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B/R NFL 1,000: Top 32 Left Guards

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 15, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 32 Left Guards

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    What does it take to be the guy lining up between the highest paid member (left tackle) and leader (center) of the offensive line? A heck of a lot more than people think.

    Playing left guard means being quick enough to set up in pass protection—as you are a help protector for the left tackle. It also means being a pulling guard, as most teams run to the right in the NFL the left guard is asked to kick around and lead block. Being a left guard means being well-rounded. The best players can do it all.

    Who are the best at the position right now?

    To find out, we've determined what makes up a great guard and how well each 2011 starter represents those traits. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The new series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year or even who has the most potential. Rather, players—in this case, left guards—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only. 

    After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 32 left guards have been scored in 10 criteria (here's more on the criteria). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

32. Will Rackley, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    6

    An average athlete with good lateral agility but not elite quickness. Has decent burst out of his stance and good enough balance. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    1

    Has the size and quickness to be great in this area but misses on blocks and can give up the inside shoulder too often with poor timing and poor angles.

    Pass Block, Power

    1

    Lacks awareness and often fails to recover and reset to battle second and third moves. Is not strong enough to sit and stop pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    1

    Lacks the strength and angles to attack a defender in one-on-one situations. He does not have the hip flexibility to roll through blocks.

    Move in Space

    4

    Has the basic athleticism to get to the second level. Can struggle in screen packages to get free of traffic and locate defenders.

    Pull/Trap

    4

    Does well to come off the ball and take a 45-degree step to open up zones, but fails to initiate contact when in space. Poor leverage and strength in the open field.

    Strength

    6

    Above-average strength but can be pushed out of the way if he doesn’t get set fast enough. Struggles in the run game to open holes when blocking alone.

    Technique

    3

    Must do a better job keeping his hands inside the frame and chopping his feet. In the run game he has to dominate angles and learn better technique to roll through defenders. Initial contact is good; follow-through is not.

    Size

    10

    Rackley has ideal size for the position at 6'3", 310 lbs.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game due to injury during 2011 season.

    Overall

    45

    Rackley has potential, and he's still very young. The Jaguars will ask the second-year player to add strength, especially in his lower body, as they prepare for the 2012 season.

31. Zane Beadles, Denver Broncos

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    Agility

    7

    A very good athlete who is light on his feet, Beadles is athletically a great fit for the zone blocking scheme.

    Pass Block, Speed

    3

    Struggles to meet speed-rushers and will be caught out of position. Too often overextends and is beat with a double move.

    Pass Block, Power

    1

    Allowed seven quarterback sacks and 36 pressures by himself this year. Is not a quality pass-protector.

    Run Blocking

    1

    Does not have the strength to move defenders out of the hole. Will take a good angle step and then go through the zone without making contact.

    Move in Space

    4

    Below average in space. Has the agility to move laterally with elite balance, quickness or control but doesn’t make contact well on the move.

    Pull/Trap

    4

    Is not a player you want working on the move. Struggles to maintain balance and will often miss when blocking on the run.

    Strength

    5

    Average strength when facing a defender, and struggles to drive block. Does not keep his feet moving throughout the play.

    Technique

    5

    Struggles to seal on the second level and doesn’t come off the line with much power or burst. Poor hand placement and overall technique.

    Size

    10

    Good overall size at 6’4”, 305 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game during 2011 season.

    Overall

    50

    Beadles benefits from playing in a triple-option scheme that doesn’t need great blockers, and also from an offense where the running back had more than half his yards after first contact. When you isolate Beadles and watch him play, it’s not pretty.

30. Chris Williams, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    4

    A little stiff in his movements and isn't as crisp as you'd like moving from guard.

    Pass Block, Speed

    5

    Struggles to recognize and adjust to stunts and twists, as he’s not athletic enough to pick up changes. Has a good initial punch, with good length.

    Pass Block, Power

    5

    Has the strength to take on a bull rush, but can be beaten with a strong swim move. Needs to get set faster and show better leverage.

    Run Blocking

    2.5

    Fails to drive the defender off the ball, even with very good strength. He’s a liability on stretch plays and cannot adequately get to the second level to seal a block.

    Move in Space

    3

    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Doesn’t always use correct angles in short areas.

    Pull/Trap

    3

    Limited athlete who fails to get around end on time. Can be wild and off balance. Misses often on the move. Lacks experience to be a factor here.

    Strength

    8

    He has good lower-body power, with the ability to be a true anchor against a pass rush.

    Technique

    5

    Has clean hand placement, but takes poor angles to the defender. Loops around too often. Needs to play lower.

    Size

    10

    Built like a brick wall at 6’6”, 315 lbs.

    Health

    6

    Williams missed seven games in 2011.

    Overall

    51.5

    A former first-round draft pick, Williams has battled injuries throughout his young career. When healthy he shows flashes of being a solid starter, but those instances have been few and far between.

29. Joe Reitz, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    5

    An average athlete with good lateral agility but not elite quickness. Has decent burst out of his stance and good enough balance. Has the flexibility of a tackle, not a guard.

    Pass Block, Speed

    5

    Has the size and quickness to be great in this area but misses on blocks and can give up the inside shoulder too often with poor timing and poor angles.

    Pass Block, Power

    6

    Handled 5-technique defensive ends—those lining up on his outside shoulder—better than players inside closer to the ball, in a 0-technique.

    Run Blocking

    5

    Really struggles at guard to keep his backside low and his weight balanced. Does not have the hips to roll through defenders. Too often gets caught standing up.

