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2016 NFL Draft guard rankings: Cody Whitehair leads

The Kansas State blocker is one of many collegiate offensive tackles who will find success inside in the NFL.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Guards are the unsung heroes of the offensive line. They don't get the attention or big contracts of tackles and they don't touch the ball every play like centers. But with more and more pressure coming from the middle the importance of good guard play in the NFL seems to be at an all-time.

That's one reason why there's potential for Cody Whitehair of Kansas State, the draft's top guard, to be taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. An offensive tackle with the Wildcats, Whitehair is likely moving inside in the NFL. He's making the move because speed rushers give him trouble on the outside. On the inside, it's less of an issue. From the middle he can utilize his aggression, awareness and ability to hunker down and move defenders.

The top "true" guard in this year's draft is Joshua Garnett of Stanford. He's a technically sound left guard, which you'd expect coming out of Stanford. He's a traditional drive blocking guard who will do well on a power blocking line. There are multiple options. Arkansas is sending two massive blockers to the NFL at guard in Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland. Christian Westermann of Arizona State may not look like a power blocker because of his relatively athletic frame, but he's one of the strongest players in this year's draft.

Spencer Drango of Baylor is another tackle-to-guard convert because of his less than ideal length outside. Inside he can utilize his motor and ability to take on blockers and stop their momentum.

The guard class gets slightly better if you put Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M in the group. For me, he's still a tackle prospect. Down at the bottom of these rankings you'll find Baylor tight end LaQuan McGowan. His NFL position is completely up in the air, but he's here because of his sheer size.

Day 3 gem: Darrell Green of San Diego State is an underrated talent who can get low and power opponents with leverage. He had some off-field issues that got him suspended for a stretch in 2015, but when he's on, he's a mauler of a blocker.

Overall position grade: B

This grade would be considerably lower if you took out all the offensive tackles, of which there are a handful of in the full rankings below.

1. Cody Whitehair, 6’4, 305 pounds, G, Kansas State
2. Joshua Garnett, 6’5, 321 pounds, G, Stanford
3. Christian Westerman, 6’4, 300 pounds, G, Arizona State
4. Spencer Drango, 6’6, 320 pounds, G, Baylor
5. Landon Turner, 6’4, 325 pounds, G, North Carolina
6. Vadal Alexander, 6’6, 329 pounds, G, LSU
7. Denver Kirkland, 6’5, 340 pounds, G, Arkansas
8. Sebastian Tretola, 6’5, 334 pounds, G, Arkansas
9. Connor McGovern, 6’4, 300 pounds, G, Missouri
10. Joe Thuney, 6’5, 295 pounds, G, North Carolina State
11. Darrell Greene, 6’2 3/4, 321 pounds, G, San Diego State
12. Rees Odhiambo, 6’4, 309 pounds, G, Boise State
13. Parker Ehinger, 6’7, 318 pounds, G, Cincinnati
14. Alex Redmond, 6’5, 305 pounds, G, UCLA
15. Ted Karras, 6’4, 310 pounds, G, Illinois
16. Aaron Morris, 6’5, 313 pounds, G, Ole Miss
17. Chase Farris, 6’4, 307 pounds, G, Ohio State
18. LaQuan McGowan, 6’6, 405 pounds, OL/TE, Baylor