Do guards win games? What about centers?
It’s an annual draft debate: the importance of certain positions being an important tiebreaker. For instance, common wisdom would have you believe that pass rushers > defensive tackles and offensive tackles > certainly guards, and maybe centers, too. But there’s also a belief that interior players are unfairly overlooked and a quietly crucial element to holding an offense together. Call it the “closer to the ball” theory, if you will.
After all, the New England Patriots landed Joe Thuney in Round 3 a year ago, and — even with some ups and downs in Year 1 — started and played nearly every snap for the Super Bowl champions. Of course, the ultimate Draft Day tale that shows a great guard is most certainly worth something is the on-the-clock battle of Jerry Jones wanting to take Johnny Manziel and his fellow Dallas Cowboys war roomers, including son Stephen, ripping the Manziel card out of his cold, pale hands and imploring Jones to take the best player on their board.
That would be Zack Martin, who has become a Pro Bowl standout in no time and a key cog for the NFL’s best offensive line. (Where’s Johnny, by the way?)
This year’s class features no Martin-caliber prospect, although we believe there will be at least one interior player who is drafted in Round 1. Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, a four-year left tackle, has short arms for that position and likely will be viewed as a guard (or center, where he’s worked at this offseason too) by the majority of teams.
Although there’s a dropoff at guard and center thereafter, there are some quality options in this draft. We believe the strength of this class comes in Day 3, where several solid players could land and develop from that range.
(Note: We project Temple’s Dion Dawkins, Pitt’s Adam Bisnowaty and some others to offensive tackle, a position we broke down here previously.)
Positional grade: C
The lack of top-end prospects with Day 1 starting potential is notable. But there are a few solid center prospects (and players who could play center), which is a good thing at a position that routinely is thin in the draft, and some decent versatility here. There’s enough depth at guard and center to where we can’t give this group too harsh a grade.
Shutdown Corner’s Top 10 interior offensive linemen for 2017
1. OG-C Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky — 6-foot-4, 309 pounds — Four-year starter at tackle for the Hilltoppers projects inside and has strong makeup despite short arms (Full scouting report)
2. OG-C Dan Feeney, Indiana — 6-4, 305 — Plays with a nasty temperament; has played guard and tackle but also has been working at center before the draft (Full scouting report)
3. C-OG Pat Elflein, Ohio State — 6-3, 303 — Smart, hard-working, gritty interior player who lacks great size and athleticism but could be a 10-year pro
4. C-OT Ethan Pocic, LSU — 6-6, 310 — Is center his NFL home? The remains to be seen, but he has good quickness, zone-blocking ability and versatility to be a Day 2 pick
5. OG-OT Taylor Moton, Western Michigan — 6-5, 319 — Many project the talented, respected college tackle to play inside in the NFL, where his game seems to fit best
6. OG-OT Dorian Johnson, Pitt — 6-5, 300 — Smart, efficient and a strong worker, Johnson doesn’t wow you but has solid potential
7. OG Isaac Asiata, Utah — 6-3, 323 — Heavy-handed power blocker with limited athletic skill who can get overaggressive at times but could be a roadgrader in the run game
8. OG Nico Siragusa, San Diego State — 6-4, 319 — Bright, likeable, hard-working athlete who doesn’t dominate but could be functional starter in the NFL
9. C Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia — 6-3, 298 — Smart, extremely tough warrior who thrives with his intangibles but also can give up ground to power
10. C John Toth, Kentucky — 6-5, 307 — Lefthanded center played well vs. Bama and has potential to be a backup at all five OL positions
Danny Isidora, Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes have produced some darned good OL prospects over the years, and Isidora has been starting the past three years, so he’s hardly an unknown. But he tends to go overlooked for his lack of size and the fact that he’s labeled something of an overachiever, which can almost be viewed as a draft stigma of sorts. But we like Isidora’s toughness and don’t believe his size is going to prevent him from making a team.
Isidora has eventual starter potential because of his strong work ethic, excellent playing temperament, powerful lower body, underrated quickness and good toughness. Players such as this can slip through the draft cracks a bit but still end up being productive pros who far outplay where they are selected. A strong early Day 3 option.
Jordan Morgan, Kutztown (Pa.)
We didn’t know much about Morgan when we saw him at the Senior Bowl, where — frankly — he struggled a bit. But after some early potholes in blocking drills, he appeared to adjust and improve a bit as the week went on. Clearly, there was a jump in competition from Division-II to NFL-caliber players, and Morgan likely isn’t the next Ali Marpet, who was a Round 2 and nearly a Day 1 starter. But if Morgan can spend a year with a good OL coach and learn to anchor better, he might be something in time. His work ethic has been roundly praised, and he has some intriguing traits — such as long arms and sneaky athleticism — worth developing. A nice prospect in the middle of Day 3.
Other 2017 NFL draft position rankings:
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