Thursday, August 11, 2016

The NFL’s best guards, No. 1: Marshal Yanda, Ravens

By Chris Burke

July 13, 2016

Offensive tackle is a premium position in the NFL—just check out any free-agent binge lest you need a reminder. Center has enjoyed an increase in love of late, too, as more and more offenses look to push the tempo and more and more defenses try to counter by attacking the A-gaps.

Lost in the shuffle a bit is the guard position, despite the fact that NFL guards on the whole are only getting better as a group. Spread offenses have impacted the guard spot, just as they have everywhere else, by upping the demand for mobile blockers. There are still an ample number of “phone booth” guards—borderline immovable objects who are at their best working one-on-one within narrow spaces. But on the whole, that model is dwindling in favor of guards who can get to the edge or cover expanding space in a zone scheme. Thanks to an infusion of talent from the last several drafts, the level of guard performance across the league is about as high as it’s been in some time. Here are the best of the best:

No. 1: Marshal Yanda, Ravens

The 31-year-old is one of the best offensive linemen in football, period.
Up until Brandon Brooks signed a five-year, $40 million deal with Philadelphia in March, Yanda was the league’s highest-paid right guard. He’s been named an All-Pro for two years running and a Pro Bowler five straight times, and has missed just two games since 2009. Last season, Yanda allowed one half-sack—one—in more than 740 snaps in pass protection. Refs flagged him for exactly one holding call in each of the past two seasons, and both penalties were declined. Several players on this list are proficient in both run and pass blocking, but Yanda is absolutely dominant at both.

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