The 2018 season looked promising for at least one unit on the Lions, and it’s one that has been a project for years. The offensive line came out looking like a much improved unit and it only got better as the season progressed. For a time, Kerryon Johnson was the hottest rookie back in the league and Matthew Stafford was the least sacked quarterback throwing the football. Then, it all crumbled. It can mainly be traced to one major factor, the repeated and eventual season-ending injuries to starting right guard T.J. Lang.
As we’ve covered (read Andrew Kato’s breakdown here), the team has a pretty jarring need at the guard position with Kenny Wiggins struggling to hold his own against anybody, so we’re going to look ahead at who some of the hottest names are in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Beau Benzschawel, OG, Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been an offensive line factory for generations and it doesn’t look like that team trend is going to slow down any time soon. Benzschawel is a taller guard, which is one of the reasons I think the Lions are going to show some interest. Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins are all larger guards so the size trend is pretty hard to ignore. Aside from size, Benzschawel flashes very good athletic ability on the interior, and his ability to move in space actually reminded me of when I first scouted Joe Dahl a few years ago. Unlike Dahl, Benzschawel has experience both pass and run blocking, and while he’s clearly more suited on the move trying to clear space for his rushers, he can hold his own against both speed and power rushers inside.
Martez Ivey, OT(OG), Florida
In researching this article, Ivey was actually the top ranked guard on several of the boards I looked at. Playing left tackle at Florida, he’s destined to move inside as a pro due to his lack of ideal size on the outside (he’d be another bigger guard, though) and issues in dealing with quickness outside. Ivey has the size and length to be successful as a guard as a pro, but he’s going to be a bit of a developmental prospect. Lacking elite athletic traits on tape, his rookie season will likely be spent cleaning up the pretty severe footwork issues that plagued him (and his quarterback) in college.
As a puller, there are some positives that make him a possibility in Detroit, though, as they need someone who has the ability to pull across the line and make blocks to open holes for their explosive rusher in Kerryon Johnson. Ivey has some of those traits, but his flags on film are going to make patience a premium when he goes pro.
Garrett Brumfield, OG, Louisiana State
With players like La’el Collins and Trai Turner in the NFL, expectations can be high for a lineman coming out of LSU. Brumfield is probably going to find himself starting on Sundays and his ability to pull as a blocker is going to be one of the main reasons teams like his style of play. At 6-foot-2 and only just around 300 pounds, Brumfield lacks the size of a prototypical Bob Quinn pickup on the line, and that’s probably going to be the biggest drawback for him as a prospect. His athletic ability looks to be above average at worst, though I have some concerns about his functional strength as a blocker. Brumfield would be an immediate scheme fit, however, and if he were asked to step in right away and block for the team, I don’t think he’d struggle with knowing where he’s supposed to be and what he’s supposed to do. Just a matter of getting bigger and stronger at that point.
Darryl Williams, OG, Mississippi State
Williams is the highest rated underclassmen guard and it’s not difficult to see why that is after watching him for a bit. I chose to watch him against Kentucky first, and as much of a distraction as Josh Allen is while you’re trying to watch anyone else, Williams held his own on the inside against a very talented defense until the very end. Williams looks to have plus athletic ability and it’s very apparent on plays he’s asked to pull across the line that he has the tools to develop into a versatile blocker in the NFL.
A bit inconsistent against power rushers, he seems to be at his best when asked to be on the move, part of why I think his run blocking is more of a strength than protecting the quarterback. This is a guy I think could start immediately in the NFL, and while he’ll have kinks to work out, a team would be best served feeding him snaps and letting him learn while using his plus tools to spring rushers.
Nate Herbig, OG, Stanford
Were you a Will Hernandez fan in 2018? If you were, there are going to be some similarities when you turn on Nate Herbig, a huge player with surprising athletic traits. Now, I have to put the disclaimer here that this is a super early evaluation and I have only watched a little bit of tape. Likewise, this is a player whom my friends and fellow draftniks have had less than polite things to say. Still, of the couple dozen players I’ve watched in depth this cycle he’s the only one that has a game where I literally did not type anything negative. Herbig is gigantic, and his 335 pound listing may be generous. He’s not very tall, and while I have been told length is an issue, I didn’t see much of that being a problem. He played right tackle for Stanford, but his size is going to push him inside and I couldn’t be more excited to see how it plays out. Despite being very large, don’t let that fool you into thinking he can’t move. True, he’s at his best when he’s simply engaging, but Nate Herbig on the move has to be one of the most terrifying things an opponent has ever seen.