The 2012 Offensive Guard class is a good one, that has a little bit of everything. Stanford’s Davis DeCastro is projected as the drafts best guard. Iowa’s Kelechi Osemele, Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler, Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State and Miami Ohio’s Brandon Brooks round out my projected Top 5.
My Top 5 Offensive Guards:
1. David DeCastro – Stanford – 6-4 – 316:
One of the top offensive guard prospects to enter the NFL in the past decade, David DeCastro is a complete prospect with an NFLready skillset needed to start for any team in the league immediately. A three-year starter at Stanford, DeCastro started the last 39- consecutive games at right guard for the Cardinal. A high-character player with top intangibles, David brings the type of work ethic and attitude that scouts look closely for in a leader; in addition, he’s a high football IQ player with the instincts and understanding of the game that coaches love. DeCastro owns a tall, lean frame with room to continue to grow and long enough arms (32 inches) for the position. As reliable of a pass protector as you’ll find in the country, DeCastro is sinks back into his pass set off the ball with good flexibility and takes on the defender with polished and refined technique; he plays with his knees bent, back arched, and arms extended on a consistent basis. He owns the lower body strength needed to consistently anchor at the point of attack while also owning elite upper body strength (34 reps on bench) needed to gain control and lock on off the snap before neutralizing the defender for the rest of the play with his very strong grip; his functional strength may be the best in the draft from any offensive lineman. David does a very good job of shuffling his feet, while churning his legs when locked on, showing the nimble feet and agility needed to mirror interior pass rushers. He’s not an outstanding athlete, however he owns more than enough athleticism to have a successful career. A dominant blocker in the run game who can be effective in nearly any running scheme at the next level, DeCastro is a polished player here who excels both as a drive blocker and working in space. As a drive blocker, he shows a consistent ability to come off the line with low pad level and come crashing down on the interior lineman to pave open a large hole in the run game; Stanford’s run game was the 18th best in the country this season and 17th best last season, with DeCastro being one of the biggest reasons why. He’s a mauler on the interior who delivers a strong punch at the point of attack to opposing defensive linemen while owning the strength needed to be a road grader at the next level. Where he is very underrated is with his light feet and mobility. A coordinated athlete on the move, David has displayed a unique ability to pull through on trap blocks and clear out the linebacker or tackle to clear a gaping hole for the ball carrier. He’s proven to be capable of being a lead blocker on nearly any run inside or out, and although he’s not the most fluid or flexible athlete, he has more than enough ability to break down and redirect in open space to take a moving target out of the play. David has little trouble sliding to the second level to take out the linebacker. He does a terrific job of continuing to move his feet through contact and has nearly perfected the ability to take on a defender in the run game before driving them backwards by churning his feet, combined with great technique. In short-yardage situations, he has power and strength needed to physically push a pile, one reason why Stanford had plenty of success running the ball on third-and-fourth downs, as well as around the goal line; the Cardinal ranked 17th in the country with 32 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and 12th in the country with 34 in 2010. DeCastro also plays with the of feisty, tenacious mean streak that I look closely for in an offensive lineman, offering the type of fiery mean streak needed to be a very good player in the NFL. Having started 39 games over the past three seasons at Stanford without missing a start, David proved to be a very durable player for the Cardinal and does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level. David DeCastro has the physical tools, instincts, intangibles, and polished technique needed to be a 10-15 year starter for the team that drafts him. He has elite potential in the NFL, and I think it’s a question of how many Pro Bowl’s he makes it to, not whether or not he will make it.
