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Chris Lindstrom
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Evaluations

NFL Draft Guard Rankings

by Thor Nystrom

The spider web of each prospect's test results from the NFL Combine comes courtesy of MockDraftable. SPARQ composite scores are provided by Zach Whitman. All players’ ages are calculated as of September 2019.

This is the fifth installment of my NFL Draft deep-dive scouting series, following quarterbacksrunning backstight ends and wide receivers. Next up: offensive tackles, then we move to defense!

1. Chris Lindstrom (Boston College) | 6’4/308

Age: 22.5
SPARQ percentile: 96.6
Comp: Joel Bitonio (Chris Trepasso)


lindstrom graph

A local institution, Lindstrom was an all-state selection twice in high school and ESPN Boston’s Lineman of the Year as a senior at Shepherd Hill. His father, Chris Sr., is in the Boston College Hall of Fame after a dominant career on the line. Chris Sr. played three years in the NFL. 

Chris Jr.’s younger brother Alec is a reserve lineman at Boston College. Alex made his only career start to date next to Chris as a center against Holy Cross in September. Guess who developed the Brothers Lindstrom in high school at Shepherd Hill? If you guessed head coach Chris Lindstrom Sr., come on down! Chris and Alec’s uncle Eric also played at Boston College. The family tree is something out of a Bob Wylie office nap daydream (but stay away Bob! — the Lindstroms are limber and like to stretch!).

Naturally, Lindstrom Jr. wound up at Boston College. It took him all of four games as a true freshman to break into the starting lineup. Reading that sentence today with the value of hindsight, you’re not surprised. But consider this: Lindstrom was a 6’5/235 three-star recruit coming out of Shepherd Hill. He started nine games at right guard in the ACC the next year!

To be fair, he wasn’t very good that year. But Boston College was so convinced that it had unearthed a hidden gem — and so barren in interior line talent at the time — that it tossed a true freshman listed at 6’4/260 into the fire (hilariously, Lindstrom was listed an inch taller coming out of high school than he ever would be again).

ESPN’s prep scouting dossier on the Dudley product referred to Lindstrom as a “developmental prospect” who “needs to continue to fill out his frame” and “round out his game”, requiring “at least a redshirt.” (The words "at least" made me chuckle). Listed as the No. 1,037 overall prospect in his class by the 247Sports Composite, Lindstrom’s only other scholarship offer came from Old Dominion. UMass poked around but didn’t pull the trigger. Can you imagine? Andy Isabella would have been beside himself.

A four-year starter who improved every year until breaking out as one of the nation’s premier guards over the past two seasons, Lindstrom managed to retain freak athleticism even as he packed on weight. Now a fully formed 6’4/308, he’ll be one of the NFL’s best athletes on the interior offensive line from Day 1.

Lindstrom’s also possesses a Good Will Hunting trench IQ and a freaky sixth sense for peeling off to block free rushers (see the play below, which will give you Quenton Nelson vibes). That’s in his blood. He's tremendous in pass pro.

Pro Football Focus graded Lindstrom No. 2 in the class in pass-blocking efficiency and No. 6 in snaps per inside pressure allowed last year. To be fair, Boston College’s run-first offense didn’t push Lindstrom to the limit in this department. When the Eagles weren’t feeding hammer back AJ Dillon, they were using Dillon to suck defenses up on play-action, throwing quick-hitters and screens, and sending no-arm "dual-threat" QB Anthony Brown out to the perimeter on designed rollouts.

Like Garrett Bradbury, Lindstrom wins with athleticism, mobility, brains, technique and motor — not strength. He’s always in the correct position, and he’s capable of making the most difficult move blocks your running game could possibly ask for. Lindstrom is a bit skinny for an interior guy — after he retires, I assume he’ll show up for his first day on the job as Boston College’s new offensive line coach weighing 50 pounds less — and when he has issues on the field, it’s almost always with a power guy. 

But Lindstrom has found a way to compensate. He’s just such a pest — he’s always got his hands on you, he doesn’t get fooled, and you aren’t going to cross him up or goad him into taking a false step that’ll get him off balance. And I probably don't have to tell you this, but he has no issues with speed, even on the perimeter. Want to see him clown Brian Burns into running a rainbow route?

Lindstrom is one heck of a player. You want to disagree with Ben Fennell's five-position take on its face, but then you start to try to envision how he could fail out at either tackle position. And it's just so difficult to imagine Chris Lindstrom failing. He just has some many weapons. His athleticism acts like a fail-safe. You've got to beat the guy twice on a rep to win.

First-round caliber player for me. Keep him at guard, kick him to center, I don't care. Lindstrom is a signed, sealed and delivered upper-end Day 1 starter for a zone-blocking team at either position. The Vikings, a zone-blocking outfit that badly needs to come out of this draft with a minimum one new starting offensive lineman, are one team that needs to think long and hard about Lindstrom in the back-half of the first stanza.


2. Dalton Risner (Kansas State) | 6’5/312

Age: 24.1
SPARQ percentile: 42.0
Comp: Cody Whitehair


risner graph

I’m bullish on Jonah Williams as a left tackle, and I’m bullish on Cody Ford as a right tackle. In general, I want to first try a prospect out at the most valuable position he could theoretically swing before moving him down the ladder. Risner might be a different story. 

One of my favorite collegiate linemen to watch the past few years, Risner is a furious lock-and-rock body-mover in the run game. We saw him have his way with multiple pro prospects in The Little Apple (Manhattan). But mediocre testing at the NFL Combine put a bow on Risner’s struggles with edge speed in pass pro on the field. 