    Move in Space

    5

    Limited ability to get to the second level, toward the defensive backfield. Is average at attacking angles and clearing space. Not a factor on screen packages.

    Pull/Trap

    5

    Doesn't move well laterally. An in-the-box guard who shouldn't be asked to pull or trap. Moves without great agility.

    Strength

    6

    Has good strength, but is somewhat limited by his size. Could have gained strength or added bulk.

    Technique

    5

    Comes out high and will get blown over by rushers because he's not set to mirror or slide. Poor hips and knees.

    Size

    9

    Has exceptional height, but poor bulk at 6’7” and 270 lbs.

    Health

    6

    Missed six games due to injury during 2011 season.

    Overall

    57

    Reitz is a solid wave player but not someone the Colts should rely on as a long-term solution at guard. He may be asked to gain weight and move to tackle.

28. Jason Pinkston, Cleveland Browns

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    Agility

    5.5

    Has the ability to stay in control but will lunge into his blocks. He's quick off the ball. An average athlete.

    Pass Block, Speed

    4

    Was exploited by teams crossing his face with a tackle and bringing in a second rusher after the fact. Will improve, but has to better see the play and defenders.

    Pass Block, Power

    4.5

    Can stand up and fight in a double-team, and is able to pin defenders. Has to backpedal better and has difficulties dipping his hips to contain the bull rush.

    Run Blocking

    0.5

    Pinkston’s move to guard didn’t go well in the run game. He played high, missed assignments and was otherwise tossed around by defenders.

    Move in Space

    5.5

    Limited ability to get to the second level, toward the defensive backfield. Is average at attacking angles and clearing space. Not a factor on screen packages.

    Pull/Trap

    5.5

    Doesn't move well laterally. An in-the-box guard who shouldn't be asked to pull or trap.

    Strength

    7

    Strong enough to push defenders off the ball, Pinkston uses his lower body strength to move the pile.

    Technique

    5.5

    Very raw technician, but you see flashes. A college tackle who made a transition to the inside after a lockout-shortened offseason.

    Size

    10

    Has great build at 6’3” and 320 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in his rookie season.

    Overall

    58

    Pinkston was one of many rookies affected by the lockout this year, as he made a position change from tackle to guard. There is talent here, and Pinkston should develop nicely.

27. Robert Gallery, Free Agent

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    Agility

    6

    Average overall agility. Struggles to slide laterally and can be very stiff. Doesn't possess great body control or quickness.

    Pass Block, Speed

    4

    Can get caught up if given a hard inside-out move or stunt. Doesn’t adjust well and will overextend.

    Pass Block, Power

    6

    Has great strength, and is strong enough to pin defenders when they try to bull rush him. Inconsistent. He can improve his footwork as well as hand placement.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    His pad level is a big concern, as Gallery’s frame doesn’t allow him to get low on defenders off the ball. Doesn’t show good awareness to turn defenders and let backs clear the hole.

    Move in Space

    4

    Overextends when trying to work the screen. Not the type who can be counted on to neutralize linebackers in the second level.

    Pull/Trap

    4

    Average at leading on tosses and would rather be used coming back to wham a defender crashing the backfield on traps.  

    Strength

    10

    Has rare strength, but it doesn’t always show up on film. If he gets a hold of a defender, he will dominate the play.

    Technique

    3

    In 12 games, Gallery was flagged nine times.

    Size

    10

    Otherworldly size. Gallery is 6’7” and weighs 325 lbs.

    Health

    8

    Missed four games with injury in early 2011.

    Overall

    58.5

    A former top draft pick, Gallery has amazing strength but has long been plagued by penalties and mistakes in assignments.

26. Jacob Bell, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    5.5

    Average overall agility. Struggles to slide laterally and can be very stiff. Doesn't possess great body control or quickness.

    Pass Block, Speed

    5

    Has the size and quickness to be great in this area but misses on blocks and can give up the inside shoulder too often with poor timing and poor angles.

    Pass Block, Power

    5

    Doesn't have great strength, but is strong enough to pin defenders when they try to bull rush him. Inconsistent. He can improve his footwork as well as hand placement.

    Run Blocking

    2.5

    Bell’s play Week 8 through 13 (before injury) was a poor stretch of run blocking and penalties. He’s not making first contact, and often lets defenders slip past him.

    Move in Space

    5

    Shows good range on pass protection. Doesn’t attack or initiate contact at the second level.

    Pull/Trap

    5

    Limited ability as a blocker on the move. He has the quickness to get out in space and very good agility, but he doesn't see the field well and can be a liability when pulling.

    Strength

    7.5

    Can rely too much on strength and his reach, failing to properly position himself at the corner. Will overextend at times. Does a good job chopping his feet and sliding within one to two yards of space to mirror defenders.

    Technique

    5

    Picks up flags in chunks. Popped five times in 2011. Defenders get up under his pads and he latches on.

    Size

    10

    Great height (6’5”) and solid bulk at 300 lbs.

    Health

    8

    Missed four games with injury during 2011 season.

    Overall

    58.5

    Bell can be very good in protecting the quarterback, but doesn’t open up lanes in the run game. He has to learn to play with his butt down and use his strength to push defenders.

25. Nate Livings, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    4

    A limited athlete with below-average ability to slide laterally. Livings doesn't adjust well on the move and is slow to reset himself out of his stance.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Has the length, quick hands and footwork to be very good against speed-rushers. Could improve awareness. A good tandem-blocker.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Livings is quick enough to snap power-rushers out of their stance with a quick punch off the ball.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Livings improved over the season, but his Week 5 outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars showed his inability to push the pile or even cut block.

