Positional Analysis: Guards

Guards usually aren't highly touted entering the draft, and this class of interior offensive linemen isn't much different. Several of them seem to be tied to a certain styles of offense or blocking schemes, making them valuable only to certain teams. John Holler analyzes the top nine.

Vikings Guards – Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Artis Hicks, Brian Daniels.

Vikings Draft Outlook – Hutchinson is the best guard in the league and the Vikings seem happy with the play of Herrera and the versatility of Hicks. As long as they stay healthy, the team may not necessarily need an additional guard in the draft, but if they can find a player with some position versatility who could serve both as a backup guard and compete for a center spot, they may take a look.

The Class of 2009 – The guard position is one of the least respected positions on draft day, which is why a player like Hutchinson is so valuable. College guards have to compete on draft weekend with tackles that don't have the speed to make the transition to the pros, but because of their size and skill sets, they move inside to compete with guards. There may be only a handful of guards taken in the early rounds because this year's class is neither overpowering nor deep. Look for the guards to come off the board in the middle to late rounds, but they will still be relatively few and far between.


Duke Robinson, Oklahoma, 6-5¼, 330 –
Fourth-year senior … A three-year starter who started 39 of 41 games in his final three seasons … Looks the part with prototype arm length, big hands and wide body … Very physical and is a mauler … A good run blocker who gets on his defender in a hurry off the snap … Plays with a mean streak and will bury defenders when given the chance … Uses his hands extremely well and delivers a jolt early … Has played the tackle position, so he brings some versatility … Does not have great footwork and will struggle at times when pulling … Will get too aggressive and miss linebackers at the second level … Is slow to react to blitzes and stunts and doesn't have good recovery speed … Is viewed by some as lazy and self-entitled … Ran a 5.32 40 at the Combine with 20 reps of 225 pounds, a 31½-inch vertical jump and an 8-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: Is not a premier, first-round type of prospect, but he is so huge that his deficiencies are minimized because he can keep defenders away even when out of position. With the right teaching, he has Pro Bowl potential down the line. He'll likely be the first guard off the board early in the second round.


Andy Levitre, Oregon State, 6-2½, 307 –
Fifth-year senior … Three-year starter who started 12 games as a redshirt sophomore (one at left guard and 11 at right tackle), 13 games as a junior (nine at right tackle and four at left tackle) and all 13 games as a senior at left tackle … Team captain as a senior … Already graduated … Has good upper-body strength for his size and will take on bigger defenders … Has good feet when asked to pull or trap … Initiates contact and fights until the whistle … Has a good hand punch … Is good in run blocking and moving defenders directionally … His agility extends into the second level and sliding to help on double-teams … Has very short arms (32½ inches), which is one of the main reasons he doesn't translate into an offensive tackle at the next level … Is viewed as too short for an offensive tackle … Has a chubby-looking body … Had a bad week at the Senior Bowl when matched up with power rushers … Doesn't play with the speed most scouts look for … Ran a 5.33 40 at the Combine with 23 reps, a 30½-inch vertical jump and an 8-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: A college left tackle who doesn't have the height, speed or arm length to translate to the pros. He will have to adjust to the pros and his learning curve will be longer than most college guards. His talent will get him taken in the second or third round, but a team needing an immediate starter will likely be disappointed early. If given a year or two to mature behind a veteran, he could be a big-timer down the road.

Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin, 6-5½, 328 – Fifth-year senior … Four-year starter who was the first Wisconsin freshman to start at tackle since Chris McIntosh in 1996 … Started 13 games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman and 13 games at right guard as a sophomore … Started 10 games at right guard and three at right tackle as a junior and all 11 games he played at right guard last year … Has experience and durability, missing only two games due to injury in his career … A team captain well respected by coaches and teammates … Extremely good size and bulk … Has long arms … Very good lower-body strength and can anchor in pass protection … Has a good hand punch that he uses effectively … Can open big running lanes with seal blocks … Does not have elite quickness and will be slow off the snap … Doesn't always hold his blocks and will break down if a play is extended too long … Is a stiff-legged runner who has some difficulty when pulling or trapping … Is less effective the farther away from his natural position he gets … Ran a 5.25 40 at the Combine with 29 reps of 225 pounds, a 25½-inch vertical jump and an 8-2 broad jump. PROJECTION: He is a versatile experienced four-year starter who will have added value since he can play multiple positions. He has a chance to be the first guard off the board as early as the second round, but his lack of quickness will likely take him out of tackle consideration except for an emergency-type fill-in. He won't be on the board long if he makes it to Day Two.

Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech, 6-5, 325 – Fourth-year senior … Three-year starter who made starts in his final 35 games at left guard … A team captain as a senior … Missed time with a knee injury in 2006 and an ankle sprain last year … Extremely good size and incredible upper body strength (see below) … Has a mean streak and follows up on his blocks trying to consistently knock defenders down … Experienced and knowledgeable at his position … Slams the bull rush dead in its tracks regularly … Can neutralize big tackles and nose tackles … Does not have much in the way of speed and is always slow to the edge when asked to pull … Has trouble with smaller speed rushers with multiple rush moves … Tires quickly and his play suffers when he does … Played in a spread offense that didn't require to maintain his blocks too long … Will lunge in space and often miss his target … Ran a 5.22 40 at the Combine with a position-best 39 reps of 225 pounds, a 30½-inch vertical jump and an 8-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: Vasquez is an anomaly at his position. In terms of size and body strength, he has just about all you could ask for. But his lack of speed will make him effective only with teams that do most of their running and passing between the tackles, like the Cowboys and Steelers. For one of them, he would an ideal mid-round pick. But he may slip well in Day Two.

Jaimie Thomas, Maryland, 6-4¼, 329 – Fifth-year senior … Two-year starter who had four starts in his first two seasons at left guard … Started the first seven games of his junior season before suffering a broken right fibula … Returned healthy last year and started all 13 games … Has very long arms (35 inches) and knows how to use them to keep defenders away from his body … Has good footwork and agility in terms of moving of his feet and finding people to hit at the second level … Has good upper body strength and can neutralize defenders when he gets his hands on them first … Has a pear-shaped body and doesn't look to have any body definition … An inconsistent player who doesn't bring the same energy from game to game … Isn't quick off the snap and allows quick-twitch defenders to get the edge on him … Has trouble changing direction and adjusting in space … Gets worse the farther away he gets from his natural position … Ran a 5.29 40 at the Combine with 26 reps, a 28-inch vertical jump and an 8-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: He is going to be a player that is drafted more on potential than actual skill. He has less than two years of starting experience and will likely be of most interest to teams that specialize in simply a power running game. There are a few of those out there, but not enough to take him off the board until the middle rounds.


Herman Johnson, LSU, 6-7¼, 356 –
Fifth-year senior … A three-year starter who made three starts at right guard and his final 37 starts at left guard … Was going to play as a true freshman, but was granted a medical redshirt from complications from an infected spider bite … Has been big since the get-go – he made news when he was born as the biggest baby in the history of Louisiana – he came into the world at 15 pounds, 14 ounces … Lost about 20 pounds between the Senior Bowl and the Combine and looked in much better shape with the lost weight … Has incredible size and long arms (a whopping 36½ inches) to lock on to defenders … Has good natural strength and lower body push to anchor effectively … Has huge hands and can maul defenders off the snap … Has good short-area movement skills to force defenders where he wants them to go … Has had ongoing problems keeping his weight down and has ballooned over 400 pounds more than once, which will be a problem at the NFL level if it continues … Has flat feet and little in the way of quickness and agility … Has problems with speed rushers, as well as trying to make contact at the second level when pulling … Is too often late getting out of his stance on the snap, which will be magnified in the NFL … Had a disappointing Combine performance, running a 5.50 40 with just 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 26½-inch vertical jump and a 7-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: A monstrously sized player who has some severe physical limitations that will make him a mauling type lineman who is primarily asked just to defend his six-by-six piece of turf and not be asked to lead the way on sweeps. Those limitations will drop him into the middle to late rounds.

