Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top five NFL Draft 2013 offensive guards prospects.
2013 Top 5 Offensive Guards
This year’s draft class has some of the highest quality offensive guards that have come out in recent years. Below are the five guards I rank at the top of this year’s draft class.
1. Chance Warmack (Alabama): The No. 1-rated player on my board, Warmack is the most dominant interior lineman to come out in the draft since Steve Hutchinson was drafted more than a decade ago. What initially stands out is his quickness and agility when asked to pull and trap block.
Warmack’s size and speed allow him to get out in the open and overpower linebackers. His footwork and movement skills are elite. Warmack plays with brute strength and power; he’s a player who looks to move piles and won’t back down from anyone.
In pass protection, Warmack‘s size and strength allow him to hold his point of contact. Very few times this season was he pushed back into the pocket. A powerful, explosive first punch is usually utilized, which allows him to re-set, engage and hold his ground against the rush. His quick feet allow him to move laterally with ease, and he’s always looking to finish off blocks.
A three-year starter in the SEC, with over 45 games played against the nation’s top talent, Warmack is ready for the NFL. He can play right away and will be a starter for the next 10-12 years if he can stay healthy.
2. Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina): A finalist for the Outland Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top offensive lineman, Cooper had 48 career starts in college. He’s an experienced, elite guard who possesses an elite skill set.
A massive and powerful run blocker who quickly earned the label of a road grader, he still possesses the agility and quickness usually seen in top level offensive tackles. He moves very well both left and right and looks comfortable both in space and in traffic. He makes an easy transition to the second and third level, routinely overpowering linebackers with little effort.
A former high school wrestler, Cooper understands leverage; he can pass protect exceptionally well. He shows above-average quickness in getting in and out of his sets. He works very hard to sustain his block once he has engaged and looks to finish his plays, as evidenced by his double-digit takedowns each game this season.
3. Larry Warford (Kentucky): A massive guard at 6’3” and 332 lbs, he can hold his ground against the nation’s biggest defensive interior linemen. His broad shoulders and frame make it almost impossible for any defensive tackle to push him back into the pocket.
In 47 career games played at Kentucky, Warford was a dominant force, not allowing a single sack in 2012. Warford held one of the most talked about defensive tackles in this year’s class, Sharrif Floyd, to only three tackles and no sacks, TFL or QB hurries. What an impressive performance against a highly touted prospect.
Possessing average mobility, he has the agility to get outside and become the lead blocker teams are looking for. He’s better suited for a man-to-man blocking scheme rather than a zone-based scheme. He is physical and aggressive, a player who competes through the whistle.
Some teams are worried about Warford’s size. If he gains too much weight, it will limit his speed. If he can watch his weight and refine some technique issues in pass protection, he could end up being a steal of a player if selected in the second or third round.
4. Justin Pugh (Syracuse): A three-year starter at left tackle and leader of the offensive line, Pugh—along with his teammates—gave up only 14 sacks all season, just one for every 32.1 pass attempts. With nimble feet and an impressively strong punch, Pugh has positioned himself to be among the top five or six offensive guards in this year’s draft class.
It became evident at the Senior Bowl that he doesn’t have the speed and quickness to handle the outside speed rushers in the NFL, but he has the strength and power to handle an interior defensive lineman. He has put on weight, jumping from 290 at the end of the season to 309 at the NFL Combine, showing teams that he is ready for the transition from outside to inside.
Though he doesn’t have the speed to handle outside pass rushers, Pugh does have the ability and agility to get out in the open and pick up blocks. Once he gets some experience and teaching, he will be a good blocker who can get outside. He has good balance and body control, doesn’t get pushed back and will routinely move his man into the open field.
Pugh reminds me of current Denver Broncos offensive guard Zane Beadles, who also converted over from left tackle in college to guard in the NFL. Pugh is a smart, instinctive player who could give an NFL team flexibility.
5. Brian Winters (Kent State): Winters set a Kent State school record by starting 50 straight games. He is an overpowering blocker with the ideal mentality for the trenches in the NFL. As a four-year starter (one at RT, three at LT), Winters will most likely slide inside to a guard position in the NFL.
An efficient and physical blocker with a good first step, Winters possesses quickness and agility we’re not used to seeing in a man of his size (6’4”, 320 lbs). He’s not a natural knee bender, typically overpowering opponents with his strength rather than using leverage. He can get away with this playing against lower-level talent, but it could be an issue that he will have to correct when playing inside against the more talented bull rushers at the next level.
With above-average overall awareness, he displays particularly good awareness and understanding towards blocking angles and assignments as a second-level blocker. He is a player who will need time to develop, but he has a track record of competing and not spending a lot of time in the training room. He is similar to current Tennessee Titan Andy Levitre.