This year’s offensive guard class is highlighted by two players who have first-round grades going into the season in Trey Smith of Tennessee and Wyatt Davis of Ohio State. One of the more intriguing players in this class is Zion Johnson who is an exceptional athlete but has only played one year of FBS football. Along with taking a look at this year’s offensive guard class, Inside the War Room also highlights a couple of wide receivers who are seeing their stock on the rise, a college quarterback who would be best off making the switch to a receiver in the NFL, and takes a look at Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman.
TOP FIVE SENIOR OFFENSIVE GUARDS
TREY SMITH, TENNESSEE
The player almost everyone has rated as the top senior guard in football is Tennessee’s, Trey Smith. Smith is dominant in both the passing and running game which should help him earn a first-round grade. In the passing game, he shows quick feet and does a great job of sliding in protection. As a run blocker, he has the strength to control his defender and the mobility to get to the second level. The only red flag with Smith is that he has battled a major medical issue while at Tennessee, with blood clots forming on his lungs.
RASHAWN SLATER, NORTHWESTERN
While the Northwestern offense struggled last year finishing 13th in both scoring and yards per game. However, the team did have one bright spot on this side of the ball in left tackle Rashawn Slater. Slater excelled in pass protection last year, showing the ability to contain some of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten including the 2019 second overall draft pick Chase Young. As a pass blocker, he showed a high football IQ, as he did a great job of handling different looks from the defense. He also shows the quick feet to slide with the top pass rushers. While he is slightly better in pass protection than he is as a run blocker he is no slouch in this area either. When run blocking he shows good power, and also is mobile enough to be used as a pulling lineman. The main reason why Slater will have to move from college offensive tackle to NFL offensive tackle is that he is on the shorter side
ZION JOHNSON, BOSTON COLLEGE
Johnson started his career off at the FCS level playing for Davidson. He then transferred to Boston College last year and started the last seven games of the season for the Eagles. Despite seeing limited playing time he was named second-team All-ACC, and quickly established himself as the top offensive lineman for the team. His level of play has also earned him interest from the Senior Bowl and with a strong senior season, he could earn a day two draft grade.
TOMMY KRAEMER, NOTRE DAME
One of the strongest run blockers in this year’s class is Tommy Kraemer of Notre Dame. He shows outstanding strength and does a great job of driving his defender out of the way. He also posses a strong grip which allows him to control his opponent once he gets his hands on him. While Kraemer is an impressive gap blocker, he could struggle in an offensive scheme that requires a ton of mobility in its offensive guards. This is due to the fact that he lacks the quick feet needed to play in this scheme and also is only an average athlete. These limitations could also hurt him in pass protection as he could struggle with quick pass-rushing defensive tackles. Overall, Kramer is the type of play that could be a quality starter in the right scheme but could also struggle if inserted into the wrong type of offense.
DEONTE BROWN, ALABAMA
Another guard who excels as a run blocker is Alabama’s, Deonte Brown. Brown has all the skills to be a dominant run blocker in the NFL including great strength. He is able to drive his defender off the ball on a consistent basis and does a great job of finishing his blocks. He also is one of the more mobile 338-pound players I have seen. He has the ability to pull on plays such as power, and can easily get to the second level to block a linebacker. In pass protection, his strength helps him as well, since he is rarely if ever overpowered. The biggest concern with him in pass protection is that he overextends at times. Teams will also want to investigate why he was suspended for six games for violating NCAA rules.
REGGIE ROBERSON, WR, SMU
A player that could see his production explode this year is SMU’s, Reggie Roberson. Last year, Roberson was leading the team in both receptions and receiving yards before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the eighth game of the season. Now that he is fully healthy, is playing in new offensive coordinators Garrett Riley Air Raid offense, and is the team’s number one receiver, he will likely be one of the most productive receivers in college football next year. When projecting Roberson to the NFL the first trait that will stand out is his big playability. In just eight games in 2019, Roberson had 13 catches for over 30 yards. He also shows outstanding body control and does a good job of catching the ball in traffic.