Jamon Meredith, South Carolina, 6-4¾, 304 – Fifth-year senior … Has moved around the line considerably in his college career. As a redshirt freshman, he started five games at right tackle; in 2006, he started seven games at right tackle and five at left tackle; as a junior, he started all 12 games at left tackle and, following an injury early last season, he started nine games at left guard … Has a history of ankle injuries … Has good size and long arms … Is a versatile player who has played up and down the line in his college days … Is a load to get past once he gets locked on … Is quick off the snap and initiates contact … Extends his arms well in pass protection and rarely gets beat one on one … Does not have good agility or lateral movement skills and can be a liability on sweeps – too often getting in the way of his runner in a cutback lane … Durability is a concern with his history of ankle problems … Is not an intense glass-chewer like some coaches want … Doesn't use his physicality as much as he should or could … Falls off too many blocks because his feet stop moving on contact … Ran a 5.01 40 at the Combine with 31 reps, a 28-inch vertical jump and an 8-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: Has the trademark tools of a guard in a zone blocking scheme, but not too many teams run that scheme, so his choices may be reduced somewhat. Because of his great intangibles, he could come off the board in the middle rounds, but more likely will still be on the board well into the second day of the draft.

Travis Bright, Brigham Young, 6-4¼, 317 – Fifth-year senior … Was part of the 2001 recruiting class, but took two years off immediately to complete his Mormon mission requirements … Redshirted in 2004 and had to take a medical redshirt in 2005 due to a broken ankle … Broke his left leg during his junior season and had to have a metal rod inserted … Started nine games in 2006 – seven at right guard and two at left guard – and 26 games the last two years at right guard … Has extreme upper body strength (see below) as well as setting a school record with a 540-pound bench press … Has the ability to anchor and stop defenders when locked on … Uses his hands well and has a strong hand punch … Has very good athleticism, including an impressive vertical jump (see below) … Is quick out of his stance … Is an effective and powerful run blocker … Age is a huge concern – he will be 26 years old as a rookie … Played in a spread offense that didn't ask him to maintain blocks for long … Does not have good lateral quickness leading sweeps to the side or second level … Can come out high from his stance and allow defenders to push him back … Had a pretty bad week at the Senior Bowl … Showed off his physical prowess at the Combine, running a 5.39 40 with 35 reps of 225 pounds, a position-best 35½-inch vertical jump and a 9-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: He is a smart, intelligent player, but isn't overly athletic and is years behind his younger competition. He will find a spot in the NFL, but his age alone should drop him into the later rounds, where the risk is far less.

Ray Feinga, Brigham Young, 6-4¼, 329 – Fifth-year senior who chose to forego his two-year Mormon mission … A three-year starter who made 35 starts over the last three years at left guard … Was named Mr. Football in Utah as a high school senior defensive tackle … Had shoulder surgery prior to his redshirt freshman season and was unable to jump and do some of the drills at the Combine due to a hamstring injury … Has good natural strength … Went two years without allowing a sack … Has a strong upper body and uses it well to shield and wall off defenders … Has decent lower body strength and keeps his legs churning on contact … Is quick to come out of his stance and set up in pass protection … Is a finisher who can play with a mean streak … Does not have good agility or flexibility … Struggles the farther away he gets from his natural spot … Does not have good recovery quickness when beaten and will get knocked off his feet too often … Played in a spread offense that doesn't translate well to his responsibilities in the pros … Is not an effective blocker in space … Wears down late in games … Did not jump or go through many drills at the Combine due to a pulled hamstring, but ran a 5.31 40 and did 30 reps with 225 pounds. PROJECTION: Another BYU guard who will likely be drafted in the middle to late rounds, he has many of the intangibles you look for, but, like some of the other guard prospects, his liabilities as a pulling guard are so pronounced that some teams likely won't consider him, forcing him to be drafted in the late rounds by a power-running, between-the-tackles sort of offense like the Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers, Ravens or Cardinals run.


Roger Allen, Missouri Western, 6-2¾, 326
Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati, 6-4½, 308
C.J. Davis, Pitt, 6-2, 308
Tyronne Green, Auburn, 6-1½, 309
Greg Islander, West Virginia, 6-3¾, 324
Andy Kemp, Wisconsin, 6-4¾, 313
Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee State, 6-3½, 332
Maurice Miller, Mississippi, 6-3¼, 327
Rich Ohrnberger, Penn State, 6-2¼, 297
Anthony Parker, Tennessee, 6-2, 297

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