You had better be on your guard when lining up against New Engaland's Logan Mankins.
It is back to the trenches for the second time.
In our last episode of this 12-part throwback comparison series, we addressed some of the best offensive tackles in the league. This time around, we are looking at the six guards originally named to the Pro Bowl in 2013 (in December) and who they may compare to in terms of all-time greats.
In case you're wondering, these performers are in no particular order and the list doesn't include the recent change to the Pro Bowl rosters. Hence, Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis and Chicago Bears rookie Kyle Long aren't included in the piece.
The criteria are multi-faceted and one legend doesn’t fit all. We are talking style as much as anything because after all, the eye test is still the best pop quiz ever. But other factors will be taken into account when making comparisons.
It’s worth noting that there were some impressive performances as rookies, most notably Long and the Detroit Lions Larry Warford. But we’ll let them hone their skills a little longer in the NFL before we compare them to the all-time greats. Maybe next year?
One reminder: This is not a ranking of the six best guards in the league. It’s some of the best players at their position and who they remind us of from the distant or not too distant past.
Similar To: Larry Little
Although the New Orleans Saints ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing offense this past season, they proved during the playoffs that they could get the job done on the ground if necessary.
And perennial Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans is a major factor when it comes to the success of his team’s offensive front. In recent seasons, former Pro Bowlers such as guard Carl Nicks and tackle Jermon Bushrod have moved onto other teams via free agency.
Evans, a fourth-round pick by the team in 2006 from Bloomsburg University (Pa.), started every game his first seven seasons in the league and 14 out of 16 contests in 2013. He’s also been named to five straight Pro Bowls.
Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Larry Little was anything but. But he was a huge part of the Miami Dolphins well-schooled offensive lines that won Super Bowls four decades ago.
Similar To: John Hannah
There are those who insist that the San Francisco 49ers are possessors of the best offensive line in the National Football League.
The left side of the unit is anchored by two-time Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati and three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley.
It is not necessarily the same people, but there are those who insist that John Hannah was the greatest guard to ever suit up in the NFL. The former University of Alabama star was a nine-time Pro Bowler with the New England Patriots and put the power in power football.
The Niners made the playoffs for the third straight year and were one game from the Super Bowl, which would have been their second consecutive trip. The backbone of the offense is a consistent ground game ranked in the top 10 in the league each of the last three seasons under head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Just as Hannah paved the way for Patriots’ running backs in the 1970s and ‘80s, Iupati and company have been getting the job done the last few years.
Similar To: Bruce Matthews
New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins has been such a big part of the team’s offensive line the last nine seasons that it is sometimes forgotten just how long he has been there.
The former Fresno State standout was the final pick in the first round of the 2005 draft by the then-defending Super Bowl XXXIX champions.
That means the six-time Pro Bowler and one of the best offensive linemen in the league has not been a part of an NFL championship team. Not yet at least.
While he hasn’t started every game throughout his nine-year career, there’s a steadiness and consistency to Mankins that makes you think of Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews. He played every position up front during his tenure in the league and was named to 14 Pro Bowls, tied for the most in NFL annals.
Similar To: Larry Allen
There’s something about the name Ben Grubbs that makes you think offensive line.
The 6’3”, 311-pound guard earned a Pro Bowl invitation with the New Orleans Saints after spending the first five years of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. In 2011, the former first-round pick was named to the Pro Bowl as a member of the Ravens.
Since arriving in the Crescent City in 2012, Grubbs has started every game for Sean Payton's squad.
This past August, former Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Larry Allen took his rightful place in Canton, Ohio. The 11-time Pro Bowler (10 with the Cowboys) was a force at guard and at 6’3” and 325-plus pounds was a key part of Dallas’ Super Bowl XXX championship team that defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17, at Sun Devil Stadium.
Similar To: Mike Munchak
The Denver Broncos bolstered their offensive line this offseason with the free-agent addition of guard Louis Vasquez, who spent the first four years of his career with the San Diego Chargers.
In 2013, the former third-round pick from Texas Tech was named to his first Pro Bowl and was also selected to the All-Pro team. He was the Chargers’ primary starter at right guard for four years before joining the Broncos this offseason. Denver finished with the No. 1 offense in the NFL this season, ranked 15th in rushing and allowed a league-low 20 sacks.
Today’s football fans obviously know Mike Munchak as the former head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Of course, the former Penn State legend was a Pro Football Hall of Fame guard with the organization when it was known as the Houston Oilers.
Munchak was named to nine Pro Bowls in a dozen seasons with the franchise and helped one of the better offensive fronts of the 1980s and early ‘90s.
Similar To: Randall McDaniel
In seven seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, offensive lineman Marshal Yanda has seen his share of playing time all over the team’s front.
In his first four years with the club, he was a starter at both right tackle and right guard. The 6’4”, 307-pound performer has done everything the organization has asked of him. And it’s paid off in recent seasons.
This past December, Yanda was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl one year after he helped the Ravens capture Super Bowl XLVII.
While the seven-year veteran has a long way to go in his career, there are similarities to one of the most consistent players at his current position. Pro Football Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel was named to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, primarily with the Minnesota Vikings. He was part of some of the most productive offenses in recent seasons and was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
And you have to admit. Both Yanda and McDaniel look pretty good in purple.