Oct. 15, 2011; Pullman, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinals quarterback Andrew Luck (12) celebrates a touchdown with guard David DeCastro (52) against the Washington State Cougars during the second half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-US PRESSWIRE
Alright. This has gone far enough. The idea that the Buffalo Bills should take Stanford guard David DeCastro with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft needs to die a quiet and peaceful death.
I know why Bills fans are championing the idea: there isn't a sure bet to be had at need positions near the back half of the Top 10, and fans are smitten with the idea of taking DeCastro - widely considered the best guard prospect a draft class has seen since Steve Hutchinson in 2001 - simply to raise the odds of finding an All-Pro caliber player with the pick. Through that very narrow lens, it's hard to argue the point.
It's a narrow lens, though. Taken on the whole, the idea is not one I believe is feasible, for several reasons. Let's get into them after the jump.
You have to go back 15 years - I don't know about you, but that's more than half of my lifetime - to discover the last time a player was taken with a Top 10 pick specifically to play guard. In 1997, the New Orleans Saints selected Colorado guard Chris Naeole with the No. 10 overall pick.
You also have to go back 15 years to count up to 10 players that were drafted in the first round specifically to play guard. One could point to any number of tackle and center prospects drafted in Round 1 that eventually played guard, but we don't care about those players. Those players were drafted to play tackle or center - much more coveted positions than guard. We want players that were drafted to play guard. 10 first-round guards in 15 years, folks.
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Yes, there are some pretty dang good football players on that list. DeCastro is purportedly the best since Hutchinson, and there aren't many teams that would turn down a guy likened to a five-time All-Pro performer.
But the lens is still too narrow; let's widen it. There have been 472 first-round draft picks in the last 15 years; 2.1 percent of them have been guards, and only one of those was a Top 10 pick. Guards are simply not valued as worthy of a first-round investment; the exceptions have been in the case of rare prospects or weak draft classes. This year's draft class is weak, and DeCastro is, indeed, a rare prospect. No one's debating whether or not DeCastro is worth a first-round pick; he absolutely is.
Because of the position he plays, however, DeCastro - who is certain to be graded highly by the Bills - should be a last resort with the No. 10 pick. That's doubly true because DeCastro offers very little positional versatility; he is a guard through and through, and will be playing guard as a pro.
While the idea of taking a guard with a Top 10 pick is enough of a stretch to begin with, there's a more common argument made that should be addressed: the idea that drafting DeCastro, sliding left guard Andy Levitre out to left tackle, and then calling the offensive line (and the left tackle position) "fixed" is bandied about daily, but it's fundamentally incorrect, in my opinion.
Yes, Levitre was a capable offensive tackle in college. Yes, he has been able to hold his own as a last-resort option at tackle early in his career. Here's the easiest and most relevant point to make there, though: Levitre was, is and always should be a last resort at left tackle. The man is 6'2". He is best suited to play guard, and he's shown himself to be a really impressive guard. It'd be nice, for once, if the Bills were able to just let him play guard for 16 weeks. We might have a Pro Bowl-caliber performer on our hands.
Drafting DeCastro, then, would be akin to deciding that a Top 10 pick is worth upgrading on Levitre. There are dozens of better investment options for the Bills with that pick, regardless of the inherent risk you're taking on in passing up a "lock" like DeCastro. And that's without mentioning the idea that Levitre might not upgrade the left tackle position; who's to say that over a 16-game schedule he wouldn't be exposed as badly as Chris Hairston was at the tail end of his rookie season? I'd be willing to bet that even Chan Gailey couldn't scheme around Levitre's shortcomings as a blind-side protector for half of a season, let alone a full one. The Bills would have DeCastro, sure, but they'd still have a hole at left tackle, and they'd have a good player without a home in Levitre.
If the Bills are going to take a guard with a Top 10 pick, it should be Georgia's Cordy Glenn. At just under 6'6" and 345 pounds - with massive 36-inch arms - Glenn is an ideal road-grading guard with the light feet and reach to play tackle in a quick-strike offense like Buffalo's. Glenn, unlike DeCastro, would give the Bills an option at left tackle - because again, Levitre is not an option at left tackle - and if he fails there, he would be ideally suited to sliding inside to guard. That would be a much more sensible investment for the team.