Guards are the lineman that do a lot of the dirty work for an offense. They are especially important in the run game. They must be athletic enough to pull and trap, while also being able to hold their ground and drive back big defensive tackles. Guards have to be able to recognize inside blitzes and stunts and help out the center if needed.
A prototypical NFL guard is at least 6'4'', has excellent feet, long arms, great strength, good hand placement, keeps low, takes good angles to get to their man and can move. There are three or four guards in this year's draft that could potentially start right away in the NFL. It's a solid group, but there is quite a drop off in talent and potential after the top-end talent.
Here are my Top 10 Guards of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Jackson is an All-WAC first teamer.
He is very smart and athletic, plays with great technique and is more of a finesse blocker than a mauler. Also, he shows good balance, flexibility and lateral movement with his nonstop motor.
His problem is that he will not blow away a defender with his strength and power. He also needs to add weight and has had some injuries in his college career.
Holmes is an underrated prospect that did very well for the Oregon Ducks. He started at center in college, but has a better chance to make a NFL team at guard. He is a good pass protector that can recognize blitzes and stunts, plus he plays with good leverage and has good strength.
However, Holmes could add more weight to his frame and also blocks too high. He also needs to work on the technique of the position.
Moffitt has good size and was a big reason for Wisconsin's successful running game. He plays with good leverage and drives his legs moving defenders. Also, he has a good knee bend and punch in pass blocking and Plays with good balance and body control.
His issue is that he's not a great athlete in space and gets knocked back in the pocket. He also needs to get stronger and focus on his hand placement before he makes any sort of impact.
Love has long arms and played tackle in college, but will most likely move to guard due to a lack of footwork and technique.
Love plays with a mean streak and can move defenders to the second level. He's Great pass blocker that is really good when he wants to be and he makes it difficult for defenders to get off of him.
Love's issue is that he shows flashes of excellence and then just disappears at times, partially because he doesn't use his hands well and doesn't have a good knee bend. He also leans on a defender when blocking them, instead of extending his arms.
Boling is a reliable guard that plays with a great motor. He has filled in as a tackle while at Georgia. Not only is he a good athlete that can pull, trap and block in space, but he does very well in pass blocking with good lateral movement and knee bend.
Unfortunately, he doesn't have great body control, lunges to make blocks at times and can get bull rushed from time to time.
With his large size, Cannon can maul defenders in the run game. He's got good quick bursts of explosion, opening up big holes for the run game and he's very strong, with good agility for a man his size.
His problem is that he needs to work on pass protection. Also, he plays high, doesn't recognize the blitz well, can't always get to his blocks and needs to shed 15-20 pounds. If he can do all that, he'll be a good one at the next level.
Ijalana started every game at Villanova. An All-American in the FCS, he's a strong athlete that moves people to the second level. Plus, he pass protects pretty well with a good punch and decent knee bend, while showing good balance and lateral movement. He could possibly play at offensive tackle in the NFL, as well.
His problem is that he plays high in pass protection and needs better footwork. Plus, he's not a very aggressive player.
The only problem that Watkins has, that he can't change is his age. He will be a 26-year-old rookie which, by NFL standards, is old.
Watkins stays low in his run blocking, sustaining his blocks and allowing him to hold his ground against bull rushers. Watkins is NFL-ready and can start right away. Plus, he's a very physical player that wants to embarrass his opponents. He was drafted fourth overall in the CFL.
His other problems are that he stands too tall when pass blocking and he doesn't have great hand placement. Plus, he's a bit slow with his feet.
Hudson may have to transition to center in the NFL, due to his lack of size as a guard.
Hudson is one of those guys that does a lot of things well. He explodes off the ball, uses his hands well and plays smart. Also, he has great feet and gets to his blocks taking good angles. Plus, he pass protects really well and he had a very good Senior Bowl at both left and right guard.
His size is a disadvantage, as he does get bull rushed by bigger defensive tackles, but won't go down without a fight. He also has shorter arms than an ideal guard, and he needs to try and put on at least 10-15 pounds without losing any athletic ability.
Pouncey, whose twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey, starts at center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a very good lineman that would also be the best center in this draft. He projects to be more of a guard in the NFL, though.
He has great power driving his legs, good bend in his knees and he can pull and trap very well getting downfield getting more block. He also gives great effort every play and can hold his own against the bigger defensive tackles.
His issue is that he is somewhat inconsistent recognizing the blitz and stunts, meaning he gets beat by quicker defensive tackles every once in a while. His snaps are inconsistent in the shotgun as a center.