More so than any year I can remember, the top guards in this 2012 NFL draft class are primarily made up of guys who played tackle at the collegiate level. By my count, six of the top 10 played on the outside at their respective universities. This occurs quite a bit, but I can't recall it being this prevalent. You may ask if this is a shortcoming of the eligible guards this year or if the tackles were simply out of position. I think it's a little of both.
Cordy Glenn, Amini Silatolu and Senio Kelemete could play on the outside in the NFL, but their more natural position is inside. In the zone-blocking scheme, Glenn and Silatolu are actually needed at guard because of their athleticism and movement skills. So, while it may not lead to the money or draft position they were hoping for, at least they'll feel wanted. (Sorry, but after the hours and hours I've put into this, I have to insert a little sarcasm here and there.)
The cream of this year's crop is David DeCastro, the best offensive lineman in this draft. He plays with good leverage and very quick feet. Almost everything he does looks natural, like he's not even having to work at it. With his sound footwork and technique, there's no doubt he could play four of the five positions on the line. (I heard that his center drills at his pro day didn't go well, I think it's something he could work on). The only reason left tackle would be a stretch is because of his arms, which measured in as just short of 33 inches at the combine.
The other true guard in the top five is Kevin Zeitler. While DeCastro is certainly going in the first round, the rumors for Zeitler are starting to fly that he too may be destined for the first 32 picks. What I like most about Zeitler are his movement skills. He does a great job of getting his feet and hips in a position to re-anchor if a defender gets the upper hand on him. In addition, he's quick to the second level. While he's not as strong as someone of his stature should be, his play points to him being scheme diverse.
Here are the rest of the rankings:
1. David DeCastro, Stanford
2. Cordy Glenn, Georgia
3. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
4. Aminiasi "Amini" Silatolu, Midwestern St.
5. James Brown, Troy
6. Brandon Brooks, Miami
7. Brandon Washington, Miami-Fl.
8. Lucas "Luke" Nix, Pittsburgh
9. Senio Kelemete, Washington
10. Joseph "Joe" Looney, Wake Forest
Like the tight end position, the top spot is a one-horse race. Peter Konz is the hands-down top prospect this year. While he probably goes at the end of the first round, the next center probably won't come off the board until the third.
He's the second-best center prospect to come out in the last five years, behind only Maurkice Pouncey in 2010. I don't want to give away too much of my mock draft, which comes out Wednesday, but he's a perfect fit for the Baltimore Ravens. Konz isn't the most gifted or strongest athlete, but like Matt Birk, his football IQ is off the charts and he uses his brains to outwit those who have the upper hand on him.
The only other knock on him is his durability. In his defense, the blood clots found in each lung in 2009 were non-football injuries. He has also had some ankle issues, but as a sign of his toughness, he came back 51 days after dislocating his ankle and played in the Rose Bowl game.
The top five centers are:
1. Peter Konz, Wisconsin
2. Mike Brewster, Ohio State
3. Ben Jones, Georgia
4. David Molk, Michigan
5. Philip Blake, Baylor
The other prospect in this group that I find interesting is David Molk. Obviously, he's a smaller guy, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better leader at any position. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and a nastiness that's needed for a guy his size. His competitiveness was on full display at the combine when he found out his 41 reps on the bench press wasn't the tops in Indianapolis (Dontari Poe beat him by three). In addition, he went on national radio and told everyone they were crazy if they didn't think he was the best center in this draft.
Of course, after winning the Rimington Award (nation's top center) and watching him play the entire Sugar Bowl with a torn tendon in his right foot, it's kind of hard to argue with him.