Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, there is so much to love about this group of interior offensive linemen, especially the guard class. Besides boasting whom I believe to be the best player in the entire draft (Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame), it also includes another half dozen players who could very well be plug-and-play guys from Day 1.
As far as the Senior Bowl participants go, we’ve got a healthy dose of talent to dive into. One or two of these guys could even play their way into the end of the first round. For the most part, however, a lot of these guys will be huge steals come Day 2 and beyond. And with player experiences ranging from a spot in the National Championship game (Isaiah Wynn of Georgia) to a small school some may not know exists (Skylar Phillips from Idaho State), there’s a flavor for everybody.
Here we go.
Isaiah Wynn – Left Tackle – Georgia
Isaiah Wynn is an interesting case among this guard class. He was chosen to protect true freshman QB Jake Fromm’s blindside in 2017 after spending most of his career up to that point at left guard. Wynn only stands at 6’2, which most would argue is far too short for an offensive tackle, especially at the major level. If anything, this is just a huge testament to Wynn’s talent and skill-set that he was able to be so successful out on an island without the normal length to combat the SEC speed he went up against week after week. He’s got cat-like footwork to mirror EDGE rushers with the strength and leverage to run them out of town. Wynn doesn’t have much more to prove to scouts with his on-field play and stacked resume, but a good showing at the Senior Bowl won’t hurt either.
Sean Welsh – Right Guard – Iowa
Sean Welsh, like the vast amount of Iowa offensive linemen to come before him, is fundamentally sound with a blue-collar work ethic that helps overcome any athletic shortfalls he may have. He may not be the longest, quickest, or strongest guard in this class, but he knows how to get the job done on a consistent basis. Welsh runs phenomenal zone tracks. Whether he is double-teaming with his tackle or his center — who also happens to be fellow draft prospect James Daniels — Welsh and co. become synergistic. You’d be hard-pressed to find a missed assignment among the interior of the Hawkeye’s O-line.
Welsh has the versatility to play any of the three interior positions and play them well. When graduation kept draining the line of talent, Welsh was always chosen to fill the most immediate need. With the recent success of former Hawkeye linemen Brandon Scherff (WAS) and Marshal Yanda (BAL), there will be some obvious intrigue with Welsh in Mobile.
Just when you thought the OL name to know out of Iowa was Sean Welsh, here comes James Daniels. Snaps off the line quicker than a hiccup and brings a lunch pale w/ those Hawkeye fundamentals. 1st Iowa OL to declare early in some time. pic.twitter.com/O2YmvHemIJ
— Michael Peterson (@ChargersLAtely) January 14, 2018
Will Hernandez – Left Guard – UTEP
At 6’3 tall and a very brutish 330 pounds, Will Hernandez boasts one of the more intimidating builds in the draft class, with the raw power to back it up. It also helps that he plays with a neck board. I can’t oversell how bad-ass he looks like with that thing. Besides his awesome choice of equipment, Hernandez packs some Popeye-esque arms and chest that looks like it could withstand a cannonball. It’s a joy to watch him bench press lineman off the LOS, as well. Hernandez takes the phrase “low man always wins” to heart as he constantly wins by churning DTs out of the way for his ball carrier. It’s not hard to see that he was a big part of former Miner, and current Green Bay Packer, RB Aaron Jones’ success in 2016.
Skylar Phillips – Left Guard – Idaho State
When I first read that there was a player invited from Idaho State, my first thought was “Isn’t that where Jared Allen came from?” and then I thought “Nah, that was the Culinary Academy.”
Anyways, Skylar Phillips was one of the only prospects that grabbed my interests after only watching a small handful of his tape. His attention to detail in his pass set immediately stood out, whether it was his close to perfect footwork or his fundamentally sound hand technique. He keeps his hands inside at all times in order to minimize the chance of his initial strike landing anywhere outside on the defender. Phillips stands at a modest 6’2, but packs a good-looking 315 pounds onto his frame. He shows off some natural athleticism and it didn’t take long for me to understand why he was invited to the Senior Bowl. It’s fairly obvious he could have played at the higher level if given the chance. Now he will get a shot to show his worth.
Tab Phillips as one of the prospects I am most excited to watch come next week.
Wyatt Teller – Left Guard – Virginia Tech
Wyatt Teller plays with a “prick” mindset, which is one of the biggest boxes I hope to check off when I evaluate offensive linemen. Playing like a “prick” is synonymous with being a finisher of blocks. Teller is the type of lineman who wants to demoralize the man in front of him every single play. It brings a single, manly tear to my eye when I see him latch on to a linebacker at the second level and take him for the ride of his life. Teller also exhibits a natural patience in pass protection. Lots of inexperienced linemen get too eager to get their hands on pass rushers and this ultimately can bite them in the tail. Teller will only strike when the time is right.
One area I would like to see Teller improve on is to better control his aggression. Too often he can whiff on LBs in the box, and I watched him get hip-tossed one too many times for my liking. Overall, Teller is a sure-fire top-5 guard in this class and could be in contention for a top-3 spot, pending his play at the Senior Bowl.
Colby Gossett – Right Guard – Appalachian State
Colby Gossett is one of the more experienced guys at the position, with 46 consecutive starts to end his career. A two-time All Sun Belt selection, Gossett was also rated the second-best draft prospect in the Sun Belt conference. At 6’6 and 310 pounds, he has the normal build of your average OT prospect, but lacks the athleticism needed to keep up with EDGE rushers, which is why I believe he fits inside. Gossett plays with a good-sized chip on his shoulder which helps cover up his lack of flexibility and knee-bend which can hinder his ability to move people in the run game. His lateral agility could use some refinement as well. Too often Gossett will miss an assignment when he needs to plant a foot in the ground and peel back for a defender going inside. When climbing to the second level, he has a record of taking bad angles, again leading to a defender being unaccounted for.
Taylor Hearn – Left Guard – Clemson
Taylor Hearn is a solid prospect all around that won’t wow you in one specific aspect or another. However, he carries a winning pedigree and knows what it takes to perform on the big stage. Last year’s National Championship Game was one of his best outings for the Tigers, as he had a fairly clean outing against Alabama’s front seven. This included going up against former top draft picks Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster, as well as potential first round pick Da’Ron Payne. Hearn has pretty average athleticism for the position, but I noticed that Clemson loved to pull him out into space and run behind. To me, something like this shows a tremendous amount of trust in an offensive lineman and that can’t be understated. I guess when it comes to Hearn, he doesn’t give you much to salivate over, but there is always something to be said about a guy who also never gives you anything to stress about.