A top ten guard was once considered a rarity but 2013 may make us rethink that notion. The last time a guard was taken in the top ten was 1997. The 2013 NFL Draft changed that as we saw two guards off the board in the top ten picks (Jonathan Cooper to Arizona at No. 7 and Chance Warmack to Tennessee at No. 10).
The 2014 NFL Draft lacks the top end talent that 2013 had in spades but appears to be a fairly deep class, should we see some underclassmen defections. The headliner, for me, is Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson. Jackson contemplated entering the 2013 NFL Draft but wisely stayed in school for his senior season.
The underclassmen guards feature some intriguing prospects, most notably Stanford’s David Yankey and UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo. Both players have experience playing tackle as well as guard. There’s a handful of juniors to watch as the season progresses as this could become another solid guard class.
After the break check out our 2014 NFL Draft guard rankings.
1. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Gabe Jackson is an NFL-ready run blocker but needs to show improvement in pass protection if he wants to hear his name called on day one of the draft. Jackson contemplated bolting for the NFL last season but wisely opted to return to school. With another season of work against the best the SEC has to offer will do him good in his transition into an NFL pass protector.
2. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Richardson has bounced from tackle to guard but may be best served on the interior at the next level. It really was a toss up for between Jackson and Richardson and could have very easily went the way of the Baylor blocker. Richardson’s ability to slide to right tackle may push him ahead of Jackson on many boards when it’s all said and done. He’s another NFL-ready run blocker that was much better in pass protection on the inside than out at tackle.
3. Anthony Steen, Alabama
Anthony Steen gets lost in the mix of all the big name OL on the Alabama roster. With the absence of Warmack, Barrett Jones, and D.J. Fluker, Steen will earn his stripes this season. He will be expected to take the leadership reigns of this offensive line and we’ll see if he was just a product of the great ones he was surrounded by. Steen, quietly, had a very good season in 2012 as he was a solid run blocker and was more than impressive in pass protection.
4. Spencer Long, Nebraska
The former walk-on has earned his stripes at Nebraska by turning into one of the better guard prospects in this senior class. He’s put together back to back solid seasons and could emerge as a second day pick with a solid senior campaign.
5. Dakota Dozier, Furman
6. Brandon Thomas, Clemson
7. Brandon Linder, Miami
8. Antwan Lowery, Rutgers
9. Andrew Norwell, Ohio State
10. Chris Burnette, Georgia
11. Marcus Hall, Ohio State
12. Zach Fulton, Tennessee
13. John Urschel, Penn State
14. Chris Watt, Notre Dame