If you saw the running game of the Chargers last year, you knew that the Bolts ran much better to the outside than straight up the gut. This was mostly due to the fact that the guards that we ran with, Clary and Ohrnberger (I love his twitter more than his play)/Rinehart were improved, but still fairly marginal. The Chargers must address this need in the draft and though there are decent talents within the 2-4th round range (mainly Cyril Richardson because he fits the zone-blocking scheme that the Chargers run), the top two guards are phenomenal talents that can plug in right away and make an impact.
To be frank, I don’t think these guards will last to the Chargers pick. Why? Here is a list of teams that are in need of guards before the Chargers pick: Titans (Pick 11), Giants (Pick 12), Cowboys (Pick 16), Cardinals (Pick 20), and Packers (Pick 21). If any of those teams decide to take a different pick for a certain need and one of these two are on the board, there is no question that the Chargers must grab them. So without any more delay, here are the two best guards in the 2014 NFL Draft.
David Yankey (6’6/315lbs)
Pros: Yankey is a mauler, plain and simple. The tenacity that he plays with in the run game instills fear into defensive linemen and can push any lineman out of the way. He has phenomenal quickness when pulling on a run play and has great awareness to get the primary block. Yankey’s quick feet and great strength gives him an enormous push as he comes up against defenders and is fast enough to get to the second level on blocks. Yankey is a phenomenal run blocker and is a dominant force in the interior line.
Cons: He’s a power-run blocker. In the zone-blocking scheme that the Chargers run, Yankey’s abilities wouldn’t be used to his fullest in the system. In a scheme where stable blocking is needed, Yankey tends to lose his balance and power quickly when he gets to anxious during the game. He’s not the quickest off the ball and when late, has a tendency to have less power in his step. Yankey is also not an ideal pass-blocking guard. He lacks lateral quickness and a good kick-out step to gain positioning against pass rushers. He often loses footing against power rushers and doesn’t regain positioning. Yankey does have the most fluid hips for a guard and this causes him to struggle against stunt rushes and speed rushers on the interior gaps.
Xavier Su’a-Filo (6’4/307lbs)
University of California-Los Angeles
Pros: Extremely quick off the snap. Su’a-Filo is a phenomenal pass blocker that has great lateral quickness and has extremely quick feet. Very good hand placements on pass-rushers to gain control and maintain positioning in the offensive front. He’s very nimble and has a great ability to pull to the outside. Good enough power that he can generate a push in the interior blocks and is fast enough to chip and rush to second level. Has a great awareness on stunts and is a very fluid guard in his hips. Su’a-Filo played left tackle for the Bruins and had a good season for a guard playing out of position. The Bruins had a multitude of injuries that required Xavier to be placed at LT, but showed that he can handle his own against speed rushers off the edge. His knowledge from playing at LT helps him enormously in the pass game. Plays low to the ground. Good fit for the zone-blocking scheme the Chargers run.
Cons: He won’t overpower anyone. Though he’ll stand is ground, he rarely gets push against bigger, much strong defensive tackles. He struggled against switch blitzes and secondary blitzes and didn’t really show good recognition in man switches. He has short arms so that hinders him from getting separation from his man to get a good stance in the pass blocking game. Struggled against power rushers during pass-pro.
In the end, Su’a-Filo is obviously the better fit for the Chargers. He’s an ideal ZBS guard who is miles ahead in pass protection over Yankey. Yankey has played in the power-run scheme his entire career and playing out of scheme can take a few years to get used to. Though Yankey is by far the stronger and better run-blocking guard, in terms of scheme fit, I’d have to go with Su’a-Filo. Though if any of these two guards are at the 25th spot, the Chargers must grab either of them. Many may argue that corner is a bigger need for the Chargers, but with the depth in the second round for potential starting talent (Marcus Roberson, Lamarcus Joyner, Bashaud Breeland, Jaylen Watkins, Andre Hal), the Chargers cannot pass up the chance to draft a franchise guard to improve the interior offensive line.