2. Kelechi Osemele – Iowa State – 6-5 – 333:
A player with the physical tools of Jeff Otah, but the temperament of Tony Ugoh, Kelechi Osemele has the raw combination of size, strength, and athleticism to develop into a very good offensive lineman, however still has some overall question marks in his game. A four-year starter who started the final 44 games of his career, Osemele has experience at both tackle and guard and should be able to provide that versatility to the team that drafts him. Massive, big a wide, thick frame to swallow up defenders when he locks on, Kelechi is a strong, powerful mauler capable of driving the defender off the ball. He has great raw strength in the upper body, possessing a very strong grip at the point of attack; he has tree trunks for legs with great leg drive off the ball also. Kelechi is strong enough at the point of attack to neutralize nearly any defender in the country if he locks on. With his big frame, he’s capable of clearing a wide hole, demolishing anything in front of him when he gains momentum. With long arms (35 inches) and a wide
wingspan (84 inches), there are times when he manages to extend out and grab ahold of a smaller defensive end before tossing him off to the side like a rag doll. Osemele’s lateral agility is not great, however he offers enough mobility to get outside and kick a defender
out of the play by physically overpowering him and blowing him out of the running lane. Kelechi’s lateral agility in short and closed
spaces is good, displaying a fine ability to play in a phone booth, however when he has to extend out, reach block, or block on the
move that’s where he will struggle at times. Although he still needs to do this more consistently, he’s shown the ability to sit down in
his pass set with his back arched, giving him the proper fundamentals to reach out and lock onto the defender. He does a nice job of
staying square at the point of attack when making initial contact with the defender. His overall technique steadily improved throughout his career, however it is not yet where it needs to be in order to start at the next level. Osemele could use work on his balance; he will get caught leaning out and attempting to reach at a defender, resulting in him getting over-extended when he gets off the ball by a faster defensive end or a smaller one who then gets underneath him. He owns the agility to get to the second level, but needs quite a bit of work on blocking on the move as well as cutting a defender’s legs out. Kelechi possesses adequate flexibility for a player as big as he is; he’s not exactly fluid, but offers some ability to bend at the knees. While he has displayed a strong punch at the point of attack, Kelechi still needs to develop his hand use and keep his feet moving through contact, as he doesn’t use second or third effort here, but rather attempts to lock on right off the ball, and if he doesn’t manage to do that, he can get caught out of position where the defender then takes advantage of his lack of balance and blows right by him. To have a successful pro career, Kelechi must develop a better killer instinct. He currently does not play with the type of fire or tenacity that I look for in an offensive lineman and seems to have a motor that runs and hot cold. Although he was a very consistent player for the Cyclones, he got by primarily because of his gifted physical tools. However, in order to develop in the NFL, he must push and motivate himself to get better and play with more feistiness. He will need to land with a great position coach who will continue to teach him the nuances of the position as well as push him to continue to get better. Kelechi Osemele has all of the physical tools needed to develop into a very good offensive lineman in the NFL. He projects better inside at guard than outside at tackle, as this will give him a better advantage with his great strength and lack of great lateral agility.
3. Kevin Zeitler – Wisconsin – 6-3 – 315:
The next in what has become a very long line of productive Badger offensive linemen to enter the NFL, Kevin Zeitler leaves Madison after having been a three-year, 35-career games starter for Wisconsin. For the last three years, Kevin has been a valuable cog on an offensive line that has led the way for three-consecutive seasons ranking as one of the 15-best run offenses in college football. A polished prospect both physically and technically who is NFL-ready with his combination of size, strength, and polished fundamentals, Zeitler is a finisher who consistently executes his assignment and can be counted on to get the job done. Kevin is a mauler at the point of attack who has proven to be a dependable road grader in the run game for the Badgers. With the ideal frame for a guard prospect, he moves his feet very well for a player of his size. A former wrestler in high school, Zeitler has a great
understanding of how to gain leverage at the point of attack and uses his past experience to his advantage with the way he fires low off
the ball and into the defender. He offers the leg drive to push a pile and has proven to be a dependable lead blocker in the run game.