NOLAN LAUFENBERG, OG, AIR FORCE
Air Force offensive guard Nolan Laufenberg had a breakout season in 2019, after starting only seven games in 2018. The biggest reason for this improvement was the 30 pounds he added between his sophomore and junior year. This added weight allowed him to be more powerful, which helped him hold up against stronger defensive tackles. As a junior Laufenberg led the team in knockdown blocks with 21 and was also named to the Pro Football Focus All-American team. If he can replicate this type of production as a senior there is a very good chance he will be the highest drafted player in Air Force history.
TERRACE MARSHALL, WR, LSU
If LSU’s offense can come anywhere close to last year’s production, look for Terrace Marshall to be one of the people who benefit the most. Marshall steps into the starting lineup now that Justin Jefferson is gone and should form one of the best receiver combinations in college football along with Ja’Marr Chase. Marshall has elite size at 6-4 200 pounds and possesses outstanding athletic ability for someone his size. The big question for Marshall will be can he get the separation required to be a starting receiver in the NFL, as he has only average speed.
SHAUN WADE, CB, OHIO STATE
The next Ohio State cornerback who should be a first-round pick is junior Shaun Wade. Wade benefits from Jeff Okudah going to the NFL early, as he will now switch from a nickel cornerback to a starting cornerback. This move should help his draft stock as it will show his ability to play number one receivers and prove he is not just a player who can play in a nickel package in the NFL.
NAVAUGH DAVENPORT, OG, MIAMI
The most overrated player in this year’s draft might be Miami offensive guard Navaugh Donaldson. Despite carrying a high ranking by several NFL Draft websites like NFL Draft Scout, who has him rated as the third-best senior offensive guard in the draft, he lacks the skills to be a high draft pick. The first concern with him is he is too big coming in at 363 pounds. This is a concern as it severely hurts his athletic ability and explosiveness. On numerous occasions last year he was beaten by a quicker defender and could not recover once beat. He also did not show the power you want to see from someone his size. He had trouble moving defenders off the ball and was even bull-rushed on occasion by smaller defensive tackles. If this were not enough he also hurt his knee last year, which he is still recovering from.
JUSTYN ROSS, WR, CLEMSON
Clemson was dealt a major blow last week when it was announced wide receiver Justyn Ross would miss the 2020 season with a congenital issue in his neck. This injury takes away Clemson’s number one receiver as Ross led the team in receptions last year with 66 catches and was expected to see even more action this year with Tee Higgins now in the NFL. As a prospect Ross was projected as a first-round pick for the 2021 draft and could have even been a top-15 pick with a strong junior year. It will be interesting to see if Ross can bounce back from this injury and to see if he returns to Clemson or enters the 2021 draft despite being a major medical risk.
TRISTEN HOGE, OG, BYU
One of the more interesting developmental players in the 2021 NFL Draft is BYU offensive guard Tristen Hoge. Hoge was a highly recruited player coming out of high school ranking as the number center in the 2015 recruiting class. He originally went to Notre Dame coming out of high school but transferred to BYU, due to a lack of playing time. In his first season at BYU, he started all 13 games but only played in five games last year, due to a season-ending leg injury. This season could be a make or break year for him as he is facing competition for his right guard spot. While Hoge has the physical traits teams look for he will need to finally turn his potential into production in 2020, in order to earn a draftable grade.
JEAN DELANCE, OG, FLORIDA
One of the worst offensive lines in college football last year was Florida’s which finished 107th in the nation in rushing. The player who struggled the most on this offensive line is Jean Delance, which will likely cause him to lose his starting right tackle job. Even if he does see limited playing time in 2020, an NFL team could still bring him in as an undrafted free agent. The reason a team might be willing to do this is that Delance shows the physical traits to earn an invite to training camp. In order to make it in the NFL though, Delance is going to have to make significant strides in both footwork and overall technique.
— An SEC running back being overlooked is Tennessee’s Ty Chandler. The primary reason Chandler is being overlooked is that he splits time with Eric Gray who is one of the better sophomore running backs in college football. When watching Chandler’s film the first thing that catches my eye is his home run hitting speed, as he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash last summer. Despite catching only 13 passes last year Chandler has soft hands and it would be a mistake if the Vols didn’t use him more in the passing game next year. One area he is still working on is having a natural feel for the running back position and seeing the field better. I could see a team taking Chandler on day three of the draft, despite having limited college production.
