VIKINGS GUARDS – Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Artis Hicks, Dan Mozes, Brian Daniels.
POSITION ANALYSIS – With a perennial Pro Bowler in Hutchinson on the left side, and up-and-comer in Herrera that the Vikings re-signed last year, and a versatile veteran with Hicks as a third guard, the Vikings would appear to be set. If the team is looking at this position early in the draft, it might only be for one of the combo-platter players that can either play both guard and center or play both guard and tackle. Branden Albert could be an option because of his ability to be a dominating guard and potentially dominant on the edge. But by and large, on face value this doesn't look like a position that the Vikings will hit too hard on draft weekend – at least in the early rounds.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Branden Albert, Virginia, 6-5¾, 308 – Third-year junior who spent a year after high school at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia … Didn't start playing organized football until his junior year of high school … Named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman Team in 2005 and All-ACC First Team in 2007 … Two-time captain … Started all 37 games of his college career – 35 at left guard and two at left tackle … Huge player that can physically maul and dominate defenders … Very long arms and good hand punch to keep linemen at a distance and away from his body … Picks up blitzes and stunts very well … Dangerous for defenders at the second level because he likes to initiate contact and deliver big hits on the move … Has good footwork and balance and is rarely knocked off his feet … Limited experience at left tackle, but some scouts believe he could move there and be effective at the NFL level … Doesn't have an explosive first step off the snap and tends to grab onto defenders in the running game rather than consistently drive them back or direct them … Doesn't have top-end upper-body strength (see below) … Doesn't always give a consistent effort … Plays a little too high in pass protection and allows bull rushers to get under his pads … Ran a 5.17 40 at the Combine with 24 reps of 225 pounds, a 26½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: His combination of size and agility have already got him noticed, but his game still needs some refining. He has only played football for five years of his life and some believe he has unlimited potential to improve. He could be on the Vikings' list of possible players in the first round, but more likely he'll end up with someone like the Steelers late in the first round.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Chilo Rachal USC, 6-5¼, 314 – Fourth-year junior … 2003 Super Prep All-American as a high school senior … A two-year starter who was named Second-Team All-Pac 10 as a sophomore and First-Team All-Pac 10 as a junior … Redshirted in 2004 after having surgery to remove torn cartilage from his left knee … Very good feet and agility to slide and adjust in both pass protection and in the open field on running plays … Good upper-body strength and a wide frame … Can stop pass rushers with a strong hand punch and has the agility to recover when he absorbs a shot at the snap … Helps out on blitz pickup and stunts in the passing game … Finishes blocks … Doesn't have great lower-body strength to consistently anchor in pass protection … Plays a little upright and can lose his leverage as a result … Can get frustrated and lose focus … Is not a natural strider and will struggle to find linebackers at the second level … Does not consistently fire off the snap … Ran a 5.10 40 at the Combine with 27 reps, a 26-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: He likely would have been a first-round pick had he returned for his senior season, but declared for the draft due to financial hardship of his mother. He has the physical gifts to be a solid pro, but needs to refine his footwork for the next level. He is good, but not dominating, which should drop him into the second round.
John Greco, Toledo, 6-5, 303 – Fifth-year senior … Started all 49 of his career games in college – 13 at right tackle as a redshirt freshman and the final 36 at left tackle … Has bench-pressed 420 pounds and has a personal-best squat of 1,050 pounds … Had a wide body and very good upper-body strength … Has a good hand punch that will jolt and slow down pass rushers … Keeps his legs moving to direct defenders in the run game … Good on-field awareness to see blitzes … Team leader who gives his all in practice and in the weight room … Very durable and has never sustained a serious injury … Never played guard in college, but doesn't figure to play tackle at the pro level … Has short arms and defenders find it relatively easy to get into his body and push him backward, a problem that will only get worse if he remains at OT … Plays a little straight-legged, which doesn't help keep defensive linemen away from him … Will get out of position and knocked to the ground a little too often … Does not have great foot speed to consistently shut down speed rushers … Ran a 5.15 40 at the Combine with 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 26½-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: Greco never played top competition at Toledo and will have to transition to a new position with which he has no on-field familiarity. But his fiery demeanor and coachability will get him noticed. He would be an ideal backup behind a couple of aging veterans, where he could learn for a year or two before being asked to step in as a starter. His ability and his upside should have him off the board in the second round, but his need for refinement could see him slip into the third.
