Feb 7, 2010; Miami, FL, USA; A view of game tickets before Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Chiefs Guard A Golden Ticket

 

I know what you’re thinking… the Golden Ticket is the copious cap space the Chiefs have amassed, but you’d be wrong. Nevertheless, the Chiefs do have a Golden Ticket and if they want to cash it in, they can get a sure thing in the 2012 NFL Draft. The secret is knowing where to look for the Golden Ticket, but methinks they know and “guard” it well.

Two years ago the Chiefs drafted safety Eric Berry with the fifth overall pick and they secured someone who became a Pro Bowl performer in his first season. They punched their Golden Ticket and punched it good.

That kind of drafting success can bring expectations to do the same in each successive draft. Or it could leave fans wondering if the Eric Berry pick was just a fluke and if Scott Pioli is just a flake.

With Tyson Jackson and Jon Baldwin serving as Scott Pioli’s other first-round selections, the pressure is mounting and if he doesn’t find, and punch, another Golden Ticket it could be one of Pioli’s last drafts. Only the Oompa Loompas know for sure.

Obviously, the draft can be a roulette wheel in Vegas and send you home with your head spinning and your wallet missing. Think Ryan Sims. Even drafting in the top five is no guarantee of success.  Here’s a chart showing the top five picks in each year’s draft for the past 12 seasons.

The players in red are players who haven’t lived up to expectations. You would expect a top five player to go to the Pro Bowl at least once in their career. None of the players in red have done so.

So, is there a pick that a team could make in the first round, that would be an almost surefire success? A can’t miss Golden Ticket? The answer is, yes there is but, first let’s examine a common perception.

Which position player, has traditionally not been drafted in the first round?

No, I’m not talking about punters and kickers.

Guards.

That’s right. Most teams stay away from offensive guards in the first two rounds of the draft because they say that guards aren’t a good value, that early in the draft.

But, perception is not always reality. Not in this case.

The odds are better that a guard selected in the first round

will help your club more times than any top five pick.

When picking early in the draft, you’d be better off taking an offensive guard anywhere in the first two rounds than taking a top five pick… in terms of being able to count on them becoming an outstanding player for your organization.

Following is a chart showing the 18 offensive guards who have been selected in the first two rounds during the past 12 drafts.

That’s it. Those are the only guards who were taken in the first two rounds from 2000-2011.

Without exception, each of these guards became a starter in their first season. Most of them have had outstanding careers. Only Chilo Rachal from USC, who was drafted by the the 49ers in 2008, became a backup in his third season. However, even Rachal was a starter during his first two years in the league.

On the whole, this is an outstanding group of position players. I suspect that Scott Pioli thought he had a Golden Ticket last year but it’s still too early to judge Rodney Hudson. Pioli also had a hand in drafting Logan Mankins while with the N.E. Patriots in 2005. So, we now know that Pioli knows about the secret advantage of drafting guards early.

Almost without exception, the guards listed above have become excellent contributors to their teams while approximately only 50 percent of the top five picks could be counted on to make significant contributions. Several of the top five were total busts.

It looks like drafting a guard in the first or second round will net you a top-quality contributor along the offensive line, 17 out of 18 times, according to the chart above.

Need more proof?

1990-1999 First Round Guards

Guard Chris Naeole was drafted at number 10 in 1997 (starter for all 11 years in the league, in 150 of 154 game).

 Guard Alan Faneca was drafted number 27 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Faneca won a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers and made the Pro Bowl nine times.

 Guard Jeff Hartings was drafted number 23 in 1996. Hartings played for the Lions and the Steelers, also played center and made the Pro Bowl twice.

 Guard Reuben Brown was drafted number 14 by the Bills in 1995. He started all 181 games he played in and made the Pro Bowl nine times.

These four offensive guards listed above are the total number of guards drafted in the first round during the 1990s. Each had an outstanding career.

In other words, when a top quality guard comes along, you better draft him!

By comparison, 35 offensive tackles were drafted during that same period, 1990-1999. Seventeen of those tackles ever made the Pro Bowl. Also, from 2000-2009 there were 31 offensive tackles taken in the first round, but only 11 of those ever made the Pro Bowl. I’m not suggesting that many of the other tackles selected in the first round didn’t have good careers, but doesn’t it make you question why guards have gotten such a bum rap?

For those of you keeping up with the math, that’s 28 offensive tackles who have reached the Pro Bowl out of 66 offensive tackles taken in the first round, in a 20-year period. Sounds like selecting an offensive tackle should get that bum rap instead.

The point is, there are no surefire-can’t-miss picks… except maybe guards in the first round.

The chart above also shows that the two guards drafted in the highest position from 2000-2011, were tied at number 17: Steve Hutchinson (2001) and Mike Iupati (2010).

CBS Sports rates David DeCastro as the 11th best prospect in this year’s draft. Scout.Inc rates him as the 14th best prospect. It’s difficult to judge one draft class against another however, Mike Iupati was rated as the 20th best prospect in 2010, so comparatively speaking, David DeCastro, in 2012, is a better prospect than Iupati was in 2010.

