RAVENS DRAFT ANALYSIS: ON GUARD

NFL Draft RAVENS DRAFT ANALYSIS: ON GUARD

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Josh Beekman, 6’2”, 313, Boston College
 
Josh Beekman is another in the long line of Boston College linemen who never wow anyone with their athletic abilities, but somehow always seem to get it done and become solid professionals.  He is the classic player who does everything well, will probably start in the league for the better part of a decade, yet never be a Pro Bowler.
 
All of the typical positives apply from durability to intelligence to instincts.  A lover of the game, he works to improve his footwork and technique.  Unfortunately, most of the negatives about Beekman tend to be the ones that he can do nothing to improve, namely pure athletic ability and quickness as evidenced by his pedestrian 5.39 forty yard dash time. 
 
Even so, Beekman draws comparisons to members of the offensive line youth movement as nfl.com lists him as being most similar to Jason Brown.  A further note is that some view Beekman as a potential center prospect at the professional level as opposed to guard due to his less than ideal height.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK: Beekman is a player who some believe will be the Ravens’ first round choice.  That flat out makes no sense because if you take a player in the first round, especially considering the Ravens’ “can’t miss in the first” credo, you expect that player to be a star.  Granted, it is judgmental to say a player will never be a star, but this isn’t like Ray Lewis who was too small but fast or Todd Heap who was the top tight end of the draft.  Beekman, at best, is the number three guard in the draft.  Typically only the top one or two guards are selected in the first round and they are special players not solid starters.  Even so, Beekman will probably be selected in the second to third round but there is the chance that he could slip to day 2 just as Jason Brown did. 
 
Ben Grubbs, 6’3”, 311, Auburn
 
Ben Grubbs is the top guard prospect if Justin Blalock is considered a tackle, and even if Blalock were a guard, there may still be significant debate among scouts.  All sites tend to list Grubbs as an outstanding athlete for the guard position despite his more pedestrian 5.20 forty yard dash time.  However, that might not be as big a concern after watching footage.  A player who loves to get into the second level and smash linebackers and safeties around, Grubbs has really demonstrated an ability to learn while shifting from defensive tackle to tight end and eventually to guard.  In detracting from the positives there is a suspicion that Grubbs lacks the nasty mean streak and needs to work on the running game.  However, this is a raw player who has room to improve and the desire to accomplish that task. 
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK:  If the Ravens want to get their hands on this Auburn product it will have to be in the first round based on his excellent potential.  That fact alone reaches away from past Ravens history, especially at the guard position.  Centers have been drafted earlier than their interior counterparts with Casey Rabach coming in the third round and Chris Chester in the second.  Guards on the other hand tend to be second day selections for the Ravens thus far with the fourth round tending to be the most common round for their selection.  With the way the Ravens are retooling the offense and team in general the past is hardly a predictor of the future.  Even so, a guard so early in the draft is a questionable decision based on the amount of talent available even into the second day.
 
Manuel Ramirez, 6’3”, 326, Texas Tech
 
Ramirez is an interesting guard.  The former Red Raider teammate of Ravens’ LB Mike Smith will likely be available in the fourth or possibly the fifth round.  Ramirez hoists a 550 pound bench press was regarded as an elite pass protector in the Big 12 conference as early as 2004.  Despite this success as a pass-protecting lineman in the wacky pass-happy Texas Tech offense, Ramirez still worked on his drive blocking ability and the team managed over 100 yards per game rushing in 2005 though that total fell in 2006.  Intangibles are also in favor of this young man who was the leader of his fellow lineman and is known to mentor younger incoming players.  Negatives are those one might expect with a player of this size such as wearing down towards the end of the game and struggles a bit at the second level due to poor technique in taking appropriate angles even though he locates his targets well.  Another advantage or disadvantage of this player is the NFL.com comparison to former Raven Edwin Mulitalo in his prime. Ramirez will win many of his battles with pure strength.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK:  Ramirez represents a great value in the fourth or fifth rounds, a frequent spot for the Ravens to pull the trigger on offensive linemen.  Edwin Mulitalo and Jason Brown were both fourth rounders and Tony Pashos arrived via the fifth. Depending on the stylistic preferences, this might be just the player to step in and be the youth movement player to take over the guard slot opposite Jason Brown.  Also, given the unorthodox nature of the Texas Tech offense, Ramirez is very adept at protecting the quarterback despite his size which is of more and more importance given the age of Steve McNair and the well-known struggles of the Baltimore offense in recovering from penalties, sacks, and runs for a loss.  If the Ravens do decide to pick up an offensive lineman the second day of the draft, don’t be surprised if Manuel Ramirez’s name is called.
 
Tony Ugoh, 6’5”, 301, Arkansas
 
Tony Ugoh is one of a group of players that are tackles, or are they guards?  The Razorback has a solid two to three inches on the rest of the top flight guard prospects listing at 6’ 5” though Ugoh played his entire college career as a tackle and was the starting left tackle in 2005 and 2006.  Unfortunately for Ugoh, his athleticism is lost in the shuffle after Joe Staley’s numbers elicit drooling across the internet.  The top discus thrower runs the 40 in 5.06 seconds, which is very respectable given most guards and only about a tenth of a second slower than Joe Thomas.  The benefits of Ugoh continue with the potential to add more weight if needed and his impressive short area burst and ability to generate a lot of pop with his hand punches.  Given the recent dominance of Darren McFadden, it’s not surprising that Ugoh is more comfortable in the running game and many say that he lacks the kick slide to be able to handle edge rushers which is the reason he is listed as a guard prospect in most circles.  Questions abound about his desire to play football given his success on the track and field team as he only attended spring practices in 2006 creating substantial uncertainty about his potential dedication.
 
RAVENS OUTLOOK:  Ugoh is a great athlete but the Ravens tend to pick players that are all about football and all about being the best football player possible. Through dedication to their craft the Ravens lean towards high end work ethics that drive fifth round picks to become solid pros (Pashos); sixth round picks into All Pros (Adalius Thomas) and undrafted free agents into Pro Bowlers (Priest Holmes and Bart Scott). Of course, this may be overstated by scouts who look for any weakness that can be found.  If Ugoh projects as a guard to the Ravens it seems unlikely he will be selected given that the only interior lineman drafted highly was Chris Chester in 2006, but Chester had incredible physical ability on the order of that displayed by CMU freak Joe Staley.  Ugoh as a tackle seems less likely, though depending on how the Ravens create formations, they might be able to protect the right side with a tight end to help the former Razorback deal with elite edge rushers.  Given these factors most signs point to Tony Ugoh heading to a destination other than Baltimore.  
 

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Matt Ennis

About Matt Ennis

Matt is another of a growing list of NFL draft junkies.  He comes to 24×7 by way of Chicago as a respected member of our message board who charts draft eligible player projections.  You can follow this year’s projections here.

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