As the team approaches the draft and continues to reshape the unit in charge of keeping Captain Jameis upright it’s important for fans to remember that free agency is only the beginning phase towards correcting the flawed unit. As of now, Ryan Jensen signing with the Bucs has pushed Ali Marpet over to left guard, where he can help sure up the left side of the line alongside Donovan Smith. On the right side, Demar Dotson will anchor the right tackle position leaving right guard as the null and void spot up for grabs. Many fans, myself included, would love to some fresh blood here but for the time being its manned by oft injured JR Sweezy and potentially down to him and Caleb Benenoch for the spot. Let’s take a look at some draft options that could slide in at guard for the Buccaneers.
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame - Nelson is a redshirt Junior that is capping two straight seasons of dominance on the offensive line. Nelson is a team captain and an imposing figure to line up across from in the trenches. The 2017 All American is a menace snap to whistle and looks to impose his full will on defenders snap after snap. Measuring in at 6’5 and weighing 329 lbs, Nelson is built for the league. Games watched included Miami, North Carolina, Boston College and NC State (2016).
- Pros: Nelson simply moves defenders off the ball better than any other guard in this draft. Nelson has very good lower half power and movement when engaged and getting to the second level. Nelson shows good awareness and a high understanding of d-line stunts and front disguises, rarely getting crossed up. At the point of attack Nelson is regularly the first man to engage and take control. Nelson uses his hips well and snaps into blocks with good force. Nelson fights for every inch when engaged and has become an elite college run blocker thanks to his attitude. Shows good pass protection base and pad level. Positive mirror skills and hand placement. Incredible athlete for his size with short area movement skills and power for days.
- Cons: Has been shown to get beat from time to time in pass protection. When the defender gets skinny or swims over Nelson has had some struggles. While dominant in his box, slight delay when pulling. Foot quickness will need to improve against elite interior pass rushers in the NFL.
- Overview: One of the most complete offensive guards to come out in quite some time. Nelson will be a top 10 pick and if not for Chubb being a pass rusher and teams needing quarterbacks, is every bit worthy in this draft to go top 3. If Nelson survives to the 7th pick of the draft, the Buccaneers would be gambling big on passing up the chance for a dominant interior for years to come.
Will Hernandez, Texas El Paso (UTEP) - Hernandez has tallied up 37 starts at left guard for the Miner’s as a four year starter and red-shirt senior. Hernandez was a Freshman All Conference lineman and has continued his ascent towards the NFL as the top guard in program history. Hernandez stands 6’2 and weighs in at 348 lbs. Games reviewed include Army, Oklahoma and Texas (2016) as well as the Senior Bowl.
- Pros: Hernandez shows good foot speed and short area movement for a player of his size. Plus flexibility and body control. Very good power at the point of attack and snaps into blocks well. Looks to bury the opponent play after play and plays with good upper body strength. Stays upright and stiff in pass protection. Shows good feel for the pocket and quarterbacks location with his ability to push the defender beyond the play. Lateral movement is good and fluid. Incredible work ethic and demeanor, ideal for the position.
- Cons: Gets a bit jumpy off the snap and will initiate contact prior to gathering balance. Has struggled a bit with lengthier interior opponents. Hand placement is a bit hit or miss and rushed. Struggles against pass rushers to the center side. Drop step can get a bit choppy and hesitant. For as well as he run blocks at the LOS and pulls, struggles to make the second level block a bit too often.
- Overview: Hernandez has the attitude and work ethic to be a starting guard in the NFL early and for a long time. The Buccaneers added a real grinder in Ryan Jensen this off-season, pairing Hernandez with Jensen and Marpet would form a dominant interior. The Buccaneers would likely need to trade back up into the late first or move a good distance back from 7th overall to justify this pick as Hernandez is not a top 10 talent in the draft, regardless of that he has the potential to be a future top tier guard in the league.
Isaiah Wynn, Georgia - Wynn is a Florida native, playing his high school ball as a guard for Lakewood High School, that went to Georgia as a top 10 guard prospect who turned into a very good left tackle. Wynn’s height and weight will force a move inside at the next level. Standing 6’3 and weighing in at 313 lbs, he’s still a beast of an athlete. Games watched include against Florida (2016 and 2017), Oklahoma, Auburn (2016) and Alabama.
- Pros: Shows very good footwork and is light on his feet. Shows good short area quickness and should be a good pull blocker inside at guard. Has shown good mirror skills in his time at left tackle and the ability to play guard, tackle and potentially even center should appeal to teams. Plays with good intensity and looks to finish opponents through the whistle. Shows a good understanding of moving to the second level and setting his block. Shows good recovery and adjustments against pass rush moves as well as secondary moves. Has shown he can sit down and hold his ground in pass protection, hands are strong and hold the point of attack well.
