Positional Analysis: Guard

The Vikings need to restock the cupboard by choosing a guard in this year's draft, one who could take over whenever David Dixon is done or back up if Lewis Kelly can step forward as a starter in the future. This year's crop is top heavy, but we analyze the top 14.

VIKINGS' GUARDS — David Dixon, Chris Liwienski, Lewis Kelly, Joe Gerda.

VIKINGS' NEED — The Vikings played all of last season with three guards — Kelly backed up both positions (although Everett Lindsay would filled in in a pinch). Dixon is nearing the end of the line and the Vikings need to replace him. Whether the team is convinced Kelly can be the answer is yet to be determined. There are some who think massive Miami guard Vernon Carey, who was a teammate of Bryant McKinnie and can play both guard and tackle, would be the ideal replacement and give the Vikings one of the most formidable offensive lines in the NFL. There are some questions as to whether the Vikings would use a first-round pick on a guard, but, if they do, Carey should still be on the board and available if they choose to take him.

THE CLASS OF 2004 — Guard is one position that is very tough to gauge because not only is there a crop of collegiate guards available, but a dozen or more offensive tackles who don't project to OT in the pros. The top three guards — Carey, Justin Smiley and Chris Snee — will likely all be gone by the time the Vikings make their second selection. Aside from them, the crop is pretty thin and there isn't much to distinguish the fifth guard on many draft boards from the ninth.


THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Vernon Carey, Miami, 6-4, 335 —
Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who replaced McKinnie at left tackle in 2002 and moved to guard in 2003…Had surgery following last season to remove cartilage in his knee — the result of a torn meniscus, but the injury checks out clean now…Massive player with nice combination of size and quickness…Very strong and effective run blocker…Is a mauler who likes to push around D-linemen…Viewed as being a little too short to be a dominant offensive tackle…Weight is an issue and something he has struggled with over the years…Needs to work on his footwork in the passing game…Had a solid Combine, tying for the positional lead with 30 reps with 225 pounds, running a 5.23 40, with a 28-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 18.

PROJECTION: He's expected to go off the board in the second half of the first round and, if the Vikings are convinced he could be the guard to replace Dixon or a bookend right tackle for years to come, he could be a surprise pick in the first round.

Justin Smiley, Alabama, 6-3, 300 — Fourth-year junior…Three-year starter…Has good bloodlines — his cousin is former Giants O-lineman Dusty Ziegler…Excellent weight room leader…Has good agility and is dangerous when blocking downfield…Very solid on getting angles and using technique to make up for a lack of pure size…Has good hand punch to neutralize DTs on the snap…Doesn't have great leg strength and doesn't consistently push D-linemen backwards in short-yardage and goal line situations…Made an impression at the Combine with a position-best 4.97 40 and 33-1/2 inch vertical jump, as well as doing 23 reps, a 8-11 broad jump and a 21 Wonderlic score.

PROJECTION: Probably the most athletic, quick guard in the draft who works hard to improve, which should be enough for someone to snatch him up at the end of the first round or in the first half of the second round.

Chris Snee, Boston College, 6-3, 314 — Fourth-year junior…Three-year starter who has seen time at both guard positions and left tackle…Has very good upper body strength and can neutralize defenders at the snap…Has excellent lower body strength and can push the pile forward on short-yardage and goal-line runs…Has a mean streak and likes to physically dominate his opponent…Sustains his blocks and opens up cutback lanes because he never quits hitting until he hears the whistle…Will get a look at center…He opted out of his senior year, which some theorize is because of the birth of his first son last September…Doesn't have an explosive first step on the snap…Needs to work more on his pass protection because he can get faked out and made to miss…Doesn't have the best lateral movement, making him more of a north-south blocker…Had a solid Combine performance, doing 29 reps, running a 5.07 40 with a 30-1/2 inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 19 — second lowest among guards.

PROJECTION: He has the ability to play guard or center in the NFL and be a dominating player. The combination of his own positives and recent BC offensive linemen who have shined in the past could have him selected anywhere from the last pick of the first round to the Patriots or somewhere in the second round for sure.


