Third-round pick Sean Rhyan usually found a way to get the job done at left tackle in college, but tape suggests his future is at right guard in the National Football league. That’s where the former UCLA star spent the majority of his time during the mandatory minicamp last week, and it’s where he figures to line up when training camp begins in late July.
Rhyan will likely compete with Royce Newman for the starting job, although there’s also a chance he could factor in at right tackle if veteran Yosh Nijman struggles or has to flip sides because All-Pro David Bakhtiari’s knee continues to be a problem. And while I think Rhyan could probably hold his own at right tackle, lining up outside would be a challenge at this level. His short arms (32 3/8 inches) and average athleticism would be a lot to overcome against elite NFL edge rushers.
To his credit, Rhyan did a commendable job at left tackle for the Bruins in 2021. I watched him compete against studs like Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, USC’s Drake Jackson, and Utah’s Mike Tafua, and he never came close to getting embarrassed. While Rhyan didn’t always look pretty, he found ways to keep those elite edge rushers from taking over games.
LSU’s talented edge rusher Andre Anthony had some success against Rhyan (#74) in a game from last season, but this play was more the norm.
But if Rhyan is going to be a high-end starter in the NFL, it’ll be inside. That’s where he has a chance to be really good once he gets comfortable working with players on either side of him. Prior to joining the Packers in April, the 21-year-old had never taken a snap at guard. And while the transition won’t be easy, it’s the same one other rookies have made recently. Elgton Jenkins, who played center at Mississippi State, and Newman, who played right tackle at Mississippi, are examples from just the past few years (although, to be fair, both had started games at guard earlier in their college careers).
One thing that could make the transition a little easier is working with a very familiar face. Matt LaFleur hired Ramsen Golpashin as an offensive quality control coach a few months ago. The former starting guard for Oregon (2007 to 2011) spent the previous four years at UCLA and will help out Luke Butkus and Ryan Mahaffey with the O-linemen in Green Bay.
While this is all just a projection until I actually see Rhyan on the field, it’s hard not to get excited over his potential inside. At 323 pounds, he’d be the biggest guard to start for the Packers in years. That size could come in handy for an offense that figures to run the ball more this season. A year ago, the 310-pound Newman struggled to get consistent movement at the point of attack, and that was a big reason why Aaron Jones had only eight runs of more than 15 yards in 2021.
If Rhyan can stay at right guard and not have to move around due to injuries or the ineffectiveness of others, I like his chances of beating out Newman. He’s bigger and stronger, and while not particularly nimble on his feet, he moves well enough to handle quicker tackles. And nobody is going to bull rush Rhyan, who uses his strong lower body to anchor vs. power.
Where Rhyan will need the most work is in the run game. He was inconsistent in college. While capable of dominating smaller defenders at times, he too often overextended, allowing quick ends and linebackers to beat him to the inside. He also tended to play a bit tall, which negated his leverage and power, creating some difficulty reaching second-level targets.
Ryan (#74) allows Oklahoma outside linebacker Jon-Michael Terry to get inside and blow up the run. Plays like this showed up too often on tape.
Green Bay turned Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang from college left tackles into Pro Bowl guards, and neither was as physically imposing as Rhyan. But Sitton and Lang were very smart and incredibly tough – both physically and mentally. Whether Rhyan has those same attributes remains to be seen. If he does, the Packers may soon have another elite guard on their roster.