.24 40 at the Combine with 26 reps, a 28-inch vertical jump and an 8-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: A versatile player who can line up at four of the five O-line positions (all but left tackle). He’s a little undersized for NFL linemen, but teams will have an interest early on Day 2 because he can fill two roster spots by being able to play guard, center or even right tackle in a pinch.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Dorian Johnson, Pitt, 6-5, 300 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who started all 39 games at left guard in that span…Was a highly sought-after recruit coming out of high school and turned down offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame to stay in his native Pennsylvania – choosing Pitt over Penn State…Called for just three penalties in his final three seasons…First Pitt offensive lineman named First Team All-America since Ruben Brown in 1994…A physical player who enjoys contact and looks to finish on every play…Has good foot agility and lateral movement skills to get himself in good blocking position…Is very technically sound in terms of using leverage and blocking angles to his advantage…Struggles against defenders with multiple pass rush moves and will get pushed back on occasion…Doesn’t play with consistent hand placement and will miss opportunities to take out defenders off the snap…Does not have great upper-body strength and will need to put more time in the weight room…Ran a 5.27 40 at the Combine with 21 reps, a 30-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump. PROJECTION: If he can gain some additional bulk strength, he has the potential to be a longtime NFL starter, but he likely will need a year or two to reach his full potential, so whoever takes him may require some patience. He’s a solid Day 2 selection who could easily come off the board in the second round.
Nico Siragusa, San Diego State, 6-4¼, 319 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter that started all 41 games at left guard in that span…Suffered a torn right labrum at midseason of his sophomore year but played through it…Allowed just four sacks in his final three seasons…Had his Senior Bowl week cut short with a dislocated thumb…Looks the part with good size, a thick middle and long arms…Excels in pass protection, where he can win battles with his lateral agility or core strength to steer and move pass rushers…Has extremely good anchor and lower-body strength, as showed by his position-best 32-inch vertical jump at the Combine…Does not have the consistent foot quickness to pull to the edge as a lead blocker to the second level…Doesn’t have a consistent hand punch or a jolting punch that stymies a defender off the snap…Is not explosive off the snap and will struggle with speed guys who jump the snap count…Ran a 5.35 40 at the Combine with 28 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump. PROJECTION: A player who may be pigeon-holed as a guard for a team that employs a power running game, his limitations in dealing with speed will likely lower his value for pass-heavy offenses whose QB stays in the pocket for extended periods. A late-Day 2 prospect with some long-term upside, but short-term improvement needed.
Isaac Asiata, Utah, 6-3¼, 323 – Fifth-year senior…Arrived at Utah in 2011 and did a Mormon mission, so he didn’t start playing until 2013…A three-year starter who started all 37 games in that span – splitting time between right and left guard as a sophomore and all 25 games at left guard his last two seasons…Won the Morris Trophy in 2016, given to the best Pac 12 offensive lineman and voted on by defensive players…The cousin of former Vikings running back Matt Asiata…A versatile player who started at both guard spots and four games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman…Has very good quickness for his size and gets in proper position for both run blocking and pass pro…Has extremely good upper-body strength (see below)…Does not look natural in space or at the second level…Age is a concern since he will turn 25 during the season…Plays with an undisciplined style and will get out of position and end up on the ground too often…Ran a 5.35 40 at the Combine with a position-best 35 reps, a 25½-inch vertical jump and an 8-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: A run blocker by trade, he will likely be a late-Day 2 or early-Day 3 prospect who might be limited to teams who run a power running game between the tackles. He will need some work on picking up blitz packages and multi-look pressure schemes from defenses, so he likely won’t step into an immediate starting spot.
Danny Isidora, Miami, 6-3½, 306 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter who made all 39 starts at right guard in that span…Missed 10 games as a redshirt freshman after suffering a broken left foot that required surgery and played through a torn left meniscus in 2015…A nice combination of size, power and a mean-streak temperament…Gets a consistent push off the snap by virtue of strength and technique…A smart player who reads the field well and consistently grades out well…Is a little small for NFL guards and struggles against pure bull-rush types of giant defensive linemen…On film, he often is the last guy moving after the snap and will overcompensate and lunge too often…Doesn’t have a jolting hand punch and allows defenders into his body too easily and too often…Ran a 5.01 40 at the Combine with 26 reps, a 29-inch vertical jump and a 7-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: He’s got the toughness coaches look for, but he’s just a little too small for some teams’ liking, which should probably drop him to the end of Day 2 or early into Day 3.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Damien Mama, USC, 6-3½, 334 – Third-year junior…A two-year starter who started 26 of 28 games at left guard in that span…Was a high school All-America recruited by all the top schools in the country…Has a good natural blend of strength and power…Has a wide base to plant and neutralize defenders and steer them when he uses good technique…Has big hands, a strong, jolting hand punch and likes to mix it up aggressively with defenders…Weight has always been a red flag, arriving at USC weighing almost 400 pounds and seeing big fluctuations during his career if he isn’t constantly working out…If he gets taken advantage of on the snap, he doesn’t often recover and hold his ground…Is not effective at the second level and lumbers to get to linebackers in space…Didn’t lift at the Combine with a pectoral strain, but ran a 5.84 40 with a 24½-inch vertical jump and an 8-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: He has the physical ability to be a good pro, but he was too inconsistent in college and, when you play for a program like USC, those mistakes are more readily identified. He should be a premium pick when the draft hits its third day.