THE NEXT LEVEL

Sean Locklear, North Carolina State, 6-4, 304 —
Fifth-year senior who came to NC State as a defensive tackle…Didn't move to offense until 2002 and started games at both guard and both tackle positions during that span…Graduated last December…As much upside as any guard prospect…Excellent at being a Packer-type guard — able to pull, trap and lay defenders out on the run…Has very good agility for a big man…Bench presses 500 pounds…Has good upper body strength and can push D-linemen in the direction he wants them to go…Still a little raw — just two years of experience on the offensive line and was shuttled around quite a bit…Needs to refine his technique and keep his pads low or he will be vulnerable to bull-rushers…Did 27 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, running a 5.0 40 (second best among guards) with a 29-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 19.

PROJECTION: Could be a steal for some team with a good O-line tutor and a little patience. His lack of experience will probably drop him into the third round, but within a year or two, he could become a starter and an anchor for any offensive line.

Jacob Bell, Miami (Ohio), 6-5, 302 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who began at tackle, but missed almost all of the 2001 season with a right shoulder injury…Has prototype size for a guard and can get better and bigger…Impressive in pass protection…Brings a lot of versatility to the table, having played both tackle and guard positions…Excellent leg strength…Explodes off the snap…Doesn't play with a lot of emotion…Injuries — shoulder, ankle, sprained left MCL — have all caused him to miss time…Only two full seasons playing guard…Tied for the position lead with 30 reps at the Combine, along with a 5.18 40, a 31-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 22.

PROJECTION: His lack experience and a game day mean streak will likely drop him to late on the first day or early on the second day, but he could well translate into a Everett Lindsay type that can be a backup at all four line positions other than center and see a lot of playing time.

Shane Olivea, Ohio State, 6-3, 304 — Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who spent most of his time at right tackle, but projects to a guard in the NFL…Has good bulk and strength…Gets in position extremely quickly at the snap…Works hard and has good technique…Has good strength, but didn't lift at the Combine…Durability will be a big concern, since he broke an ankle in 2001 and had shoulder surgery in 2002…Has short arms for an NFL O-lineman…Was grouped with offensive tackles at the Combine and was the shortest one measured…Doesn't have the best range in pass protection…Ran a 5.12 40 at the Combine with a 29-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 19.

PROJECTION: Played right tackle in college, but doesn't project to tackle in the pros, which will make him something of a project and likely will mean he's on the board late in the third round and possibly into Day 2.

DAY TWO PROSPECTS

Jeb Terry, North Carolina, 6-5, 314 —
Fifth-year senior who missed a full season after breaking his ankle, which required a plate and seven screws to be inserted…Came to NC as a defensive tackle, but moved to guard after his injury and became a three-year starter…Allowed just two sacks on more than 1,600 snaps his final two seasons — none of them coming last year…Good combination of size and quickness…Moves well laterally in pass protection…Has long arms to keep defenders at bay…Good upper body strength…His height can often get him off balance and not playing with ideal leverage…There are some injury concerns…Did 28 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, with a 5.09 40 time and a 30-inch vertical jump…A big guard who could develop into an NFL starter, he will need some time and patience to become an effective pro.

Stephen Peterman, LSU, 6-4, 315 — Fourth-year senior who came to LSU as a tight end and was moved to defensive end as a freshman…Three-year starter who dominated his guard position…Good combination of size and strength…Plays with a mean streak and enjoys beating up on defensive linemen up to and even after the whistle…Very strong in the run game, he drive blocks defenders at the point of attack…Good upper body strength…Doesn't move side to side very well in the passing game and will need to improve that facet of his game…Has struggled in having to redirect his body picking up blitzes…Needs to focus on his footwork…Did 23 reps at the Combine with a 5.28 40 and a 24-1/2 inch vertical jump — worst among guards that worked out…He is a durable, nasty player who coaches will fall in love with for his willingness to work hard, but his downsides are pretty serious, which will likely drop him into the fourth round at the earliest.

