Detroit Lions 2012 Draft: Offensive Guards to Watch
Stephen Peterman and Rob Sims are average offensive guards, at best. Neither provides any push off the line of scrimmage. If the Lions ever want to be serious about a run game between the tackles, then one, or even both of them, must be replaced at some point.
Corey Hilliard is a serviceable backup, but he's more comfortable at tackle.
Ideally, the Lions would like to have guards who are shutdown pass blockers and road-grading run blockers. Does the 2012 draft offer any answers?
I’ll break down some excellent candidates who are best suited to excel in Detroit’s predominately man-power blocking scheme. A couple of them are bound for long, illustrious careers and shouldn’t be passed on.
David DeCastro, Stanford, 6’5”, 312 lbs, 5.22 Speed
Should DeCastro declare for the draft, he will be a lock in the first round.
One of the quickest guards in the class, DeCastro is an outstanding pass blocker who has mastered every technique needed to protect his QB. He sets a great anchor and can stop a defender in his tracks, or he can redirect a speed rusher beyond the pocket.
DeCastro has great vision and hands. He can disengage one defender and reengage a second defender or a blitzing LB when needed, using a great punch on both ends.
DeCastro can over-extend his arms while pass blocking, on occasion, but recovers quickly when beat initially.
DeCastro is a road grader in run blocking who keeps a defender squared up with power and balance. He has some of the best footwork that I have ever seen when pulling and attacking the edge with speed that is breathtaking.
Blocking in the second level, DeCastro blows up defenders like rag dolls.
He’s smart, has a great work ethic, plays to the whistle and is seldom taken off his feet.
If DeCastro has a flaw, it’s having a defender locked onto one shoulder, where he seems to get turned a little too easily. In the NFL, opponents will work on getting inside his outstretched arms and attack a shoulder.
This flaw will be coached out of him at the next level. For now, DeCastro looks like an NFL-ready guard who is primed for a great career.
Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, 6’ 5”, 347 lbs, 5.40 Speed
“I try to make every guy who lines up against me remember my name.” — Kelechi Osemele
Osemele was moved from RG to LT by the Cyclones in 2010. He’s done well on the blind side, but the NFL will view him as a RG/RT hybrid. The senior will likely go in the first or second round.
Osemele admits to being more comfortable playing out of a three-point stance (guard) than standing up (tackle). The lack of elite speed (5.40) places some limitations on his effectiveness as a tackle.
As a guard, however, Osemele will be an impact player in the NFL. Osemele is huge, but extremely athletic. He gets off the snap explosively and has a whistle-to-whistle motor.
For such a big player, Osemele exhibits outstanding technique. He’s best as a run-blocking monster who seems to take every assignment personally. Watching him against a superior Oklahoma team, I almost felt sorry for the DE on run plays. Blocking in the second level is a nightmare for any linebacker or safety within Osemele’s long reach.
Osemele is an outstanding pass-blocker from the RG position. He sets a great anchor and can’t be bull rushed by even the best defensive tackles. Osemele also is adept at responding to the blitz. Vision and recognition are among Osemele’s best natural attributes.
There’s very little not to like about this man-mountain. He has some issues with his footwork and lateral movement, and I have yet to see Osemele pull to the edge.
All things considered, Osemele looks like a super-stud RG prospect whose ceiling has yet to be located.
Cordy Glenn, Georgia, 6’ 5”, 348 lbs, 5.28 Speed
Glenn attempted to enter the 2011 draft, but the NFL’s advisory board recommended that he return for his senior year. At the time, Glenn was playing LT. Glenn is now a redshirt Bulldogs senior LG, and he’s absolutely mammoth. Glenn has played every guard and tackle position in his career. Glenn will be a great hobby-project investment in the second or third round.
Why so high? Read on.
For a man his size, Glenn possesses extraordinary athleticism, and he uses his wide frame to the best advantage. Glenn seems to glide into his pass blocks, using his long, powerful reach like a tackle does. He sets a strong anchor and prefers to front rushers rather than redirect them. He’s very tough to beat.
Glenn has trouble recognizing the blitz, however, and can fall prey to missed assignments. Oddly enough, evaluators do not view this as an uncorrectable flaw. For the NFL, athleticism trumps technique every time.
Glenn, a bit slow off the snap, gets excellent power and leverage when run blocking. Once he establishes contact with a defender, Glenn dominates. His long reach and powerful upper torso are his main weapons, as opposed to quick footwork. As such, Glenn tends to play a little too upright.
Glenn pulls well but misses as many blocks on the edge as he makes. When he is successful outside the tackle, plays go off for huge chunks of yardage.
Blocking in the second level is an exercise in futility for opposing linebackers. Glenn simply crushes them.
Glenn’s obvious flaws are trumped by his amazing athleticism and versatility. NFL teams will trim him down, improve his footwork and unleash him upon NFL defenses like a caged beast.
Lucas Nix, Pittsburgh, 6’ 5”, 310 Lbs, 5.18 Speed
Nix is the bad boy, tough guy of the 2012 guard class. Need that boulder rolled uphill? Nix is your huckleberry.
Nix was converted from RT in 2010 by the Panthers when it became clear that he lacked the speed and range to compete on the outside. Now, Nix is looked upon as a late-round value pick at guard.
Nix is a great athlete whose skills and techniques come into question. His long wingspan and waist bending have been viewed as liabilities. Nix also has a propensity to lower his head when drive blocking, a serious no-no.
So what is it about Nix that makes him so attractive?
It’s all about his great athleticism, and the fact that over the past year, Nix has made some serious strides in improving his technique through sheer will and a relentless work ethic.
Nix engages defenders off a great first step and keeps his arms in a more compact position while drive blocking. He’s never going to be that player who moves the pile, but he can generate enough stalemates to be effective.
He has the speed to get to the edge while pulling, and he does a good job in the second level.
Nix’ pass-blocking is more polished, but he’s better at redirecting pass-rushers than squaring up to them.
In the end, Nix will prove to be a developmental NFL guard, albeit with some worthwhile upside. The NFL’s premium on athletes and reliance on good coaching will keep Nix in the mix.
Up Next: The Offensive Tackles
Jeff Backus has regressed a bit from his vintage 2010 season, and we might be seeing Gosder Cherilus’ ceiling in 2011. Fans have been clamoring for a replacement for Backus for years, and 2012 might be the year that those fans get their wish.
Backus can continue to contribute in 2012 but would be best utilized at RG, where he can mentor Cherilus.
Backus at RG would represent a modest upgrade over Stephen Peterman while raising Cherilus‘ performance.
The Lions have Corey Hilliard, an adequate swing man who might never be a serious challenger for a starting spot.
And what about tackle Jason Fox? He spends more time injured than not. The thing about Fox is that he’s merely adequate backing up an average starter. That alone speaks to where he’s at skill-wise.
Rookie Johnny Culbreath plays like a seventh-rounder.
Yes, Lions fans, there are some answers to be found in the 2012 draft. I’ll break them down for your consideration.