The crop of offensive guards in the 2014 NFL Draft class isn’t known as an elite class, at least certainly not compared to those of offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive tackle. But what it may lack in star power it makes up for in substance, which is why I think this is such an underrated class.
Much of this is due to the fact that they’re following the historic class in last years draft, where we saw three offensive guards be selected in the first round, including two in the top ten (Jonathan Cooper 7th to the Arizona Cardinals and Chance Warmack 10th to the Tennessee Titans). Two guards going in the top ten is incredibly rare, and the last time that ever happened was 1966 when Tom Mack and John Niland both went in the top five.
No, there won’t be any guard from this years class going top ten, but there could still be a couple first rounders in the mix.
Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA) has really been flying up boards the last couple weeks after a strong Combine and an even better Pro Day performance. At 6-foot 4, 307-pounds, Su’a-Filo ran an impressive 4.88 40-yard dash and a 4.44 20-yard shuttle, showing you what kind of agility and footwork he has.
He’s also got extensive experience playing both inside at guard and outside at left tackle for the Bruins, which speaks volumes of his potential versatility at the next level. On top of all that, a few scouts have even said he’s the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson in 2001, which is extraordinary praise. I think Su’a-Filo creeps into late-teens of the first round, but almost no way he falls past the Seattle Seahawks at No. 32.
Besides Su’a-Filo, David Yankey (Stanford) and Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) have also been drawing rave reviews. Yankey (6-foot 5, 315-pounds) is the latest in a long line of recent standouts along the trenches from Stanford, and is the typical Cardinal: smart, tough, strong and equipped with a blue collar work ethic. He doesn’t have outstanding numbers, but the film doesn’t lie. There’s a lot of talk about him being a late first round pick as well.
Jackson (6-foot 3, 336-pounds) has been mentioned as the best guard in this class for about two years now, and hasn’t disappointed one bit on the field. Like Yankey, his measurables aren’t outstanding, but he’s an absolute mauler in the run game up the middle. He’s right on that fringe late first/early second round range.
And these are just the top prospects. Trai Turner (LSU), Cyril Richardson (Baylor), Chris Watt (Notre Dame), Anthony Steen (Alabama) and John Urschel (Penn State) all look to be mid round prospects, but don’t be surprised to see these guys as long term starters in the NFL.
So could we see three guards go in the first? Su’a-Filo is the only sure-fire in my opinion, but if I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it ended up that three were selected in the top 32 picks.