Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. Guards and centers generally don't go very high in the draft as good ones can be found in the mid-to-late rounds. Two guards were taken a year ago in the first round — No. 24 and No. 27 overall — and no centers. The 2013 interior linemen class features one of the best guards scouts have seen in years and it means more than two inside blockers could go in the first round.
1. Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-2, 317)
War-Daddy is the phrase most used when dealing with Warmack. He isn’t the biggest blocker in the nation, but he might be the most physical and most consistent. Like teammate Barrett Jones (see below), he plays for the best coach in the land and has won multiple national championships. He has paved the way for a host of elite running offenses and there are no weaknesses in his game. In fact, he might be the safest pick in the draft, but his position most likely will prevent him from being taken anywhere near No. 1 overall.
2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (6-2, 311)
The big Tar Heel blocker has long been considered one of the top players in the nation at his position. He is an extraordinary run blocker and has the size and makeup to contribute at an early stage of his NFL career. He is the only other guard prospect with a shot at landing in the first round along with Warmack and his “luxury” of facing elite NFL prospects every day in practice has to have helped his stock. He is a complete player who is developing nicely as a pass blocker.
3. Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 332)
Kentucky was not good in 2012 but it wasn’t Warford’s fault. He has elite size and has long been considered one of the top blockers in the SEC. He faced elite defenses each and every weekend, including a few potential first-rounders like Sheldon Richardson, Sharrif Floyd and John Jenkins, and more than held his own. His teams were generally overmatched, making his efforts even more impressive, which were a result of his work ethic and toughness.
4. Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 313)
Long has dealt with injuries but there is a lot to like about the big blocker from Oregon. He is one of the taller, longer guard prospects in this class and showed excellent athleticism with a 4.94 40-time at the Combine. He also has the pedigree to be a solid NFL player as he is the younger brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long and the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long. He tried his hand at baseball first at Florida State before landing with the Ducks and demonstrating his raw upside.
5. Brian Winters, Kent State (6-4, 320)
The experienced blocker from the MAC has few weaknesses. He started at tackle as just a freshman and was a long-time starter for the Flashes ever since. He finished plays with gusto and worked extremely hard to engage and finish blocks. He was a wrestler growing up and those skills have translated extremely well to the interior of the line.
6. Earl Watford, James Madison (6-3, 300)
7. Alvin Bailey, Arkansas (6-3, 312)
8. Hugh Thornton, Illinois (6-3, 320)
9. Chris Barker, Nevada (6-3, 305)
10. Oscar Johnson, Louisiana Tech (6-5, 331)
11. Jeff Baca, UCLA (6-3, 302)
12. Travis Bond, North Carolina (6-6, 329)
1. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 312)
The burly Badger blocker shifted to center for the 2012 season, but he may end up playing guard for the team that drafts him. He has a huge frame, great power and strength and was productive against top-notch competition. He may not have the overt quickness and athleticism the NFL demands at center but makes up for it with smarts, size and power. He is an excellent run-blocker who has upside at the position because he is still learning how to play at the pivot.
2. Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-4, 306)
Jones' resume is remarkable. He is a three-time national champion, as well as an Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top offensive lineman, and did it while playing three different positions. He was an All-SEC performer at tackle, then guard, and finally, at center. He still could end up at either guard or center, but his skills will play on the next level regardless. He is extremely intelligent, hard working, versatile and physical. He will need to prove he can handle the massive nose guards to stick at center, but no matter where he ends up, Jones should make an early impact on Sundays.
3. Khaled Holmes, USC (6-3, 302)
If nothing else, scouts should realize how important and talented Holmes is considering he didn’t play against Stanford. The Cardinal abused the interior of the USC line while Holmes watched from the sideline. He returned, despite a bum ankle, and battled with potential first-round pick Star Lotulelei — winning some and losing some against the Utes' powerhouse. Overall, Holmes has tremendous athletic ability, is a natural fit at center and has a large frame that could carry additional weight. He is a complete player who started since he was a sophomore and his absence was noticeable along USC's line when he wasn't on the field last season.
4. Brian Schwenke, Cal (6-3-324)
The Cal pivot is a lightning quick, experienced blocker who knows how to play the game at a high level — both at guard and center. He uses excellent technique and fundamentals to create leverage and win one-on-one battles. However, his overall power and strength will need work at the next level and he also will need to continue to develop as a pass blocker.
5. Braxton Cave, Notre Dame (6-3, 303)
When it comes to experience against elite-level competition, few have the resume that Cave boasts. He was a big-time recruit and proved himself against the likes of Kawann Short, Mike Martin, Jerel Worthy, Stanford’s front seven, USC's and many more. Notre Dame’s schedule is typically one of the toughest each season and this factor alone has given scouts loads of film on the slightly undersized center.
6. T.J. Johnson, South Carolina (6-4, 310)
7. P.J. Lonergan, LSU (6-3, 304)
8. Joe Madsen, West Virginia (6-3, 310)
9. Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State (6-3, 302)
10. Mario Benavides, Louisville (6-3, 280)
2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers