Cameron Fleming's future role is up in the air right now. We've mainly seen him as an eligible receiver on the Patriots Tackle Eligible plays with a small sample of snaps at the right guard position. The team seems to view him as a candidate for the right guard position based on the small bit of information we have. The team's decision process in the draft could give us a much better gauge on if the team truly believes in his potential as a right guard. At the same time, I could also see Belichick taking a right guard for an insurance piece in case Fleming does not show signs of development at the psotion.
So what traits do I typically look for in Right Guards? Since protection schemes slide towards the left, the right guard and right tackle are often put on an island. With that, the right guard has to be a better pass protector and harder to drive back than the left guard. With the left guard pulling, the right guard cannot be pushed into the play otherwise we're looking at a loss or a fumble. Right guards are typically miscast as brute force run blockers that don't necessarily need to be great pass protectors. The opposite is true, the value of having a good right guard who can move people in the run game and protect the QB is an advantage. The Patriots have not had a right guard that could offer that skill set since Stephen Neal retired after the 2010 season. Will Cameron Fleming finally be the answer to that problem?
We're dealing with a small sample size from 2014. He started at right guard for the Kansas City Chiefs game and played the second half of the second Jets game. Both performances are considered the two worst for the entire offensive line in the 2014 season. It's unfair to link his appearances with those efforts, but it looked like he wasn't ready to play guard at the NFL level after spending 3 years as a right tackle at Stanford. His agility numbers, particularly in the 5-10-5 shuttle, from the combine last season don't paint a rosy picture with a 5.00 shuttle and a 8.24 3-cone. To be an effective guard at the NFL, that has to get better. Last week, Mike Reiss reported that Fleming is focusing on training to play guard this offseason. For Fleming, right guard is a tougher position to learn because of the larger unstated demands that go with the position. Fleming will get a lot of work in training camp and preseason to play the position and the Patriots may opt to just address the left guard position with Ryan Wendell as a fallback option if Fleming cannot play guard.
The impact from this move is tremendous, as it affects the Patriots plans in this year's and next year's respective drafts because if the Patriots can check off the guard position with Fleming, that frees them up to draft a left guard this year. If Fleming is unable to play guard, his roster spot automatically becomes redundant on the roster with Marcus Cannon, who could not make the transition to guard last year. In order to win that spot, Fleming needs to make the Year 2 jump. If the Patriots don't believe in Fleming as a long term solution to the right guard spot, we may see the team submit a draft card with Laken Tomlinson or Tre Jackson's name on it.