B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 70 Guards
If you had to pick two guards to start on an NFL team for a game today, which two would you pick?
That was the question we faced when scouting, grading and ranking the top 70 guards in the NFL based on the 2012 season. It's the latest position in our second annual B/R NFL 1,000 series, which continues into April.
Unlike last year's series, left and right guards are mixed here. They are scored on a 100-point scale, split equally between their pass-blocking and run-blocking.
Our team of experienced scouts took a look at every guard who logged more than 200 snaps this season and came together with a list of the best of the best. A player's career achievements and potential are not part of the assessment.
In the case of ties, I have asked myself, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly. Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
70. Peter Konz, Atlanta Falcons
Peter Konz has the footwork to be a good pass protector, but playing guard, he struggled to hold up when asked to take on interior defensive linemen. He’s at his best on the move, as he lacks strength to anchor in the gap.
Konz, who is more natural at center, couldn’t register the strength to push the pile in the run game from the right guard position. A player forced into action without the benefit of much training (due to injury), Konz looked in over his head.
Konz struggled in his rookie season, as the Atlanta Falcons relied on him to power the run game. His performance in the playoffs, notably against San Francisco, is a case study of a player playing out of position and suffering the consequences. Konz may be best served moving to center, but the second-round pick has a very solid future ahead of him.
69. Jeff Allen, Kansas City Chiefs
Jeff Allen, a convert to guard from his college position of left tackle, got better on pass plays as his rookie season went along. He needs plenty of work on play recognition and learning how to get the right angle to secure blocks.
He struggled in the run game, as he’s not accustomed to angles and lateral movement to be a pulling guard. Allen has potential—we really like his upside—but based on 2012, his technique and angles need a ton of work.
Jeff Allen was forced into the starting lineup early due to Chiefs injuries. He has a bright future, but his first season is one he’ll need to build on.
68. Jamon Meredith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jamon Meredith is solid in space in the pass offense but doesn’t bring much as a combo blocker, teaming up on an opposing lineman.
Meredith lacks the quickness to explode off the line and make an impact in the run game. He needs to work on leverage and burst.
Jamon Meredith is a valuable rotational player at right tackle and guard, but being forced into action at guard in 2012, he struggled in the passing game. A young player, Meredith needs time to develop.
67. Quinn Ojinnaka, St. Louis Rams
When asked to hold his ground in the pass game, Quinn Ojinnaka will get walked back and run around by quicker defensive ends. Being able to hold up in the hole against bull rushes isn’t his strength.
He uses his lateral quickness to get out and move to pull and trap block on running plays.
A wave player for the St. Louis Rams, Quinn Ojinnaka saw action in just six games in 2012. In that time, he established himself as a powerful move-blocker from the middle of the line but was a liability in pass protection.
66. Joe Reitz, Indianapolis Colts
A slim, trim guard prospect, Joe Reitz doesn’t yet have a natural NFL position. He’s not strong enough to hold down the fort in the hole against pressure, but with his length, he’s good at punching and getting his hands on defenders off the snap. He has to learn to play lower, though.
He’s a solid, balanced guard who has to increase his awareness pre- and post-snap while working to increase his strength at the point of attack. Getting better leverage and adding strength are keys.
Reitz came into the Colts lineup at midseason and held down a starting job throughout the end of the regular season. At 6’7” and 322 pounds, Reitz has the build, but he has the look of a backup or stopgap starter in the NFL.
65. Antoine Caldwell, Houston Texans
A good protector, Antoine Caldwell is able to slide laterally to pick up blitzes and has a good combination of quickness and strength for the passing game.
He struggles to make contact when in motion and doesn’t have the strength to manhandle moving defenders.
The Houston Texans have a good fit at guard with Antoine Caldwell, as he has the required quickness and instincts for their zone-blocking scheme. But in 2013, Caldwell has to get better at moving his man in the run game.
64. James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks
James Carpenter is better on the pass than the run because of his quick hands on the inside. Footwork is a problem. His lack of agility in space is a problem.
He struggles to move his feet. He won’t be pulling or trapping with high accuracy. He has the strength to dominate once he gets his hands on defenders.
A converted right tackle, James Carpenter is still getting settled in at guard. He has to stay healthy to learn to compete at any one position. He serves best in a phone booth, working in hand-to-hand situations. All is not yet lost for this former first-rounder, but he needs to make big improvements in 2013.
63. Jeff Linkenbach, Indianapolis Colts
Jeff Linkenbach is more reliable against the pass than the run, but even as a stationary player, he doesn’t show the field strength to stand and anchor against the rush.
His inability to get outside the box limits his ability as a moving guard. Linkenbach has strong hands and is smart enough to lock onto defenders and start chopping his feet to power the block.
A liability in the run game this season, Jeff Linkenbach held his own in pass-protection situations but is still a below-average player in both areas. He does show an ability to cut block and go to the ground, but the Colts need a more versatile starter protecting Andrew Luck.
62. Ben Jones, Houston Texans
Ben Jones doesn’t have the strength or punch to hold up in pass-rushing situations, where he’s best used as a combination blocker and not someone in one-on-one assignments.
Jones has quick feet and can get out and move in the run game, but he is not powerful enough at the point of attack to truly help the team.
Ben Jones is revered for his versatility—and was in college, too—but for the Houston Texans, this right guard is a weak link on the offensive line. He needs to get stronger and meaner to be a starter in the future.
61. Mackenzy Bernadeau, Dallas Cowboys
Mackenzy Bernadeau is not big enough nor strong enough to anchor against defensive tackles, who simply walk him into the backfield. He has to be able to hold up at the point of impact.
He's not so good on the move that he can make up for his relatively small stature and lack of strength. He’s quick, and that’s a plus, but his lack of pop at the point of attack is poor.
The Dallas Cowboys brought Bernadeau in via free agency before the 2012 season, hoping he would help shore up their hole at guard. That didn’t happen. He struggled in both facets of blocking at right guard—a position generally reserved for power players.
60. Bobbie Williams, Baltimore Ravens
Bobbie Williams will get by against a rush due to his experience and grown-man strength. But his lack of agility limits his effectiveness.
His slow feet are a major weakness that is particularly costly on running plays. Williams will dominate in man-blocking situations, but when asked to make plays in space, he’s a liability.
