A guard has never been selected with the first pick of the NFL Draft. And no guard has even cracked the top 10 since the New Orleans Saints took Chris Naeole of Colorado 10th overall in 1997.
If ever there were a year for a guard to go first overall, this could be it.
The Chiefs’ previous administration selected Jon Asamoah in the third round in 2010 and Jeff Allen in the second round in 2012, but if new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid stick to their dictum of taking the “best player available,” some believe that guy is Alabama guard Chance Warmack.
Even ahead of the two highly rated offensive tackles, Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan.
“I don’t care whether it’s Warmack or Joeckel,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. “People will tell me I’m crazy, that a guard can’t go No. 1. I think he’s the best player in the draft.…
“Chance Warmack is the best football player I saw on tape this year. And Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina is just a tiny notch behind him. As a matter of fact, Cooper’s probably a better athlete.”
Because tackles, especially on the left, or blind side of right-handed quarterbacks, take on opponents’ elite pass rushers, they have gone first overall in the draft twice the past 16 years — Jake Long to Miami in 2008 and Orlando Pace to St. Louis in 1997. And six offensive tackles went in the first round in 2011.
But this is an unusual draft, without a consensus No. 1 player, especially at the glamour positions of quarterback, running back or outside linebacker. So anything goes.
“If I had to list a top eight or 10 players,” said Mayock, “they’d probably be offensive linemen or defensive linemen. I’m not seeing some of those impact guys in some of the skill positions. … If I was (picking) one through nine, I wouldn’t have any hesitation of taking (Warmack).”
Warmack, a 6-2, 317-pounder, is considered one of the best guards to enter the NFL since Hall of Famer John Hannah — also of Alabama — was the fourth overall pick in 1973.
“It’s widely known that guards aren’t drafted that high,” Warmack said at the NFL scouting combine. “If that did happen, that would be an honor as a player that plays guard. I’m not thinking about that right now.”
Warmack started all 40 games at Alabama in 2010-2012 and helped the Crimson Tide win the last two national championships. During the 2012 regular season, Warmack allowed 3.5 sacks in 287 pass attempts, led the team with 37 pancake blocks and was a unanimous first-team all-American.
“What makes him special?” Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker said of Warmack. “The nastiness that he’s got — that’s the main thing. He’s aggressive. He lets you know that he dominated you when he walks back and looks at you in the face.”
Warmack, who earned his degree in December, said his mean streak evolved over time.
“As I got to college, I kind of understood it better in terms of no mercy,” he said. “You just get into that zone, and you just block everything out. Whoever’s playing against you is the enemy. I don’t know them. They don’t know me. So it’s fair game.”
Cooper, 6-2, 311 pounds, was the other first-team all-America guard and was the receipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the ACC’s top offensive lineman, an award Chiefs center Rodney Hudson won as a guard in 2010. He played at 290 pounds as a senior but has bulked up to 311 pounds for the NFL.
He played in a pro-style offense under former coach Butch Davis and adapted to an up-tempo, spread offense installed by Larry Fedora.
“I’d say I’m a combination of power and athleticism,” Cooper said. “You can look at it from my first three years of film where we’re a pro-style offense where power was our staple play.
“And then (last) year it really showed my athletic ability, getting out in space. We ran a bunch of screens and a lot of things where I was on the second and third level getting on linebackers and defensive backs.”
Will it be enough to vault him to the top 10 picks in the draft?
“It’s not a glamour position,” Cooper said. “But even as a guard, people are like, ‘Well, there’s no way he’ll go early. Maybe he’ll go third or fourth.’
“Being taken in the top 10, I would be ecstatic, and that would be the icing on top to be the first guard taken since ‘97 in the top 10.”