We continue our pre-NFL Combine breakdown of the top 5 prospects at positional rankings of note for the 49ers. Yesterday, we highlighted the wide receivers. Today, we take a look at one of the more pressing needs on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive guard position.
A year in review for the 49ers’ offensive guard position results in some desperate need of improvement with inconsistent play plaguing the unit. Former first round selection, Joshua Garnett, did not get the opportunity to try an improve upon his lackluster rookie season, which quickly ending with him being placed on Injured Reserve at the start of the 2017 season. Nevertheless, it is expected Garnett’s re-shaping of his body will hopefully improve his worth in Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking system, where speed, agility, flexibility, and athleticism are key.
Even though Laken Tomlinson had his fair share of decent games with a heavy dose of inconsistency, he still looks like a work in progress. 2017 free agent acquisition Brandon Fusco, another member of inconsistent play, was able to temporarily fill the void Garnett left and Zane Beadles was unable to succeed in, but whether or not Fusco gets re-signed, the position is in dire need of an upgrade.
Free agency and trade options are possibilities with names being thrown around such as Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort, Justin Pugh, Josh Kline, Matt Slauson, Joe Berger, Evan Smith, among others. However, it’s the new crop of rookie offensive guards poised to make their marks in the NFL, where the 49ers will likely do their due diligence in combing through the prospects determining if one of these interior offensive linemen have the necessary skill-set to succeed in Shanahan’s zone blocking system. I highlight the top 5 offensive guards in play, as well as featuring a middle round sleeper and a day three sleeper.
Top 5 Offensive Guards Featured
Quentin Nelson - OG
Quentin Nelson, No. 56 - Notre Dame
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 329
40 time: 5.23
A premier offensive guard and one of the top prospects in the entire 2018 draft, Quentin Nelson is an athletically gifted mauler with great length (long arms on a 6-foot-5-inch frame) and agility playing with a nasty and savvy mentality you like seeing in a guard prospect. A force in the run game, Nelson displays light fluid feet, great explosion, and excels pulling and reaching the second level quickly. He has a nice pop at the point of attack with violent hands, and also displays the athletic ability to swing his hips blocking in space when reaching the second level and/or pulling effectively creating clear lanes and is excellent with combo blocks. Nelson showcases great lateral agility adjusting to movement and mirroring well in pass protection maintaining superb balance. Occasionally, will get pushed back and put on skates, but is quick to regather sinking hips rolling power regaining leverage to stonewall defenders with tremendous strength and power (workout warrior).
Moreover, as a complete prospect, Nelson would provide elite protection to Jimmy Garoppolo as a tremendous force in pass protection and the dominance as a run-blocker to pave the way opening holes improving the 49ers’ run game. Possesses an excellent work ethic and mental discipline from studying Taekwondo.
Round Projection: 1st
Isaiah Wynn - OG/C
Isaiah Wynn, No. 77 - Georgia
Height: 6024 | Weight: 308 | Age: 22
Arms: 33 1/8” | Hand: 8 1/2
40 time: 5.06
Although Isaiah Wynn lacks the ideal measurables at a shade over 6-foot-2-inches and 33 1/8-inch arms, he is a prospect that should not be underestimated. With the versatility to play both tackle and guard positions, Wynn is an ideal athletically gifted guard prospect with excellent explosion, strength, and quickness. Wynn displays fluid and light quick feet, impressive explosion and excels pulling and reaching the second level quickly. He showcases excellent lateral agility adjusting to movement and mirroring well in pass protection maintaining superb balance (rarely off his feet). Wynn has a nice pop at the point of attack with violent hands, and also displays the athletic ability to swing his hips blocking in space when reaching the second level and/or pulling effectively creating clear lanes.
Wynn has a slender lower half (will need to improve functional strength), but his explosion and impressive athleticism allows him to move swiftly with fluidity, and the mindset to win with technique and leverage. A zone blocking prospect at the next level that would be an ideal fit for the 49ers at either guard or center.
Round Projection: 1st-2nd
Will Hernandez - OG
Will Hernandez, No. 76 - UTEP
Height: 6024 | Weight: 34
Arms: 32 3/8” | Hands: 9 6/8”
40 time: 5.54
Will Hernandez is a massive big-bodied offensive lineman with good size, strength, athleticism, instincts, and power. A true human road grader with a stocky vending machine build, Hernandez brings tremendous power and a strong base excelling in the run game driving defenders from the action, and the toughness finishing blocks all the way to the whistle. Displays impressive burst at the point of attack and is quick to engage manhandling defenders with brute strength.
The former high school wrestler and track and field athlete, also displays nimble feet (foot agility) for a man his size showing his athletic ability in pass protection sliding laterally adjusting to movement. Hernandez has shown improvement in his game, particularly in pass protection, and will fit best in a power-based run scheme at the next level, but with the 49ers meeting with Hernandez at the Senior Bowl, completely dismissing him due to lack of scheme fit wouldn’t be prudent. Brings durability starting every single game the past three seasons.
