Guard wasn’t regarded as a need for the New England Patriots heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. So, what did the Patriots do last weekend? Select two guards, of course.
The Patriots drafted North Carolina State’s Joe Thuney, who played offensive tackle as a senior but projects to play inside, in the third round and grabbed Alex Karras in the sixth round.
Karras has an uphill battle to crack the Patriots’ initial 53-man roster because of a crowded group at the position. He’ll be competing with Thuney, Shaq Mason, Tre’ Jackson, Jonathan Cooper, Josh Kline and Chris Barker for only a handful of spots on the roster.
The Illinois product isn’t quite as athletic as many guards the Patriots have added in recent years. He ran a 5.34-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in March with a 1.88-second 10-yard split, 8.15-second 3-cone, 4.70-second short shuttle, 26.5-inch vertical leap and 8-foot, 10-inch broad jump at 6-foot-4, 307 pounds. He showed off impressive upper body strength by bench pressing 32 reps of 225 pounds. That strength showed on the field both as a run and pass blocker.
Karras doesn’t move as well as Thuney, Mason, Cooper or Kline, but he still has the ability to block at the second level. He showed off good body control as a run blocker and met his targets head on. He won’t be as effective at pulling as more athletic interior players.
Karras was impressive as a pass blocker and showed off his awareness by seamlessly passing off pass rushers and taking on another defender at right guard. He was rated highly as a pass blocker by Pro Football Focus. He surrendered just two sacks, three hits and five hurries in 2015. He allowed just 17 pressures in 903 pass-blocking snaps in his last two seasons at Illinois.
Karras was the seventh member of his family to play in the Big 10. That includes his great-uncle, Alex Karras, who was a Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions.
Karras was a team captain at Illinois in 2015 and was a four-year starter for the Illini.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images