- Cons: Tends to get short with his arms at times, not fully extending and locking out the defender. Doesn’t have the same initial contact desire that Hernandez and Nelson show. Doesn’t show the elite hip snap and power through the lower half just yet. Doesn’t show the same discipline against defenders in pass protection that Nelson and Hernandez have shown.
- Overview: Wynn is a versatile lineman with starting experience at guard and tackle. Wynn shows impressive upper body strength and athleticism, a move to guard should allow him to focus a bit more on the lower half and being a true mauler. Wynn showed the ability to stifle the likes of Carl Lawson. For the Buccaneers, Wynn could be a potential target come round two if the team is looking to fill the guard spot opposite of Ali Marpet with a quality rookie starter. The move would give the team a very athletic front for Jameis and company to work with.
Tony Adams, N.C. State - Adams has been a mainstay at right guard for N.C. State since his freshman year. Adams has some wrestling background that helps with his body positioning and control which is evident in his game tape. Adams stands 6’2 and weighs in at 322 lbs. Games reviewed include the Shrine Game, Notre Dame and Louisville (2016).
- Pros: Adams has been an effective pull blocker in his time at N.C. State, showing good lateral quickness and overall movement skills. Has been effective as a helper, recognizing quickly when he needs to shift and offer help right or left. Body control and balance while blocking are a plus and reflect his wrestling background. Snaps hips into block well. Good, quick hand placement helps control the block and gain leverage. Good early hand placement has led to incredibly low penalty counts against him.
- Cons: While initial hand placement is incredibly good, as the play develops, Adams tends to lock in and keep hands where they are instead of adjusting as fighting through as the play goes. Doesn’t recover particularly well when beat as a pass protector. Struggles against elite speed and length.
- Overview: Adams doesn’t play with the nasty demeanor some others will display and lacks the ideal length for the position but there is no denying his work ethic and body control. Adams shows the skill set necessary to be a quality NFL starter down the road and the Buccaneers may be wise to give Adams a look day three of the draft approaches. Adams is one of the few later round guys that possesses enough quality traits, starts at guard and athleticism to position himself as a future starter at guard.
Braden Smith, Auburn - Smith offers up about as much experience at right guard as you could possibly ask for in a draft pick having started 41 games at right guard for the Auburn Tigers. Smith finished his Auburn career with All SEC and All American honors. Standing 6’6 and weighing in at 303 lbs, Smith is built to maul inside. Games watched include Georgia, LSU, Missouri and Clemson.
- Pros: Smith is a very good run blocker that shows good power off the snap and solid balance at the POC. Power blocker who looks to lock on and engage in a phone booth. Shows good punch power but needs to use it more often. Effective against the bull rush shows ability to push the defender back when first to attack. Smith controls defenders well in the run game and against the pass has enough flexibility to hold up to initial move.
- Cons: Lacks the short area quickness to be a top notch pull blocker. Will get beat with secondary pass rush moves from high end tackles. Struggles to mirror elite speed inside. Will get out over his feet causing balance issues when moving on to the second level in run blocker. Allows the pass rush to get inside his shoulders at times, allowing defender to control body position.
- Overview: Smith is an NFL ready right guard and should be able to be a plug and play guard. Smith may not be a long term pro bowl guard, but he does show plenty of upside and immediate talent to start day one. For the Buccaneers, a team moving Ali Marpet to left guard, Smith would make a lot of sense day 2 or 3 to plug into that right guard spot.
Austin Corbett, Nevada - Following in line with another former Nevada lineman’s footsteps, Corbett will be looking at a move to guard in his future as an NFL prospect. Corbett earned second team all conference honors as a left tackle for Nevada. Corbett stands 6’4 and weighs in at 305 lbs. Games reviewed include against Hawaii, Boise State, Senior bowl and Notre Dame (2016).
- Pros: Shows good awareness and quickness. Corbett has shown an ability to recover quickly from false steps and getting beat early. Adjust well to combo moves and defensive line twists. Shows promise as a pull blocker and finds the second level with ease. Engages hands well with good punch and strength at the POA. Plays with good attitude and demeanor for the position.
- Cons: Will get beat at times with secondary moves. Can be sloppy with hand placement causing lack of control in his blocks. Plays a bit too upright and will get hit off balance due to lack of leverage in his blocks. When facing power rushers, Corbett struggled to match up and anchor consistently. Corbett has only played left tackle, the switch to guard may cause a learning curve at the next level. Lacks elite strength wanted in the guard position.
- Overview: Corbett makes for an interesting prospect to watch as his success at left tackle for Nevada and growth from walk on to long term starter is a testament to his work ethic. Corbett will be tasked with following Bitonio in making a transition to guard but the experience at tackle could be intriguing for teams looking for a 6th lineman to work in as a filler early in his career. The Buccaneers could turn their eyes towards Corbett should they find themselves looking outside the first few rounds of the draft for a potential guard to groom. Corbett’s attitude and work ethic would fit in nicely with the likes of Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen.
