Moving towards the late part of the guard class, there appears to be some value in Rounds 5 and 6, some with high floors and other with interesting ceilings. All are from major conferences, three from the SEC and two from the PAC-12 and all have success at a high level. As one would suspect, the SEC players have an edge in physicality and the PAC-12 guys are better in pass protection and move skills..
As always, it’s about speculation and subjective opinion. Draft projections are a fluid process and draftniks have no real insight on or access to, NFL team draft boards. So, all of these players could go earlier than where I think they fit. After those first talent tiers (across all positions), the middle rounds offer sturdy, blue-collar type players and developmental prospects with athletic upsides.
Tier #3, Rounds 5 & 6
Nick Broeker, Mississippi St. - 6’ 4” / 305 lbs. / 9 7/8” hands / 32 1/4” arms / 77 3/8” wingspan @ Senior Bowl
Decent athlete who was a four-year basketball letterman in high school. Played left tackle his first three years at Ole Miss and stacked a lot of All-American, All-SEC and academic awards.
Broeker was a solid SEC blocker and is a high floor prospect. He has good technical skills except in one area. I don’t know if it’s his relatively short arms or just a kink in his game, but he will sometimes lunge, reaching out towards the defender and losing his leverage, balance, and power. It happens more often in space, so it might simply be a matter of a lack of patience and trusting his feet to get him into position.
He has good footwork and although not fleet afoot, can win in space and the Rebels run a lot of zone, but his best work is done inside. Broeker appears to always have a plan, if the play is away from him, he locks up and seals off his foe. He can torque, turn and seal creating a lane when the play is in his immediate area and he can stay low and drive in short yardage.
He has to fine tune that punch and hand work in pass pro, because at the NFL level he will likely not have the mass or length to stop bullrushes or speed-to-power guys on stunts/loops/blitzes. His college offense was a lot quick reads and throws, he will have to stand his ground if the Rams stay with longer developing vertical passing game and deep crossing routes.
Experienced in a fast moving offense with zone blocking concepts. Ole Miss coach,Lane Kiffin, is off the Gruden brothers coaching tree, just like Sean McVay. Not only would he fit, Broeker could pressure the Rams current interior players. With his high floor, physicality and football smarts, he projects to be at least be a versatile backup. Anywhere between #170 and #200.
Henry Bainivalu, Washington - 6’ 6” / 312 lbs. / 10 1/4” hands / 34 1/4” arms / 82 1/8” wingspan @ East-West Shrine Bowl
Built like a tackle and played a little there as a freshman. Moved to right guard and started his last three seasons and 29 games. A six-year college player, Bainivalu will be 24 in his rookie season.
Technique blocker who has the footwork and move skills to play in an outside zone game plan. Along with his length, Bainivalu wins in the run game with position, angles, and grip strength. More of a turn and seal blocker than rooting out of the hole. Not nearly as effective as drive blocker in short yardage. UW often actually moved him outside when near the goal line.
Good pass blocker has active feet and locks up well. Agility and lateral quickness keep him squared up on rushers and he uses his length and grip strength to torque rushers off balance. Alternates using a solid two-hand and independent-hand punch and keeps his eyes/head alert for stunts/loops/blitzes and helps his line mates.
I like every facet of Bainivalu’s game, except for the relative lack of sand in his pants in short yardage situations. In the NFL, he will match up against a mean SOB every week and it much more physical than the PAC-12. He fits well into the Rams schemes with more of a finesse and technique driven style. Many draft pundits have scored him a Round 3 grade, with a chance to go early on Day 2 if he tests well at the NFL Combine. I like him at somewhere between #136 and #150 mid-fourth to early fifth. He has an athletic upside, but I think that lack of drive power makes him a high ceiling/ low floor prospect.
