1. Gabe Jackson - 6’4” / 320 - Mississippi State
Jackson is the only senior guard prospect from whom I see first round potential, and is easily the most complete lineman from this group on tape. He wins with quickness and hand technique off the snap, shows explosiveness and strength at the point of attack to blow defenders off the ball, and demonstrates good leg drive to generate push in the running game. He anchors well and uses efficient footwork to mirror defenders in pass protection. He is a plus athlete at the position, and is capable of locating and eliminating second-level defenders on the move. Jackson made major strides in his third season as the Bulldogs’ starting left guard, and expectations are high as he enters his senior season with 39 starts under his belt.
2. Chris Watt - 6’3” / 310 - Notre Dame
Entering his third season as the Irish starting left guard, Watt has established himself as a physical blocker who relishes contact on the football field. He is a natural knee bender with good balance in pass protection. He shows good awareness to pick up blitzing linebackers, and works well in tandem with fellow linemen. His greatest strengths are in the running game, where he does a good job establishing leverage off the snap, and uses good footwork and lower body strength to move opposing defenders out of running lanes. Adding upper body strength would help Watt to better jolt defenders with his initial punch, and he could stand to improve his hand technique in pass protection.
3. Cyril Richardson - 6’5” / 335 - Baylor
A starter of 25 consecutive games for Baylor, Richardson looks the part of the road grader at left guard. His combination of size, strength, and athleticism stands out among the senior prospects at the position. He exhibits good bend, adequate feet, and excellent anchor strength to make absorbing the power rush appear effortless. Despite his imposing size and great strength, Richardson is not much of a drive blocker. He flashes a violent punch and the ability to open holes for Baylor rushers, but his effort and effectiveness as a run blocker are inconsistent at best. His physical tools may be that of a starting NFL guard, but on tape I see a classic example of parts exceeding the sum.
4. Anthony Steen - 6’3” / 303 - Alabama
Steen returns for his senior season as the veteran leader of an offensive line that bids farewell to three of its five starters from a season ago. One of the strongest players on the team, Steen will continue to be a key component in the Alabama ground game. He is a smart player who is assignment-sound, and who has developed his footwork and technique over the course of his 24 starts. He shows good athleticism and awareness to knock out defenders at the second level, and gets to the edge quickly when he is asked to pull outside the tackles. He is a better run blocker than pass protector at this point, but he should have ample opportunity to show improvement in the passing game with A.J. McCarron back in Tuscaloosa for his final season with the Crimson Tide.
5. Andrew Norwell - 6’5” / 305 - Ohio State
Norwell has been a starter on the Ohio State offensive line since his sophomore campaign, starting games at both guard and tackle during his career. An impressive athlete at 6-foot-5 , he has a frame capable of supporting another 10-15 pounds of muscle without compromising athleticism. He does a good job gaining leverage, latching onto, and controlling his defender in the run game. His contributions as a run blocker helped the Buckeyes rush for an impressive 242.2 yards per contest, and led to Norwell being named first-team All-Big Ten by the media for the 2012 season.
6. Spencer Long - 6’3” / 308 - Nebraska
A former walk-on turned team leader, Long emerged as a second-team AP All-American in his second season as the Nebraska starting right guard. He delivers a powerful punch to initiate contact and follows with sound hand technique. He is very effective as a pulling guard, displaying the athleticism and footwork to seal off the edge for outside runs. He gets to the second level with ease, but needs to do a better job locating defenders in space. Long shows the ability to sink his hips and anchor in pass protection, but has a tendency to allow quicker defenders to cross his face with counter moves.
7. Chris Burnette - 6’2” / 322 - Georgia
Burnette started 12 games in each of the last two years, missing two games due to injury in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder this offseason, but is expected to be ready for the season opener. He has received several academic honors while at Georgia, and has shown improvement each year on the field. Burnette is an impressive athlete and a powerful blocker with a finisher’s mentality. He flashes excellent potential as a run blocker, but has a tendency to play out of control. He must improve his balance and technique to maximize his potential.
8. Brandon Thomas - 6’3” / 305 - Clemson
After splitting time at guard and tackle during his 10 starts in 2011, Thomas started every game at left tackle for the Tigers in 2012, earning All-ACC honors (voted first-team by media, second-team by coaches). At 6-foot-3, he projects best inside at the next level. Thomas shows excellent awareness and foot speed, and uncoils with quickness and power. He needs to do a better job resetting his feet and maintaining balance after contact, and will need to add lower body strength to anchor against bigger, more powerful NFL defensive tackles. He looks best suited to play in a zone-blocking scheme.
9. Ryan Groy - 6’5” / 318 - Wisconsin
A full-time starter for the first time in 2012, Groy has added great size, athleticism, and versatility to the Wisconsin offensive line. He has started 20 games total in his career, including two games each at center and left tackle. He is a smart football player who understands positioning and leverage. He plays with good balance and technique, and demonstrates the ability to absorb power rushers. His athleticism enables him to open holes on backside pulls and maximize gains with second-level blocks. He is most susceptible to more explosive defenders, who get under his pads and use their lateral quickness to sidestep him after contact.
10. Zach Fulton – 6’5” / 325 - Tennessee
Following the mass exodus of Tennessee skill players to the NFL in April, there will be plenty of pressure on an offensive line slated to return four starters from last season. Fulton returns, having started 28 games for the Vols at right guard over the last three seasons. He is a massive mauler who, though he is not a natural bender, can be difficult to move once he sets his feet. He is likewise slow to react at times, both to lateral quickness and to blitzing linebackers. He reportedly played at nearly 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight in 2012, but is said to have lost the excess weight in hopes of improving his mobility.