Offensive guards are rarely selected in the first round of the NFL draft. However, having quality interior offensive linemen is critical when it comes to generating a surge up front in the run game, and protecting the quarterback from taking a pounding from penetrating defensive tackles.
There are a number of teams that could benefit from selecting one of the talented guards in the 2016 NFL draft. Below are five guards that are capable of making an immediate impact upon entering the NFL:
Whitehair has the skill necessary to play every position across the offensive line. He played left tackle in 2015 and did an exceptional job mirroring defenders off of the edge. He got out of his stance quickly and was able to stay in front of some of the speedier pass rushers in college football.
Whitehair will be better served playing guard at the next level which will enable him consistently win at the point of attack with his strength and technique. Whitehair does an outstanding job of rolling his hips and anchoring which makes it incredibly difficult for defenders to knock him off his axis. Whitehair’s consistency and versatility will likely earn him late first-round consideration.
Alexander is another versatile guard who has played multiple positions on the offensive lines. Alexander shed 30 pounds in order to play right tackle in 2015 and responded by grading out as a top performer on LSU’s offensive line. After losing weight, Alexander became more nimble and was able to hit moving targets at the second level of the defense with consistency.
Alexander quickly got into his pass sets and mirrored pass rushers as he utilized a wide base and demonstrate the ability to redirect and steer defensive linemen away from his quarterback. Alexander can absolutely play right tackle in a pinch at the next level, but would be better served playing guard where he can use his size and strength in a confined space.
Stanford has churned out a multitude of talented interior offensive linemen and Garnett is no different than his predecessors as he’ll likely have a long career in the NFL. Garnett played left guard in 2015 and he will likely fit well with a run-heavy team that employs a gap scheme. Garnett is well adept at pulling and hitting moving targets in space. Garnett absolutely mauls defenders at the second level and he was a big reason Christian McCaffrey enjoyed an outstanding season in 2015.
While he isn’t as versatile as the aforementioned guards, he does a very good job of driving defenders off of the ball in the run game. He also extends his arms and gets into his pass sets to wall off interior pass rushers. Garnett won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding interior offensive lineman and rightfully so. He’s a tremendous talent and he will likely hear his name called in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft.
McGovern is an underrated prospect and he will climb up draft boards the more he gets an opportunity to perform in front of NFL talent evaluators. McGovern sustained an injury at the Senior Bowl and was unable to showcase his skills in Mobile, Alabama but he certainly has the ability to play right away at the next level. McGovern played left tackle for Missouri in 2015 and held his own.
However it is clear that he is best suited to play guard or right tackle in the NFL as he does not possess the lateral agility to play left tackle at the next level. McGovern consistently kept defensive linemen at bay with his ability to get his hands on them first and gain control of them at the point of attack. Once he latched on to defenders they had a difficult time disengaging as he has weight room strength as well as functional strength. McGovern’s weight room numbers are the best in school history and it certainly shows up on the field.
While serving as Illinois’ right guard, Karras did a tremendous job of generating a surge in the run game and he absolutely washed defenders on down blocks to open creases for his running backs. Karras plays with a mean streak and takes pride in finishing blocks and taking his man out of the play. Karras also does well getting in to his pass sets and not allowing any leakage up front. Karras excelled during practices leading up to the Shrine Game in one-on-ones.
Karras exhibited quickness necessary mirror edge rushers and he also dominated when he engaged with defenders when run blocking. At Illinois Karras consistently paved the way for running back Josh Ferguson. Karras is currently thought of as a late-round prospect, but his ability to maintain blocks both in the run game and the passing game warrant greater consideration.