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Steelers 2016 Draft Prospect Breakdown: Stanford Guard Joshua Garnett

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With left guard Ramon Foster set to become an unrestricted free agent, will the Pittsburgh Steelers take Outland Trophy winner Joshua Garnett with the 25th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft?

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, the Outland Trophy is presented to the nation's most outstanding interior lineman. In 2016, that outstanding player was Stanford senior Joshua Garnett. If Garnett falls to the 25th pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be tempted to add another blue chip prospect to the middle of their offensive line.

Garnett is widely regarded by NFL scouts as the top guard prospect in this year's draft class. An exceptional run blocker, he possesses a rare combination of size and athleticism which allows him to get the second level with ease.

Garnett, the son of former NFL nose tackle Scott Garnett, is the latest in a line of tremendously talented Stanford offensive lineman. Steelers fans are familiar with former Stanford guard David DeCastro, who the team selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Decastro earned First Team All-Pro honors in his fourth season with Pittsburgh, and the Steelers wisely picked up his fifth year option heading into 2016. Last year, the New Orleans Saints drafted former Stanford tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th overall pick.

Garnett, the nation's top interior lineman, thrived in Stanford's pro-style offense during his senior season. The 6-5, 321 lbs. left guard was instrumental in paving the way for running back Christian McCaffrey, the nation's second-leading rusher (2,019 yards/6.0 YPC) in 2015.

But Garnett is more than just a physical specimen, he's also extremely intelligent. A human biology major, the soon to be 22-year-old team captain hopes to become an emergency room doctor one day. He's the type of person that would fit right in with an organization like the Steelers, who's front office has always valued high-character players.

Garnett started 26 consecutive games for Stanford. He saw considerable playing time during his freshman and sophomore seasons as an extra lineman in the Cardinal's jumbo packages, and recorded 82 pancake blocks through the first 11 games of the 2015 season. Stanford's rushing attack ranked 19th in the country in 2015, averaging 225 yards per game.

Physical Tools

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 321 lbs.

Arm Length: 33 3/8"

Hands: 9 7/8"

Awards

  • 2015 Outland Trophy winner
  • 2015 Morris Trophy winner (Pac-12 lineman of the year)
  • 2015 First Team All-American
  • 2015 All-Pac-12 First Team

Projection

For now, Garnett is projected as a late first round or early second round pick. That projection will, of course, change depending on his performance at the NFL Combine, which begins February 23 in Indianapolis.

Tale of the Tape

(Video from DraftBreakdown.com)

Garnett's greatest strength is his ability to get to the second level and maul linebackers in the run game. Whether he's pulling from his left guard position to the right side of the formation, or is able to get a free release like in the play above, his size and athleticism, combined with a little bit of nasty, makes him devastating at the point of attack.

(Video from DraftBreakdown.com)

As the centerpiece of Stanford's dominant offensive line in 2015, Garnett was relied upon to pull from his left guard position to the right side of the formation, and take on defenders in the hole. Once he's able to get momentum, Garnett is a nightmare matchup for any safety or linebacker, especially in tight spaces near the goal line.

(Video from DraftBreakdown.com)

While his physical traits are certainly impressive, Garnett's technique is what separates him from the other guard prospects in this year's draft class. Watch him use his hand placement and upper body strength to turn the defensive tackle on this play, opening up a massive hole for McCaffrey to scamper through.

(Video from DraftBreakdown.com)

Garnett is also a huge asset in the screen game. Watch him use his power and hand strength to throw down the defensive tackle, then get out in front to take on the linebacker.

(Video from DraftBreakdown.com)

Like any prospect, Garnett has his weaknesses. When going through his tape, I noticed that he's slow in his back pedal in pass protection at times, which gets him into trouble against quicker defensive lineman. He also has a tendency to get over anxious on run blocks, causing him to lose balance and fall down before engaging defenders.

In Conclusion...

With veteran guard Ramon Foster and tackle Kelvin Beachum set to become free agents, the Steelers front office will have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks. Given the team's less than ideal salary cap situation, it will be tough to keep the left side of the offensive line intact.

If the Steelers decide to move on from Foster, Garnett could be a nice plug-and-play option in the first or second round. The idea of Le'Veon Bell running behind Garnett, DeCastro and center Maurkice Pouncey is tantalizing, and would provide an already explosive offense with the ability to impose its will between the tackles.