Sean Welsh, Iowa - Welsh has had plenty of starts at left guard, right guard and some right tackle in his days at Iowa. Welsh’s 2017 play earned him 2nd team All Big Ten honors. The Iowa guard is surrounded by talks of a move to center, regardless the versatility he shows should intrigue NFL teams. Welsh stands 6’2 and weighs in at 300 lbs, putting him on the shorter end of the guard prospect scale. Games watched include Wisconsin, Purdue and Nebraska.
- Pros: Compact body that Welsh keeps low to the ground, allowing him to stay balanced and drive into contact. Understands gang blocking well, often throwing help to others and appearing to be spatially aware. Generates solid power into contact and has shown the athleticism to get out in space and react in short areas. Shows positive mirror skills from the guard position and moves well enough to initiate contact at the second level.
- Cons: Smaller guard prospect who lacks ideal overall athleticism to be a dominant guard. When engaging to the second level, will struggle with balance and change of direction. Doesn’t drive defenders off the line and struggles with speed in pass protection. Spotty hand position gets him in trouble with holding. Gets sloppy as play goes on, in particular in pass protection. Lacks feel of pocket behind him.
- Overview: Welsh is a day three pick who may end up seeing himself as a long term multi-tool as backup guard/center. The Buccaneers have shown a liking to these types of versatile lineman and it could lead to the team taking a player like Welsh late on day three to grow in the system and be an Evan Smith type, moving about the line as a plug and play backup.
Jamil Demby, Maine - Demby is a four year starter out of Maine that jumped onto the draft scene for individuals like myself with an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. Demby is a college tackle making the move inside to guard for his NFL prospects. Demby stands 6’5 and weighs in at a mammoth 335 lbs. Game reviewed is the Senior Bowl as well as the practice cut ups from the week that included 1:1’s.
- Pros: Great frame and overall holds his weight well. Showed good movement and lateral agility during senior bowl week. In drills, held his own against good competition. Showed good hard jab and strength at the POA. Showed decent mirror skills and inside at guard should be able to pull and block well.
- Cons: Did not show good bend and seemed raw in overall pass protection once engaged. Did not show good leverage and seemed to struggle with speed. Hands rode wide and high at times, will need to be cleaned up to avoid penalties. Will be new to the guard position.
Overview: Demby did a good job putting himself on the map at the senior bowl and may have shown enough to warrant some day 3 looks as a guard. The Buccaneers in need of some offense line help may look towards a player like Demby should they miss out on the day 1 and 2 guards in the draft. Demby could come in and learn year 1 with the hopes of potentially becoming a solid NFL backup and 6th lineman early before possibly startidown the road.
Colby Gossett, Appalachian St. - Gossett is a true right guard out of Appalachian State who earned first team All Sun Belt honors in 2017. Gossett has experience at right guard and right tackle which should add to his draft stock a bit. Gossett stands 6’5 and weighs in at 315 lbs. Games reviewed include Texas State, Senior Bowl and Miami (2016).
- Pros: Shows above average quickness out of stance. Iron man on the line with 45+ starts. Shows plenty of raw strength and uses it well against power rushers. NFL stature with a great frame and holds weight well.
- Cons: Poor technique and relatively raw in many areas of his game. Inconsistent hand placement and leverage plague him heavily. Lacks lateral agility and awareness to effectively mirror defenders. Gets to second level but shows poor vision and angles to properly engage in blocks. Struggles to maintain blocks after initial contact.
Overview: Gossett offers a team raw tools to work with and due to this should land as a late round pick that a team may look to stash on their practice squad for a year while he learns the nuances of the position. For the Buccaneers, a player like Gossett being selected would strictly be a gamble pick on his ability to grow and mature into an NFL backup down the road.
What does the above ultimately mean for the Buccaneers and the potential search for a future right guard in this draft? Ultimately, the Buccaneers will need to look hard and fast if they want to land a starter at guard out of this draft. By the time round three of the draft begins, it’s very likely any potential starter at guard will be long gone as this particular draft is light at the position. Should Quenton Nelson be available when the Buccaneers select, the team would be wise to sprint to the podium. In the scenario of a trade back or early second round selection come about, the team would be looking at the likes of Hernandez, Wynn and Adams to fill the starting right guard position. Braden Smith is the last of the potential day one starters at this point and would likely be a third round selection as of today. From that point on, the Buccaneers are simply looking at potential starters down the road in years two or three, if that, from the rest of the group.
Food for thought, the Buccaneers are still in need of two prime position upgrades at right guard and running back which for many experts points the team in the direction of Barkley and Nelson. Fans are currently craving a Derwin James selection but the team has shown serious loyalty, even to a fault, with Chris Conte and because of this I struggle to see James as a viable option no matter what his talents warrant draft selection wise. The Buccaneers are in win now mode with Licht and Koetter’s futures with the team directly tied to their 2018 success, a high selection of a guard and/or running back would make immediate impacts. Look for the team to go this route if the chips fall accordingly.