Williams has versatility as someone who can play left or right guard, but he’s at a point where he is not starting quality at either. Williams is on his last legs as a valuable NFL starter.
59. Danny Watkins, Philadelphia Eagles
Danny Watkins’ technique still needs a lot of work, and he shows poor hand placement. He has a lot of raw ability but will need to find a way to stay healthy if he has any chance of turning that ability into production.
Watkins has a quick first step and is good at the point of attack, but he struggles in space and takes poor angles. Better awareness would help, but with Watkins' lack of strength, it is a matter of poor angles and poor execution.
Watkins was hampered by a chronic ankle injury, which caused him to miss multiple games in 2012. He could’ve used those games to gain needed experience since he didn’t start playing football until he was 22.
58. Shawn Lauvao, Cleveland Browns
Shawn Lauvao (No. 66 above) does a nice job of helping to his outside shoulder but will struggle when quick defensive linemen start outside and cut across his face. He can be walked back when defenders are able to get the angle on him off the snap.
He is a good athlete who can quickly get in his stance off of the snap, but he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to get out in front of the play. Would like to see more power when making contact with defenders, especially in space.
Lauvao capitalized on the experience he gained from starting every game in 2012. The last quarter of the season, Lauvao showed a lot of improvement and started becoming a more consistent blocker.
57. Leroy Harris, Tennessee Titans
Leroy Harris shows poor balance and footwork, and he struggles trying to block in space. He was like a revolving door in pass protection in 2012. Harris must learn to protect his off shoulder when helping to the center.
Harris does have above-average strength and is able to get good push off the snap. He has quickness moving forward but struggles moving laterally. While he won’t be an asset at the second level, Harris does a good job of clearing an initial hole.
Harris had his season end early when he partially tore his ACL against Indianapolis in Week 8. Before his injury, Harris was having a horrible season, giving up five sacks in a little over seven games.
56. Paul McQuistan, Seattle Seahawks
Paul McQuistan is a little tall for an interior lineman, which causes him to play too high at times and makes him susceptible to a powerful bull rush. When he gets his base set off the snap, he’s tough to move and shows good length to punch and keep defenders off his body.
McQuistan shows good hand placement and nice footwork but lacks the lateral quickness to be effective in the running game when asked to pull. Our team noted too many times when McQuistan simply missed making contact.
McQuistan is a versatile guard who can play on the right or the left side, but he is far better on the left side. The Seahawks could still look for a replacement in the offseason.
55. Chilo Rachal, Chicago Bears
Chilo Rachal’s strength is his main asset, as he is able to take on powerful defensive linemen, but he really struggles when he faces someone with a lot of quickness and athletic ability.
He shows poor lateral movement and was a major liability in the run game due to his stiffness and inability to get to the second level. Rachal has good strength, but his lack of quickness kills his second-level game.
Rachal was placed on the non-football injury list when he walked out on the team after being demoted. He was benched for good reason because he was having an awful season.
54. Amini Silatolu, Carolina Panthers
Amini Silatolu shows good recognition for a rookie and keeps his head on a swivel. Having Cam Newton as his quarterback was a major factor as to why Silatolu only gave up one sack on the season, but he was near the bottom of the league when it came to pressures, giving up 19.
Silatolu lacks the strength to get consistent push at the point of attack. He does a nice job of staying low and getting underneath the defense's pads.
Silatolu was an opening-day starter this year as a rookie. He showed a lot of improvement over the year but ran into a major setback when he broke his left wrist in Week 16 against the Raiders.
53. Chris Spencer, Chicago Bears
Chris Spencer has a solid base and good strength, which allows him to thwart a good bull rush. He has issues keeping contact with quick and athletic defenders. Spencer needs to get quicker at moving from help to solo on blocks.
Spencer struggles trying to block in space or when he is asked to pull. Being quick off the ball and having good leg drive both help to make up for his lack of athleticism in the run game.
Spencer is versatile and can play any of the three interior line positions, but he lacks the superior quickness and agility to be an every-down player.
52. Kory Lichtensteiger, Washington Redskins
Kory Lichtensteiger shows great technique and has the quickness to block defensive ends coming around on stunts. Bigger defensive linemen are able to use their strength to push him back into the backfield and blow plays up.
Weighing only 284 pounds, Lichtensteiger is undersized for a guard and has issues opening up running lanes. He is agile enough to get out in front of plays when asked to pull. The Redskins like his agility, but we want to see more pop from him, even if it means less quickness.
Lichtensteiger is a specialist who excels in pass protections but lacks the power and lower-body strength to be a force in the run game.
51. Charlie Johnson, Minnesota Vikings
Moving Charlie Johnson from left tackle to guard was mostly unsuccessful. Johnson does have good quickness for his position and has the agility to stay in front of the smaller, more athletic defensive linemen.
Johnson struggled moving the pile and creating holes. He lacks the strength to steer defenders out of the way and will get pushed around from playing too high.
One of the few bright spots for Johnson last season was that he only gave up one sack. But when you have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, it makes the defense think twice about going all out after the quarterback.
50. Justin Blalock, Atlanta Falcons
Justin Blalock is an above-average athlete who works well in space and getting out in the screen game. He has good reach and hands, which helps him stay in contact with defenders.
Blalock is quick off the snap, although he comes out of his stance too high and doesn’t have the strength or leg drive to consistently open up holes in the run game. He doesn’t always move the pile well or initiate contact off the snap.
Matt Ryan’s quick decisions and release helped Blalock give up only one sack this year, but Ryan was constantly feeling pressure from his left side.
49. Steve Hutchinson, Tennessee Titans
A onetime All-Pro player, Steve Hutchinson is entering the last days of his career. The technique to stop defenders is still there, but the strength to execute is gone. Likewise, he has the angles down to attack inside or out, but his speed isn’t what it used to be. Time hasn’t been kind to Hutchinson, and he struggled throughout 2012 to sustain blocks and be a force in the passing game.
A decline in speed and agility showed here most. Hutchinson was often asked to combo with the center, but due to poor play there and his declined ability, he was rarely getting to the second level on time to make plays.
Hutchinson saw his game decline dramatically in 2012. Our No. 7 overall left guard last season, the strength and fluid style of play that made Hutchinson so dominant is now gone.
