Positional Analysis: Guards

Guard isn't always a highly valued position, but there is at least one player that is expected to go in the first round. After that, there are several college tackles making the switch to guard and a variety of skills and levels of desire among the top-10 guard prospects. Will the Vikings find a guard among these in the first two days of the draft?

VIKINGS GUARDS — Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera.

VIKINGS NEEDS – With the loss of Artis Hicks, the Vikings have just two players with guard experience currently on the roster. As a result, taking a guard in the draft is a priority. Barring the signing of a veteran free agent at some point, if something would happen to Hutch or Herrera, that rookie could be thrust into the starting lineup. Given that situation, it might seem imperative that the Vikings consider taking a guard with one of their first three picks.

THE CLASS OF 2010 — Typically, a guard coming off the board in the first round is far from guaranteed. In fact, in a weak class last year, there wasn't a guard selected in the draft until the third round and, when all was said and done, only 10 guards were selected. That should change this year with a slightly above-average class, led by versatile Mike Iupati of Idaho, who might get serious consideration if he's on the board when the Vikings pick at No. 30. There are also a handful of other guards that potentially will come off the board in the second and third round, which should make this an interesting position to follow on draft weekend.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Mike Iupati, Idaho, 6-5¼, 331 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who started the final 34 games of his college career at left guard…Had reconstructive left shoulder surgery following the 2007 season and missed the first two games of the 2008 season…A team captain as a senior…Has an excellent combination of size, strength and athletic ability…Has long arms and uses them to keep defenders at bay…Is a mauler who uses a striking hand punch to neutralize defenders at the snap…Has good agility and lateral movement skills…Picks up blitzes and stunts well…Gets lazy with his hands at times and doesn't always have a consistent performance from one drive or game to the next…Will take himself out of plays by lunging and being too wound up to make a drive block…Played against marginal competition that makes him look a little more dominant than he really is…Ran a 5.32 40 at the Combine with 27 reps of 225 pounds with a 27½-inch vertical jump and a 7-8 broad jump. PROJECTION: Iupati dominated his competition at Idaho and has the pedigree to be dominant pro. His size and speed may have some teams looking at him as a tackle, where he could be very good at the next level. But he could be a dominant guard for years to come and be a Steve Hutchinson type of fixture at the position. He likely won't make it out of the first round. If he makes it by the Vikings at No. 30, don't be stunned to see the Colts jump on him, especially since their owner threw the O-line under the bus following their Super Bowl loss to the Saints.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts, 6-4½, 332 — Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who played the final 35 games of his college career at left tackle…Was born in Haiti and, after his mother died, his father sent him to the United States to get an education…He is highly educated with a strong grade-point average and the ability to speak three languages…Has tremendous size – from a huge muscled-up body to extremely long arms…Fires out of his stance and explodes into defenders…Has a strong hand punch and he is adept knowing when to use it…Durable and has played with injuries without a big dropoff in production…Has the agility to reach the second level and aggressively take on linebackers…Isn't the most effective on plays he is asked to pull…Didn't consistently play against top-end competition…Doesn't translate as a tackle in the NFL…Can't maul speedier players and has had a hard time with stunts and speed rushers…Will get lazy and stop moving his feet and, when plays break down, he's out of position and opens the QB to sacks…Did not look good in one-on-one OT drills at the Combine…Ran a 5.28 40 at the Combine with 29 reps of 225 pounds with a 26-inch vertical jump and a 7-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: He will have to change positions to be an effective pro because he doesn't have the athleticism to be a left tackle in the NFL, so many teams will view him as a guard. That said, he could develop into a strong starter and likely won't make it out of the second round. He could be a player of interest to the Vikings if he stays on the board too long into the second round and was one of their predraft visits.

Jon Asamoah, Illinois, 6-4, 305 — Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who started all 37 games he played at right guard his final three seasons…A team captain…Is strong and uses good leverage at the snap…Has good lateral movement skills…Plays with a lot of intensity and never quits on a play…Faced some consistently good competition in the Big 10…Has very good upper-body strength and a powerful hand punch…Has the lower-body strength to anchor solidly in pass protection…Has durability that will impress NFL brass…Allows defenders to get into his body too easily and will struggle against overly aggressive defenders…Is too often late to react to blitzes and stunts and can get caught out of position…Comes out of his stance a little high at times and can be pushed back when not using good technique…Doesn't have ideal footwork and will end up on the ground…Is a little stiff in his movements…Hurt his draft stock by pulling of Senior Bowl week with a shoulder injury, as well as not working out at the Combine. PROJECTION: Has the size and strength to make an impact in the NFL, but his downsides are pronounced – especially in his technique. He has the chance to make it into the second round, but more likely is going to come off in the third.