Mike McGlynn, Pittsburgh, 6-4½, 310 – Fifth-year senior … Became a starter four games into his freshman season and started the final 42 games of his college career – all but three of them at right tackle (the other three at right guard) … Had surgery after his junior season to repair a torn left labrum, but returned strong as a senior … Served as short-snapper on field goals and extra points his final three seasons … Plays angry and keeps hitting all the way to the whistle … Sets up quickly after the snap in pass protection … Has a very strong hand punch to jolt defenders … Good field awareness to recognize blitzes and stunts and get in position … Tough competitor that will play injured … Looks out of shape and doesn't have a muscle-bound physique … More of a straight-line blocker who struggles to move laterally at the second level … Needs time to pick up speed on sweeps and will be slow to get in position … Has struggled against speed rushers … Played almost his entire career at tackle, but doesn't project to that position in the pros … Doesn't always finish his blocks … Ran a 5.39 40 at the Combine with 30 reps, a 23½-inch vertical jump and an 8-6 broad jump. PROJECTION: An O-line ‘tweener type, he has all his experience at tackle, but because of short arms and questionable footwork, he projects to be a guard in the NFL. He has talent and plays like a psychopath who wants to beat up opponents, which will get him noticed. But because of the expected position switch, he will need time to alter his game. That should be enough to drop him into the third-round range on draft weekend.
Eric Young, Tennessee, 6-3½, 311 – Fifth-year senior … Parade All-American who also won the South Carolina state title in the shot put (56 feet, 6 inches) as a senior … Two-year starter who made starts in his final 21 college games … Played left tackle as a sophomore, right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior … Missed the last six games of 2007 with a torn left quadriceps, but was still named Second-Team All-Southeastern Conference … Has good upper-body strength and can control the line of scrimmage when playing with leverage … Has good foot movement skills and can move quickly to get in position … Has a good hand punch to jolt defenders at the snap … Has the feet to take on linebackers at the second level and deliver blocks … Does not show burst off the line and doesn't finish his blocks often enough … Is very inconsistent and doesn't always give his top effort … Is prone to stopping his feet when he makes contact … Limited experience overall, but none at guard – where he is projected to play in the pros … Didn't work out at the Combine because he was rehabbing his quad injury. PROJECTION: A hard player to project because he can look dominant at times and flat-out disinterested at others. He has some bad mechanics that he will have to eliminate and that won't be easy with the change of positions. The team that drafts him will have to be patient and hope his upside outweighs his game-day red flags.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Roy Schuening, Oregon State, 6-3¾, 313 – Fifth-year senior … A standout shot putter on the track team in high school who set a school record with a throw of 56 feet, 6 inches … Started all 50 games of his college career – 46 at right guard and four at right tackle … Lost 18 pounds in his senior year after being diagnosed with walking pneumonia but never missed a game … An intelligent player who has learned how to block using angles and leverage … Good upper-body strength and hand punch … A strong in-line run blocker who can direct defenders effectively … Holds his own against big nose tackles and doesn't back down … Is quick to get in position in pass protection … Does not have good natural footwork and is awkward at the second level going after linebackers … Will play too upright at times and let tackles get into his body … Struggled against top competition like Sedrick Ellis of USC and will get moved around … Doesn't always finish his blocks and will lunge – often ending up on the ground … Ran a 5.31 40 at the Combine with 27 reps and a 30-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: A big mauler who doesn't have great pure athleticism but is durable and has a history of playing when he isn't 100 percent. He likely will be on the board into the fourth round or so, but could develop into a solid NFL starting guard. Effort won't be an issue, because he is a player that coaches and teammates admire for his toughness and willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team.
Shawn Murphy, Utah State, 6-4, 314 – Fourth-year senior who attended Ricks College in Idaho in 2001 as a defensive end before going on a three-year Morman mission to Brazil … Played one year at Dixie State College in Utah in 2005 before starting the last 24 games of his college career at Utah State – 12 as a left tackle his junior year and 12 at left guard as a senior … The son of former Atlanta Braves baseball star Dale Murphy … Has good upperbody strength … Has very good feet and can pull all the way across the field on sweeps and be effective … Has a good hand punch to shock defenders at the snap … Has a good anchor in pass protection and is rarely pushed back into the quarterback … Is a good lock-up blocker who can drive defenders out of the hole … Is not overly experienced at guard … Will turn 25 in December, which in itself will turn off some teams because of the time it will take for him to become a solid pro … Never faced top-end opposition in the WAC … Will need time to refine his technique … Is a victim of his own aggressiveness and will fall off of blocks that he shouldn't … Ran a 5.14 40 at the Combine, with 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 27-inch vertical jump and a 8-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: He increased his stock significantly with strong showings at the East-West Shrine Game and the Combine, but as a rookie who will be 25 before the end of his first season and still seen as raw, some teams will de-value him because he will take time to become a solid pro guard. That may not be time he has, considering that he graduated high school in the spring of 2001 – only one year after Vikings guard Anthony Herrera, who will be entering his fifth pro season this year.