48. John Jerry, Miami Dolphins
John Jerry is a powerfully built guard but shows poor lateral quickness and struggles in space. He will play too high at times, which lets defenders get under his pads, but he has the strength to hold his ground.
Jerry has great leg drive and gets solid push off of the line. He is tenacious and plays until the whistle blows. One of the major issues with Jerry is that he really struggles when pulling or trying to advance to the second level. He is much more effective when asked to fire straight off the line and make immediate contact with the defense.
Jerry started out the season with questions about his weight and conditioning. Those questions were mostly put to rest after Jerry played all but three snaps this year. He is young and shows a lot of upside as long as he can keep his weight under control.
47. Jah Reid, Baltimore Ravens
A natural tackle, Jah Reid has the reach and footwork of a man used to playing in space. He shows some stiffness when asked to slide and mirror on the inside but is able to overcome this with a good punch and wide hands to control the rush. I’d like to see Reid back at tackle for the long term.
Reid was forced into action at guard this season and struggled to get leverage off the ball. He’s strong enough to push the pile when he can get locked onto a defender, but we saw him beaten off the ball too often. Reid shows good hustle, but his sink weight in the run game was just average. He has to get lower to drive through defenders.
Reid did well enough at guard in his time there last season, and the Baltimore line was much better overall with him there, but his natural position is at tackle. Reid doesn’t show the flexibility in his lower body to dominate on the inside, where he’s asked to pull and get upfield more.
46. Cooper Carlisle, Oakland Raiders
Cooper Carlisle’s play may be diminishing as he gets older, but he is still a serviceable guard. Carlisle does a nice job in the screen game and is able to get to the second level to help create big plays for the Raiders offense. There are times where he will play too high and a good bull rush will cause him problems.
Carlisle still possesses above-average strength and is able to seal of blocks to create running lanes. His quickness is no longer there, and he struggles with keeping in contact with defenders when he is pulling.
A player who does well working within his zone, Carlisle can be exposed if he doesn’t get leverage initially in his blocks. In the run game, a lack of quickness is a killer.
45. Dan Connolly, New England Patriots
The pass-protection game isn’t kind to Dan Connolly these days. He struggles to move his feet laterally and allows too many pressures off his outside shoulder. Connolly does his best work against 3-4 defenses, where he can come off the ball and focus on helping the center and tackle instead of taking on a pass-rusher.
Connolly shows good angles and hand placement to control defenders off the snap. He no longer has great agility to get out in front of the play, but he’s still smart and sneaky in space. Connolly will struggle to reach the 3-technique defensive tackle when down blocking. He’ll get eaten up in space if he’s not the first guy off the ball.
A wily veteran who wins with technique and awareness, Connolly is a limited athlete who is likely nearing the end of his days as a starter at guard.
44. Stephen Peterman, Detroit Lions
Stephen Peterman’s ranking dropped from the No. 12 right guard to No. 44 overall this season. His pass-blocking technique and production were a big reason why. Peterman struggled to move with defenders, too often giving up space off his shoulders. His inconsistency in 2012 was an issue in the Lions' pass protection. The five sacks and 37 quarterback hurries allowed are far too many.
Peterman’s pass-protection struggles didn’t show up in the run game. He was still active and able to chip and move without getting caught up. He’s best at creating rushing lanes by walling off defenders. A better running back and better center play would likely increase his score too.
A quality starter, Peterman’s issues in 2012 are correctable. He has to revert to his 2011 play, when he was more active, more aggressive and stronger at the point of attack. Getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand earlier will help too.
43. Ramon Harewood, Baltimore Ravens
At 6’6”, 334 pounds, Ramon Harewood is built like a right tackle, but his lack of quickness makes him a liability on the edge. While he has great reach and strength, Harewood doesn’t move well laterally or show the balance to withstand a good power move. Defenders did a good job setting him up and then countering to create separation. He has to learn to move his feet better, or he’ll be a turnstile in space.
Harewood’s first two seasons were ruined by injury, and once healthy in 2012, he looked solid in the run game. His sheer strength is a major asset, and he can push the pile and clear running lanes from the guard position. He’s not quite mobile enough at this point to be a factor outside the tackle box or when working upfield.
A starter at left guard to begin the season, Harewood didn’t fare too well in the run game. He’s a massive physical presence, but his quickness and flexibility have to improve before he can be trusted to start long-term.
42. Mike Brisiel, Oakland Raiders
A quick guard without elite strength, Mike Brisiel (left, No. 65) didn’t take well to the Oakland Raiders’ blocking schemes. Too often he was isolated and asked to take on defenders alone—a stark contrast to the Houston Texans’ scheme he knew best. Brisiel doesn’t have the leverage or strength to be an effective solo blocker, and that showed this season.
When asked to get off the ball, take an angle and hit someone, Brisiel is good. The Raiders didn’t do this much, though; instead, they asked Brisiel to take on defensive tackles alone. That’s not his game, and it showed in his failure to move the pile and open holes in the run game. One of the toughest players in the NFL.
Playing with injury all season really hurt Brisiel’s game. He is lean for his position, so he has to rely on his quickness to compensate for his lack of strength. Brisiel was the most penalized right guard in the NFL last season.
41. Matt Slauson, New York Jets
Matt Slauson made big strides in pass protection last season, showing better patience and awareness off the snap. He’s still beat too often on the inside, especially off stunts and blitzes. If he can learn to adjust to inside pressure, he’ll be ranked much higher here. He can stand up and punch but gives up space when rushed as he backpedals to reset his feet.
With good quickness in space, Slauson does a good job chipping and moving to the second level. He’s only average when asked to pull and trap but does a good job working in man-blocking situations. He has to get his pad level down or else he’s beaten by faster, stronger players.
Slauson is an ideally built guard with an above-average skill set. He showed improvement in pass protection this year, as he only gave up one sack and nine quarterback pressures. He would rank a lot higher if he showed better technique and was more consistent in the running game.
40. Wade Smith, Houston Texans
Wade Smith (No. 74) does a good job getting out of his stance and to the ready position, but teams have learned to pressure his inside shoulder. Smith is a good combo blocker when asked to help the center or left tackle. His awareness grade would be high, but athleticism isn’t his overall strength.
