On Tuesday, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com identified his elite, blue- and red-chip prospects in the 2013 NFL class, based on film study and several conversations with scouts and coaches around the league, and of the five elite prospects that he listed, four are offensive linemen.
Without even looking at the list you probably can guess that those four offensive linemen are Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, Alabama guard Chance Warmack and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper.
I don\’t think that anyone doubts that Fisher and Joeckel, both left tackles, will be off the board in the first ten picks. That leaves Warmack and Cooper, both guards as the two remaining elite linemen listed by Brooks.
I have dedicated a few post this offseason to both Warmack and Cooper, and how guards are usually crapped on in the top half of the draft every year. However, based on the quality of first round draft prospects this year, it is not out of the question that one guard gets selected in the top half of the first round.
So what are the chances that both Warmack and Cooper are off the board by the time the Pittsburgh Steelers pick rolls around?
According to my research, the 1983 draft was the last time that two guards were drafted within the first 16 picks. Those two guards were Chris Hinton and Bruce Matthews. I actually thought it might have been since 1988, but deep research revealed that the New York Jets drafted Dave Cadigan to be a left tackle, and not a guard, like it is listed on Pro Football Reference.
So, will Warmack and Cooper buck 30 years of draft history in less than two weeks?
I hate to keep beating the same dead horse, but the Steelers have yet to address their lack of depth on their offensive line this offseason. Sure, they re-signed Ramon Foster, but his position flexibility and terms of his deal in no way indicate that he is more of a short term fix. Even if he is penciled in to be starting left guard right now, who is behind him, guard David DeCastro and center Maurkice Pouncey?
Yes, Kelvin Beachum has position flexibility, and there has been talk about him learning the center position, but the former SMU left tackle only saw snaps at right tackle last season.
Doug Legursky? He remains unsigned, and besides, he hasn\’t ever excelled when asked to play either guard spot. John Malecki? I consider him to be Legursky-lite.
If either Warmack or Cooper are still on the board when the Steelers pick rolls around, I cant see them passing either up. Especially Cooper, who can play both guard spots as well as center.
Would a team be interested in trading up for either of those two players? I guess it is possible, but I can\’t remember the last time that team moved up in the first round to draft a guard.
So let\’s assume that the pick won\’t be traded, which direction would you go if either one of the two, or even both, are still on the board at 17? Are neither elite enough for you? Would you still go elsewhere? Would the Steelers?