T-Bob: Draft preview - guards are the glue that holds O-line together
In Part 2 of my 2014 Offensive Line NFL Draft Preview I will take a look at the top 2 Guard prospects. First, however, I would like to talk about the importance of the guard. Guards are the key to your running game. They pull more than the other positions on the O-line and are expected be strong at the point of attack in one-on-one running plays. Guards must be able to process information quickly and react on the fly. Many times a guard will have multiple possible assignments that will only be decided once the ball is snapped and the defense is in motion. Having a pair of great guards dramatically increase the line’s overall production as they will be used to help both the center and the tackles. Guards are like the glue that binds the line together. There is a reason that two of the Saints highest paid players are guards.
Zack Martin seems to be the consensus number one rated guard in this year’s class despite never having played the position. Martin certainly has the size for guard, clocking in at a beastly 6 feet 4 inches while tipping the scales at over 300 pounds. One trait I love about Martin is that he has a nasty streak and you can’t coach that. He is willing to put guys in the dirt at the end of a play and get in little shots here or there that some might frown upon. Zack Martin has the ability to stay low while bending at the knee as opposed to the waist. This is critical for an offensive lineman, as getting top heavy out over your toes is one of the quickest ways to get beat and end up on the ground, whether pass or run blocking.
One of the biggest knocks against Martin--is what I mentioned earlier, the fact that he has never played Guard in a game. While you would imagine he would translate well on the next level in the interior line, there is no guarantee. Martin turned in an extremely strong performance at Senior bowl, however, which points toward him perhaps having the ability the play either G or T in the NFL. I give Martin a ton of credit for performing so well at said bowl without ever really playing that position. I think Zack Martin is a proven competitor who has all the physical tools to be successful at the next level.
I am relieved that I do not have to pronounce the next top prospect’s name, because it is almost a surety that I would butcher it. Xavier Su’a Filo is a 6’4 307 pound monster of a man from UCLA. Despite being a Junior coming out early, Filo is a proven veteran on the gridiron. Xavier started 40 games at UCLA. Perhaps more importantly he started at all different positions. Filo is credited with 19 starts at LT and 21 starts at LG. This versatility is coveted in NFL prospects, because in a league where the slightest advantages can mean the difference between being cut or being kept, the more you can do the better. Filo is another guy who plays with a mean streak that he freely acknowledges. Xavier Su’a Filo said he believes the game is meant to be tough, mean, and physical especially on the interior of the line, and I’m inclined to agree with him. If it is going to get nasty, you want someone lined up next to you who isn’t afraid and is willing to dish the pain right back to the opponents. He excels in stopping penetration on pass plays due to his natural athleticism. If there is one thing Filo could improve on it would be his leverage. Sometimes when contact is made, Xavier can tend to get high and allow the D-lineman to get underneath him.
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