Smith is agile enough for the Houston Texans’ zone-blocking scheme, but in the run game, he’ll too often struggle to make it past the first line of defense. Smith doesn’t show the strength to dominate in one-on-one battles. This gets hidden at times in the zone-blocking system but shows up whenever he meets a defender head-to-head.
Smith’s struggles to execute in the run game are an issue in the Houston offense. Even though he improved here in 2012, it’s still a weakness for this Texans line.
39. Lance Louis, Chicago Bears
Lance Louis has the strength to be a pile-moving force at guard. In the passing game, he has good awareness and can pick up on stunts and blitzes. Louis is better here than in the run game, largely because he’s not asked to move laterally. Louis doesn’t have the footwork to move and slide, but he’s strong enough to anchor and stop inside pass-rushers.
With good natural leverage and strength, Louis should be a better run-blocker than this. He struggles in space and is often late to the hole. Louis has good leg drive when he engages defenders, but with shorter arms and poor speed, he’s not reliable if asked to move off the line. Louis can lock horns and drive upfield if he’s not asked to move laterally from his starting position.
An 11-game starter in 2012, Louis started the year much better than he ended it. His struggles in the run game highlight a major problem for the entire Chicago offensive line this past season. Louis looks like a high-level backup or low-level starter.
38. Garry Williams, Carolina Panthers
Garry Williams is a young player worth tracking. He is a versatile lineman who can play guard or tackle, and that experience shows up here. Williams shows good ability to slide and mirror in space and is willing to get physical. He gets his hands too high and outside of the defender's pads, which usually leads to penalties, but Williams only had one flag thrown on him this year.
Williams is a stronger run-blocker than pass protector at this stage of his career. He has quick feet and hands that allow him to seal his man to create some nice running lanes. Williams is still young and very inconsistent, especially when asked to pull. Sometimes he will fire off the ball like a rocket, but then there are times where the running back will almost beat him to the hole.
Williams was coming off of a broken left ankle that kept him out all of the 2011 season, and he showed flashes of great potential.
37. Uche Nwaneri, Jacksonville Jaguars
Uche Nwaneri (No. 77) played more consistently in 2012 compared to 2011, but he had a stretch in the season where he gave up a sack in four straight games. He plays low and has a good punch but struggles picking up stunts and lets quick defenders cut across his face.
Nwaneri has above-average lateral quickness and is able to get out in front of running plays. He fires off the line and gets good push in the run game. He’s not a great pulling guard but does well enough to generate push and open rushing lanes.
You might not think of Nwaneri as a starting-quality blocker, but his 2012 season was much better than expected. He did a good job in navigating the run game and creating holes for the Jaguars backs.
36. Jason Pinkston, Cleveland Browns
Jason Pinkston’s (No. 62) transition from college tackle to guard hasn’t been seamless, but he’s getting better. In the pass game, his natural length and ability to play in space show up. He’s comfortable sliding his feet to mirror defenders. Where Pinkston can get better is in taking on bull rushes and being able to handle defenders on his own without help.
The run game is a weak point for the second-year player. Pinkston has to get lower off the ball to dominate the leverage game. He doesn’t have the ideal quickness to play in space. You won’t want Pinkston leading the charge on your outside runs. When working in tight spaces—taking away 3-technique tackles—he’s able to hold his own.
A player still transitioning due to a position change, Pinkston has improved quickly, but his run technique and leverage have to get better in 2013 for him to have some job security.
35. Tyronne Green, San Diego Chargers
A short, stocky guard with loads of power, Tyronne Green is like a coiled spring in his stance. His lack of reach affects the damage he can do in space, but when asked to block in tight windows, his natural leverage and lower-body strength come into play. He’ll get beat when defenders can set up a countermove, but if he gets his hands on you, your chances are diminished.
Green got better as the season went on, but his run-blocking is a weakness. He fires off the ball well enough, but he’ll struggle to get to and affect the second level. His shorter arms cause him to lunge and reach at times, which throws off his balance and allows defenders to rip away and make plays on the ball.
A fourth-year player in 2012, Green should be hitting his prime in the NFL. While he shows the power to be a starting-quality guard, his run-blocking must improve for him to become more than a middle-of-the-road starter.
34. Garrett Reynolds, Atlanta Falcons
Garrett Reynolds shows potential on the inside. With good initial quickness and an above-average kick slide, there’s room to grow. The key for Reynolds is to become stronger against inside rushers with power. He’s good in space, where he’s asked to use his hands and mirror blockers, but if a defensive tackle fires off into his body, he gets walked back.
Reynolds’ agility is a major key to his success in the run game, but what he lacks is the strength to push the pile and overtake defenders. His redirection skills are lacking at the point of attack, as he lacks the strength to latch on and move defenders. If Reynolds can get stronger and use more of his leverage to attack defenders, he’ll see major improvements here.
A good middle-tier blocker who grades out as a balanced blocker, Reynolds needs to learn to use his agility and quickness to his advantage.
33. Daryn Colledge, Arizona Cardinals
Daryn Colledge is a plus-level athlete with good quickness in space and agility to get off the ball. In the pass game, his length and awareness are major assets. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for with quickness and angles. Colledge saw major improvements in 2012.
The run game is still a weakness for Colledge. He has the agility to beat defenders off the ball, but his inconsistency in making contact and maintaining blocks keeps his scores low. Colledge gets to his man, but he has to be stronger at the point of attack.
One of the more improved players in terms of pass protection that we saw in 2012, but one whose run-blocking is still an issue.
32. T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers
T.J. Lang has good ability to keep his quarterback clean, but his weakness comes in sustaining blocks once he makes contact. Lang improved his body control and technique in 2012, but we noted too many times where he couldn’t keep his block as long as the quarterback held the ball. That’s on both Lang and Aaron Rodgers, though, so we didn’t dock too many points. Lang works well in short spaces with power rushers and is comfortable working left to right.
Lang hasn’t shown the strength in the run game that he shows in pass protection. This is largely due to poor angles when attacking at the first and second levels. Lang can get blown off the ball and must play with more aggression at the snap.
A quality starter who could move way up the board with better run-blocking skills, Lang is a top-notch pass protector in the Green Bay scheme.
31. Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh Steelers
A natural pass protector with good length and reach, Ramon Foster can stand up and fight in the trenches. He has some ability as a tackle, and that shows in his pass sets inside at guard. Foster has quick hands and good technique when asked to place his hands and control pass-rushers. He’ll get walked back at times if defenders get inside his frame, but all in all, this is a very good pass protector.
Foster doesn’t dominate in the run game like he does versus pass-rushers. He’s often ineffective in space and can get caught with his feet not set. Foster will get beaten off the ball and can get left trying to catch defenders instead of delivering a blow.
An exceptional pass protector, Foster has to improve his awareness, balance and readiness in the run game before he can move up the rankings.
30. Harvey Dahl, St. Louis Rams
Harvey Dahl hasn’t seen his stock rise since signing with the St. Louis Rams. Dahl has some experience at tackle, and it shows in his pass sets. He has the backstep to protect his outside shoulder and the strength to handle inside looks from defenders. Dahl is strong enough to stand his ground against a bull rush, but his leverage all comes from his back. If a defender can swim or rip over his head, he’ll lose.
One of the better turn-out blockers we saw on the right side, Dahl does a great job attacking a defender and turning their upper body away from the hole. His running grade, though, was based more on his struggles when asked to drive block or move block. Dahl fires out of the gate with quickness, but he could be more effective at removing threats with solid blocks.
A strong right guard who is at his best when getting some help from his strong side, Dahl was exposed more in 2012, as the play beside him didn’t meet expectations. With the Rams’ right tackles struggling, more pressure was placed on Dahl, who in turn struggled. Fixing the right tackle position will go a long way in helping Dahl.
29. Kevin Boothe, New York Giants
Kevin Boothe was a high-level pass protector by Week 17, but early in the year, he couldn’t find his footing against speed or power. Teams loved to get a guard on Boothe’s inside shoulder last season, as he struggled to move his feet and reset to keep defenders from getting to the backfield. He has good strength and a very good punch, but his speed off the ball has to get better. Boothe did improve a lot, but speed rushers to the inside are a weakness in his game.
Boothe gets very good leverage for a 6’5” guard built more like a tackle. He shows good knee bend and an ability to dip his shoulders and drive off the ball. Boothe’s hand placement is clean—he wasn’t penalized all year—and he shows solid drive ability. What he has in strength, he lacks in open-field agility. Boothe won’t be kicking out to pull or lead block with high success.
The former sixth-round pick from Cornell did well to improve each week, and by season’s end, we saw a well-rounded blocker who was winning most battles. His early-season struggles are well remembered, though, and that keeps Boothe from scoring higher overall.
28. Manuel Ramirez, Denver Broncos
An athletic pass protector out of the Texas Tech scheme, Manuel Ramirez would go from elite to backup quality over the course of the season. In pass protection, he showed good quickness and balance. Ramirez is able to play in space or in tight. He has a good punch with enough length to keep defenders off his frame. His strength isn’t as good as other players', but when paired with very good quickness, you have a capable guard who is able to stun and slide with pass-rushers.
The run game hasn’t been as easy for Ramirez. He lacks the strength to really take over and redirect defenders. He has to be a drive-blocker who dominates with angles, but those were struggles for him this season. Ramirez can be beaten off the ball and isn’t strong enough to recover. Too many tackles happened in his hole.
Ramirez is ideal for a pass-first team that fires the ball on early downs, but when asked to simply line up and fight in the trenches, he’s too easily beaten. As an athletic blocker, you love him, but a lack of strength can be a major liability.
27. Kraig Urbik, Buffalo Bills
Kraig Urbik is a tough, physical, technical blocker who can beat you any number of ways. He shows a strong, accurate punch in space but can also get dirty and lock up defenders who get inside his reach. Urbik got caught up this season struggling to move left or right, but that could be attributed to ankle and knee injuries.
Urbik started the season as dominant as ever, but after a midseason injury, his play in the run game really suffered. Since we’re grading on the entire season, this has to be noted. Post-injury, he struggled to maintain blocks and didn’t look as smooth or fluid when asked to move laterally or up the field. If healthy in 2013, Urbik should be back near the top of the rankings.
Our No. 7-ranked right guard last season, Urbik’s scores dropped off a bit this year, especially in the run game. That can be remedied with a healthy season in 2013. Urbik is still one of the better guards in the game when healthy.
26. Jeremy Zuttah, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A part-time center and part-time guard due to injuries, Jeremy Zuttah (No. 76) never had time to get comfortable in 2012. Zuttah struggled in the passing game while at left guard, as quicker 3-technique defensive tackles were able to beat him to the hole. If he can develop a punch that’s strong enough to stun them, he would have time to adjust. This isn’t always needed at center, where you have more help, and it was highlighted as a weakness in his game once playing guard.
Zuttah—from guard or center—didn’t show the same ability we saw in 2011. His angles were off in attacking the defensive line. Zuttah had trouble locking on and driving defenders out of the hole. He is good at getting to the second level and making plays in space, which are more common requirements from a center, but in man situations, he was in over his head.
Ranked at guard due to taking more snaps there in 2012, Zuttah will likely be the team’s center in the future. As a pure blocker on the line, he has potential, but no matter the position, he must get stronger at the point of attack in the run game.
25. Clint Boling, Cincinnati Bengals
A former college guard and tackle, Clint Boling’s versatility helped him transition to the NFL’s passing game. Above-average agility helps Boling when sliding laterally in space. If asked to play tight and lock up defenders, he can struggle to control them. Learning to play with more weight in his lower body and more knee bend will help. His mistakes are all coachable.
A tough blocker in the run game, Boling improved in 2012 but needs to work on his angles and hand placement heading into 2013. Boling will struggle to get his hands on defenders if they beat him off the ball, and that was something we noted often this season. A little more experience and confidence will go a long way for this second-year player.
As a 17-game starter, Boling was penalized just one time all season. His technique is clean. Now he just needs to start playing faster and with more confidence in both pass and run situations.
24. Louis Vasquez, San Diego Chargers
Louis Vasquez made big improvements in 2012, most notably in his pass protection. Vasquez is strong when engaged, and he shows the foundation to hold up against bull-rushers. He doesn’t always slide well laterally, but his strength is good enough to stun defenders with a punch. He shows good reset skills to get back into position after moving to his side.