Jordan Morgan, Kutztown, 6-2¾, 309 – Fifth-year senior…A four-year starter who started all 43 games he played at left tackle…Won the 2016 Upshaw Award, given annually to the top offensive lineman in Division II football…A two-year captain…One of the few D-II prospects invited to the Senior Bowl and the Combine…Is quick to get into his stance and often dominated his competition…Has long arms, a good hand punch and very good natural upper-body strength…Is extremely coachable and is technically sound in most elements of his game…Played against inferior competition and wasn’t a standout at the Senior Bowl, although he did show that he belonged, but got overwhelmed a few times in one-on-one drills…Very raw in terms of the technique, he will need to play guard in the NFL because left tackle isn’t in the cards…Added almost 80 pounds from the time he arrived at Kutztown as a walk-on and has maxed out his growth potential…Ran a 5.36 40 at the Combine with 21 reps, a 27-inch vertical jump and an 8-6 broad jump. PROJECTION: A hard-working, coachable player from Division II, if he’s going to be a starter at some point in the NFL, his game will require refinement and a coaching staff willing to wait a year or two to see tangible improvement. A classic Day 3 project player.
Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State, 6-4¼, 318 – Fifth-year senior…Was initially recruited to play at Florida, but was arrested for driving a stolen vehicle under a suspended license and transferred to TSU after that incident…Started 42 of 46 games, including 20 at left tackle and four at left guard his first two seasons, seven at left guard and one at right guard as a junior and 10 of 11 games at left tackle last year…Has good agility, natural knee bend and can slide and mirror defenders…Extremely versatile, which is a strong calling card late in the draft for coaches with offensive line flexibility needs…Has ideal size and good overall body thickness for the next level…Does not always play with ideal technique…Struggled against power defenders at the Senior Bowl practices and it was clear he dominated D-II competition, but the big boys posed plenty of problems…Is not a student of the game and is slow to read and react where pressure is coming from and how he has to adapt to it…Ran a 4.98 40 at the Combine with 23 reps of 225 pounds, a 28½-inch vertical jump and an 8-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: A small-school player with natural ability and upside, he’s going to need a lot of work to refine his technique and get him to play with a bigger sense of urgency. Given his off-field incident that forced him to leave Florida, he has the standard “red flag-wait-til-Day 3” draft grade associated with him, but he does have solid potential.
Sean Harlow, Oregon State, 6-4¼, 303 – Fourth-year senior…Was expected to redshirt his freshman season, but was pressed into duty and started the final nine games at right tackle…In his final three seasons, he started all 28 games he played – 23 at left tackle and five at right tackle…In 2015, he suffered a broken right ankle and suffered a left shoulder injury that required two separate surgeries, causing him to miss the last eight games of 2015 and the first four of 2016…Has good hand punch with solid footwork and technique to neutralize defenders off the snap…Has very good lower-body strength, which he displayed with a 30½-inch vertical jump at the Combine…Looks to finish every play and has a temperament a lot of scouts and coaches look for…Is too short to play tackle in the NFL, so he’s going to have to learn a new position in the pros…Gets pushed around too often by power pass rushers and will have to refine his game…Durability is going to be a big red flag for some teams given his injury/surgery history…Ran a 5.15 40 at the Combine with 26 reps, a 30½-inch vertical jump and an 8-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: A smart, tough player who loves the game and is extremely coachable, but his limitations will keep him on the board well into Day 3.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Erik Austell, Charleston Southern, 6-3¼, 301
J.J. Dielman, Utah, 6-4¾, 309
Jermaine Eluemunor, Texas A&M, 6-4, 33
Evan Goodman, Arizona State, 6-3¾, 310
Kyle Kalis, Michigan, 6-4¼, 303
Cameron Lee, Illinois State, 6-4¾, 312
Corey Levin, Tennessee-Chattanooga, 6-4, 307
Adam Pankey, West Virginia, 6-4½, 313
Greg Pyke, Georgia, 6-5¾, 322
David Sharpe, Florida, 6-6¼, 343