The number of offensive linemen at last week’s NFL Scouting combine who blocked for two future first-round picks in college can be counted on one hand.
All you’ll need is one finger. Just Chance Warmack. That’s it.
The Alabama senior guard spent two years blocking for Trent Richardson, who went third in last year’s NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns, and last season for Eddie Lacy, who’s projected to go in the first round of this year’s draft. Not a bad resume for a team looking for an interior lineman.
Yet as Warmack continued to impress at the combine despite weighing in lighter than he anticipated, the debate about whether or not to select a guard in the top five – even at No. 1 – raged on.
“You go with the best player,” Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “So if the best player is a guard, then you go with the guard. I think it’s important that you look at it that way. If you don’t, that’s where the mistakes take place.”
At least one draft expert believes Warmack fits that billing.
“Chance Warmack from Alabama is the best football player I saw on tape this year,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.
If Warmack ends up anywhere in the top five, he’ll rewrite the record books. A guard hasn’t been selected in the top five since 1975 and hasn’t gone first since Ken Rice in 1961.
But times are different now.
For decades, a premium was been put on tackles – on the left side, in particular – to defend defensive ends who have been getting smaller and faster. In the last few years, however, guards have garnered more attention because of their ability to let the quarterback step up in the pocket and throw, instead of rolling out to avoid a rush.
Yet, a guard’s value still isn’t as high as a tackle’s because the supply is simply greater than the demand, Titans head coach Mike Munchak said. He still believed Warmack is worthy of being a high pick.
“On film, there's no doubt,” Munchak said. “I've watched him in the SEC and seen a lot of him play. He's one of those guys that no doubt is getting a lot of attention as a guy that is special at what he does and has been very good and successful. He knows how to win, so there's a lot of things he brings to the party.
“If you decide you need a guard, that's the kind of guy you're gonna think about taking anywhere in the draft.”
Warmack may still be around when the Cardinals choose at No. 7. While they are in the market to bolster the offensive line, the Cardinals enter the draft with two starting guards under contract next season,
“If you think he’s a Pro Bowl guard, how high is too high?” Keim asked. “I think you just take the player and don’t look back.
“If you’re convinced that that player is a Pro Bowl talent or is an elite type of player, you just take him.”
While trying to project how a player will pan out is about as productive as trying to predict when it’ll rain in Arizona, it’s easy to see why Warmack is considered the most NFL-ready guard in the draft. Blocking for Richardson and Lacy required two different skills for two vastly different backs. Richardson would “run through a guy,” and Lacy would “spin around a guy,” Warmack said.
It’s a role the 6-foot-2, 317-pounder relishes.
“I’ll do anything for my running back,” he said. “So whoever’s in the way, he needs yards, they’ve got to get out of the way. (I’ll) push ’em out of the way.”
Warmack’s times at the combine didn’t produce any dropped jaws, and his height has been a concern throughout his career. But Warmack looks at being 6-2 as a blessing because he can get under players easier than taller guards.
Lacy, who’s widely considered the top running back in the draft, said Warmack is the “coolest dude ever” when he’s not playing. When he is, it’s a different story.
Warmack can flip the proverbial switch, going from jokester to All-American just by stepping in between the hash marks. Don’t let the big lineman in a small jersey persona fool you. Warmack can get mean.
“I like being physical and explosive,” he said. “I like that word a lot, explosive. I consider myself to be very explosive. In terms of where I want to be, I want to be the definition of that word.”
Coaches and general managers throughout the league lauded Warmack throughout the weekend. Rams GM Les Snead said it’s not a coincidence Warmack is considered one of the top two guards in the draft. New Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, whose team owns the fourth pick, was more of a straight shooter.
“I’ve seen him, I know he’s a really good player,” Kelly said.
Warmack understands the value teams put on guards but he’s not wasting his time thinking about it. He’s just as eager as anyone to find out who’ll take a chance on Chance.