The knock on Vasquez is his pad height and lack of leverage in the run game. He’s as strong as an ox, but without good leverage, that gets lost. Attacking defenders with lower pads and more power in his lower body is the goal, but Vasquez loses that when asked to fire off and attack.
A much better pass protector than run-blocker, Vasquez is at his best reacting to the defense as opposed to attacking in the run game. His 2012 season was good enough to feel confident about his skills moving forward.
23. Geoff Schwartz, Minnesota Vikings
A versatile blocker who can line up at tackle or guard, Geoff Schwartz has the length and reach to do well in space. He does a good job helping inside or out at right guard, showing the awareness to recognize delayed pressure and/or stunts. Speed from the defensive tackle position gave him fits at times, but in limited action, he allowed zero sacks and only three quarterback pressures. That can be attributed to quick hands and good vision in the trenches. You’d like to see a little more knee bend when engaged by a bull rush, but otherwise, his technique is sound.
Schwartz was part of the line that paved the way for the second-best individual rushing yards total in NFL history. Our team loved his strength off the ball—this isn’t a timid blocker who waits for contact. Schwartz could improve his pad height at times, but at 6’6”, it’s going to be tough to get under smaller defenders.
Schwartz was tough to grade this year, as he often entered and left the lineup with no rhyme or reason. But when he was in, it’s clear who the Vikings' starting right guard should have been. A free agent this spring, Schwartz should be a lock for a starting job.
22. Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins
One of the most powerful players in the NFL, Richie Incognito does a great job handling defenders with solo blocks. He won’t need help from the center against tackles and blitzing linebackers. Incognito is best working in tight spaces. When asked to move, he’s less effective and can play out of control.
Raw strength goes far in dominating in the run game, but Incognito hasn’t developed the technique to convert that strength into a huge asset. Instead, he tries to overpower every defender, which results in penalties and blown assignments. He has to play under control and work on refining his hand placement and angles.
When controlled, Incognito is an All-Pro, but it’s when he’s asked to move that his game falls apart. He doesn’t have the agility to pull or trap with any real quickness, but when asked to simply take away a defender, he’s a top-tier player.
21. Zane Beadles, Denver Broncos
Our 2011 grade on Zane Beadles wasn’t kind, but he turned the corner in 2012 and is quickly becoming a stud. In the pass game, our team noted much improvement when pressed off the ball, as Beadles learned to sink his weight and absorb defenders without backpedaling. His punch wasn’t quicker, but it made more of an impact when delivered. We’d still like to see better blitz pickup and lateral agility, but the improvement shown here was notable.
Beadles works well in the Broncos' moving blocking scheme. He’s at his best when asked to fire off and attack the inside shoulder of the defender—this allows him to get a natural angle and then drive block. Beadles won’t dominate anyone in a heads-up blocking situation, but when given an angle, he can win most battles.
Beadles moved up from our No. 31 left guard to No. 21 overall this year, showing marked improvement. Beadles is quickly becoming one of the more balanced left guards in the game. He should expect to see continued improvement in 2013.
20. Jon Asamoah, Kansas City Chiefs
Jon Asamoah (No. 73) didn’t disappoint in 2012. The Chiefs guard shows quickness off the ball and good agility when asked to slide with defenders. His awareness off the snap is high for a young player. He could do better to handle power rushers, as he doesn’t have elite strength, but Asamoah can win most battles with quickness and good hand placement when locking horns with defenders.
A lack of high-end strength can hurt Asamoah in the run game, but the zone-blocking scheme is a good fit for this agile run-blocker. You’d like to see better accuracy on his ability to attack the second level and make contact. As he develops, this is a key coaching point.
One of the better young guards in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs have a winner in Asamoah. He’s a versatile guard who can play left or right tackle and is a fit in a zone- or man-blocking scheme.
19. Donald Thomas, New England Patriots
In the passing game, Donald Thomas does a good job to strike first and knock the defender off balance. His recovery isn’t perfect, but he’s quick to reset his feet and brace for impact. Thomas is able to move and pull, showing off his value as a left and right guard.
A plus-level athlete with good quickness off the line, Thomas has the ability to get into the body of defenders, establish blocks and maintain his position. Thomas can get shoved off balance at times if he overcommits to the run to one side or the other, but if he keeps his head on a swivel, he’s fine.
A well-rounded guard who can go through periods of dominance, Thomas proved his value in 2012 by playing both right and left guard. For the money, Thomas looked like the better player than normal starter Dan Connolly on the right side.
18. Rob Sims, Detroit Lions
Rob Sims plays the pass game with good agility and body control. He has a good anchor to handle power moves but doesn’t always maintain blocks against nose tackles and inside pass-rushers. He’s aware off the ball, though, and does well against delayed pressure.
Sims struggled to get to his blocks and hold his assignments. While effective at creating rushing lanes, he doesn’t always have the power to drive block. His technique when walling off defenders was sloppy and too high at times.
Sims is a quality starter who really excelled in pass protection this season. We’d like to see better technique when run-blocking, but the Lions have to feel good about their starting left guard.
17. Nate Livings, Dallas Cowboys
Nate Livings has the quickness and length to be a very good pass-blocker. Our team noted improvements in his punch last season, but he’s still lacking when it comes to raw strength to handle a defensive tackle or blitzing inside linebacker. Stunts were a major problem for Livings, but he improved over the course of the season.
Livings can be dominant at times in the run game. He’s quick enough to beat defenders off the ball and quickly attack. He does a good job firing off and getting into the body of the defender, which allows him to position them so backs can run off his backside. Livings' ability to wall off defenders was a major key to the Dallas run game when DeMarco Murray was in the lineup.
The move from Cincinnati to Dallas was good for Livings, as he saw his pass- and run-blocking improve from our 2011 rankings. Now he has to keep building on that momentum.
16. Willie Colon, Pittsburgh Steelers
Willie Colon more than held his own at left guard last season. While he lacks elite quickness, his punch and awareness in space are very good. Colon will struggle at times with a bull rush from a defensive tackle. He has to get better at beating defenders off the ball and getting into his stance. When prepared, he’s tough to beat in a one-on-one situation. His hand use could be better, as he’ll try to overpower everyone and gets caught holding too much because of it.
