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David Yankey declares for NFL draft, expected to be high draft pick

The All-American guard is headed for greener pastures in the pros - where could he be picked come draft time?

Ezra Shaw

With the job complete, another Tunnel Workers Union member now moves on to the NFL.

Stanford guard David Yankey declared for the NFL draft on Monday, skipping his final season of eligibility to opt for the challenge of the pros.

Yankey, a two-time All-American and two-time all Pac-12 first-teamer, has been the mainstay of the Cardinal offensive line since David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin graduated in 2012, and he's carried the mantle for them in excellent fashion.

"I reached my decision following conversations with family and coaches, and am greatly looking forward to the next chapter in life," Yankey said in a statement. "The decision was not easy. I have loved my time at Stanford and am a proud member of Nerd Nation. I am humbled at the prospect of joining a long list of Stanford alumni currently playing in the NFL."

The decision to leap to the NFL comes as no surprise, as Yankey has been rated one of the best linemen in this draft class for more than a year, and SB Nation's own Mocking the Draft named Yankey as the 31st-best prospect in this draft class.

Last season, Yankey bounced all over the line - playing a lot of snaps at left tackle - before settling in at left guard this year and powering the overwhelming Stanford run game. Given Yankey's experience playing all over in an advanced offensive line system (where he received superb coaching from former New York Jets offensive assistant Mike Bloomgren), he should be a good fit for plenty of teams in the NFL draft.

Yankey's ability to pull and get to the second level in a power blocking scheme makes him a better run blocker than he is pass blocker, although he's not a liability in the latter. Altogether, he's one of one of the best interior linemen in the draft, and should be competing with Baylor guard Cyril Richardson and UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo to be the first interior lineman picked in the draft.

For comparison's sake, David DeCastro was more highly rated than Yankey when he came out of college, and it was a bit of a surprise when DeCastro slid to the 24th pick in the 2012 draft. If history is any indication, Yankey will probably be picked somewhere between the 25th and 45th pick this May in the draft, although the landscape could change substantially between now and then.

Yankey's departure means that Stanford will have to replace both guards and the center from this year's offensive line, and could possibly have to replace four o-linemen if right tackle Cameron Fleming decides to declare for the draft. However, Stanford has a built-in replacement for Yankey in former four-star recruit Joshua Garnett, who started in place of Yankey against Washington State this season when Yankey missed that game with a personal issue.