Donald Thomas, Connecticut, 6-3½, 303 – Fourth-year senior who was a walk-on in 2004 … A one-year starter who only played full-time as a senior … Was suspended from the team as a junior after being arrested for assaulting a restaurant worker when his food order was too slow in arriving … Good upper-body strength … Has long arms to keep defenders away from his body … Has a good hand punch to jolt defenders … Has the speed and quickness to get out to the second level to take on linebackers … Can turn defensive tackles in the direction he usually wants them to go … Has a very thin lower body that hinders his anchor strength … Is inconsistent both in technique and intensity … Gets too high in pass blocking and will often lose balance and get knocked backward by bull rushers … Will get caught out of position on stunts and will be late to show up on blitz pickup assignments … Is raw in terms of facing top competition … Ran a 5.01 40 at the Combine with 29 reps, a 29½-inch vertical jump and an 8-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: Seen as a better athlete than a football player, Thomas has just one year of tangible experience. That, combined with less-than-ideal lower-body strength, will probably result in him dropping into the middle to late rounds and he will be viewed as a project-type pick.
Robert Felton, Arkansas, 6-3¾, 314 – A fifth-year senior … Became a starter midway through his redshirt freshman season and started 42 of the final 43 games of his college career … In his career, he started 24 games at right guard, 15 at right tackle and three at left tackle … An All-Southeastern Conference First-Team selection and Second-Team All-American last year … Has good size and can get bigger … Has long arms that can keep defenders away from his body … Is an aggressive run-blocker … Uses his hand punch effectively off the snap … Has the footwork to be effective as a pulling guard on sweeps … Showed a lot of improvement as a senior … Versatile … Has a flabby body and doesn't have good upper-body weight-room strength (see below) … Does not have natural footwork nor does he run aggressively to the second level … Does not finish nearly enough of his blocks … Can be dominated by speed rushers … Is not the type of player that puts in extra time in practice or the weight room to improve … Inconsistent performance and intensity … Had a disappointing Combine effort with a 5.52 40 time, a dismal 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 23½-inch vertical jump and a 8-1 broad jump – all among the worst for guards that worked out in Indianapolis. PROJECTION: His versatility and the potential to use up two roster spots by himself to give a team extra roster options could result in him going ahead of where we have him projected. But his lack of attention to mechanics and his apparent disinterest in improving his body in the weight room could make him a risky pick that may never live up to expectations.
Chris McDuffie, Clemson, 6-4, 331 – Fifth-year senior who attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for a year following high school … Didn't become a full-time starter until his senior season … Arrested in July 2004 and charged with two felonies – possession of a large amount of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession with intent within proximity of a school … .After being dismissed from the team briefly, he began his college career as a defensive tackle, moving to the offensive side as a sophomore … Started 11 of the 12 games he played last year at left guard and played through a torn ligament in his left elbow for the final four games – an injury that required surgery following the season … Has almost prototype size and strength for an NFL guard … Is quick to set up off the snap in pass protection and has good anchor strength … Has good awareness to pick up blitzes and stunts … Keeps his feet moving after contact to direct defenders … Struggles to get to the outside on sweeps in the run game … Does not have long arms and allows defenders in on him too often … Will play a little too high and can lose balance and leverage … Has some mechanics issues and will appear to play lazy at times … Has had issues with his weight fluctuating too high at times … Was not able to run or jump at the Combine because of a quadriceps injury suffered while training for the trip to Indy, but did 30 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A player that gives you reasons not to like him – he doesn't have a good football body, he has character issues and has limited starting experience. But film doesn't lie. He has been able to produce consistently better than some of the guards rated ahead of him and could develop into a solid NFL starter. But he will have a few too many red flags by his name for some teams' liking, which should drop him into the fourth-round range on draft weekend.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Mackenzy Bernadeau, Bentley (Mass.), 6-3¾, 292
Andrew Crummey, Maryland, 6-4½, 300
Adam Kraus, Michigan, 6-5½, 292
Drew Radovich, USC, 6-4¾, 300
Kirk Barton, Ohio State, 6-4½, 310
Positional Analysis: Guards
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