Kevin also does a good job getting his hands up inside the defender to control him at the point of attack and has displayed a very
strong grip needed to neutralize the defender once he gains control. He has great hand use, consistently firing his hands at the defender until he manages to gain control, and then having the upper body strength to take the defensive lineman out of the play. Zeitler has quick enough feet to reach block or pull out on the edge, however he just needs to continue to work on locking onto the moving target out on the edge or at the second level. As a pass blocker, his technique in his pass set is polished, doing a good job of keeping his legs balanced and underneath him while not getting over-extended. Zeitler has shown the ability to be a great anchor at the point of attack in pass protection, also displaying excellent anticipation and instincts when picking up blitzing defenders. His lateral agility, which was shown at the Senior Bowl, is something that isn’t quite as fluid and quick as you’d desire, however he managed to make up for it during his career with his polished play and strength. Zeitler is a far better player playing in closed spaces or in a phone booth rather than out on the move. Kevin would be a far better fit in a power-run oriented scheme than in a zone-blocking one. He is not an overly athletic player, however for a team looking for a feisty interior offensive lineman who plays with a chip on his shoulder and is going to be a tough and reliable player, Kevin fits that mold perfectly. Zeitler is the type of player who does nothing great, but does everything well, which is what makes him a dependable and reliable player on the offensive line. Kevin Zeitler may never be an elite guard in the NFL, however he has all of the tools and skillset to develop into an all-around solid and reliable starter in the NFL and is polished enough that I could see him contribute, if not start early in his career, much the same way that his former teammate John Moffitt did last season as a rookie for the Seattle Seahawks.
4. Amini Silatolu – Midwestern State – 6-3 – 311:
One of the top small-school players in this year’s draft, Amini Silatolu reminds me of a poor man’s Mike Iupati with the skillset that he brings to the next level. Silatolu was a two-year starter at San Joaquin Delta Community College before transferring to Midwestern State at starting for another two years. While he played left tackle at both San Joaquin Delta and at Midwestern State, Amini projects better inside at offensive guard. Built very well for an interior offensive lineman at the next level, Amini is a naturally strong lineman with good arm length (33 inches) and the athleticism that you look for in the position. In the run game, Silatolu displays the feisty mean streak that I look closely for, often showing a fiery, tenacious attitude on the field. He’s a physical, aggressive blocker off the line of scrimmage, offering a great combination of strength (28 reps on bench) and agility for a player of his size. Inside, he has the flexibility to fire low off the ball, lock onto the defensive lineman, before driving him backwards off the ball. While this won’t be something that he’ll be capable of doing as consistently in the NFL as he did at Midwestern State, you like to see that the experience and technique is there. Very nimble for a 310+ pound offensive lineman, Amini has proven to be more than capable of pulling through and demolishing a defender on traps inside, as well as pulling outside as a lead blocker in the open field, breaking down to redirect, and taking out a moving target in space. His aggressiveness, at times, can be a detriment to him out in space, as he will occasionally play too wild and either run past the defender he’s attempting to block or lose his balance and not effectively execute the block. Quick off the ball, Amini has shown the ability to be very effective with combination blocks, taking on the initial defensive tackle before giving him a violent punch at the point of attack and handing him off to the offensive guard; his nimbleness through the hole as a blocker is hard to find in a prospect, as he shows little trouble getting to the second level to blow the linebacker backwards and open up a gaping hole for the running back to run through. I love the way that Silatolu finishes his blocks; even after tossing the first defender off to the side, he turns up the field, keeps his head on a swivel, and looks for the next defender to take out. Very reliable in pass protection, Amini displays short, quick steps in his kick slide as well as a violent punch off the ball at the point of attack. Still a raw prospect, I’d like to see him sink his hips more in his pass set, as he tends to stand too tall at the point of attack, giving the defender an opportunity to gain leverage on him. In pass protection, he displays very quick, active hands to gain control of the defender and sustain the block through the entirety of the play. He does not project well out on the edge, as he lacks the height, length, and range to be an effective left tackle in the NFL. However, his short-area quickness and lateral agility in closed spaces are both very good and project favorably to guard at the next level. He’s shown some ability to anchor at the point of contact, however, he will need further development in sinking his hips and using his lower body strength to his advantage. The tools are there, he just needs further refinement. Amini proved to be durable throughout his career as a four-year starter between the two colleges and does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level. Intelligence could be a question mark, he failed to qualify academically out of San Joaquin Delta for any Division-1A schools, and was forced to play at the D-II level. Amini Silatolu is still a rather raw prospect who is rough around the edges, however he has the tools, skillset, and feisty temperament that you look for in an interior offensive line prospect, and assuming his development goes as planned at the next level, I believe that he has what it takes to develop into a solid starting offensive guard in the NFL.