    Move in Space

    5

    Has big, long legs and can eat up space with his gait. Average quickness.

    Pull/Trap

    5

    Does a nice job working down the line. Has a quick and balanced slide step. Needs to improve striking on the move.

    Strength

    6.5

    Good strength with a strong base. Doesn't grade as high as others due to the lack of strength in driving off the ball.

    Technique

    3.5

    Needs refined hand placement when run blocking. Seven penalties in 2011 were result of getting too far outside the frame of the defender.

    Size

    10

    Has the size of a starter. Livings is 6’4”, 310 lbs.

    Health

    10

    A 16-game starter for the Bengals in 2011.

    Overall

    61

    Livings’ inability in the run game hides a pretty solid pass-blocker. His struggles to adapt to speed crossing his face is a concern for whichever team signs him in 2012.

24. Daryn Colledge, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    6

    A good overall athlete, Colledge is a little stiff in his movements and isn't as crisp as you'd like moving from guard.

    Pass Block, Speed

    3

    Lacks the quickness or awareness to adjust to blitzes. Teams came at Colledge hard with delayed blitzers.

    Pass Block, Power

    3

    Was beat up by the Cowboys and 49ers this year, as he failed to set his feet and dig in against power moves.

    Run Blocking

    7

    His pad level isn't always right, but has the quickness to get out in front of the play. Would score much higher here if more consistent.

    Move in Space

    6

    Can quickly get to the corner. Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Can get out and lead on sweeps and tosses, reaching linebackers. Can handle the backside of a play, too.

    Strength

    7

    Good strength with a strong base and the proper bulk. He doesn't show great field strength when locking on with defenders.

    Technique

    4

    Misses assignments due to a lack of awareness. Will catch and hold often, resulting in five penalties.

    Size

    10

    Has an ideal build at 6’4”, 300 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game during 2011 season.

    Overall

    62

    A player living off his name recognition, Colledge is among the more overrated players in the game. His inability to seal and secure against pass-rushers makes him a liability. Could be helped with better tackle play, as he could then be hidden inside.

23. Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    5

    Has a quick initial step to create movement off the snap but average in-line kick slide to mirror the bull-rushers at the line of scrimmage.

    Pass Block, Speed

    6

    Struggled against defenses where he had to extend to reach the defensive tackle. Struggles to recognize and adjust to stunts and twists, as he’s not athletic enough to pick up changes.

    Pass Block, Power

    6

    Has the strength to take on a bull rush, but can be beaten with a strong swim move. Needs to get set faster and show better leverage.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    Was exposed against teams running a 4-3 defense, as he struggled to attack the angle and wash defenders out of the play.

    Move in Space

    3

    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Doesn’t always use correct angles in short areas.

    Pull/Trap

    3

    Limited athlete who fails to get around end on time. Can be wild and off balance. Misses often on the move.

    Strength

    10

    He has elite lower-body power and is a true anchor against a pass rush. Rare power.

    Technique

    6

    Plays out of control, which causes penalties and missed assignments.

    Size

    10

    Has a solid build at 6’3”, 305 lbs.

    Health

    9

    Missed just one game due to injury during 2011 season.

    Overall

    62.5

    Incognito has long been a player who, when under control, can be great. The trouble is he will flash between technician and madman at any time.

22. Edwin Williams, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    5

    Good initial burst but lacks the elite agility or balance to see a higher score.  

    Pass Block, Speed

    6

    Struggled against defenses where he had to extend to reach the defensive tackle. Works well in a combination, but doesn't reach well due to average experience and technique.

    Pass Block, Power

    6.5

    Williams improved in this area over the course of the year. Showed good awareness and the strength to chip with the center and then look to locate blitzers.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Can be dominant at the point of attack if he learns to keep his legs driving and maintains good hand placement. Became much better throughout the year.

    Move in Space

    4

    Struggles to get out in the open field and engage moving targets. Good, not great, speed to get to the second level.

    Pull/Trap

    4

    Doesn't play great under his pads. Can eat up ground with big steps, but lacks the leverage or lower-body strength to lock on.

    Strength

    7.5

    Has good strength at the point of attack. Works better in a “phone booth” where he doesn’t have to extend.

    Technique

    6.5

    Gets in trouble with penalties when defenders get him turned, as he’ll reach and grab too often. Otherwise solid.

    Size

    9

    A bit small at only 6’2”, but has a solid frame at 315 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss time due to injury in 2011.

    Overall

    62.5

    Williams became a starter in Week 11, playing well enough down the stretch to figure into the Bears’ plans in 2012 and beyond.

21. Travelle Wharton, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    6

    Has a quick initial step off the snap but average in-line kick slide to mirror the bull rushers at the line of scrimmage. 

    Pass Block, Speed

    4.5

    Gave up sacks early in the year to teams with fast-charging defensive tackles. Must become more comfortable with line calls and use his length better.

    Pass Block, Power

    5

    Can set his feet and stand his ground against power moves. Has quick feet to interrupt power moves. Struggles with raw strength. Can be bull rushed.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Gets way too high in his stance and doesn't overpower tacklers when out of position. Does a good job attacking second level.

    Move in Space

    5

    Needs to stay lower when moving. Would like to see him move better and with more control on sweeps and screen plays. 

    Pull/Trap

    5

    Struggles locating a moving linebacker when working in space. Comes out as average. 

