NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock was on the "The Rich Eisen Podcast" recently to discuss the upcoming draft prior to him leaving for the NFL combine and during his interview he raved about Alabama left guard Chance Warmack.
"The best player I\'ve seen on tape is the guard from Alabama," Chance Warmack, said Mayock. "Now, he\'s not going No. 1, but he\'s the best football player."
Not that it matters, but ESPN draft expert Todd McShay said that he considers Warmack to be the best guard prospect that he’s seen since Steve Hutchinson, who the Seattle Seahawks drafted 17th overall in the 2001 NFL Draft.
The NFL draft process is not kind to interior linemen going early no matter how good the prospect is. Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers know this first hand as guard David DeCastro was the first interior lineman selected in the 2012 draft at 24th overall. Many of the experts thought that DeCastro was easily a top 10 selection and none of them envisioned him dropping out of the top 20.
When you look at interior lineman drafted in the first round dating back to 2000, Mike Pouncey, twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, was selected the highest when he was drafted 15th overall by the Miami Dolphins back in 2011. He, however, was drafted to be a center like his brother was, not a guard.
As far as true guards go, Shawn Andrews was the highest to be drafted dating back to 2000 when the Philadelphia Eagles picked him 16th overall in the 2004 draft. After that you have Hutchinson at 17th overall in 2001 and Mike Iupati 17th overall in 2010.
So why are guards always crapped on in the first round? I have forgotten exactly how Bill Parcells put it several years ago, but when talking about drafting in the top half of the first round he said that his philosophy was to either get a quarterback, get a player that could protect the quarterback, or get a player that could get after the quarterback.
Protecting the quarterback means drafting a left tackle and that is why we usually see that position get selected at least once in the top half of every draft. This year will be no different. Quarterbacks go without saying as teams are always willing to pick one early. Defensive ends, defensive tackles and rush linebackers that can get after the quarterback usually dominate first rounds with a few cornerbacks, wide receivers and running backs mixed in.
So what does this mean for the Steelers? It means that there is a pretty good chance that Warmack could still be on the board by the time their first round pick rolls around. Would general manager Kevin Colbert really stick to his board and select yet another offensive lineman in the first round after drafting a total of four offensive linemen in the first two rounds the last three years?
Of all positions that the Steelers could use on their offensive line right now left guard is it. Ramon Foster figures to be gone via free agency and the future of Willie Colon, who has landed on injured reserve each of the last three seasons, is also currently in question.
Should the Steelers select Warmack in the first round you would figure that Colon would then be released, if he hadn\'t already been released, on June 2nd. That move would create $5.5 million worth of cap space in 2013, but produce $4.3 million in dead money in 2014.
We will have our eyes on Warmack during the combine, but his stock can only drop at this point. Judging by the last 12 years worth of drafts he could potentially still be on the board when the Steelers select and that is a scenario that will remain in play from now until draft day.
Early Round Draft History Of Interior Offensive Linemen Dating Back To 2000