Anthony Herrera, Tennessee, 6-2, 316 — A fifth-year senior who was a Prop 48 in 1999…Didn't play a full season until 2003…Brings versatility having made 36 starts and played both guard positions and left tackle…Good lower body strength and overall power…Has long arms and locks on well…Has a mean streak and enjoys winning one-on-one battles…Durability is a huge red flag, since he missed time with shoulder and ankle injuries…Needs to work on his technique in pass protection…Shortest guard who was measured at the Combine…Did 26 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, with a 5.31 40 time and a Wonderlic score of 20…For his experience and the quality of coaching he got at Tennessee, he still needs a lot of work, which will make him a developmental project that will likely go somewhere around the fifth round.

Tony Pape, Michigan, 6-6, 324 — Fifth-year senior and three-year starter — two years at left tackle and one year at right tackle…A finalist for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy in 2003…Played through injuries in college without a loss in production…Is quick out of his stance and ideal in pass protection…Aggressive hitter who typically finishes his blocks…Coming out of a Michigan program that consistently turns out NFL offensive linemen…Doesn't have great physical qualities despite his size and likely will have to move inside at the next level…Did an impressive 29 reps at the Combine, with a 5.22 40, a 26-1/2 inch vertical jump and Wonderlic score of 23…Was an impressive college player who was viewed as one of the best offensive tackles in the college game. But that doesn't seem to be the mindset of many scouts, who project him to guard — a position he hasn't played — which should drop him well into the second day of the draft.

Al Reuber, Texas A&M, 6-6, 319 — Fifth-year senior and one-year full-time starter…Second tallest lineman in the Class of 2004…Has very long arms and can add bulk to prepare for the NFL…Can neutralize most defensive tackles when he has himself set properly…Has good lateral movement and can slide in pass protection…Tireless worker who sustains blocks…Doesn't have great explosion off the snap and doesn't stand up big DTs…Durability is a question, since he missed time in his first three seasons with various injuries…Did 29 reps at the Combine with a 5.28 40 and a 28-inch vertical jump…Will have to take lifting weights and adding bulk strength a priority, which will take time and likely mean he remains on the board until the fifth round.

Brian Rimpf, East Carolina, 6-6, 317 — Fifth-year senior and three-year starter at left tackle…Excellent frame and long arms…Has agility to make blocks upfield in the running game and lateral movement in pass protection…Doesn't play low enough and can get beat on a swim move…Inconsistent effort from one game to the next and one series to the next…Didn't face top notch competition in college and won't be a left tackle in the pros…Doesn't have a mean streak…Did an O-lineman-best 31 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, along with a 5.31 40 and a 28-inch vertical jump…His strength is obvious by his Combine performance, but he will need to work more on his technique and learn a new position at the next level, which will keep him available into the later rounds.

Trey Darilek, UTEP, 6-4, 301 — Fifth-year senior and four-year starter who played three years at right tackle and last year at left tackle…Can get bigger…Has good leverage and can make all the mirror and slide moves required in the passing game…A mauling run blocker who finishes his blocks…A torn left MCL suffered in 2002 is a red flag for some teams…At slightly over 300 pounds, he doesn't project to be an offensive tackle in the NFL…Doesn't have good upper body strength — his 22 reps at the Combine were among the lowest among O-linemen…Ran a 5.12 40 at the Combine with a 28-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-2 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 27…He made some believers at the Combine with his combination of speed and agility, but he's another offensive tackle being asked to move to a new position at the next level. He should probably be around late in the draft.

Adrian Clarke, Ohio State, 6-5, 329 — Fifth-year senior and four-year starter who spent one year playing tackle and the last three playing guard...Enormous player who reminds some of David Dixon…A mauler who rarely gets beaten on the snap…Can neutralize many DTs with his positioning and sheer size…Extremely proficient in the run game…Weight is huge concern, because he is viewed as overweight and wears down during games…Doesn't maul with defenders and consistently finish blocks…Didn't lift at the Combine, running a 5.49 40 (one of the worst numbers recorded) with a 26-inch vertical jump and a 24 score on the Wonderlic test…He could be a late-round steal if he can learn to keep his weight under control. He would need to have the right coaching staff — like Mike Tice used to do — to bring him along, but his weight and lack of conditioning will make him a late-round pick at best.




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