Positional Analysis: Guards

While guards can sometimes be the forgotten men of the middle rounds, the Vikings probably won't forget about them. The team has said it will wait on David Dixon's status until the summer, so they may want to consider adding a draftable guard to compete for a starting or rotational role. We examine the top ones available, pointing out the assets and liabilities each brings to the position.

Vikings' Guards — Chris Liwienski, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Herrera, Nat Dorsey, Shannon Snell, Brandon Newton.

Vikings' Needs — With David Dixon nearing the end of the line, the Vikings might have an interest here — especially in the early rounds if one of the top players falls down the charts that they have listed high. Last year, Adam Goldberg became a starting tackle in the NFL with mixed results. This year, the Vikings are moving him to left guard and sliding Chris Liwienski to right guard. So the position is up in the air. The Vikings could find solid results with the Goldberg shift or they could look to add some rookie competition for the former undrafted free agent. If they don't draft starting competition, it never hurts to add backup depth.

Class of 2005 — The guard position in the NFL is one that many coaches believe can be manipulated more than any other. Not only is it a position that is made up of college guards, but transformed centers and offensive tackles as well. Because so many players can be converted into solid NFL guards and play in a limited position for blocking schemes, guards are typically de-valued on draft day. There may not be a single guard taken in the first round, but, by the end of Day One, there could be as many as seven or eight that have been selected.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Elton Brown, Virginia, 6-4, 330 — Fourth-year senior who became the first true freshman in almost 30 years to start on the Cavaliers' offensive line … Three-year full-time starter who was voted All-ACC as a senior … Didn't practice at the Senior Bowl and made an early exit from the Combine with knee tendinitis … Very athletic for a guard, he has a huge body and big wingspan … Excellent leg drive in run blocking … Solid in pass protection because of long arms … Has a good combination of upper- and lower-body strength … Durability is a concern, since he has sustained several small injuries that have caused his to miss time … Doesn't have great pure technique skills … Will get off-balance at times and needs to work on maintaining his leverage … Some have questioned his commitment to the game, a concern that got compounded when he left the Combine early … In his pro day workout, he ran a 5.79 40, did 19 reps with 225 pounds, a 26-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 7-11 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 13.

PROJECTION: Once viewed as a near lock for being taken in the first round, Brown's stock has taken a hit because he did little to help improve it at the Combine. He still has the potential to be a difference maker, but his reputation could drop him behind some of the other prospects.

David Baas, Michigan, 6-4, 319 — Fifth-year senior who was a high school All-American … .Three-year starter who played guard for two full seasons, before moving to center in 2004 and playing the final nine games there as a senior … Played well enough to earn a share of the Rimington Award, given annually to the best college center … Two-time All-Big 10 and All-American … Has a wide base to maneuver defenders … Good hand puncher who likes to maul … A solid middle anchor in passing situations who keeps the pocket from collapsing … Versatility a huge plus … A little overweight as a senior and he wasn't as explosive off the snap as he was as a junior and sophomore … Not adept at pulling or trapping as some of the other prospects … Ran a 5.02 40 at the Combine, did 29 reps, with a 29-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 8-9 broad jump and a very strong Wonderlic score of 37.

PROJECTION: Putting a handle on Baas is difficult, because he worked out with the centers at the Combine and will be viewed as a center possibility for some teams and a guard for others. That versatility could move him ahead of Brown on many draft boards.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Logan Mankins, Fresno State, 6-4, 307 — Fifth-year senior … A walk-on who became a starter as a red shirt freshman at left tackle protecting future top overall pick David Carr … Missed the 2003 season with a torn right ACL … First-team All-Mountain West in 2004 … Team MVP — a rarity for a lineman — in '04 … Good size/strength combo … Has very big hands and uses them to direct defenders and lock on at the snap … Good lateral movement skills … Plays with a real mean streak … Good at pulling and trapping … His biggest drawback may be durability — aside from his ACL injury, he has played with ankle and shoulder problems … Doesn't have top-end upper body strength NFL linemen need … Needs to refine his technique … Ran a 5.06 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 31-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 7-11 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 25.

PROJECTION: He'll be a good story for whomever lands him. A kid from a small lumberjack town who worked his way into a solid college player and increased his stock at the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game. He should work his way into the second round

Evan Mathis, Alabama, 6-5, 312 — Fifth-year senior who was a high school heavyweight wrestling champion in Alabama … Three-year starter who played right tackle as sophomore and junior before moving to guard in 2004 — replacing Justin Smiley, who was a second-round pick of the 49ers last April … Started 47 straight games … First-team All-SEC last year and two-time Academic All-SEC … Is tall and has excellent upper body strength … Solid leading run plays as a pulling guard … Has a good hand punch and will play with some nastiness … Was probably the top guard at the Combine, putting up some very impressive numbers … Durability might be a red flag for some teams, because, despite not missing time, he suffered stress fractures in both legs during his college career … Is much better as run blocker than in pass protection … Doesn't have great lower-body strength and plays with a narrow base … Struggles against bull rush defensive linemen … Doesn't have much practical experience in pass protection … Ran a 4.9 40 at the Combine with 35 reps, a 35-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-9 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 31.

PROJECTION: Some people are convinced he will be a better NFL center than a guard, much like Mankins. But, being sought at for two different positions may be enough to slip him into the second round.

