At guard, the need for the Ravens to replace starters isn’t as pressing as it is at the center position, but they still will likely look to address this area early in the draft. In 2011, Baltimore’s guard play was solid, with both starters, Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda, eventually making it to the Pro Bowl. However, Grubbs, who is only 27, is an unrestricted free agent, and could receive several attractive offers if he hits the open market.
With little depth at the position (Andre Gurode, who may not be back, and second year undrafted free agent Justin Boren), the Baltimore Ravens are expected to make every effort to resign Grubbs, a task complicated by the club’s desire to lock up unrestricted free agent Ray Rice and restricted free agent cornerback Lardarius Webb to long term deals. Those moves may leave the team with little to no room under the cap to fit a new market value contract for Grubbs.
In any case, the Ravens need to add one or more young, talented players to their small stable of offensive guards and fortunately for the Ravens guard is the deepest position in the upcoming NFL draft.
Ozzie Newsome and his capable staff would be right to drool about getting their hands on the top rated prospect, Stanford’s David DeCastro, a potential “once in a decade player,” but DeCastro is a likely top ten pick, and, unless they trade up, he should be long gone before the Ravens are on the clock at #29 in round one.
Other guards expected to go early in the draft include Georgia’s Cordy Glenn (6’5” 348), Miami’s Brandon Washington (6’4” 320), and from the unheralded small school, Midwestern State, Amini Silatolu (6’3” 324). Washington, a powerful, in-line drive blocker, who struggles with inconsistent footwork and technique in the passing game, isn’t a great fit, but Cordy Glenn could be the pick for Baltimore.
Glenn, who is also a punishing run blocker, is surprisingly agile in pass protection, and though he is being projected as a guard, actually played tackle throughout his career at Georgia. He had a big week at the Senior Bowl, where he showcased better lateral footwork and balance in the pass game than scouts had anticipated. As such, Glenn could also be a viable offensive tackle candidate, and would provide flexibility, along the offensive line, that the Ravens sorely need.
Another interesting option is Silatolu, who originally signed with Nevada before ending up at Midwestern State. Like Glenn, Silatolu played tackle at the university level, and would offer both versatility and flexibility, though his skill set is more suited to offensive guard in the NFL. He is a thick bodied, solidly muscled, athlete, who exhibits above average quickness and short area burst. Silatolu can be a dominant run blocker, quickly engaging defenders, and moving them back off the line of scrimmage, though, at times he will get too aggressive and overextend, allowing defensive linemen to counter and knock him off balance. He excels on the move, exhibiting excellent range and the ability to get to the second level, routinely making effective blocks in open space.
In pass protection, he uses his hands well, quickly locking on, and is difficult to move off his spot once he establishes his foundation. At times, he struggles with speed rushers off the edge, but, at guard, this obviously won’t be such an issue. Silatolu, who plays with a violence to his game, may face a bit of a learning curve, moving from small school college ball to the NFL, but he’s athletic enough to hold his own, if needed to contribute immediately, and he has as high a ceiling as any guard in this class, outside of David DeCastro.
Because of the draft’s depth at guard, Baltimore could elect to wait until rounds four through six and still procure a solid contributor, such as Kelechi Osemele (6’6” 347) from Iowa State, Kevin Zeitler (6’4” 315) from Wisconsin, or the University of Washington’s Senio Kelemete (6’4” 301).
Though both Osemele and Zeitler have the chance to be outstanding pros, Kelemete is an intriguing prospect, who is a natural fit for a zone scheme. He, was a promising defensive lineman at Washington, before moving across the ball full time in 2009, and may be the best overall athlete in the guard class. He’s extremely strong, playing with good leverage and “get off” at the snap, and can really run, for a player of his size. Having played the position only a few years, Kelemete is obviously raw. However, he is a natural in the run game, easily able to turn the corner when leading backs around the edge. As a pass protector, his technique is still a work in progress, but he’s often able to overcome slightly bad positioning with innate athleticism.