    Strength

    5

    Fails to get leverage and can be handled by a defender who attacks his body. Played too high.

    Technique

    6

    Gets a little high and a little too far outside with his hand placement at times. Would like to see better awareness on the edge.

    Size

    10

    Has the size NFL general managers love at 6’4”, 312 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games, including one at left tackle.

    Overall

    63

    Wharton was a starter, but the Panthers released him when free agency kicked off. He could be a quality starter for a team who is willing to invest in a player who needs to be coached up.

20. David Diehl, New York Giants

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    Agility

    7

    Is a good overall athlete, but doesn't show great flexibility. Is much better moving forward than side-to-side.

    Pass Block, Speed

    3.5

    Has the size and quickness to be great in this area, but he misses on blocks and can give up the edge too often with poor timing and poor angles.

    Pass Block, Power

    3.5

    Doesn't have the strength to overcome a strong double move. Will stand up out of his stance, letting more powerful players drive him off the ball.

    Run Blocking

    4

    His pad level isn't always right, but has the quickness to get out in front of the play. Would score much higher here if more consistent at the point of attack.

    Move in Space

    6

    Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage. Has played tackle as well as guard.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Good enough quickness, but can get caught off balance and doesn’t run with low center of gravity needed to pop defenders.

    Strength

    7

    Good strength with a strong base and the proper bulk. He doesn't show great field strength when locking on with defenders.

    Technique

    7

    Only six penalties in 20 games, Diehl’s issues with flags came after moving to tackle.

    Size

    10

    Built like a tackle at 6’6”, 315 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started 20 games in 2011 at either guard or tackle.

    Overall

    64

    A versatile player who moved to left tackle after injuries in 2011, Diehl is much better on the inside at guard. He lacks the quickness and strength to be an impact on the edge.

19. Ryan Lilja, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Agility

    6

    Struggles to move laterally and is just average here. A good athlete who benefits from a light playing weight.

    Pass Block, Speed

    6

    Was susceptible to teams blitzing through the A/B gaps, as he struggled to adjust to inside rushes. Needs to be more aware and alert.

    Pass Block, Power

    6

    Can stand up and fight in a double-team, and is able to pin defenders. Has to backpedal better and has difficulties dipping his hips to contain the bull rush.

    Run Blocking

    5

    Fails to make contact consistently. Will get caught up in traffic. Doesn’t have the size or strength to move nose tackles out of the hole.

    Move in Space

    6

    Shows good range on pass protection. Can quickly get to the corner. Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    He has the quickness to get out in space and very good agility, but he doesn't see the field well and can be a liability when pulling.

    Strength

    7

    Knows how to use his strength in run and pass blocking. Can be a physical presence inside, especially when he’s helping on double-teams.

    Technique

    7

    Very rarely penalized, Lilja has very good hand placement and doesn’t let defenders turn his shoulders.

    Size

    8

    Undersized at 6’2”, 285 lbs.

    Health

    9

    Missed Week 12 with injury, starting 15 games.

    Overall

    66

    Lilja had an up-and-down season, but his late-season play was much improved as the offense settled down. He may be challenged by a free agent or rookie in 2012.

18. Mike Pollak, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    6.5

    Decent agility seems to come and go. Has played left and right guard but should stick to the left side long-term.

    Pass Block, Speed

    6.5

    Speed-rushers in Baltimore gave him trouble, showing a lack of awareness and exposure to the defense.

    Pass Block, Power

    5

    Lacks elite strength to stand up against a pass rush. Did only allow one sack during spot play in 2011 season.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    Struggled to snap off the line in Colts’ stretch run game. Doesn’t adapt well to changes. Lacks strength at point of attack.

    Move in Space

    6

    Good enough agility and has nice balance in the open field, but lacks impact when he gets to the second level. Did look above average in screen packages.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Quick enough out of the gate but has low success rate hitting defenders while on the move.

    Strength

    7

    Good pop when his feet are set. Pollak can struggle with upper-body strength on the field.

    Technique

    5

    Poor hand placement results not in penalties, but in missed blocks. Has proper knee bend to gain position, anchor and sustain.

    Size

    10

    Great size for the zone blocking scheme. He’s 300 lbs and 6’4”.

    Health

    10

    Banged up a few times during season, but did not miss time due to injury.

    Overall

    66.5

    Pollak bounced back and forth between left and right guard but ended the season as the team’s starter on the left side. He has talent to develop, but needs experience and consistency.

17. Wade Smith, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    7

    Agile enough to be a starter in the Texans’ zone blocking scheme. Has the quick feet to extend to the next level.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Outside of his Week 5 performance against Oakland, Smith was very solid. In that game he allowed two sacks and five quarterback pressures.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Does a very good job helping the center or left tackle in tandem blocking. Has the length to extend off the ball.

    Run Blocking

    0

    Fails to open the door as a run-blocker. Doesn’t get off the line well to seal off holes. Lacks elite strength when on the move.

    Move in Space

    7

    Struggles with footwork and execution. Has enough agility to play on the move, and can help extend the pocket.

    Pull/Trap

    6.5

    Only average moving laterally and as an athlete—a good but not great fit in the zone blocking scheme.

    Strength

    7.5

    Can be a physical presence inside, especially when he’s helping on double-teams.

    Technique

    5

    Inability to latch on and roll through blockers hinders his ability in the run game. Doesn’t have the tools to redirect players. Takes poor angles.