5. Brandon Brooks – Miami (OH) – 6-4 – 353:
Physically among the more impressive offensive linemen in this year’s draft class, Brandon Brooks enters the NFL after having been a four-year starter at Miami (OH). Having started 42 games at left tackle as well as both guard positions for the Redhawks, Brooks offers excellent experience with the versatility that you like to see in a player. Owning a huge frame with a very thick, stocky upper body and long arms (33 inches), Brandon has ideal size for a power run-oriented team, along with the raw power and strength (36 reps on bench) needed to physically overpower opposing defensive linemen. In pass protection, Brooks is at his best in closed spaces, having far more success in a phone booth than outside on the edge. Although he owns heavy legs with plenty of sand in his pants, Brandon offers enough nimbleness in short areas needed to be effective inside at guard in the NFL. He has the upper and lower body strength needed to anchor consistently at the point of attack, and does a great job of using his big frame to his advantage in pass protection. He’s a hard player to work around because of his large frame, however he also uses his long arms well to extend out and attempt to gain control of the defender, and when he locks on, he has more than enough strength to neutralize the defensive lineman for the rest of the play. However, with his strong grip, he will tend to get caught holding at times and must develop better discipline with his hand use with his position coach at the next level. Brooks shuffles his feet well inside, and with great instincts, has displayed the anticipation and awareness to spot oncoming rushers that you look for in the position. In the run game, Brandon has all of the raw tools needed to develop into an elite drive blocker at the next level. When on his game, he’s a very powerful player capable of driving nearly any defender off the ball with good leverage. His tree trunks for legs give him excellent leg drive off the ball to overpower defenders and deliver a violent punch at the point of attack. Brooks has shown the potential to be a dominant player here, however he does not play with the type of fierce, tenacious attitude that you look for; if there’s one type of player that you hope would play with a consistent mean streak, it’d be Brooks, however he doesn’t always show it. An average athlete who has trouble in shifting his weight and moving in the open field, Brandon has heavy feet with limited lateral agility and I would not expect him to be considered by teams that own a zone blocking running game, as he would not be effective here; I wouldn’t ask him to pull out and block on the move, as that’s not what he’s built for. At 353 pounds, Brandon still has some bad weight on his frame and will need to get into better shape and take off that weight at the next level. He needs to continue to work on improving his stamina and conditioning, and the team that drafts him will need to keep an eye on his weight and help him stay disciplined in not letting him gain too much weight. Although he missed half of the 2010 season with injury, Brandon does not have any known injury concerns as he enters the next level and offers good durability with his 42 career starts. Brandon Brooks has all of the tools and skills needed to develop into a very good interior offensive lineman in the NFL for a team that implements the power-run game on offense. He will need to shed some bad weight, improve his conditioning, and continue to develop a mean streak, however Brooks has everything that you look for in an offensive lineman that could start in the NFL.
The Next 5:
6. Lucas Nix – Pittsburgh – 6-5 – 317
7. Senio Kelemete – Washington – 6-3 – 307
8. Brandon Washington – Miami (FL) – 6-3 – 320
9. Ryan Miller – Colorado – 6-7 – 321
10. Joe Looney – Wake Forest – 6-3 – 315
Overrated: Kelechi Osemele
Underrated: Brandon Brooks
Small School Sleeper: Amini Silatolu