Dan Buenning, Wisconsin, 6-4, 320 — Fifth-year senior … Four-year starter at left guard who started 49 of a possible 51 games … First-Team All-Big 10 and Second Team All-American as a senior … Experienced and durable … Has good explosion off the snap … Is adept as a pulling guard leading run plays … Very good upper body strength … Grades out extremely well in run blocking … Team leader … Doesn't have great athleticism or lower-body strength … Moved to right guard and had problems at the Senior Bowl, especially against top-notch two-gap DTs … Best suited for zone blocking schemes … Ran a 5.34 40 at the Combine with 29 reps, a 28-inch vertical jump, a 9-3 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 32.

PROJECTION: A player with plenty of experience, but limitations on his upside. He could develop into a solid pro, but likely will be on the board in the third round or even beyond.

Chris Kemoeatu, Utah, 6-4, 345 — Fourth-year senior … Three-year starter who played left guard as a sophomore and right guard the last two seasons … His brother Maake plays for Baltimore … First-Team All-Mountain West a year ago … An excellent combination of size, bulk and strength … Perhaps the best run blocker in the draft, he pushes linemen backwards at the snap … Has great hand punch that can neutralize DTs … Likes to maul, which got him suspended for two games after a pair of incidents in which he kicked an opponent after the whistle … Not nearly as effective in pass protection as he is in run blocking … Some question his dedication, because he gives inconsistent performances and even overslept for the team weigh-ins at the East-West Shrine Game … Has some durability questions due to nagging injuries in college … Ran a 5.34 40 at the Combine with 31 reps, a 29-inch vertical jump, a 8-2 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 14.

PROJECTION: He has a mean streak that scouts look for and his size and strength are top notch. But his lack of dedication to improving and spotty track record will likely drop him near or into the second day of the draft.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Claude Terrell, New Mexico, 6-2, 343 — Fifth-year senior … Four-year starter who voluntarily moved from guard to tackle as a senior because the team needed it … A two-time All-Mountain Conference West first-team selection … Excellent bulk and mauling ability in confined area … Very good quickness on the snap and engages defensive linemen immediately before they can penetrate … Plays with a mean streak … Has a very good hand punch … Quickness and mobility allow him to lead trap plays … Viewed as very short by some NFL standards … His shortness also relates to his arms, where he has trouble contain bull rushers and will likely get more than his share of holding calls at the NFL level … Doesn't play with the intensity from one game to the next … Allayed some concerns over a shoulder injury at the Combine when he ran a 5.39 40, did 27 reps with 225 pounds, had a 24-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 7-5 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 23.

PROJECTION: He showed up at the Combine 13 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight, which didn't help his stock. But he has experience along the line and has a chance to slide off the board on the first day, but, because of his lack of height, some teams won't have him rated nearly that high.

Adam Snyder, Oregon, 6-5_, 316 — Fifth-year tackle … Four-year starter who made starts at right tackle, left tackle and right guard … A three-time All-Pac 10 selection … Despite playing the different positions, he made 35 straight starts to end his college career … Awarded the Morris Trophy in 2004, given to the Pac 10's top offensive lineman … Very big and likes to throw people around … Versatility is a huge selling point … Very good run blocker … Has long arms to keep defenders at bay … Solid leading the way on traps and as a pulling guard … Like a coach on the field who is a student of the game … Doesn't have ideal upper-body strength to go with his solid lower-body strength … Isn't explosive off the snap … Needs to be in confined areas to be most effective … Improved his stock at his Pro Day March 10 with a 5.04 40, 22 reps, a 31-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 8-6 broad jump and had a Wonderlic score of 29.

PROJECTION: He has a chance to make it into the first day, but is viewed by many as a versatile jack-of-all trades type who could see spot duty at several spots, but will struggle to be a full-time starter at any — which could drop him into the second day.

Nick Kaczur, Toledo, 6-4, 315 — Fourth-year senior … Played high school football in Canada, graduating in 1999, and spent a year in the Canadian Junior Football League before enrolling at Toledo … A four-year starter who never missed a game in 51 career starts, so durability is not a concern … Three-time first-team All-Mid-America Conference selection … Has a strong upper body … Has the agility to play tackle (where he played in college), but is projected as a guard in the NFL … Doesn't lose his skill when in space as a pulling guard or at the second level on running plays … Lost weight last year and is now viewed as somewhat undersized for NFL standards … Doesn't have any college experience at guard, which will require time and patience … Will have problems with Kevin Williams-type two-gap tackles … Ran a 5.28 40 at the Combine with 22 reps, a 31-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-0 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 24.

PROJECTION: Like many of the Day 2 guards that will go off the board, he will be a converted tackle learning a new position. His experience and durability will be a plus, but despite that he's viewed as a project that might take two or three years to fully develop.

OTHERS TO WATCH
C.J. Brooks, Maryland (6-5, 309)
Scott Young, BYU (6-3, 312)
Justin Geisinger, Vanderbilt (6-4, 320)
Jonathan Clinkscale, Wisconsin (6-2, 315)
Wes Sims, Oklahoma (6-5, 318)
Doug Buckles, Mississippi (6-5, 311)
Chris Myers, Miami (6-4, 301)



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