The Green Bay Packers have four of their top six offensive linemen set to hit free agency after the 2016 season. With both starting guards, a starting left tackle, and a key swing backup lineman all scheduled to hit the market, the Packers could very well focus on the line in April's NFL Draft.
One player who could bring a cerebral presence as well as a nasty edge to the interior of the Packers' offensive line is Stanford offensive guard Joshua Garnett. The 2015 Outland Trophy winner as college football's best interior lineman, Garnett anchored Stanford's offensive line from the left guard position over the past few years and helped blaze the way for running back Christian McCaffrey's 2,000-yard rushing season.
Garnett measured in at 6 feet 4 inches and 312 pounds at the Combine on Wednesday, and he focuses on finishing his blocks and completing the play on every down. Despite his size, his athleticism should show up on the field on Friday, echoing what he showed on his Stanford tape. Garnett said that to be a guard for the Cardinal, "You've got to be able to pull, you've got to be able to down-block, you've got to be able to move in space." He also said that he things his ability to pull is a major strength of his and made him ideal for Stanford's style.
Still, although he often has to deal with smaller, more athletic defenders in the Pac-12, Garnett prefers to take them head-on rather than trying to beat them with his athleticism: "I just learned you've got to run through them. Just try to run through their soul, and they're going to go down." It is ultimately his "aggressiveness and nastiness" that Garnett feels will make him stand out at the next level.
Off the field, Garnett is an excellent student, majoring in human biology, and he has worked in a stem-cell biology laboratory and in an emergency room during his college career. After football is over, Garnett said he wants to be a trauma surgeon, despite joking that it is the nurses, rather than the doctors, who compare to the "offensive linemen who do the dirty work." He mentioned a television show, Untold Stories of the ER, as the spark that brought about this career aspiration.
On a lighter note (figuratively, not literally), a freshman Garnett was part of the 2012 Stanford offensive line that participated in the Lawry's Beef Bowl, a tradition for the teams participating in the Rose Bowl each year. Despite Stanford losing to Wisconsin in that contest, Garnett did more than his part, eating a whopping seven 24-ounce steaks. His coach David Shaw even called him a "legendary eater." Here are some comments from Garnett on that experience:
No, I could not do that today. I was the jump tight end at Stanford, I didn't play too much, so my role on the team was to stick with the older guys and try to beat that Beef Bowl record at the Rose Bowl. I probably ate a little bit too many steaks and I had a little larger role in practice and in the Rose Bowl than I anticipated, so I wasn't feeling too well ... I was 312 today at the weigh-in today and I was probably about 325 back then, so I probably kind of lost my eating ability.
Garnett is currently projected as the fourth-best guard in this year's draft class and a day two pick by CBSsports.com. NFL.com rates him a 5.89 on their rating scale, which translates into "could be an early NFL starter."
Best of luck to Garnett in his NFL career, and his pursuit of a medical career after he is done with football.