Richner: 2014 Top OGs

Last Updated: 1/18/2015 8:58 PM ET
With more than half of the NFL running a 3-4 defense, teams would be wise to put more emphasis on upgrading the interior of their offensive line. Since 2000, there have been fourteen guards drafted in the first round, an average of just one per year. In 2013, three guards (Jonathan Cooper, Chance Warmack, and Kyle Long) were drafted in the first round.

While there has been the occasional bust (James Carpenter), drafting an offensive guard in the first round is one of the safest and surest bets in the NFL Draft. All-Pro Guards such as Steve Hutchinson, Logan Mankins, and Mike Iupati were former first rounders.
While the offensive tackles still get all the glory, the game of football is still won and lost in the trenches. Many games come down to one team's ability to pick up a key first down in a short yardage or goal line situation. Having a beast of a guard to run behind just might be the difference between victory or defeat.

Even on some of the more pass-happy teams, most guards still stand between 6'3” and 6'5” and weigh between 305 and 320 pounds. They have to have the athletic ability to pull and trap block. An athletic guard who can get outside the numbers or up to the second level can be the difference between a three yard run and twenty-five yard run.

This year's offensive linemen are ranked and evaluated using both career and single season stats, such as sacks allowed. In addition, we also utilize a complex Combine performance formula that evaluates and compares each player's measurables with those of the top offensive tackles in the NFL.

For ranking purposes, we have broken the guards into three groups. The first group is the top five pass blockers. A top tier pass blocking guard has to have the skill set to handle the power rushers. They must possess the strength and leverage to hold their ground and not be driven back into the quarterback's pocket. Most scouts are looking for knee benders, this way they have a solid foundation and balance to take on a defender.

The second category of offensive guards is in run blocking. The ability to be a dominant run blocking guard is what separates average and great guards. A top tier guard should dominate his opponent at the point of attack, play low and with leverage, and they must finish their blocks.

Most NFL teams now run a zone-blocking scheme, which relies on players acting as a unit versus taking on individual assignments. In a man-blocking scheme, each player has a specific opponent that he must block on each play. A zone blocking scheme puts emphasis on speed and quickness. In a man-blocking scheme, power and strength are usually emphasized as they must be able to move their opponent out of the gap or, in some cases, move an entire pile to pick up key yards.

The final rankings are the top-10 overall rankings for the offensive group. These rankings include both the pass blocking, run blocking and Combine measurables to determine an overall rating.

Top 5 Pass-Blocking Guards (Number of team sacks allowed in 2013)
1) Xavier Su'a-Filo (UCLA) (36)
2) Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) (23)
3) Brandon Linder (Miami) (17)
4) Cyril Richardson (Baylor) (22)
5) David Yankey (Stanford) (16)

Top 5 Run-Blocking Guards (2013 Total Rushing Yards, YPR, Rushing TD, YPG)
1) Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) (2,469; 5.39; 47; 259.7)
2) Dakota Dozier (Furman) (2,070; 4.03; 21; 147.9)
3) David Yankey (Stanford) (2,904; 4.97; 30; 207.4)
4) John Urschel (Penn State) (2,088; 4.17; 22; 174)
5) Cyril Richardson (Baylor) (3,376; 5.39; 47; 259.7)

Top 15 Overall Offensive Guards:
1) Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State)
2) David Yankey (Stanford)
3) Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
4) Xavier Su'a-Filo (UCLA)
5) Brandon Linder (Miami)
6) Dakota Dozier (Furman)
7) John Urschel (Penn State)
8) Jon Halapio (Florida)
9) Chris Watt (Notre Dame)
10) Kadeem Edwards (Tennessee State)
11) Trai Turner (LSU)
12) Anthony Steen (Alabama)
13) Ryan Groy (Wisconsin)
14) Anthony Steen (Alabama)
15) Zach Fulton