Best of the NFC West: Offensive Guards


The NFC West bloggers from the FanSided Sports Network are working together to create a team featuring the best players from the division. Check out analysis on other positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and offensive tackle.

Two offensive guards will be selected to represent the NFC West. Feel free to share your opinion, and don’t forget to vote!

Offensive Guards:

Arizona Cardinals: Alan Faneca

Faneca has reunited with Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm in Arizona after spending two subpar seasons with the New York Jets. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Faneca has been widely regarded as one of the best interior linemen of the past decade. At 33 years old, however, Faneca’s best years are probably behind him. The All-Pro guard could be more comfortable in Arizona’s scheme, however, and might be able to find success again.

Arizona Cardinals: Deuce Lutui

At 6-foot-4, 338 pounds, Lutui is a massive, powerful anchor inside of Arizona’s offensive line. He’ll find himself competing against a more athletic Reggie Wells for a starting job, but Lutui’s strength is hard to pass up. He has struggled at times to protect the passer, but improved steadily last season and did not allow a sack in the final twelve games. Improved technique and extraordinary strength should make Lutui the starting right guard in Arizona for the fourth consecutive season.

San Francisco 49ers: Mike Iupati

A first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Iupati comes to San Francisco with high expectations. At 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, Iupati has exceptional power and should excel at run blocking right away in the NFL. He is quite athletic for his size, but his footwork needs to be improved. He is talented enough to be the starting left guard from day one and should be a cornerstone on San Francisco’s offensive line for the next decade.

San Francisco 49ers: Chilo Rachal

Entering his third season in the NFL, Rachal has started 21 games for the 49ers the past two seasons. Last season, the former USC Trojan struggled early in pass protection, allowing three sacks in the first six games. He recovered, however, and allowed only one sack the rest of the way. Especially in the second half of the season, Rachal displayed above-average skills in both run and pass blocking. Only 24 years old, he should continue to develop into a very good offensive guard for the 49ers.

Seattle Seahawks: Ben Hamilton

A smaller lineman at 6-foot-4 and only 290 pounds, Hamilton is a perfect fit for Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking scheme in Seattle. One of the best offensive guards a few years ago with Denver, he became less effective when Josh McDaniels changed the offense and blocking schemes. There is a chance he can rediscover success in Seattle, but he is 33 years old and probably nearing the end of his football career.

Seattle Seahawks: Max Unger

Unger, a versatile second-year player and former second-round draft pick, was one of the few bright spots on Seattle’s offensive line last season. He has good size – 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds – and surprisingly good technique for such a young player. Unger may lack the power necessary to open big holes in the running game, but proved he was more-than-capable in pass protection. He is the starting right guard for now, but probably projects as a center later in his career.

St. Louis Rams: Jacob Bell

Bell has struggled through injuries since joining the St. Louis Rams in 2008 after spending the first four seasons of his career in Tennessee. Bell, like some of the other guards in the division, excels as a pass blocker because of his athleticism and quick feet. And like most agile linemen, he lacks exceptional strength and will probably never be the best at opening running lanes. His tireless work ethic and intelligence, however, usually keeps him one step ahead of the competition.

My take:

Like the offensive tackles, the NFC West is loaded with young prospects along the interior offensive line. There aren’t any elite interior linemen within the division, but a lot of promising young players could develop into future All-Pro guards.

There are so many variables to selecting an all-star team; a zone-blocking scheme, for example, warrants the selection of different players than a power-blocking scheme. Since there is no specific scheme for this team, I’m going to select the two players who have had the most success on their respective teams.

This is sort of a tossup. But in my opinion, those two players are Alan Faneca and Ben Hamilton. Both have proven they’re capable of playing at a high level in the NFL, but they struggled last season and are older than the other candidates. Both Faneca and Hamilton will be playing for new teams this fall, and both situations appear favorable to each.

I’m curious to see how this vote turns out. Let me know what you think; if I had to pick on potential, I’d probably go with Iupati and Unger.

Shaun Dolence:
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