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There’s a plethora of talented offensive tackles in this year’s draft, but not as discussed is the top-tier offensive guards. Leading that position is Stanford’s David Yankey.
The 2013 All-American and first team All-Pac-12 selection was a force for the Cardinal, a team notorious for its dominant offensive line. Last season, the 6-foot-5, 312-pounder helped pave the way for running back Tyler Gaffney to rush for more than 1,700 yards, and overall Stanford led the conference in rushing yards per game (207) while allowing the fewest sacks. Not only did Yankey thrive as a pulling guard, but in 2012 he spent time at left tackle, allowing just one sack and also earning All-American honors.
Considered one of the more athletic players to play the position, Yankey has exceptional body control with a strong burst off the line. He has great lateral movement and strong footwork, and he’s at his best when he’s pulling down the line.
Yankey has drawn comparisons to New Orleans Saints guard Ben Grubbs, as both guards are natural run-blockers, getting the job done with their athleticism and power. Others see Yankey a lot more like his former teammate and current Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro, who was drafted in the first round of the 2012 Draft.
On the next level Yankey will have to get better at utilizing his hands to drive defenders. He also has to break the habit of lowering his head at contact and instead maintain eye contact throughout contact.
Yankey is considered the No. 31 overall prospect by CBS Sports, and the best available guard in this year’s class. Last year a pair of guards were taken off the board in the first 10 picks, though most mock drafts don’t have a guard being scooped up until the second round.
Yankey could come off the board late in the first round, perhaps to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks picking at No. 32. Seattle doesn’t have a dire need at the position, but if you’re trying to find a weak spot the interior offensive line may be just that, not to mention James Carpenter and J.R. Sweezy will be free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Yankey may not last long in Round 2, as a handful of teams could upgrade at the guard position. The New York Giants, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns could all be in the mix.
The Giants were awful as a running team a season ago, and that’s not Tom Coughlin’s brand of football. The team added Justin Pugh at tackle in last year’s draft; they could improve the interior of the line this time around. Jets right guard Willie Colon will be 30 next year, and Yankey would be an upgrade. Miami won’t have Richie Incognito for 2013, and to resurrect its running game it’ll have to build from the inside out. And Cleveland barely had a running game last year; the team needs to improve at both guard spots to change that.
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