2017 NFL Draft: Meet Forrest Lamp, the NFL's next great guard prospect
Many successful pro guards were tackles in college, and Lamp appears ready for the conversion
What do several of the top offensive guards in the NFL have in common? They were once offensive tackles in college.
Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Zach Martin started 52 games at Notre Dame Fighting Irish , none at guard.
Before he was a second-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens and before he signed a lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders , Kelechi Osemele was Iowa State Cyclones 's starting left tackle for three seasons.
Ravens Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda had some experience at guard in college at Iowa Hawkeyes , but most of his starting experience was split between left and right tackle.
Joel Bitonio ( Cleveland Browns ), Justin Pugh ( New York Giants ), T.J. Lang ( Green Bay Packers ), Ali Marpet ( Tampa Bay Buccaneers ), Cody Whitehair ( Chicago Bears ) and Brandon Scherff ( Washington Redskins ) are some more recent examples of college tackles who shifted to the interior of the offensive line in the NFL and are flourishing.
Who is that prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft class?
Meet Forrest Lamp .
(And no, he wasn't named after Tom Hanks' title character in Forrest Gump, which was released five months after he was born.)
Aside from having one of the best names in the group, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 's Lamp is one of the best offensive line prospects this year. A four-year starter for the Hilltoppers, Lamp was a productive left tackle in college who has all the traits to develop into an above-average NFL guard.
While understandably most comfortable at tackle, Lamp is "confident" he can make the move, studying players like Martin and Marpet.
A former two-star recruit out of Venice, Florida, Lamp hoped to play college football in his home state, but none of the bigger programs offered him a scholarship. Willie Taggart, then Western Kentucky's coach, lured Lamp to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he started three games at right guard as a redshirt freshman before kicking out to left tackle, where he started the final 48 games of his career.
"I was real small in high school, around 6-2 and weighed 265 pounds, so I was smaller than what the bigger schools were looking for," Lamp said. "But you can never project how much progress a player makes in college. I got to accomplish everything I wanted at Western Kentucky and if I could, I would do it again."
Although Conference USA doesn't routinely produce first-round pass rushers, NFL scouts received a glimpse of Lamp against elite competition when Western Kentucky faced nonconference opponents LSU Tigers (2015) and Alabama Crimson Tide (2016). And Lamp passed with flying colors, more than holding his own against future high draft picks like Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams of the Crimson Tide.
Film preparation is a substantial key to preparing for such challenges.
"First thing I look for is scheme and tendencies of the defense," Lamp said. "The second thing is I look at the individual player. In pass protection, Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen are two completely different players. And my pass-set depends on who I'm going against.
"With Williams, I know I'm going straight back versus his speed. With Allen, I can go with more of a vertical set because he's more of a power guy and I need to protect versus the bull rush. Watching film and knowing your opponent are the most important traits to being successful in pass protection."
It is that preparation and experience as a four-year starter that makes him NFL ready even if he doesn't hail from a Power Five conference. Not only does he have the skills, but more importantly, Lamp understands how to use those skills to attack the opponent.
Against power rushers, Lamp can anchor at shallow depth and control the point of attack. Against speed rushers, Lamp has the quick feet and contact balance to mirror and keep rushers in front of him. And as a run blocker, Lamp flashes a nasty demeanor, rolling his hips at contact to create movement.
Simply put, there aren't many weaknesses on his film.
Similar to Martin as a prospect, Lamp might be able to survive in the NFL at tackle because of his natural balance and technique. However, his average length and square-blocking skill-set make him ideally suited for guard. And with his body control, core strength and stubborn mentality, Lamp has the necessary traits to make a successful transition inside and start early in his NFL career.
Another common theme between Osemele, Martin, Yanda, Whitehair, Bitonio and Pugh: All participated at the Senior Bowl and auditioned for NFL teams, seeing snaps at tackle and guard. And Lamp will have the same opportunity next week in Mobile -- an opportunity to cement his status as a top O-line prospect and a possible first-round pick.
"The number one goal at the Senior Bowl is to play and practice well," Lamp said. "I want to prove myself like Marpet and Eric Fisher [ Kansas City Chiefs ] and others who came from 'smaller schools' and prove myself like I did against Alabama and LSU.
"I want to show I can play against anyone."
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