— A player going into the 2019 season with more hype than he deserves is Georgia offensive guard Ben Cleveland. In his three years at Georgia, he has never been a full-time starter and has only started 16 games over this span. He has also battled some issues that have kept him off the field including being ruled academically ineligible for the team’s bowl game in 2019 and missing several games in 2018 due to a fractured left fibula. Cleveland will have a chance to live up to the hype this year though as he should be a full-time starter for the Bulldogs for the first time in his career in 2020.
— While I definitely don’t agree with some draft pundits who have Jamie Newman rated as high as a first-round pick, his potential does entice me. The thing I like the most about Newman is his strong arm as he displays the ability to easily throw the deep ball. I am also impressed with his athletic ability. He is a weapon in the run game and is the type of prospect who can make defenses account for him on RPOs or be a threat on quarterback designed runs. He does a nice job of throwing the ball on the run as well and would fit well with a team that likes to use their QBs on rollout type passing plays. My biggest issue with him is that his accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. In four of his games last season he completed under 50% of his passes and routinely made receivers adjust to the ball. Hopefully, with improved footwork and a better surrounding cast next year he can make significant strides in this area.
— A college quarterback who projects to a wide receiver is Noah Johnson. Johnson spent the first part of his career at Alcorn State where he was named the 2018 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, before transferring to South Florida this year as a graduate transfer. The main reason why he makes sense as a receiver at the next level is his speed. He shows the quickness and agility to have a chance of developing into a slot receiver in the NFL. He is a playmaker too, who shows the open field running skills to make plays after the catch. He also lacks the skills to be a pro quarterback as he is only 6-0 and is an average passer at best. A team could get a steal if they are able to bring in Johnson next year as an undrafted free agent and have him make the transition to receiver.
SENIOR OVERALL OFFENSIVE GUARD RANKINGS
Preseason First-Round Grade: Trey Smith
Top Small School Prospect: P.J. Burkhalter
Most Underrated: Zion Johnson
Most Overrated: Navaugh Donaldson
Biggest Risk: Deonte Brown
Underclassmen to Watch: Wyatt Davis and Cade Mays
1. Trey Smith, Tennessee
2. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
3. Zion Johnson, Boston College
4. Tommy Kraemer, Notre Dame
5. Deonte Brown, Alabama
6. Nolan Laufenberg, Air Force
7. Ben Cleveland, Georgia
8. Navaugh Donaldson, Miami
9. Parker Boudreaux, UCF
10. Cain Madden, Marshall
11. Tristen Hoge, BYU
12. Sadarius Hutcherson, South Carolina
13. Stewart Reese, Florida
14. Boe Wilson, Nebraska
15. P.J. Burkhalter, Nicholls
16. David Moore, Grambling State
17. Liam Fornadel, James Madison
18. Josh Watson, Washington State
19. Terrance Davis, Wake Forest
20. Liam Dobson, Maine
21. Baer Hunter, Appalachian State
22. Mike Caliendo, Western Michigan
23. Connor Mignone, Central Connecticut State
24. Curtis Blackwell, Ball State
25. Jean Delance, Florida
NEWS AND NOTES
UCF offensive guard Parker Boudreaux hasn’t allowed a sack in the 25 games he has played at Central Florida. — Nebraska OG Boe Wilson has been named to the Academic All-Big Ten team for the 3rd time. — Michigan State OG Kevin Jarvis can receive a medical redshirt for the 2019 season, and return to Michigan State in 2021. — Oklahoma State offensive guard Josh Stills is another player who could receive a medical redshirt for the 2019 season, and return to college in 2021. —Former Kent State P Derek Adams transferred to Northwestern. Adams averaged 43.1 yards per punt in 2019. — According to the Athletic, South Carolina OG Sadarius Hutcherson put up some impressive testing numbers last year including a 500-pound bench press, a squat of 650 pounds, and a vertical jump of 31.5 inches. — Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is on track to graduate in December, which would make him eligible for the Senior Bowl. … Arizona State P Michael Turk has been allowed to return to the Sun Devils football program despite entering the 2020 draft and signing an agent. …
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