    Size

    10

    Has ideal size at 6’4”, 320 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game during 2011 season.

    Overall

    67

    The weak link in the Houston offensive line, Smith fails to execute in the run game. He’s not strong enough at the point of attack and seems to try to get in the way rather than drive defenders away from the ball.

16. Matt Slauson, New York Jets

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    Agility

    5

    An average athlete with good lateral agility but not elite quickness. Has decent burst out of his stance and good enough balance. Has the flexibility of a tackle, not a guard.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Was susceptible to teams blitzing through the A/B gaps, as he struggled to adjust to inside rushes.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Can stand up and fight in a double-team, and is able to pin defenders. Has to backpedal better and has difficulties dipping his hips to contain the bull rush.

    Run Blocking

    4

    His pad level isn't always right, but has the quickness to get out in front of the play. Would score much higher here if more consistent.

    Move in Space

    6.5

    Overextends when trying to work the screen. Not the type who can be counted on to neutralize linebackers in the second level.

    Pull/Trap

    5.5

    Average at leading on tosses and would rather be used coming back to wham a defender crashing the backfield on traps.  

    Strength

    8

    Has above-average strength for the position with no major flaws in pass protection. Doesn’t fire off low enough to generate a push in run schemes.

    Technique

    4

    Penalized just three times, but poor technique led to failures in the run game and his allowing four sacks and 13 pressures.

    Size

    10

    Ideal build at 6’5”, 315 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game during 2011 season.

    Overall

    67

    A solid player for the New York Jets’ interior, Slauson could be much better if his technique was more consistent. He’s strong enough and agile enough to dominate.

15. Kris Dielman, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    5.5

    Limited athleticism and agility. Dielman is stiff at the knees and more of a waist-bender. Shows very good body control and awareness.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Has the size and quickness to be great in this area, but he misses on blocks and can give up the edge too often with poor timing and poor angles.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Has the base to stand up power-rushers who try to go through him. Doesn't have the strength to overcome a strong double move.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    His pad level isn't always right, but has the quickness to get out in front of the play. Would score much higher here if more consistent.

    Move in Space

    6

    Has the lateral agility to get out front on traps and pulls. Gets moving and can run behind his momentum.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Shows great quickness and flexibility in his hips to come off the line and change direction.

    Strength

    8

    Shows much better strength in the passing game. His strength moving inside is good, but when asked to punch and redirect he's weak.

    Technique

    9

    A very good technician, Dielman’s hand placement was consistent and powerful at first punch.

    Size

    10

    A great build at 6’3” and 310 lbs.

    Health

    5

    Missed 10 games due to injury during 2011 season.

    Overall

    68

    Dielman recently retired due to injury issues. Based on his 2011 season, when healthy, he was a top-level guard.

14. Jeremy Zuttah, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

20 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Has above-average lateral agility and quickness off the ball. Snaps up quickly and shows good balance with a quick first reaction. Can also play center.

    Pass Block, Speed

    5

    Has a good anchor but doesn't always handle a nose tackle on his own. A good help-blocker or combo player. Does much better closing his zone to linebackers.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Effective widening and maintaining the rush lanes working between the tackles. Has the strength to drive the defender off the ball and wall off lanes.

    Run Blocking

    6

    Would score much higher here if more consistent. He keeps his feet churning through blocks. He shows good pad level, smart leverage and the quickness to get out in front of the play.

    Move in Space

    6

    Does a good job getting out in front of screens and tosses. Has great vision and knows where to be on the field.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Misses when asked to reach linebackers. At his best coming back on traps.

    Strength

    7.5

    Good strength with a strong base. Not a weakness.

    Technique

    5

    Has quick hands and solid reflexes. A natural knee-bender who must improve his hand placement and his balance when taking kick steps. Poor angles result in too many penalties.

    Size

    10

    Ideal build at 6’4”, 303 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Played guard and center without issue in 2011.

    Overall

    68.5

    A solid utility-type player, Zuttah has the ability to play left guard—where he lined up most in 2011—but is likely to move to center in 2012. He’s a valuable part of the Tampa line, and their best interior lineman.

13. Montrae Holland, Dallas Cowboys

21 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Shows very good body control and awareness. Above-average athleticism and agility.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7.5

    Has the strength and quickness to be great in this area, but flubs blocks and gives up the edge too often. Room for improvement with more reps and experience.

    Pass Block, Power

    7.5

    Is strong enough to punch and dump defenders when they try to bull rush him. Better positioning and patience in defending secondary moves will move his score up.

    Run Blocking

    7

    His pad level isn't always right, but has the quickness to get out in front of the play. Would score much higher here if more consistent.

    Move in Space

    5.5

    Can stumble getting to the corner. Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage.

    Pull/Trap

    6.5

    Will stretch and get to linebackers. Can get out and lead on sweeps and tosses. Does a good job walling off defenders on the backside of the play.

    Strength

    8

    Very strong-legged and able to control the gap at the point of attack.

    Technique

    6

    Struggles to drive his feet and roll through defenders. Five penalties in just 10 games.

    Size

    8

    Ideal size at 322 lbs, but short-armed at only 6’1”.

    Health

    7

    Missed first six games of the year with injury.

    Overall

    69

    Holland would be rated higher if not for six missed games during 2011 season. He’s powerful enough at the point of attack to lead block and seal defenders on the backside.

12. Rob Sims, Detroit Lions

22 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Has the ability to stay in control but will lunge into his blocks. He's quick off the ball. An average athlete.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Has the quickness to keep up with speed-rushers, but doesn't always finish with good technique. Does a nice job of sustaining his block.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Has a good anchor but doesn't always handle a nose tackle on his own. A good help-blocker or combo player. Does much better closing his zone to linebackers.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Effective widening and maintaining the rush lanes working between the tackles. Doesn’t always show the strength to drive the defender off the ball and wall off lanes.

    Move in Space

    5

    Can quickly get to the corner. Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage.

    Pull/Trap

    5

    Can get out and lead on sweeps and tosses, reaching linebackers. Can handle the backside of a play, too.

    Strength

    8

    Good strength with a strong base and the proper bulk. He doesn't show great field strength when locking on with defenders.

    Technique

    8

    Rarely penalized. Shows a very consistent punch, with good hand placement inside the frame. Could be better at rolling through blocks.

    Size

    10

    Very good size—6’3”, 310 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Sims started every game during 2011 season.

    Overall

    70

    Sims is a quiet starter, but a very dependable player. His pass-blocking skills helped pave the way for a 5,000-yard passing season from Matthew Stafford.

11. Justin Blalock, Atlanta Falcons

23 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    A solid athlete with good burst, Blalock can lose his balance and doesn’t always play with great pad level.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    Blalock does well adjusting to the pass rush, keeping his feet balanced and chopping to maintain his positioning. Can be beat when he overextends outside.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Very good in tandem blocking, Blalock’s inside shoulder when in one-on-one blocks can be weak.

    Run Blocking

    2

    Does not move the pile very well, failing to initiate contact and drive through defenders. Has the agility for a zone scheme, but often misses his man.

    Move in Space

    7

    A sound athlete with good quickness and burst, Blalock is able to extend and get to the second level without issue.

    Pull/Trap

    7

    Is used on pull and stretch plays and will lock on and drive. Has the agility to be used pulling both right and left. Good vision.

    Strength

    7

    Grades out very well when asked to lock down as a pass-protector. Weak inside shoulder leads to sacks and penetration.

    Technique

    8

    He's very quick out of his stance and does a great job moving forward to push the pile. Has consistent hand placement. Could do a better job playing under control.

    Size

    10

    Very solid frame, with a thick body. He’s 6’3”, 330 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games during 2011 season.

    Overall

    71

    Blalock is a very solid guard, but his struggles in run blocking hurt his overall score. Blalock was harmed by a change at left tackle, but playing next to one of the best centers in the NFL (Todd McClure), he should grade better.

10. Stefen Wisniewski, Oakland Raiders

24 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Is more of an athlete than road grader at this point. Has good lateral quickness or agility. Needs to improve footwork and balance.

    Pass Block, Speed

    6

    Can struggle getting set up in space due to lack of experience. He is much better working in tight spaces.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Works very well in a window and gets the knee bend and leverage to handle power-rushers and inside blitzes.

    Run Blocking

    4

    A good pulling blocker who can make impact on the move. Could stand to improve his timing and leverage. Needs to get much better at locking on and occupying the defender.

    Move in Space

    7

    Has elite athletic ability, but he needs to take smarter angles. Has good vision when moving off the line or getting into the second level on blocks.

    Pull/Trap

    7

    Can get out in front of the play and has plus strength to lock on and drive defenders out of the box or to the sideline.

    Strength

    8.5

    Good strength with a strong base. Will grade higher than others once he learns to drive off the ball.

    Technique

    5

    Needs refined hand placement when run blocking. Still learning the game after lockout-shortened rookie season.

    Size

    10

    An impressive physique at 6’3”, 315 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011 season.

    Overall

    72.5

    Wisniewski played both guard and center in his rookie season, but his future is at left guard. His strength and burst off the line can, and will, improve. His ability in pass protection is already far above that of other rookies.

9. T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers

25 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Is a good overall athlete, but doesn't show great flexibility. Is very quick and light on his feet, but has stiff hips and can stumble to get to the edge.

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Plays with a mean streak and isn't always under control and balanced. Can improve in this area with more body control and better hand placement and technique.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Works well in tight spaces against power-rushers. Is much more comfortable working in close quarters than in space.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Struggled mightily against St. Louis, Minnesota and the Giants during the regular season. Doesn’t wall off defenders and can get blown off the ball.

    Move in Space

    6

    Does a good job clearing out at the first level and then looking to get downfield. Is used on a number of plays that ask him to block in space.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Will lunge too often and reach for blocks instead of adjusting his body to drive through players.

    Strength

    8

    Is strong enough to stop defenders in their tracks and can get dirty in the run game by pancaking defenders off the ball.  

    Technique

    6

    Seven penalties in 2011 were far too many, but he does a nice job getting low in his stance and punching at defenders. Loose hips.

    Size

    10

    Very good size, Lang has ideal length at 6’4” and 307 lbs.

    Health

    10

    No injuries during 2011 season.

    Overall

    73

    A plus blocker at every level, Lang does a good job in the Packers’ stretch scheme. He’s agile, strong on the move and a smart blocker able to make changes to diagnose the play.

8. Leroy Harris, Tennessee Titans

26 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Struggles to slide laterally and can be very stiff. Has very good body control and enough quickness.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7.5

    Looked good in pass sets when blocking down with the center, but struggled to adapt at times to speed-rushers.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    Has the strength and solid base to sit down on the edge and hold his own against power-rushers. Plays with good balance and power to thwart rushers.

    Run Blocking

    7

    Is able to move the pile. Harris fires off with solid burst and has good pad level when moving through defenders and to the second level.

