by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of mgoblue.com.
As this year comes to a close, Draft 412 will take a look at the 2023 and 2024 draft classes by position. The following is a current “Best Of” list for both offense and defense, taking a look back at the top players from last year’s draft party and ahead to the coming NFL selection process in April.
From Draft 412 to you… Happy Holidays and get your mock drafts ready!!
The guard position in the NFL may be the most underappreciated position in football (sorry punters). Teams that have a strong interior line are successful in the NFL. Though they may not seem as important as the tackles or the center, strong guards are the glue that holds a line together.
The 2023 NFL Draft had 8 guards selected and here are the best of last year’s selections:
1- Tennessee - Peter Skoronski
Skoronski was selected 11th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Entering the draft, he was considered one of the best tackles who might be better playing inside as an interior lineman.
The Titans selected him and moved him inside where he has helped solidify a Titans offensive line from the first kickoff of the season. Skoronski was a bit undersized to be a tackle in the NFL, though Draft Nation thinks he could have been successful there as well. Skoronski has the tools to be one of the best guards in the league over the next ten years and it appears the Titans made the smart move by moving him inside.
2- Atlanta - Matthew Bergeron
Bergeron, just like Skoronski, was a successful tackle in college football and was highly rated entering the draft process. The Falcons offensive line was set at the tackle position however, featuring top players like Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary at the position. Yet, the Falcons did not want to pass on the talented Bergeron. They selected him early in round 2 with the intention of moving him inside. Bergeron is a talented, fundamentally sound offensive lineman who has started to blossom in his new role.
3- Buffalo - O’Cyrus Torrence
Torrence was considered one of the best guards in the country last season at Florida. The Bills selected Torrence late in the second round, and he has started 12 games already in his rookie season. Torrence has one of the best PFF rankings of any rookie offensive lineman and appears to be a long term fixture on the Bills interior line.
As we move from the 2023 draft to the 2024 NFL Draft, here is Draft 412’s Top Offensive Guard prospects:
1- Troy Fautanu - Washington
Fautanu is a solid left tackle for the University of Washington who can become one of the game's best guards once he gets moved inside. Fautanu is built eerily similar to Peter Skoronski, and Skoronski has shown the likely pathway for Fautanu to be moved inside. He has the athleticism and footwork to be effective at pulling and getting to the second level.
2- Zak Zinter - Michigan
Zinter was well on his way to being a first team All-Big 10 or even an All-American candidate at guard. But late in the season he suffered a gruesome broken leg against Ohio State that put everything on pause.
Zinter has entered the NFL draft and says he is going to fully recover. He will need to prove to NFL medical teams that is the case but there is no doubt he has the talent to still be a day two pick next April.
3- Cooper Beebe - Kansas State
Beebe has played both tackle and guard at Kansas State. Since moving to left guard, he has become one of the best interior linemen in the country. He will not make it out of day 2.
4- Donovan Jackson - Ohio State
Donovan Jackson came into 2023 as a possible first round talent who struggled at times this season. At the time of this article, he has not declared for the draft. He could still be a 3rd or 4th round pick that may end up being a steal in this draft.
5- Christian Haynes - Connecticut
Christian Haynes has had a stellar collegiate career at UCONN and after being named an AP All-American for the 2nd straight season, he seems ready to take his talents to the NFL. He is on the smaller side when it comes to reach and he will need to adjust to the speed of the competition.
6- Joshua Gray - Oregon State
Gray is another starting tackle who is better served by moving inside. His solid 2023 season was cut short by a foot injury, and he has not made his intentions clear for 2024 yet. He could be the next tackle to guard switch that finds success for one lucky team.
7- Javion Cohen- Miami, FL
Cohen struggled in 2023 after transferring from Alabama. At times, he appeared lost and unsure, never looking comfortable. In some scout’s eyes, he took a step back this campaign. He has entered the NFL draft, and he will be a prospect to pay attention to at the combine.