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Rating the offensive guards

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Offensive guards generally don't go high in the draft. Last year, just one guard was taken in each of the first three rounds. The bulk of prospects were selected in rounds five through seven.

Since 1998, when Mo Collins (No. 23) and Alan Faneca (26) were both taken within the first 32 picks, one or fewer guards have been selected in the first round.

Between 1999 and 2006, Lewis Kelly, Kynan Forney, Rick DeMulling, Scott Wells, William Whitticker and Mark Setterstrom, all of whom were drafted in the seventh round, were able to become starting guards in their first pro season.

This year, there are a handful of prospects who could surface as late first-round to early day-one selections. Expect 10 to 12 players to come off the board between the fourth and six rounds.

OFFENSIVE GUARD SLEEPERS
Robert Turner, New Mexico
Patrick Murray, Truman State (Mo.)
Nevin McCaskill, Hampton

TOP OFFENSIVE GUARDS

1. Justin Blalock, Texas. This two-time All-American was once thought to be a sure-fire, first-round prospect. But he was not a great finisher as a senior, and his body type (6-foot-4, 329 pounds) is geared more to him playing inside.

He has a broad upper body with thick legs, which give him the ability to drive defenders off the ball as a run blocker but prohibit him from dealing with faster edge rushers if stationed out at right tackle.

Blalock needs to trim back to the 320-to-325 pound range, tighten up around the middle and keep himself from getting top heavy. He has better footwork at the lower weight and, in the right system, could be put back out at right tackle.

Some worry that he lacks ideal arm size (33 inches) to stave off defenders at tackle. Still, he has as a chance to be taken toward the end of the first round if not early second. Upcoming workouts will be key.

2. Ben Grubbs, Auburn. This hard-working, All-SEC lineman has gone from a 250-pound defensive lineman to a dominating, 6-3, 318-pound blocker.

Grubbs has quick feet and is good at locating second-level defenders to block. He has long arms and big, quick hands, and it's a major plus for him to play left guard since he is left-handed.

Several teams are looking for a fresh face at left guard (Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and possibly Cincinnati Bengals), so one of them could very well make a late first-round deal in order to grab Grubbs.

3. Tala Esera, Hawaii. One of the most physically gifted and versatile blockers available.

Esera was a left tackle, but his body type and lack of ideal height (6-4, 295) for the position have most believing that he will move inside. He gets under his man and creates good explosion with his initial punch.

Mature and family-oriented off the field, he is married with two children.

His workout numbers – 5.10 range in the 40, 28 to 32 reps of 225 pounds and fluid movement in all the agility drills – should impress.

4. Mansfield Wrotto, Georgia Tech. A converted defensive lineman who played tackle as a senior, Wrotto earned All-ACC honors.

He lacks ideal height (6-3) but has a strong upper body and solid lower base, which fit in perfectly with a move to guard. He moves well at 310 now and will get better with improved experience and technique.

Wrotto impressed position coaches and scouts with his interviews during the Senior Bowl. If he learns to keep his hands higher and make better use of his upper body strength, he can become a solid pro starter, especially for a team that might not come off the board until the third round.

5. Arron Sears, Tennessee, The three-year starter ended his college career as one of the Vols' most decorated linemen, getting most of his starts at left tackle.

He lacks ideal quickness and athleticism to start at left tackle, but he plays with the desired technique, smarts and stability to hold down an interior line spot.

Sears (6-4, 320) can dominate the line of scrimmage thanks to his good upper body strength and good use of his hands. He could get stronger in the lower body and needs to be conscious of his weight.

He will be rated higher on some boards because of his experience, but lower on others because he will be viewed as an average athlete in many categories.