Risner isn’t very smooth — he’s your dad getting off the couch out of his stance, his shoes stick to the turf when he shuffles, and he’s more of a fighter than a technician — but my gosh is he effective. A four-year starter, Risner was one of the Big 12’s best offensive lineman from Day 1 — and he just kept improving. I swear, the kid's comp should be Michael Myers -- he doesn't move really good, but he never stops coming for you, and when he gets his hands on you, he wins. End scene.

The issues I project for Risner in pass protection at RT were not apparent from a macro view in college. PFF consistently graded Risner as an outstanding pass blocker (No. 3 among draft-eligible tackles in pass-blocking efficiency last year). And he did handle Montez Sweat. That absolutely needs to be mentioned. And maybe I'm being a worrywart, trying to protect one of my guys. I guess my point is just that, in general, Risner was able to compensate for his lack of foot speed at the college level with smarts, A+ hand usage and pop, and cruise-ship anchor strength. I don't want to gamble on that formula translating.

I question whether he’ll be able to get by at right tackle against elite NFL speed rushers, who’ll try to beat him with quicks before tying up those tree-trunk legs on counter moves when Risner overcompensates. But, listen. I don't question much else, here. And I feel like since I comped him to Michael Myers on the field above, I need to mention that off it he's a big sweetie. Watch the video below and try not to like Dalton Risner! I dare you.

With this evaluation, I don’t want to screw around. I know Risner can do a several things at a high level, and I question whether he'll be able to do one specific thing. So I take the question mark off the table and announce Risner as a guard when I submit the card. I want him to get up to speed this summer at his new position before spending the fall bullying defensive tackles in the run game. Inside, he’s also going to be a plus-plus pass blocker.

Should be a quick transition. Risner spent time earlier in his KSU career inside at center. Risner is a Day 1 starting NFL guard who could handle assignments at four offensive line positions in a pinch. He should hear his name called early on Friday night (Day 2).


3. Dru Samia (Oklahoma) | 6’5/305

Age: 22.0
SPARQ percentile: 18.4
Comp: James Hurst


samia graph

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, when Samia locks onto his target, he comes to bury, not to praise. 

Samia didn’t test well, but that wasn’t a surprise. He’s a wild child on the field, with a real bully streak. Sometimes he doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so tries to punch them through the chest of the man across from him. His feet aren’t disciplined until it’s time to drive you into the ground, and then they want to step on you. When he gets thrown by a counter, he figures, heck, I’m just going to hold you now.

Samia is endearingly aggressive whether he’s blocking for the pass or run -- you can tell he’s having fun with the latter, active as all get-all. His rough-and-tumble nature works to obscure a lot of technical issues. Samia is always throwing first. And if he knocks you to the ground — the thing he lives for — he’s in your facemask letting you know about it. He’s a real-life character out of Street Fighter.

Samia struggles with clever counter-punch rushers, who can cross him up and frustrate him. And as is the case with most bullies, he can find himself stymied into a confused brawling state against bigger and stronger foes, trying to go fire on fire instead of using the bigger man's momentum against him. We can work on that. Samia keeps his feet, keeps those shoulders up, and is always in his man's grill spitting fire. I like that. And I think I can solve some of the issues he has with technical adjustments.


4. Hjalte Froholdt (Arkansas) | 6’5/306

Age: 23
SPARQ percentile: 44.7
Comp: Sean Harlow (Gabe Ward)


froholdtgraph

As a teenager in Denmark, Hjalte (pronounced “yell-da”) Froholdt was interested in playing rugby (two of his mother’s cousins played professionally). But he decided to try out for football as a high school sophomore after arriving in America as a foreign exchange student. He would return to Europe for one year before making it back to the States -- this time for good -- and enrolling at IMG Academy as a defensive lineman. 

Rivals ranked him as the No. 221 overall prospect in the 2015 class. Arkansas won his signature. It took Bret Bielema one season to flip Froholdt over to the offensive line. From there, the raw Dutch Man started to look more and more like the Wisconsin offensive linemen Bielema developed in a previous life. 

Froholdt is not your typical “raw” foreign-born player. He actually knows where his limbs are going and more importantly, why they are going there. His still-improving technique is remarkable given that he not only started playing football relatively late as a teenager, but even more that he has just three years of experience on the offense line. 

Froholdt is a wizard at creating leverage off the snap and sealing his blocks, and he has delicate foot movements. Froholdt isn’t Greg Little. You can’t steal his balance with misdirection trickation. Remember: Froholdt is a rugby guy. He's also really freaking mean. Froholdt eagerly and aggressively tag-teams on doubles and seeks out defenders when the play extends past the line of scrimmage.

This past season, PFF graded him as the No. 3 most-efficient pass blocker among draft-eligible guards. But while his pass-blocking dramatically improved each year in Fayetville, Froholdt’s overall and run blocking grades each declined yearly. Froholdt, once considered one of this class’ elite guard prospects, began to fall behind other prospects in 2018. 

But I want to offer two contextual bits of information in his defense: The 2017 Hogs were a train wreck as Bielema’s lack of recruiting success caught up to him, and the 2018 Hogs were a different kind of mess, trying to fit Bielema’s “Wisconsin of the SEC” roster into Chad Morris’ Clemson-like up-tempo spread offense. Not ideal circumstances for developing a raw talent, and certainly not flattering. But those circumstances could conspire to make Froholdt available at a discount on Draft Day.

Froholdt has developed quickly and offers a well-rounded game that appears to have more ceiling to unearth once the situation around him stabilizes. He isn’t the quickest, and he isn’t the strongest, but dang was he effective on sinking ship rosters in the SEC as a football newcomer. I’m a big fan. I think he’s going to surprise.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!