    Move in Space

    6

    Shows good range on pass protection. Can quickly get to the corner. Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Doesn't have the footwork to be effective consistently in space. Will lunge too often and reach for blocks instead of adjusting his body to drive through players.

    Strength

    8

    Fundamentally strong with a wide frame and solid base.

    Technique

    8

    Flagged once per game the first three weeks of the season, Harris settled down and worked on his hand placement. He has the hips to roll through blocks and the strength to anchor at the knees.

    Size

    9

    Undersized at 6’2”, 298 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011.

    Overall

    74.5

    Harris isn’t loved by all Titans fans, but he’s better than given credit for. Harris’ all-around game is enough to open door for his running backs, and he’s no liability in the passing game.

7. Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings

27 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    His footwork, from speed to balance, is perfect, but he has aged and his agility has regressed as such.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7

    He has big, strong hands and can redirect or mirror speed-rushers with quick, choppy feet. Can get beat with a delayed blitz from a hard-charging linebacker.

    Pass Block, Power

    7

    He's big, strong and impossible to move once he locks on but has seen his initial punch weaken over time. Still very hard to move.

    Run Blocking

    5.5

    Struggled to open holes and get the right leverage and hand placement to allow lanes. Doesn’t extend well to the outside.

    Move in Space

    6

    Does a good job clearing out at the first level and then looking to get downfield. Doesn’t have the agility to be a factor on the second level.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Doesn’t have the agility to be a major player here, but it’s good enough for the few times he’ll probably be asked to pull or trap.

    Strength

    9

    Fundamentally strong with a wide frame and solid base.

    Technique

    10

    Rarely flagged, Hutchinson’s hand placement is textbook. He has a solid base, with a quick and balanced foot slide. Young guards should take notice.

    Size

    10

    Ideal build for the position. Hutchinson is 6’5” and 313 lbs.

    Health

    8

    Missed Weeks 16 and 17 with injury.

    Overall

    74.5

    A future Hall of Fame player, Hutchinson’s play regressed in 2011 but was still good enough that he comes out with positive grades at every level.

6. Logan Mankins, New England Patriots

28 of 33

     

    Agility

    6

    Can be heavy-footed, but has very good burst and balance. Is a good all-around athlete.

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Can get beat to the inside but has good recovery speed and is smart enough to take the right angles to give himself an advantage.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Is great eight times out of 10, but can struggle with stunts and will be beaten inside by tackles at times. Has a soft inside shoulder.

    Run Blocking

    6

    Regressed in 2011, failing to open holes and get the right leverage and hand placement to allow lanes.

    Move in Space

    6

    Doesn’t have the agility to be a dangerous factor on the second level. Does a good job finding openings and locating defenders in space.

    Pull/Trap

    6

    Powerful at the point of attack, but will lunge too often and reach for blocks instead of adjusting his body to drive through players.

    Strength

    9

    Mankins is among the strongest players on the field at his position. Very good field strength.

    Technique

    7

    Flagged a surprising eight times, but also played in 19 games this year. Can get a little wide in his grip and is a known holder.

    Size

    10

    Very good size and length at 6’4”, 307 lbs.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game, in Week 17.

    Overall

    75

    A perennial Pro Bowler, Mankins is a very good player who struggled in 2011 with speed-rushers—especially when attacking his inside shoulder. You would be hard pressed to find many guards better when he’s on his game.

5. Ben Grubbs, Baltimore Ravens

29 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Has very good body control and enough quickness to stun defenders off the snap. Moves well for a stocky player.

    Pass Block, Speed

    7.5

    Does a good job setting up and sliding laterally to stop speed-rushers. Doesn't give up many sacks or pressures.

    Pass Block, Power

    7.5

    Has the strength and solid base to sit down and hold his own against power-rushers. Plays with good balance and power to thwart rushers.

    Run Blocking

    7

    Grubbs struggled with nose tackles this season (Pittsburgh, San Francisco, New England) in key games. His inability to push the nose out of the play—even when tandem blocking—was a concern.

    Move in Space

    7

    Shows good range on pass protection. Can quickly get out of his stance and get upfield. Has the feet to mirror and slide with defenders at the line of scrimmage.

    Pull/Trap

    8.5

    Is more of a man-blocking guard, but Grubbs can get down the line of scrimmage and work to get to linebackers on zone or stretch runs.

    Strength

    10

    Very strong at the point of attack. Can control defenders once locked up. Has the anchor to drop his weight and stonewall rushers.

    Technique

    9

    Flagged just twice all year. Is a heads-up blocker with good hand placement and consistent footwork.

    Size

    10

    Grubbs is 6’2” and 315 lbs, but his arms are longer than a normal player of his size.

    Health

    6

    Missed six games during early 2011 season.

    Overall

    79.5

    Injuries early in the year and his struggles against nose tackles push Grubbs’ score down. Had he been healthy he would have made a run at a top-three ranking.

4. Andy Levitre, Buffalo Bills

30 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Levitre has enough agility to get to the edge when run blocking and to quickly slide to pick up pass-rushers turning the corner.

    Pass Block Speed

    8

    Did well adjusting to pass-rushers, whether by blitz or stunt. Has very good awareness and the quick feet to make heads-up plays.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Excelled at helping down block on nose tackles. Is strong enough to take his lead step and meet defenders in the hole.

    Run Blocking

    6

    Levitre doesn’t show the same dominance in the run game. Is much better as a defender instead of attacker when blocking.