Brandon Kipper, Oregon State - 6’ 6” / 326 lbs. / 10 1/8” hands / 34 1/8” arms / 80 1/2” wingspan @ NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Started 45 games for a Beavers offense that averaged 193.3 yards per game at a 5.0 clip over that span. Switched to guard in 2022 after spending his first three years at tackle. Kipper was a two-time wrestling state champion in high school. Had Pro Football Focus run blocking scores of 76.6 in 2022 and 84.9 in 2021 and it was reported that he met with 22 teams at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Cut more like tackle with good get-off and move skills. Experienced in outside zone and moves laterally well. Even though he has tendency to play a little high, he has good balance and creates leverage. He moves fluidly and under control to the second level and gets his target on both combo blocks and direct path’s.
Sets good wide base, keeps his feet churning, and uses his length in pass pro. Has the strength and grappling skills to tie up pass rushers, but will need to work on knee bend consistency against NFL defensive tackles.
A nice prospect for an outside zone team, Kipper will bring athleticism, size, versatility and experience to a move offense. Color him a sleeper anywhere in Round 5.
Jerome Carvin, Tennessee - 6’ 3” / 308 lbs. / 9 3/8” hands / 33 3/8” arms / 82 1/4” wingspan @ East-West Shrine Bowl.
Fifth-year senior who played in 60 college games, with 43 starts, 38 split between the guards and five at center. Heady SEC interior player with higher floor than ceiling. Center may end up being his best ticket to NFL play time and he is fully aware it.
Sets a good anchor in pass pro despite his relative lack of mass. He sets his wide body and big lower half into a wide base, bends his knees and stays patient with his punch. His length is good, not elite and he needs to be consistent in keeping feet moving and staying locked onto rushers. His average footwork, doesn’t allow him to quickly mirror or recover if the foe gets an edge, this will magnify as a pro.
Not a true power guy in run blocking, he wins with low leverage, positioning, and technique. He is solid in short yardage, but it it’s more about his get-off, leverage, and grip/punch strength. Good, not great athleticism,
Carvin had a good week at the Shrine Bowl and I suppose it’s not a surprise, he has some polish that was buffed by a tough level of competition. For the Rams, the interior line is an area that needs bolstering and you have to like his high floor and versatility. A nice selection on mid-Day 3, around #160 seems fair.
Jerome Carvin putting in work at the Shrine Bowl. Will be an absolute steal in the NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/IhOGdgsRUH— Vol Report (@AllVolReport) January 31, 2023
Emil Ekiyor, Alabama - 6’ 2” / 317 lbs. / 9 3/8” hands / 33 3/8” arms / 82 1/8” wingspan @ Senior Bowl
Just turned 23. Recruited as a center, Ekiyor moved over a spot and became a three-year, 40 game starter on one of the best teams in the nation. Got extensive work in the pivot during Senior Bowl workouts.
Workman-like player whose sum is better than his parts. Contradictions galore. Now would think that with his thick, compact build, Ekiyor would be a drive blocking mauler who roots defenders out of the hole. Actually, he appears to lack NFL-grade play strength. Watching his film, it is apparent that he too often gets stood up or pushed backwards on contact.
On the other hand, with that stumpy build and large lower body, it would seem that his best movement would be limited to a phone booth. He’s not a gazelle, but shows good footwork to reach, turn and seal, and chip up to the next level. He also has enough giddy-up to pull (which he did a lot), get and out on screens.
He’s an All-SEC player on a team packed with top talent, I wish I could like him more. He strikes me as a little bigger version of current Rams center, Brian Allen. He’s known as a hard worker and will probably get drafted (over drafted?) on his college pedigree. I seen mocks as low as Round 2. If the Rams should consider him, #172 would be as high as I would wager. I don’t think he projects as well as Broeker from Old Miss.
Steady player from a major conference or the best scheme fit?
I think that I fit into the second group. At this area of the draft, taking calculated risks on prospects with higher upsides and are more of a natural fit to what the Rams do on offense is warranted. Kipper and Bainivalu fit that thinking.
Broeker, Carvin, and Ekiyor have high floors and would be fine addition at this area of the draft. Kipper and Bainivalu have fit into what L.A. wants to do. A lot of fans think that coaching staffs should be willing to restructure their schemes around players and there is some truth and value in that flexibility, but a high percentage of coaches fall into a particular philosophy and prefer players that fit best into the scheme, rather than vice-versa.
Round 7 is the final installment.