To answer my own headline, I have no idea if Stephon Heyer can be a quality left guard in the NFL. I have barely seen the guy play, and he has very little experience at guard. What I do know is that Heyer got the first team reps at left guard in the Oakland Raiders training camp practice on Wednesday.
And, more than anything, I know that Daniel Loper is not a quality left guard. He is serviceable at best. When he filled in for Robert Gallery in 2010, he wasn't a disaster, but he was not asked to do much, and far too often he could be seen standing around looking for someone to block. Furthering my lack of support for Loper is the fact that he was routinely beat when I was watching him at training camp.
When the Raiders signed Heyer I assumed it was to compete for the right tackle position. However, he has not gotten any reps there. He spent his first practices as the backup left tackle. Heyer certainly has the body for it. He is 6'6" and 330 pounds, and it is a solid 330 pounds. Jump over for more....
Looking at ESPN's scouting report on Heyer, sticking him at guard could definitely maximize his strengths and limit his weaknesses. Here's the report:
"Stephon Heyer has started 33 games in his four year career and brings experience, toughness and attitude to the offensive line. He is big physical tackle with limited athleticism. He wins with effort, technique and power when he is able to engage early in the play. Heyer lacks great lateral agility and balance which hinders his ability on backside blocks and on the second level. He understands angles and ability to leverage defenders at the point of attack. Heyer has improved his hand use and can adjust to twists and counters when out of position. With a high profile draft pick at his position, Stephon Heyer may be relegated to a backup role but will provide excellent depth along the offensive line."
This definitely fits the mold of the Hue Jackson bully. Obviously at guard his lateral agility and failures at backside blocking would be minimized. While his inability to block on the second level is not ideal for a guard, his power and prowess in early engagement could be key. If Heyer works out, this could give the Raiders a strong left side to run towards on short yardage situations.
This move could also free up the loser of the Satele Wisniewski battle at center to play right guard. By all accounts it sounds as if Satele is winning the battle at center. I have contended that Wisniewski would be a better fit at left guard, and that is where he has gotten his reps when practicing at guard, but Wisniewski played right guard last year at Penn State, and this would set up for a relatively easy transition.