    Move in Space

    7

    Can struggle to get clean and find the second level, but was effective on screen packages.

    Pull/Trap

    8

    Can be used when pulling to his left, but doesn't move as well going right. Has good vision at the next level and can move with adequate quickness.

    Strength

    9

    Good strength. Has a strong base and the proper bulk needed. He doesn't show great field strength when locking on with defenders. Would like to see stronger hands as well.

    Technique

    10

    Has few flaws, especially as a pass-blocker, but gets too high out of the blocks when run blocking and doesn't have great leg drive.

    Size

    10

    Short at 6’2”, but having played center and guard this isn’t an issue.

    Health

    10

    Took every snap during 2011 season.

    Overall

    83

    A versatile player with good awareness and excellent pass-blocking skills, Levitre can struggle at times to open the door in the run game. If he can work on his run technique, he’ll be truly elite.

3. Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles

31 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Does a good job making up ground with long arms and legs. Can be heavy-footed, but has very good burst and balance.

    Pass Block, Speed

    10

    In viewing 16 Eagles games, not once did Mathis struggle with speed-rushers. His quickness and balance are phenomenal.

    Pass Block, Power

    7.5

    The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons gave Mathis some trouble, but no one else did all season. In those two games he was taken inside by a strong tackle and then blitzed through the A gap.

    Run Blocking

    10

    Watching Mathis clear rushing lanes against the Dolphins and Jets was a thing of beauty. He strikes out low, has enough force to drive off the ball and is strong enough to seal off rush lanes. His ability to get upfield is very good.

    Move in Space

    8

    Would be a 10 if not for average play in screen games. Mathis excels at firing off—chipping the nose tackle—and finding the MIKE linebacker.

    Pull/Trap

    7

    Mathis can get down the line of scrimmage and work to get to linebackers on zone or stretch runs.

    Strength

    7

    Great lower-body strength and size. Great bubble and can really sit down to stonewall blockers. Power was affected second half of the season with a turf toe injury.

    Technique

    10

    Very clean blocker who keeps his hands inside and uses his base to power through the defender. Limited penalties in 2011. Seals on the backside better than any guard in football.

    Size

    10

    Ideal build for the job. He’s 6’5” and 304 lbs.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game with injury.

    Overall

    85.5

    An underrated technician, Mathis’ 2011 would have graded out markedly higher if not for injury. His ability to clean house in the run game, and his technique while doing it, makes him one of the best players in the game at his position.

2. Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers

32 of 33

     

    Agility

    10

    The most athletic of any guard in the NFL, Iupati moves like a tight end at 331 lbs.

    Pass Block, Speed

    8

    Has the quickness and vision to pick up speed-rushers. Is big enough, and strong enough, to prevent guys from getting around him. His quick feet are a huge plus here.

    Pass Block, Power

    8

    Iupati had bad games against big defensive tackles (Seattle, Baltimore, Arizona), but the rest of the year was nearly flawless.

    Run Blocking

    8

    Take away his Week 1 game against Seattle and Iupati would be a nine or 10 here. He can struggle at times, but settled down over the course of the season. Needs to play with a little less fire at times and remain under control.

    Move in Space

    7

    Able to get upfield and clean house on screen packages, Iupati struggled against early in the year to clear to the second level.

    Pull/Trap

    7

    Has the speed and agility to be very effective when leading on sweeps, but will miss at times when asked to move to his left. Much better going to the right.

    Strength

    10

    Unbelievable strength when firing off the ball. Has a low center of gravity and a big, strong base.

    Technique

    8

    Can get a little wide in his grip, but was flagged just four times all season.

    Size

    10

    Impressively built with great strength, Iupati is 6’5”, 331 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss a start during 2011 season.

    Overall

    86

    Having played just two years in the NFL, Iupati is already one of the best at his position. His strength and agility separate him from the pack. As he learns and becomes more comfortable in the 49ers’ system, Iupati will be tough to slow down.

1. Carl Nicks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

33 of 33

     

    Agility

    7

    Nicks, who played for the Saints in 2011, is light on his feet and shows good overall lateral agility and quickness. Nicks doesn’t have elite agility, but is a very good overall athlete for his size.

    Pass Block, Speed

    10

    Nearly perfect at reacting to speed-rushers. Is an excellent tandem-blocker with the center, but is aware enough to catch blitzers crashing off his back.

    Pass Block, Power

    10

    Has the ability to dig in his heels and thwart the bull rush. He's big, strong and impossible to move once he locks on.

    Run Blocking

    8

    Does a good job drive blocking and is great at kicking out defensive ends or moving in space on stretch plays.

    Move in Space

    7

    Has a long stride and quick feet, allowing him to make up ground when working to get to the second level to attack linebackers. Keeps his balance. Has a surprising first step.

    Pull/Trap

    7

    Nicks can get down the line of scrimmage and work to get to linebackers on zone or stretch runs.  

    Strength

    10

    Fundamentally strong with a wide frame and solid base. Has a very strong punch.

    Technique

    10

    Great experience and IQ for the game. He's quick out of his stance and doesn’t overextend or miss.

    Size

    10

    Built like a brick, he’s 6’5” and 341 lbs.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011 season.

    Overall

    89

    Nicks carries the grade of being the best guard, regardless of side, in the NFL. The Bucs reportedly guaranteed him $31 million in his new deal. His ability to power the run game with fire and strength makes him incredibly valuable in short-yardage situations. The fact that he gave up just two sacks in 18 games is even more impressive.

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