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Guards are often overlooked, but finding good ones is tough

4/11/2008 - College Football NFL

Other than punters and kickers, no other position gets as little respect from fans as guards. Hey, it makes sense. They don't make the spectacular catch, throw or run to win a game. They don't get the crowd riled up with a stop on third-and-short or a big play in coverage. Why, they rarely even get as much love as other offensive linemen. After all, they don't have to protect the edge like tackles and aren't seen as the quarterback of the offensive line like centers.

But while it's easy to dismiss guards as dime-a-dozen players who can be picked up in the later rounds as needed, that just isn't the case. Need proof? How about the fact that five of the six guards who went to the Pro Bowl last year -- Alan Faneca, Logan Mankins, Leonard Davis, Steve Hutchinson and Shawn Andrews -- were selected in the first round of their respective drafts.
Kris Dielman, the sixth Pro Bowl guard from last year, was an undrafted defensive lineman the Chargers slowly converted to a guard.

It's also worth pointing out that several teams have drafted tackles in the middle rounds and moved them to guard, like New Orleans did with Jahri Evans in 2006. And teams can sometimes find pure guards capable of starting in the mid- to late-rounds. It's not easy, but Tennessee did it with Benji Olson is in the fifth round of the 1998 draft. At that point, there were concerns about Olson's ability to hold up in pass protection. However, Olson ended up being a perfect fit for this team because it has shown a strong commitment to the ground game and placed a premium on mobility at quarterback. As a result, Olson started 140 games before deciding to retire on Thursday.