Chris Lindstrom
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Evaluations

NFL Draft Guard Rankings

Updated On: April 10, 2019, 6:13 pm ET

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.

5. Nate Davis (Charlotte) | 6’3/316

Age: 22.9
SPARQ percentile: 23.8
Comp: Shawn Lauvao (Zierlein)


nate davis graph

Davis isn’t a perfect prospect — nor is perfect off the field; he missed his freshman year due to an academic suspension and another undisclosed suspension wiped out a third of his senior year — but man was it fun to watch him shove around bewildered Conference USA defensive linemen the past few years.

Davis kicked out to RT for the team last year. But he’s coming right back to the inside at the next level. I was a surprised he tested so poorly during the pre-Draft process. At Charlotte, a hallmark of Davis’ game was getting to you quickly with smooth, sudden movements and jolting you with electricity on contact like a ram.

But he didn’t quite equal the sum of his parts against a competition level he should have dominated ala Will Hernandez at UTEP. Davis is flexible — you'll see him spring like a cobra from coiled hips and a loaded lower half on certain plays — but he has a maddening tendency to, for instance, stand up on the snap or lunge for targets.

And while his feet are naturally light, he sometimes forgets his hands and just tries to bowl you over with a “force equals mass times velocity” M.O. that is too dependent on gains made at the precise moment of contact (followed by his quick feet hopefully taking care of the rest). That kind of stuff flew in the CUSA, but it won’t in the NFL, where he could get matadored.

And because Davis is on the squattier side — with small hands and shorter arms to boot — his margin for error is about to shrink as the level of competition dramatically rises. There’s a lot to like about his game, and I do think he’s worth a Day 2 slot if your background check comes back clean -- I just think the risk profile is a little higher than maybe some of my contemporaries do.


6. Michael Deiter (Wisconsin) | 6’5/309

Age: 23
SPARQ percentile: 24.5
Comp: Austin Corbett 


deiter

Dieter is like that old Swiss Army Knife you find in a back shelf at the antique store. Rusty to pry open, but then, just like that, a can opener, a spoon AND a magnifying glass. Dieter has experience across the line, having started 24 games at left guard, 16 games at center and 14 games at left tackle. For NFL purposes, it probably has to be guard, though a center experiment isn’t out of the question.

There are some questions about his transition to the next level. Deiter struggles with speed — he isn’t much of an athlete — and he can also get rocked off-balance by power in part because his technique wavers. But he’s smart, showed chops as both a run and pass blocker in college, and has that good ol’ “hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go” Wisconsin lineman ethos. 

Deiter doesn’t win every battle, but he’ll come out with a bloody nose, a gash on his forward and increased resolve. He isn’t going to be outworked, and he never quits between the lines. While Deiter’s head is probably already scraping his ceiling, the floor of a reliable utility backup is high.


7. Phil Haynes (Wake Forest) | 6’4/322

Age: 23.9
SPARQ percentile: 79.0
Comp: Laken Tomlinson (Zierlein


haynes graph

An athletic powerhouse always looking for a fight, Haynes was a four-year contributor in college who might be better in the NFL than he was in Wake’s wonky offense (“Clawfense”).

Haynes’ play in 2018 appeared to stagnate a bit, and that was confirmed by PFF’s grading. But keep in mind some context: Wake’s 2017 offense was very good — shockingly dangerous — while the 2018 Demon Deacons regressed sharply amid graduations, suspensions, and then a horrible rash of injuries during the season. The team was a MASH unit, with new starters filtering in and out.

No longer protecting a grizzled senior signal-caller who knew how to avoid mistakes, Haynes was asked last fall to keep clean a pair of raw true freshman quarterbacks who were unexpectedly thrust into action following a suspension of the veteran starter-in-waiting. As was the case with Froholdt, circumstance didn’t flatter Haynes last year.

What I see missing on the field at present is feel. Haynes is extremely aggressive, extremely big (and he’ll get bigger, trust me), and extremely athletic. He’s out there looking for kill shots. If his NFL coaches can get him comfortable and teach him that he’ll be more effective impeding than trying to decapitate, I think Haynes could outplay his draft slot.

8. Ben Powers (Oklahoma) | 6’4/307

Age: 22.8
SPARQ percentile: N/A
Comp: Ted Karras (Zierlein)


powers graph

 

Above, I argued that Froholdt and Haynes are being undervalued because of circumstance. Flipping the equation the other way, I think Powers is a bit overrated due to context.

He was a three-year starter in one of college football’s all-time most devastating offenses, and he played around a large handful of NFL or future NFL linemen. He’s a serious, try-hard kid on the field who’s worked laboriously to polish his game. I have no doubt he’ll hit whatever his ceiling is in the NFL. This is a kid who got no love out of high school and had to prove it again on the JUCO field before the big boys came knocking in recruiting — effort will never be an issue.

I guess my thing is just that I wonder if any ceiling is left. Because Powers plays stiff and upright, he’s not much of an athlete, and he also lacks plus play strength. Powers sat out all the NFL Combine tests except for the bench press. 

At OU’s pro day, Powers finished last among all guys testing in the broad jump, vertical jump and 20-yard shuttle. He did not run the 40 nor do the agility drills. And I wonder how much of that was strategic. 

In conjunction with relatively mediocre PFF play grades the past three years — particularly as a run blocker in what was throughout a dynamic run attack — I’m selling on him in deference to prospects I think have higher ceilings. Nobody who has bet against Powers has left the table with money, but my guess is that he’s a long-term NFL backup.


9. Deion “Shaq” Calhoun (Mississippi State) 

Age: 23.5
SPARQ percentile: 71.9
Comp: Whiffs of a poor man’s Shaq Mason situation


calhoun graph

Shaq Mason was a dominant interior lineman in Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack at Georgia Tech. A guard who barely cracked 6-feet and came out of an unconventional offense, Mason dropped to the fourth round, where the Patriots picked off another overlooked dude with a wonky profile.

Calhoun shares the Shaq name — in Calhoun’s case, it’s a nickname from his basketball days — and the squatty dimensions. Calhoun wasn’t as good at Mississippi State as Mason was at Georgia Tech, but he was a four-year contributor who consistently found a way to win despite his stumpy frame and technical faux pas, including against NFL talent. He’s a good athlete who gets after it every single play. You could do worse a lot worse with a Day 3 flier.


10. Mitch Hyatt (Clemson) | 6’5/303

Age: 22.6
SPARQ percentile: 21.1
Comp: Ty Sambrailo (Zierlein)


hyattgraph

I won’t bump Mitch Hyatt lower! You can’t make me! The offensive lineman version of Jimmer Fredette, Hyatt has been around so long that he logged a full two years as Deshaun Watson’s blindside protector. He was a superb college player and a two-time national title winner.

Unfortunately, the former five-star recruit lacks the length and athleticism to start outside in the NFL. His middling pop brings about deserved questions about how he’ll do transitioning inside.

But if he’s sinking into the depths of Day 3, I’m submitting a card with his name on it. Hyatt had 3,779 snaps on the blindside of a team that won two national titles and he was a difference-maker on all those teams. He tends to figure it out, even when you think he’s outgunned.


11. Beau Benzschawel (Wisconsin)
12. Joshua Miles (Morgan State)
13. Tyler Jones (NC State)
14. Ryan Bates (Penn State)
15. Alex Bars (Notre Dame)
16. Terrone Prescod (NC State)

17. Martez Ivey (Florida) 

18. Iosua Opeta (Weber State)

19. Nick Allegretti (Illinois)

20. Nate Herbig (Stanford)


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