Round Projection: 1st-2nd
Braden Smith - OG
Braden Smith, No. 71 - Auburn
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 303
40 time: 4.95
Braden Smith is a chiseled - workout warrior - prospect with freakish athleticism and strength for his size. The former high school track and field athlete can squat 565 pounds, bench press 495 pounds, has a 33-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-9-inch broad jump, and can run a 4.95 40-yard dash at 6-foot-6-inch, 303 pounds. The tapered build Smith possesses makes him look like an agile tackle in a zone-blocking scheme; however, he is projected to kick it inside to offensive guard at the next level.
Along with his height, length, and agility, Smith also displays incredible strength, explosiveness, mobility, impressive footwork, speed, great technique, tremendous awareness, and balance. He is quick in reaching the second level with great hip flexibility and smoothness to block in space utilizing sound technique, power, and footwork opening spaces with effective angles. Moreover, when he pulls he showcases his impressive speed and awareness in quickly finding targets and eliminating them. He shows an excellent base when anchoring and solid technique utilizing his very long arms in pass protection with great power and balance at the point of attack. He has a high football IQ to go along with his impressive leadership qualities. A perfect scheme fit for the 49ers, Smith brings versatility to kick it outside and play tackle or as an end of line blocking tight end.
Round Projection: 2nd-3rd
Austin Corbett - OG/C
Austin Corbett, No. 73 - Nevada
Height: 6041 | Weight: 310
Arms: 33 3/8” | Hands: 10 5/8”
40 time: 5.15
Austin Corbett is another offensive linemen prospect with tremendous versatility. An offensive tackle at Nevada, Corbett has shown the ability at the Senior Bowl to play all offensive linemen positions extremely well. Ideally a guard at the next level, Corbett is a highly technically sound prospect that provides the utility style versatility and reliability (played more than 600 snaps in college) that would benefit the 49ers.
Corbett is a smart hard-nosed physical player with solid strength. The former high school football, basketball, wrestling, and track and field star is a strong broad-shouldered prospect with a tenacious competitive playing style and nice body control (great knee bend), balance, and toughness finishing blocks all the way to the whistle. Although a bit stiff, he displays solid athletic ability to adjust in in pass protection sliding laterally adjusting to movement staying square while mirroring (great awareness). Corbett has good technique in his hands and has fluid feet working extremely well in concert with his upper body driving defenders off the ball.
Round Projection: 3rd-4th
Middle Round Sleeper
Alex Cappa - OG/OT
Alex Cappa, No. 71 - Humboldt State
Height: 6055 | Weight: 299
Arms: 33 1/8” | Hands: 9 1/8”
40 time: 5.27
Alex Cappa rose from small school prominence to the NFL Draft spotlight by completely dominating the lower level of competition with size, speed, and brute strength. An offensive tackle at Humboldt State, Cappa is destined to mix it up inside at the guard position with the versatility to be a swing tackle. He is a hard nosed player with a nasty demeanor on the field manhandling opponents like rag dolls with a tenacious competitive playing style. He displays good body control with a nice knee bend, decent mobility and the toughness finishing blocks all the way to the whistle. Displays solid athletic ability to adjust in in pass protection sliding laterally adjusting to movement staying square while mirroring, as well as the hip flexibility to swing hips working in space redirecting with power. He showcases decent technique (inconsistent) in his hands (good power jolting defenders) and has fluid feet working well in concert with upper body driving defenders off the ball. Although technique is a work in progress, Cappa showed the capacity to improve throughout the Senior Bowl and will likely be a developmental prospect with starter potential at the next level.
Round Projection: 4th-5th
Day Three Sleeper
Colby Gossett - OG
Colby Gossett, No. 70 - Appalachian State
Height: 6046 | Weight: 304 | Age: 22
Arm: 33 1/4” | Hand: 10”
40 time: 5.43
Colby Gossett is an athletic quick footed guard prospect showcasing impressive fluid lateral movement and explosion to reach the second level promptly. Adept in a zone blocking scheme, Gossett displays the ideal frame, length, and movement speed using angles well (shows great hip flexibility) finishing blocks all the way to the whistle. He shows impressive lateral agility adjusting to movement and using his hands to stifle and steer defenders. He flashes a good anchor, but has a tendency to lose on leverage with high pad level and will need to improve technique as well as functional strength at the next level. A very smooth athlete with the versatility to play the tackle position.
Gossett is a technically sound prospect with tremendous upside and is a scheme fit in Shannon’s system that could be a Day 3 gem.
Round Projection: 5th-6th
Player measurables courtesy of team pages and All-Star games. 40 times projected.