As the draft quickly approaches, the line between perception and reality tends to get a tad blurred as the last few rumors surface. Guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are truly can't-miss prospects at their position, bringing a good amount of talent to the table.
Just last year, Stanford guard David DeCastro fell all the way to the 24th overall pick, where he ended up catching on with the Steelers.
The fact remains that interior offensive linemen are less coveted in the league than players at any other starting position.
Chance Warmack has everything that an offensive line coach could want in a guard. He's the right size and build, he has an SEC pedigree and he does all of the right things in both the run game and pass game. Warmack paved the way for Eddie Lacy's magical season on the ground this year, blasting open holes in the run game as his team captured a national championship.
Technically sound in the passing game, Warmack is about as close to a perfect guard prospect as NFL evaluators can ask for. Such is precisely the reason he'll slide down the board. I draw this conclusion based on the fact that no pure guard has gone above No. 17 (Mike Iupati, a road-grader who has gone on to be a star in San Francisco) in the first round since before 2000. There is a trend here worth noting.
Cooper is also a very solid player. He's displayed athleticism and an ability to block in space, which meshes well with his proficiency in both the run game and the pass game.
Who will have a more successful NFL career?
Even still, his ceiling isn't perceived to be as nearly as valuable as the ceiling of a top offensive tackle, defensive lineman or cornerback, among other positions.
The NFL has become a passing league, and guards offer the least contribution to the passing game. Even if a player like Warmack or Cooper comes in and stars, their success won't propel their team much farther than if said team trotted out an average guard.
Teams in the later part of the draft, those who made the playoffs or came close, are better fits for Warmack and Cooper. It's on a team that is just a piece or two away from contention that a guard's contributions will be felt. While neither of the two players in question can bring a team at the top of the draft from 2-14 to 11-5 (like Andrew Luck did in Indianapolis last season), both can positively affect a team that just needs a small push over the hump.
Last season, mock drafters had David DeCastro going as high as Kansas City at No. 11. It didn't quite go down that way, as the lineman fell all the way to pick 24.
This season, those same mock drafters think the Titans will draft either Cooper and Warmack at No. 10. Look at the trends; it's not going to happen.