Colon’s pad height has to get better, period. His leverage is a killer for a player that otherwise shows good strength and a willingness to fire off and make initial contact. He won’t blow you away with lateral quickness to pull and trap, but he’s strong on the inside and can wham block with the best at the position. He's an ideal left guard in a power scheme.
A late-season injury cut Colon’s season short, but his play previous to that was some of the best of his career. Assuming he can come back strong in 2013, the Steelers are set at left guard.
15. John Greco, Cleveland Browns
John Greco (No. 77) is a limited athlete who will struggle with speed but shows good power to absorb bull-rushers and put down delayed pressure. The key to Greco being successful is increasing his awareness and helping him with a center at times. When asked to simply stay put and create a pocket, he’s a high-quality player. Greco has a good punch and can stun defenders, but when asked to move his feet, he’ll get in trouble. Short arms hurt Greco in space.
A strong mauler in the run game, Greco can fire off the ball and create momentum with low pad level and good leg drive. He does a good job sealing off defenders and opening up inside running lanes. His explosion off the ball is one of the best things about his game, and it makes for a big thud anytime he connects with a defender.
An intriguing player with big upside, Greco impressed in 2012 as he became comfortable with his role. He’s a potential building block at the one weak spot on the Cleveland offensive line.
14. Chris Snee, New York Giants
One of the most powerful players at the guard position in one-on-one blocks, Chris Snee is tough to move once he gets his hands on you. While he lacks good agility to slide and keep up with mobile pass-rushers, Snee is very good in tight spaces and will hold his ground without giving up depth at the line of scrimmage.
He's a strong, stout mauler in the run game. If Snee is moving forward, the defender is moving with him. Where he gets in trouble is when asked to pull or get out in front of the run game. He doesn’t show the quickness or footwork to be a reliable second-level blocker all the time.
Snee plays like an out-of-control Mack truck at times, but his power and aggressive style of play are perfect for the New York Giants. If he can stay healthy, Snee has the talent to move up each season.
13. Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints
A dominant pass protector, Jahri Evans can win with power or technique. He’s strong enough to eliminate rushers if they fire off into his body. Evans has a very good base strength and can drop anchor and stop an inside rush. He shows good technique in terms of hand placement and in kicking and sliding to match defenders in space. The Saints like to move their pocket, and Evans can keep up.
The run game wasn’t as impressive last season for Evans. He does a good job in drive-blocking a head-up defender, but second-level blocks fell off for Evans. He’s more of a man-blocking guard, and that showed when asked to pull or trap.
Our No. 2-ranked right guard last year, Evans’ play dropped off some this season due to the talent around him. Regardless, he has to be better in the run game, and that showed in 2012 when Darren Sproles and Co. couldn’t get outside the line of scrimmage.
12. Chris Chester, Washington Redskins
Chris Chester isn’t the most athletic guard in the NFL, but he makes up for that with maximum effort, great awareness and strength. Chester can handle multiple styles of defenders—we noted him doing well against 5-technique ends in a 3-4 as well Wide 9 technique ends. He can be a bit slow in space, but his awareness allows him to quickly reset and get in position. You won’t find many defenders beating Chester off the ball.
Chester isn’t a pulling guard who will dominate up the field, but he’s very strong at the point of attack and is comfortable taking out defenders within his zone. Chester does a good job working upfield, but his lack of top-tier agility will hurt him at the second level.
One of the most improved right guards in the NFL, Chester jumped from our No. 29-ranked right guard all the way to No. 12 overall. Having Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris helped, but Chester’s mechanics and hand placement were vastly improved in 2012.
11. Carl Nicks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carl Nicks saw time in just seven games due to injury last season, but he showed once again to be a top-level left guard. Nicks’ biggest asset is his strength off the ball. In the passing game, he’s strong enough to stun and rock defenders, giving himself time to set up and absorb second moves. In all fairness to Nicks, he didn’t look comfortable with adjustments and calls at times early in the season, and then he was injured before having time to learn on the fly.
Nicks is a classic drive-blocker in a power-blocking scheme. He has the size and speed to get upfield, clearing a path behind him as he goes. The 2012 season showed Nicks struggling not with power, but more so with placement and angles. Too many defenders were coming off his backside to make plays. Since he doesn’t have elite quickness to pull and trap, this was a bit more highlighted during the 2012 campaign.
Our top-ranked left guard in 2012, Nicks had a tougher transition to Tampa Bay and then suffered an injury before he could fully acclimate to the new offense. With his skill set and raw power, Nicks should be back near the top of the list in 2014.
10. Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals
The rookie from Wisconsin impressed in his first season. Kevin Zeitler stepped into the Bengals’ starting lineup and never looked back. In the passing game, he was quick and aware, showing fluid movement out of his stance and into his pass sets. With good reach to punch defenders and the strength to stand up against bull-rushers, Zeitler has the look of a future All-Pro guard in the passing game.
Zeitler struggled a bit in the run game, especially early in the year as he adjusted to angles and technique at the NFL level. The natural ability is there, and we started to see later in the year the technique needed to dominate. Hand placement is key for Zeitler, as he must control defenders better and not allow them to get off blocks to make plays.
One of the most impressive rookies in this year’s very strong class, Zeitler has "All-Pro" written all over his future. Once he has time to learn the run game, he’ll be one of the highest-ranked players on our list.
9. Ben Grubbs, New Orleans Saints
The first thing you notice about Ben Grubbs is his quickness. He’s smooth getting out of his stance and coming to attention. He moves well in space for a stocky player and shows good ability to slide his feet. Grubbs will get overpowered at times when locking horns, and he must improve his base to find better balance when bull-rushed.
You’ll notice Grubbs struggling at times to go inside and control players one-on-one. He’s at his best when chipping the nose tackle and scraping to linebackers. His movement in space is good, as is his awareness at the second level.
Grubbs is a solid left guard with good pass-blocking skills and awareness, but he's a player who lacks the ability to pass protect in one-on-one situations. With improved play around him, Grubbs’ scores could shoot up.