Nov 5, 2011; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers offensive guard David DeCastro (52) lines up against the Stanford Cardinal during the first half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Z. Rider-US PRESSWIRE

Stanford’s offensive guard David DeCastro is one heck of a prospect. Visually, he’s reminiscent of Chiefs linemen from a bygone era: Ed Budde, Jack Rudnay or E.J. Holub. He has a rugged tough guy vibe and doesn’t disappoint in the trenches. DeCastro plays from whistle to whistle more than any prospect I can ever recall. He is relentless in his pursuit of pancakes. Which has nothing to do with IHOP. He can sometimes be bull rushed, but gives up very little ground in the process. He can get to the next level and engage linebackers with speed, but every now and then, whiffs. He likes contact and you won’t find him taking plays off although he is not dominant 100 percent of the time. DeCastro can pull and get out in front on sweeps fast enough to beat most running backs to the corner where he does a good job of engaging would-be tacklers. I first noticed DeCastro when I went to watch OT prospect Jonathan Martin play. DeCastro is hard to ignore.

David DeCastro’s 6′-5″, 312-pound frame sounds like he could be moved outside and be asked to play right tackle. However, he looks and smells like a guard and could probably be depended upon to play at a Pro Bowl level for the next 10 years on the interior of the Chiefs offensive line. I don’t know if he’s a Pro Bowl performer if he’s moved to right tackle. Also, DeCastro played the center position in high school and you may have heard that Scott Pioli has a hankering for players with multiple talents. If anything, it increases the possibility that the Chiefs will take a serious look at him.

It’s long been my thought that the overall position rank of the team that a player played on in college should be considered when drafting them for a specific position. In other words, if a you’re drafting a nose tackle then you should consider where that prospect’s team finished when defending against the run. In David DeCastro’s case, even though the focal point of Stanford’s offense has been Andrew Luck’s passing, the Cardinals finished 20th in rushing in the NCAA Division I. That’s higher than I expected but, it reflects well on DeCastro.

It’s my position that David DeCastro is one of the best offensive guard prospects to come out in the past 10 years… and that’s saying a lot.

October 29, 2011; Jacksonville FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs offensive tackle Cordy Glenn (71) blocks during the first quarter of their game against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Georgia Guard Cordy Glenn is huge at 6′-6″, 345 lbs, and the impressive part is that he’s athletic. Glenn is good in the ground game, pulls well and has quick, but not fast, feet. He keeps his arms inside a lot, which is a big positive and easily makes it to the second level to block linebackers. Glenn has long arms and uses them well. Late in games he has a tendency to lunge at defenders and can be beaten by smaller, quicker linemen to the outside. I’ve seen him play both guard and tackle, but he is more suited to play guard and it would be a mistake to move him to tackle in the NFL. Glenn can be stood up when being bull rushed but, doesn’t give up much ground. I’ve not seen him get beat to the QB when playing inside at the guard position.

Cordy Glenn doesn’t pancake as many people as David DeCastro, but he does engage his defender and keeps them blocked throughout the play. That may be just a mind set but, because he’s heavier, he may not be able to expend as much energy on plays, as a player like DeCastro. This is one reason I prefer DeCastro because his superior conditioning will allow him to pursue a defender until he pancakes them. However, since the Chiefs drafted Justin Houston from Georgia in 2011, this increases the possibility that Glenn will be the Chiefs’ choice, especially if the Chiefs move down to the lower part of the first round in order to pick up more draft picks. Georgia finished 36th in the NCAA Division I in rushing offense.

Cordy Glenn or David DeCastro, drafting either one of these prospects would give the Chiefs a very high probability of punching their Golden Ticket. However, David DeCastro is going to be a dazzling Golden Ticket for some team and I’m convinced the Chiefs would be wise to select him in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft whether that’s with the 11th pick or moving down to do it.

The 11th pick in the draft is too high to take a guard you say?

I agree, and taking a safety with the fifth overall pick is too high, too.

Never gonna happen.

_________________________

After the top two rated guards in this draft, there are several others who are worth considering. As I mentioned previously, it’s a good idea to look at the overall rushing rank of a team to help determine how well a prospect’s unit did during the season. Here’s a chart showing the top 11 guard prospects, only they are listed with the top rushing college offenses first.

Oct 15, 2011; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Kevin Zeitler (70) blocks during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Indiana 59-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The prospect who jumps out here is 6’4″, 315 lb. Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin. Zeitler was part of the eighth-ranked rushing offense in the nation in 2011 (out of 120 schools). He is a great drive blocker and is also very good at pulling and popping. Zeitler uses excellent leverage and rarely gets pushed back in pass protection, so he may be ranked a little low but then again, NFL teams devalue guards. When Wisconsin faced Penn State in November, the Badgers complied more than 265 rushing yards. They manhandled Penn State and remember highly touted DT Devon Still was in the middle of that Penn State defense and though State was holding opponents to 13 points per game up to that point, Wisconsin ran up 45 against them. My image of Zeitler in that game is of him consistently moving the pile and I can’t recall him getting pushed back even once. Zeitler was a key factor in Montee Ball leading  Division I-A in rushing with 1,923 yards. Again, he may be ranked a little low.

 

Amini Silatolu is 6’3″, 320 lbs. and played for the number one ranked offense in Division II. He also played nine games at offensive tackle. I haven’t seen him play so I’ll refrain from evaluating him except to say that being an All-American on the second-best rushing team in the nation has to be worth something, even if it is at the Division II level.

Okay, Addicts, anyone have some first hand information about any of these other guard prospects?

 

 

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