Welcome to the fifth installment of the BGA: 2016 NFL Draft series. As we head to the draft, I'll be sharing thoughts and observations about draft prospects for each position group. In our previous installment, we looked at this year's safety class and we now move on to look at guards and centers.
I'll be discussing whether the Jets are likely to have a need at these positions and reviewing some of the top prospects along with some players that might be options later on.
These articles are not necessarily meant to be exhaustive, so if you wish to bring some other prospects into the discussion, please do so in the comments section below.
Jets' Needs: Guards and Centers
Based on last season, James Carpenter was a solid addition at left guard and remains under contract for the next three years. However, the situation at right guard is less certain. Brian Winters ended the season as a starter after Willie Colon was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. While Winters has improved over the course of his career, he was still a weak link at times on the interior.
Over the past few seasons, the Jets have brought in several promising youngsters, but none of them have quite managed to live up to their full potential. Maybe the team still holds out hope for Brent Qvale or last year's fifth-round pick Jarvis Harrison to start at guard, but it would be a surprise for them not to add at least one rookie to the mix.
While Jets fans have been able to not worry about the center position for the last decade, they probably won't be able to take Nick Mangold for granted for much longer. Current reserves Dakota Dozier and Wesley Johnson are not considered long-term replacements, so the Jets could soon be in the market for someone with good potential. One possibility could be to draft someone to compete for time at guard and potentially start at center in future.
2016 Draft: Guards and Centers
While most of this year's class project to guard, many of them played tackle or center in 2015, which can make it difficult to predict how they'll handle the position change. That's true of the two players currently expected to be the first interior lineman selected. Cody Whitehair of Kansas State played left tackle last season, whereas Alabama's Ryan Kelly played center.
Whitehair is a terrific athlete, but lacks strength and has short arms so would have to move inside. His stock took a hit when he was consistently overpowered in his matchup with Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah. Kelly doesn't make a lot of mistakes (no penalties in 2015), although he doesn't dominate consistently. What sets him apart from the other top center prospects is that he's slightly bigger and stronger, which might make him better suited to an initial role at guard, perhaps taking over as a starting center down the road. You can see his strength here as he drives back Montavious Adams, who is expected to be one of the top defensive tackle prospects in next year's draft.
After Kelly and Whitehair, there is another pair of players that didn't play guard in 2015: Notre Dame center Nick Martin and LSU's Vadal Alexander. Martin might enter the league with high expectations, given that his brother Zack was a Pro Bowler as a rookie just a couple of years ago. He is another consistent performer who is reliable in pass protection. Alexander played right tackle in 2015 and left guard in 2014. He didn't have a great combine and gave up a lot of pressure and 12 penalties at tackle last season, so he is another player that's expected to kick inside. As you can see, he's capable of blocking down on a lineman and moving him off his spot.
So, what about the players that actually did play guard last year? Three of the most highly regarded ones are North Carolina's Landon Turner, Stanford's Joshua Garnett and Arizona State's Christian Westerman.
Turner, a 330-pounder, was a consistent performer during the season despite not having a great combine showing. Unlike most of this year's class, he actually played right guard.
Garnett was another solid performer during the season and is adept at pulling. However, he does have lapses in pass protection at times.
As for Westerman, he had a great combine, although he did weigh in under 300 pounds, so he might be better suited to a zone blocking team. During the season, he did a consistent job in pass protection and didn't have any penalties. You can see how mobile he is as he gets out in front of this screen.
Two more undersized centers who will be hoping to be selected on Day 2 are USC's Max Tuerk and Michigan State's Jack Allen. Tuerk was listed at just 285 pounds during the season, but bulked up to 298 in time for the combine. He is 6-foot-5 and could possibly add more weight to that frame. He's coming off a knee injury that cut short a season in which he looked to have improved significantly on 2014. Here's a good clip of him pulling and creating a hole.
Allen is only 6-foot-1 and weighs 298 pounds, so he might be a candidate to remain as a center at the NFL level. He didn't have a great combine, but performed well during the season and had zero penalties. Allen can also make blocks on the move, as you can see.
We're now into guys who will probably be selected on Day 3. Some of the more interesting ones include Baylor's Spencer Drango, Michigan's Graham Glasgow and Washington State's Joe Dahl.
Drango played tackle for Baylor and didn't give up much pressure in its high-octane spread offense. He's a player who overcame dyslexia to become an excellent student, but teams will still be wary of how easy it will be for him to make the transition from a simplistic college spread into a more complicated NFL system.
Dahl played left tackle for Washington State, but like Drango, doesn't have the length teams typically seek at the position. He's certainly athletic enough to stay in front of speed rushers, but could get overpowered by today's modern breed of NFL rusher on the edge.
Though Glasgow played center last year, he has experience at guard and good size that will serve him well in a variety of roles. The versatility is attractive to teams and he controls the point of attack impressively at times. The question will be whether he's consistent enough to develop into a good starter or will he just be a journeyman depth player.
Two potential late rounders who might go higher after outstanding combine performances are Oregon State's Isaac Seumelo and N.C. State's Joe Thuney. Both had good seasons too, with Seumelo looking good both on the move and when surging ahead from right guard, and Thuney employing that athletic ability at left tackle.
While talking about great athletes, it would be remiss not to mention everyone's favorite 400-plus-pound dancing bear Laquan McGowan, who played tight end for Baylor but is being projected as a guard prospect based on his size. It's difficult to predict how that would work out, but I could definitely see a team adding him as a long-term project and maybe even using him as a short yardage full back or something while he sits on their active roster.
In looking for potential sleepers that could go undrafted, two interesting prospects are Fordham's Garrick Mayweather Jr. and Georgia Southern's Darien Foreman. Mayweather's film shows a level of dominance you'd like to see against lower level competition, and he held up well in two meetings with Division I Army and in the Collegiate Bowl. NFL teams will be interested in his size and ability.
Foreman was one of the key components of GSU's running game, which led the nation in 2015. He was equally effective blocking straight-ahead and on the move and handled his assignments well when the Eagles threw the ball. Here's a good example of Foreman making the key block on an option run.
I'll be back with another installment soon. Let me know which position you'd like to see me review next in the comments.