8. Logan Mankins, New England Patriots
Logan Mankins continues to reel in All-Pro votes—mostly due to his reputation as a pass protector. He’s nasty in the middle of the line, but teams have learned to counter him by twisting and stunting across his face. Mankins is at his best pass protecting in space. He has good feet to slide and mirror, but he’ll get in trouble by overcommitting to either side and exposing his off-shoulder to late blitzes or stunts.
Mankins is known as a scrapper in the middle of the line, and that’s really a great way to sum up his game. He’s a bit high-centered at times, but he loves to get dirty and go hand-to-hand with defenders in the trenches. He’s a top-tier moving guard on the left side and is someone who can easily pull and trap to either side. When pressed, Mankins will fight for positioning and isn’t afraid to attack off the ball.
Mankins has survived a bit on reputation the last few seasons, but he’s still a high-level blocker who can be dominant at times. If Mankins can clean up some of the small technical issues (pad height, vision), he would be back near the top of our list.
7. Brandon Moore, New York Jets
Brandon Moore shows good quickness off the snap, allowing him to quickly set up and prepare for pass-rushers. He has long arms and a big slide step to move laterally and mirror pass-rushers. His biggest issues seem to be in space, where defenders can bait him into mistakes.
Moore improved in 2012 as a run-blocker. We saw a player who locked on better at first grasp and did a better job chopping his feet and moving defenders upfield. Moore could do a better job sealing off holes, but overall, his run game was an upgrade.
Moore is a good all-around right guard and a bit of a throwback when it comes to style of play and traits. He’s a mauler who doesn’t have great agility to get out in the run game but is tough in the trenches.
6. Andy Levitre, Buffalo Bills
Andy Levitre received high praise from our team for his pass-blocking technique, and his overall score here shows off how impressed we were with his ability. Levitre has quick feet to track laterally to stop pass-rushers, but he’s strong enough to stand his ground and anchor against a bull rush. He’s also one of the best at getting out of his stance and making first contact with the defender.
Levitre isn’t as dominant in the run game, but film study showed some correctable mistakes. He has the physical ability to be very good, but he must clean up hand placement and angles. If Levitre can start using leverage to drive defenders away from the hole—as opposed to trying to stand them up chest to chest—he’ll be much better off.
Levitre is a stud for the Bills and a player they can build around. His ability in pass protection makes him one of the most valuable guards in the NFL. If he can improve his technique in the run game, he’ll quickly shoot up this list.
5. Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
Mike Iupati is one of the best guards in football, but when it comes to pass protection, he can be too aggressive at times. The 49ers would like their left guard to be more patient and more aware, as Iupati can come off the ball with his head down and fail to pick up pressure. He is strong enough to handle anyone he gets his hands on, but he has to become more adept at recognizing pressure.
One of the best in the business, Iupati is more than just strength in the run game. He’s one of the more agile guards in the NFL right now, and that shows in his ability to kick out on sweeps and tosses. The 49ers can pull and trap with Iupati all day, as he’s quicker than most defenders he’ll face.
Iupati hasn’t mastered his technique yet, but he’s so much stronger than the competition that he hasn’t had to. When on the move, few blockers are as talented as Iupati is. He’s a picture of how to scout and develop a rookie guard prospect.
4. Alex Boone, San Francisco 49ers
Alex Boone (No. 75) wasn’t dominant as a pass protector, but he was very good nonetheless. Boone’s biggest strength is his long reach, giving him the ability to punch and stun defenders. While he can struggle to move his feet laterally in the passing game, he works well as long as he’s able to keep his hands on the defender.
Boone was flat-out tough to beat in the run game. He has the size to maul defenders off the snap, and for a tall guard, he showed very good pad height and leverage to attack the defense. Boone has the strength and technique to latch on to defenders and drive-block them out of the hole or turn them out to open inside rushing lanes.
A mauler off the line of scrimmage, Boone’s sheer size and strength advantage make him almost unstoppable in the run game. As a power guard in the 49ers scheme, he’s one of the best at clearing rushing lanes at the line of scrimmage and scraping to the next level.
3. Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers
Josh Sitton has the quickness and vision to be exceptional when protecting the quarterback. As the Packers right guard, he’s taking on more powerful defenders off the snap, and he does well to engage with a punch and absorb the rush with a strong foundation. Sitton has the strength to stand up and lock arms with a defensive tackle. Sitton does a great job feeling pressure and adjusting to pick up stunts and twists. His agility comes into play a lot on passing situations because he can move and reach late-timed plays.
Sitton isn’t afraid to get dirty in the run game. Not to say he does anything illegal, but he has a mean streak and will attack off the snap. You have to like Sitton’s ability to slide his feet off the snap and then explode into the defender. He’s not always taking a 45-degree angle to the man, which could help him some, but he has the strength to still win head-up blocks.
As one of the best pass-protecting guards in football, Sitton earns high praise for his balance and ability to impact the game no matter the down-and-distance. Add in the fact that his quarterback loves to hold on to the ball in the pocket, and Sitton’s track record is much more impressive.
2. Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
Evan Mathis comes in as our highest-graded pass-blocker. His ability to fire off the line and get into pass sets make him almost unbeatable on the inside. Mathis has the strength to win in one-on-ones. His quickness in space allows him to help inside or out and reset to get back into position. He’s patient against delayed pressure and is quick to get his hands on defenders in those situations.
Mathis does a good job getting to his man, and he’s strong enough to engage and win. We’d like to see him playing with a lower pad level at times, as he can get caught flat-backed and standing up. Mathis has the footwork to be very good when asked to pull and get out in front of outside runs.
A clean technician with great awareness before and after the snap, Mathis may not be the most athletic guy on the field. But he is able to dominate most defensive tackles with angles, leverage and a mean streak when engaged. He’s the NFL’s best left guard right now.
1. Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
Marshal Yanda is a powerful guard who shows the balance needed to keep up with a bull rush or a speed rush all the same. Yanda has the length to punch off the snap and generate distance, and he does a good job moving his feet to mirror defenders in space. If he has a weakness, it is in coming off combination blocks to pick up backside pressure.
He’s a powerful player who generates the push off the line needed to fuel the run game, and he’s quick enough to dominate in the run game as a rare right guard who is athletic enough to pull and trap. Yanda can get top-heavy at times and must play down more, but all in all, he is one of the most complete blockers you’ll find.
Yanda is the prototype from which all future right guards are being scouted at this point.
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