The offensive line is one of—if not the most—important positional groups on the football field. Many coaches stress how the game of football is won in the trenches, by the big uglies who rarely get the credit they are due.
But outside of pass-protecting left tackles, it is rare for offensive linemen to be highly rewarded on draft day. And one of the most overlooked positions on the field is the offensive guard.
Alabama's Chance Warmack is highly regarded amongst the scouts of the 2013 class. He is rated as the best guard prospect this year and, if not for David DeCastro last season, Warmack would arguably be the most sought after guard in the last decade.
Let's break down the two-time national champion guard's game and see just how well he grades out.
Name: Chance Warmack
Draft Projection: Top 20
NFL Comparison: Marshal Yanda
- Three-year starter with the Tide, winning two national titles.
- Student of the game; constantly improving on his technique.
- Heady player with a high motor.
- Strong as they come.
- Not very gifted athletically.
- May be scheme-specific guard; will not fit well in a zone-blocking offense.
- Far and away the best interior run blocker in the 2013 draft.
- Phenomenal burst off the line of scrimmage to push defenders back.
- Exceptional lower body strength; drives defenders off the ball.
- Can get to the next level.
- Rarely caught playing with pad-level too high.
- Purely dominant as a run blocker.
- Tends to look awkward in space and at the second level, but will get there.
- Not a real puller or screen blocker.
- Very polished footwork.
- Does not retreat into the pocket; holds his ground well.
- Creates good separation keeping defenders away from his body.
- Good arm punch and strong hands.
- Solid lateral agility to mirror pass rushers.
- Needs to improve awareness on blitzes.
- Can be caught playing too high in pass pro.
- Not very fast and can be beat with speed moves.
When I started looking at the 2013 class, I really didn't think the Steelers had a major need for any more offensive linemen. They spent their top two picks in 2012 on tackles and guards (DeCastro, Mike Adams) and were building a young corps with Maurkice Pouncey at center, Marcus Gilbert at tackle and Willie Colon at guard.
But despite the fact Colon has found his niche inside at guard, he hasn't been able to play a whole lot. Since starting all 16 games for the Steelers in 2009, Colon has played in just 13 over the last three seasons including missing all of 2010 and 15 games of the 2011 season.
To his credit, Colon looked great for the Steelers at left guard this year, and had he stayed healthy for the final four games, he may well be headed to Hawaii. But Colon can't stay healthy, and his $17 million remaining on his contract is looming over a Pittsburgh team that will already struggle to remain under the cap.
If Pittsburgh decides to part ways with Colon, Warmack would be an immediate option for the team. His run blocking could help the Steelers jump-start what was a promising ground attack and could give Pittsburgh one of the best and youngest offensive fronts in the game.
Warmack grades out favorably to a guy who may be one of the most underrated players in the game today.
In 2007, the Baltimore Ravens scooped up Iowa guard Marshal Yanda in the third round (nine picks after the Steelers selected tight end Matt Spaeth). Since then, Yanda has anchored one of the league's top offensive fronts and made the last two Pro Bowls.
Here's what B/R's own Matt Miller had to say about the comparison between these two: "everything Yanda does is textbook. Watching Chance Warmack, you get the same feeling.
With the salary cap situation a complete mess, it's not out of the question to see the Steelers part ways with the oft-injured, oft-penalized Colon. And if they do, Pittsburgh opens up the option of grabbing a guy like Warmack at 17 overall.
It's been a long process trying to rebuild Pittsburgh's offensive line, and Warmack may be the final piece of the puzzle.