John Jerry, Ole Miss, 6-5½, 328 — Fourth-year senior who didn't qualify academically and spent a year at Hargrove Military Academy in Virginia…A four-year starter who started 46 of 49 career games…Started 21 games in 2006-07 at right guard; after a coaching change, he started 21 games at right tackle and four at right guard…Was suspended twice for academic violations…Has an enormous family pedigree that has a significant Vikings connection – his brother Peria was the first-round pick of the Falcons last year and two of his cousins are former Viking Dwayne Rudd and current Viking Jamarca Sanford…Has excellent size and long arms…Has a stiff hand punch…Has a strong lower body and can hold his ground in pass protection and open holes in the run game…Has solid footwork at the second level…Had strong showings at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine…Has good burst off the snap…Is tall and allows quick defenders to get under his pads and take advantage…Has had serious problems with his weight, which has ballooned up and down…Doesn't have great stamina and has faded late in some games…Struggles with stunts and will get beat…Didn't lift at the Combine, but ran a 5.15 40 with a 27½-inch vertical jump and an 8-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: Has the bloodline to be a solid pro. Has enormous size and the potential, if coached up right, to be a very good pro. He might be on the Vikings' radar at the end of the second round, but probably won't be there when their pick comes up in the third round.

Mike Johnson, Alabama, 6-5¼, 312 — Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who started the last 41 games in his college career – the last 26 at right guard, as well as three at right guard, 10 at right tackle and two at left tackle…Has good burst off the snap and gets into defenders quickly in run blocking…Plays with good leverage…Is a smart player who is quick to read and react…Has good foot quickness to jump into a lead-block position in a running lane…Plays with some nastiness…Is a solid technician…Doesn't have elite athleticism…Has short arms for his height and has difficulty keeping defenders from getting into his body…Has trouble with speed defenders and isn't always fluid in stopping defenders when they are on the move…Doesn't always sustain blocks and ends up on the ground too often…Can get forced aside by big nose tackles…Didn't lift at the Combine because of left shoulder sprain, but ran a 5.39 40 with a 25-inch vertical jump and a 7-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: He isn't a flashy player, but he was a three-year starter for a premier college program and has started at every position except center. He isn't a dominator, but could be an intriguing prospect in the middle rounds and, given the loss of Artis Hicks to free agency, could be on the Vikings' radar in the third round if he remains on the board.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Mitch Petrus, Arkansas, 6-3, 310 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter…An outstanding high school athlete who received basketball scholarships as well as football…Aside from playing guard, played special teams, fullback and tight end…Played 2007 and 2009 at left guard and missed the 2008 season because he was academically ineligible…Has good technique in his footwork and good agility to roll and slide in protection and pull…Gets out of his stance quickly and into position…Has a mean streak and plays to the whistle…Has a good hand punch…Has the balance to get to the second level with ease…Has incredible upper-body strength (see below)…Is inconsistent in his effort and effectiveness…Doesn't have the kind of body that will be able to add much more weight and to do so would cost him his speed and agility…His strength doesn't always translate into his game…Will be lazy at times…Has a thin lower body by offensive linemen standards and will have some trouble holding his ground consistently at the next level…A raw prospect in many regards…Didn't jump at the Combine, but made a lasting impression by tying the all-time record for reps of 225 pounds with 45. PROJECTION: Petrus is still a relatively unknown commodity, but has many of the qualities that position coaches look to mold. As a result, he may get drafted higher than we have him rated, but with his learning curve, he's most likely to figure into the fourth round.

Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, 6-3, 315 — Fifth-year senior…Became a starter four games into his sophomore season and started his final 33 games…Started nine games at left guard in 2007, eight at left guard and four at right tackle in 2008, and 12 games at left tackle in 2009…A team captain…Has excellent upper-body strength…A very strong run blocker…Has a good hand punch to jolt defenders…Has good lateral movement in pass protection…Good agility was on display at the Combine…Very good when pulling to his side of the formation…Doesn't have the ideal height or frame of an NFL guard…Isn't an elite athlete…Doesn't show consistent technique and will need some coaching up…Is a stand-up blocker who doesn't blow defenders out of the lane in run blocking…Ran a 5.26 40 at the Combine with 33 reps, a 26½-inch vertical jump and an 8-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: Although he played as a tackle last year, he is a guard in the NFL. In the short term, the move likely took away from his maturation at the guard position, but he is going to be a mid-round candidate that has the potential to become a starter sooner than later. A player to watch on draft weekend.

Ciron Black, LSU, 6-4½, 327 — Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter at left tackle who set a school record by starting all 53 games of his career…Won the Jacobs Trophy in 2009, given annually to the SEC's top offensive lineman…Durability isn't a question…Played the toughest position in college football – a left tackle in the SEC…Has very good foot quickness and lateral agility…Is big and wide…Keeps his feet moving on contact…Has the speed to get to the outside and seal off lanes…Is very coachable…Has never taken the game seriously in terms of keeping his weight in check and going the extra mile in the weight room…Very inconsistent…Ends up on the ground far too often…Doesn't have the agility to get to the second level and take on linebackers…Has to re-learn a position because he doesn't scout out to be a left tackle in the NFL…Ran a 5.58 40 at the Combine with a 25½-inch vertical jump and a 7-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: Black is a victim of circumstance. He didn't look good in a lot of games because he wasn't an elite left tackle. He could grow into a near-dominant guard at the NFL level, but he also carries the perception that he could be one of those mid-round prospects that fails to live up to expectations. As such, he won't come off the board until Saturday.

Sergio Render, Virginia Tech, 6-3, 318 — Fourth-year senior…Started 52 of 54 career games…Graduated high school in 2004 in Georgia, but failed the state's high school exit exam, which kept him from going to college right away…Had arthroscopic knee surgery on his right knee after the 2006 season and left shoulder surgery after the 2008 year…Has good strength and drives into defenders…Has a nastiness to his game that coaches like…Has a good hand punch…Is good on short pulls picking up linebackers…Has long arms…Unquestioned durability…Doesn't play up to his talent level with any level of consistency…Looks worse the farther he gets away from the line of scrimmage…Slow to pick up blitzes and stunts and gets out of position too often…Isn't committed to the game to the same level as many of counterparts and has got by on talent alone…Didn't work out at the Combine. PROJECTION: Prior to the East-West Shrine Game, he was viewed as a very late-round prospect because of the reputation of not being a solid worker. But when he needed to, he stepped up. He could be a surprise pick in the fourth round, but more likely there will be enough wariness to drop him into the final two or three rounds.

Marshall Newhouse, TCU, 6-3¾, 319 — Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who started the final 38 games of his college career at left tackle…Is the cousin of former Cowboys fullback Robert Newhouse…Has good flexibility for a man his size…Plays with good leverage to seal off defenders…Tied for the fastest time in the three-cone drill at the Combine among offensive linemen, display excellent footwork…Sifts through the garbage and gets to the second level…Looks out of shape and appears as if he doesn't take care of himself…Has the rare malady of being a college tackle who doesn't have the skills to be a left tackle at the pro level and no experience at the position he is being drafted to play…Doesn't have a strong hand punch…Too often stops his feet on contact in run blocking…Doesn't have quick-twitch movements to stop stunts and blitzes…Ran a 5.00 40 at the Combine with 25 reps of 225 pounds, a 25-inch vertical jump and an 8-1 broad jump. PROJECTION: A raw talent who is learning a new position, he simply doesn't look like a dominating player. However, if he doesn't show he has more commitment to the game, he will remain on the board into the later rounds of the draft.

OTHERS TO WATCH
Zane Beadles, Utah, 6-4½, 310
Brandon Carter, Texas Tech, 6-5¾, 329
Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest, 6-3¾, 325
Dennis Landolt, Penn State, 6-4¼, 308
Alex Parsons, USC, 6-4, 309
Mike Tepper, California, 6-5½, 324


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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