The New England Patriots have successfully converted college offensive tackles to guards in the past. Logan Mankins and Joe Thuney both played on the outside during their college careers at Fresno State and N.C. State, respectively, but moved inside upon joining the Patriots and developed into some of the league’s best players at their respective positions.
New England going down that route again to address its current need at guard — both starters from last year are off the roster now — would therefore not be a surprise. If that happens, there might not be a more intriguing prospect available than UCLA’s Sean Rhyan.
Name: Sean Rhyan
Position: Guard/Offensive tackle
School: UCLA (Junior)
Opening day age: 23
2021 season: 12 games; 13 quarterback pressures allowed (1 sack, 3 hits, 9 hurries)
Size: 6045, 321 lbs, 32 3/8 arm, 79 1/4 wingspan, 11 1/8 hand
Expected round: 3rd
Strengths: Standing at just under 6-foot-5 and 321 pounds with a good enough arm length and massive hands, Rhyan projects more favorably on the inside than at his college position of left tackle. He certainly has the build to successfully make the transition to the interior, and also combines his measurements with an intriguing athletic skillset.
In fact, Rhyan’s Relative Athletic Score of 9.33 out of 10 makes him one of the best athletes the position has to offer this year. While his projection on the inside is somewhat unclear based on the fact he exclusively lined up at tackle during his three-year career at UCLA, his athletic skills and advanced technical makeup popped up time and again on tape.
UCLA T/G Sean Rhyan (LT #74) with wins on back-to-back reps vs Kayvon Thibodeaux. Stout anchor, +upper-body/grip strength, plays with great leverage and balance. Very technically sound and experienced (32 career starts at LT). Played for Chip Kelly. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/2op6A85lTO— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 23, 2022
Rhyan combines encouraging sit-and-anchor skills with the necessary upper-body strength and consistent pad level to stay in position throughout his pass sets. He also is a handful when on the move in the run game, and has proven himself capable of driving people back and collapsing the point of attack.
His short-area quickness is encouraging and he has shown the ability to quickly get up the field and identify his assignments at the second level. He is a scheme-flexible player and can work in both man and zone blocking schemes. Additionally, Rhyan was a durable player at UCLA and started all 31 of his college games.
Weaknesses: Rhyan has no experience playing on the interior, and moving him away from his college position is trusting that he can make he transition. Moreover, he lacks the length and fluidity out of his stance to be a factor at tackle; if he doesn’t work out at guard simply moving him back to the outside likely won’t work either.
He also is not the most powerful of players. While he has proper strength, he is too inconsistent combining it with his movement skills when climbing; if out of position he lacks the reach to recover quickly. He also was flagged six times during the 2021 season, including four false start infractions.
On top of it all, Rhyan is comparatively old for a true junior. He will turn 24 in September; for comparison, first-round prospect Zion Johnson is two years younger as a redshirt senior.
What would be his role? Rhyan projects as a starting guard at the next level, and has the baseline athleticism and foundational technique to become a Day 1 starter in the NFL. As far at the Patriots are concerned, he projects as the starting left guard. This would allow Michael Onwenu to move the right side of the line into his more natural position and give New England a solid lineup of Isaiah Wynn, Rhyan, David Andrews, Onwenu and Trent Brown.
Does he have positional versatility? Theoretically, yes. However, Rhyan’s experience playing outside of the left tackle spot is marginal: only three out of his over 2,000 snaps at UCLA came on the interior of the line. Turning him into a do-it-all lineman like Joe Thuney will require time.
Who is his competition? Rhyan would be a lock to make the Patriots’ roster if drafted in his expected range. Him earning a starting role as a rookie, however, would depend on his ability to adapt to his new position relative to the non-Michael Onwenu guard candidates already on the roster: James Ferentz, William Sherman, Arlington Hambright, Drew Desjarlais and Yasir Durant.
Why the Patriots? Well, they need somebody other than James Ferentz to fill the left guard spot, so... Seriously, though, Rhyan is an intriguing candidate who offers a lot of things the Patriots value in an offensive lineman: he combines good size and functional athleticism, has tremendous upside, and was coached by Bill Belichick confidante Chip Kelly at UCLA.
Why not the Patriots? Rhyan’s ceiling is high, but as noted above he is a project. He could become a Day 1 starter when inserted into New England’s system, but worst case he never finds his footing and goes the way of Hjalte Froholdt: a former third-round draft pick out of Arkansas, Froholdt was unable to get onto the field and was waived during his second season.
Verdict: The Patriots going after an interior O-lineman in one of the middle rounds seems like a foregone conclusion, and few are better suited to become future starters than Rhyan. He is less safe a projection than someone like Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer, but has all the tools to make an immediate positive impact at a position group in need of it. If he is available for New England at pick No. 85, he certainly is a player to watch.