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2018 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 5 Offensive Guards

Quenton Nelson

Quenton Nelson

The 2018 NFL Draft is set for April 26-28, so you still have time to get ready with the Athlon Sports 2018 Draft Guide. With 526 players ranked and needs outlined for every NFL team, it has everything you need.

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Here's a sneak peek at our top five offensive guards in this year's NFL Draft:

1. Quenton Nelson

COLLEGE: Notre Dame

STRONG POINTS: The most dominant offensive lineman in college football last season, Nelson is one of the best interior linemen to come into the NFL in years. He explodes off the line of scrimmage and overwhelms defenders in a phone booth, with the exceedingly strong hands to manhandle defenders. Equally effective moving to the second level, he is a balanced and coordinated athlete who hits his targets, locks on and drives them into the ground. He’s a mover who can pull as an outstanding lead blocker. As a pass protector, he has the light feet to mirror against quickness and the heavy anchor to stonewall power rushers.

WEAK POINTS: He’s a better run blocker than he is in pass protection, but he’s excellent at both. Perhaps players with NFL-caliber power or quickness will be able to find a weakness in his game that has yet to be exposed.

SUMMARY: Nelson is the best overall prospect in this draft class. His floor and ceiling are both exceptionally high. He is scheme-diverse and has the potential to be an All-Pro player the minute he steps onto an NFL field.

FINAL GRADE: 1st round

2. Isaiah Wynn

COLLEGE: Georgia

STRONG POINTS: He moved to left tackle at Georgia, but Wynn (above, right) projects as a guard at the next level. That’s primarily due to his size, and not because of his movement skills and strength, which are outstanding. Quick at the snap, he is a knee bender with the natural athleticism to effectively pull and land his blocks on the second level. He’s good in the phone booth as well, with the heavy hands and upper-body power to overwhelm defensive linemen at the point of attack. He is precise with his hand placement and has a powerful initial punch, allowing him to win early in the down.

WEAK POINTS: He can move as a pass protector, but it remains to be seen how much of an issue the lack of length becomes at the next level. He’s also going to have to prove he can anchor against the type of massive defensive tackles he didn’t see on a week-to-week basis in college.

SUMMARY: Although the lack of length will make some evaluators nervous, Wynn’s athleticism and pure power once he locks on could make him a star at left guard. He likely fits best in a system that goes heavy on outside-zone runs.

FINAL GRADE: 1st round

3. Will Hernandez


STRONG POINTS: A wide-bodied mauler, Hernandez is a better mover than his body type would seem to suggest. He’s quick and coordinated, with suddenness off the snap and the ability to fire low and move the line of scrimmage. He’ll adjust and land blocks on moving targets at the second level, and he plays with a mean streak. He has strong hands and a powerful upper body, and he’ll lock on and drive defenders into the ground when he has the chance. He was the lone bright spot on a UTEP team that did not win a game in 2017.

WEAK POINTS: Countering speed and quickness in pass protection is going to be his biggest weakness. Hernandez gets sloppy with his technique when retreating as a pass protector — he’s much more comfortable quick-setting and winning with his heavy hands early in the down. His less-than-ideal length further limits his ability to hold off pass rushers.

SUMMARY: Hernandez is going to appeal to run-heavy teams where he can be the aggressor, and he does have the movement skills to fit in an outside-zone scheme. He would be most at home in an inside-running, power-heavy approach, where he could be a quality starter at either guard spot.

FINAL GRADE: 2nd round

4. Braden Smith


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STRONG POINTS: A freak athlete with some of this draft’s most impressive measurables, Smith combines excellent size with explosive movement skills. He can lock on and dominate as a run blocker, with the ability to get around and pave the way as a pulling guard. He was durable at Auburn, starting 41 consecutive games to finish his collegiate career.

WEAK POINTS: Smith was never as dominant as his physical traits would suggest; he often gets too upright and loses leverage when moving backward in pass protection. Some of his deficiencies in pass protection were covered up by Auburn’s quick-strike passing attack. He has the build of an offensive tackle, but Auburn chose to keep him inside after trying him at right tackle last year. There’s a good chance he’ll struggle at times with NFL-caliber quickness in the passing game.

SUMMARY: Smith is a pretty safe choice to become at least a serviceable starter, as he has the physical tools and ability in the run game. A team that utilizes a lot of inside-zone and power concepts could plug him in as a starting right guard immediately.

FINAL GRADE: 3rd round

5. Scott Quessenberry


STRONG POINTS: Quessenberry was the starting center for every game of his senior season but also played guard during his time at UCLA. While he offers that flexibility at the next level as well, his best position is probably right guard. With excellent hands, a strong core and the ability to anchor, he possesses the ability to latch on to interior defensive linemen before shooting his heavy hands inside to control them. He shows very good awareness when having to pick up stunts and twists.

WEAK POINTS: Quessenberry plays a bit too stiff, frequently getting back on his heels after a kick-slide. Not nimble enough to consistently mirror against NFL quickness, he is better in the phone booth than in space. He’ll struggle ranging out and landing blocks as a pulling guard.

SUMMARY: He fits best in a scheme that runs a lot of inside zone and power, and Quessenberry has starter potential at right guard. He’s tough and cerebral, and he should at least settle in as a backup who can fill in at any of the three interior spots, allowing him to carve out a long career in the NFL.

FINAL GRADE: 3rd/4th round

Other offensive guards that may be drafted: Sam Jones, Arizona State; Kc McDermott, Miami; Skyler Phillips, Idaho State; Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech; Austin Corbett, Nevada