Richner: 2016 Top OGs

Last Updated: 5/1/2016 1:00 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 seventeen guards drafted in the first round, an average of just over one per year. In 2013, three guards (Jonathan Cooper, Chance Warmack, and Kyle Long) were drafted in the first round.

In 2015, only one guard (Laken Tomlinson) was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Lions, and seven guards were selected in the fourth round. There was a total of 18 offensive guards selected in the 2015 draft.

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.

Last year saw the K.C. Chiefs select Mitch Morse in the second round; Morse started 15 of 16 games last season. Morse a former guard at Missouri, started last season at center for the Chiefs, but there has been some talk about him sliding back out to guard for the 2016 season. Morse was able to handle bigger, power rushers and excelled at calling out assignments and blitz packages at the line of scrimmage. He was a key addition to the Chiefs last season. Morse was also the third ranked overall guard in last year's draft ranking.

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 and 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 Combine performance formula that evaluates and compares each player's measurables with those of the top offensive guards in the NFL.

For ranking purposes, we have broken the guards into two 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.

1) Joshua Garnett (OG, Stanford):

Stanford has a solid reputation for their ability to develop and establish quality NFL caliber offensive linemen and Garnett is the next in line to carry the Stanford torch to the NFL. At 6'5” and 325 pounds, he is a massive interior offensive lineman who is capable of dominating at the point of attack.

Garnett is able to get low at the snap of the ball and plays with great leverage and power to get underneath his opponent's pads and drive him down the field. He has the rare ability to sustain his blocks for a long period of time, which seals off running lanes.

Few guards come into the league as a dominant man-blocking offensive guard. It is a rare commodity into today's game. Garnett dominated at a similar level to former Cardinal guard David DeCastro who was a first round selection back in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Look for Garnett to be a late first or early second round selection.

2) Cody Whitehair (OG, Kansas State):

Playing at almost every position along the offensive line, Whitehair was one of the Wildcats' most consistent players over the past three years. He has started 51 of the last 52 games that he played in.

At 6'4” and 301 pounds, Whitehair has the size to play at the tackle spot in the NFL but most NFL scouts believe he is best suited to slide inside and play the guard position. The versatility to play at almost every spot and be a competitive player will make Whitehair a possible second round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

It is Whitehair's abilities and talents in run blocking that elevate him in this year's crop of offensive line prospects. He is as strong as an ox and has the initial punch and drive to drive his man off the line of scrimmage.

3) Germain Ifedi (OG, Texas A&M):

Having started out his career at guard for one season and then moving out to right tackle the past two seasons. Ifedi is a versatile offensive lineman who has shown a rare ability to get by with unrefined technique and more on power and natural skill set.

He is great at run blocking but loses his technique when he has to go against outside speed rushers. It's Ifedi inability to handle the speed rushers which have a few NFL teams believing his best role is along the interior of the offensive line.

He might need a season or two of development as Ifedi has sloppy hand technique and will need to work on keeping a balanced base. He will get too wide and allows defenders into his body and underneath his pad level.

Look for Ifedi to be a possible second or third round selection.

4) Landon Turner (OG, North Carolina):

A First-team All-American award winner in 2015 and a First-team All-ACC bookended, Turner had an all-star career at UNC. A four year starter at guard, Turner played in 52 games and made in impressive 42 career starts. There is little which Turner hasn't seen or inexperienced playing along the interior of the offensive line.

The knock on Turner is his limited agility and speed to get up into the second level and pick up an additional block. He does well in confined space but shows a lack of awareness and ability to seal off a linebacker or defensive back in the second level.

Suited for a man-blocking scheme, Turner is capable of being a plug and play caliber starter in the right system. He showed superior technique and balance in dealing with interior rushers, and the power to keep his base and withstand being driven back into the quarterback's pocket.

Turner isn't a prospect for every NFL team, with some limitations to his game he looks to be a possible third or fourth round selection. In the right system he could be a difference maker and a starter during his rookie season.

5) Spencer Drango (OG, Baylor):

Playing in a hyper-speed offense, which snaps the ball every 20 seconds, all players in the Baylor offense must be in top shape to compete on every play. Drango a three year starter at left tackle, only missing four games during his entire college career.

At 6'6” and 315 pounds, Drango handles both the outside speed rush and inside power rush moves from defenders with ease. Some scouts are worried about Drango's short arm length as a reason he needs to move inside to a guard position.

It's Drango's ability to get outside and quickly up the field as a lead blocker that makes him so highly rated amongst NFL scouts. Showing high football intelligence, Drango communicates well with his teammates, regularly calling out blitzes and picking up rushers coming into the pocket on a delayed blitz.

Suited for a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL, Drango athletically compares to former second round selection Zane Beadles. Look for Drango to be a third or fourth rounder. He might need a season or two of development learning a new position.

Ranking Player School Draftable Round
1 Joshua Garnett Stanford 1
2 Cody Whitehair Kansas State 2
3 Germain Ifedi Texas A&M 2-3
4 Landon Turner North Carolina 3-4
5 Spencer Drango Baylor 3-4
6 Vadal Alexander LSU 4
7 Nick Martin Notre Dame 4
8 Isaac Seumalo Oregon State 4
9 Christian Westerman Arizona State 5
10 Sebastian Tretola Arkansas 5
11 Rees Odhiambo Boise State 5
12 Darrell Greene San Diego State 5
13 Joe Dahl Washington State 5
14 Connor McGovern Missouri 6
15 Dominick Jackson Alabama 6
16 Aaron Morris Mississippi 6
17 Chad Farris Ohio State 7
18 Jordan Walsh Iowa 7
19 Nila Kasitati Oklahoma 7
20 Alex Redmond UCLA 7-FA
21 Sioasi Aiono Utah 7-FA
22 Eric Mac Lain Clemson FA
23 Parker Ehinger Cincinnati FA
24 Kyle Friend Temple FA
25 Ted Karras Illinois FA
26 Joe Thuney North Carolina State FA
27 Joseph Cheek Texas A&M FA