As ever, this years’ draft class has a good group of offensive linemen. The high end is almost as strong, but the low end is lacking quite a bit in terms of its depth and quality. Here, I will be going over the top five offensive tackle prospects, the two main guards, and the best center in this class.
Overview of the 2022 Offensive Line Class
Evan Neal, Alabama
Despite playing on an Alabama team with stacks of talent all over the board, Evan Neal has been a starter on the Alabama offensive line for three consecutive years, at both guard and tackle.
At 6’7 and 350 lbs, Neal is huge and incredibly difficult to get past. He is really strong and has very good hand placement. His technique, range, and footwork are all already at the level of a good NFL starter. However, he can be a bit clunky in the run game when moving, and can also get beat by a good speed rusher.
I think that Neal should be a top-five draft pick and the Jacksonville Jaguars would be foolish to pass on him with the first overall pick to select an EDGE rusher.
Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu has been a rock at left tackle at NC State ever since his true freshman season in 2019 and has developed into one of the best blockers in the nation.
Despite claims that he should kick inside to guard in the NFL, he has clearly shown that he can play tackle at a high level and should stay there in the league. He is incredibly mobile for someone of his size and strength. He is very quick laterally and profiles as one of the best run blockers in college. He is also versatile as I mentioned previously. However, he can get a bit sluggish in his technique, especially when pass-blocking or when tasked with speed rushers.
His run-blocking ability lends him well to a run-based offense, like the New York Giants. He could easily pair up with Andrew Thomas and could be the next step in the rebuild that is happening in New York.
Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Cross has been a two-year starter at tackle for Mississippi State. As they run a very pass-happy, “air-raid” scheme, this meant that Cross got the opportunity to hone his abilities as a pass-blocker, as they were passing the ball upwards of 50 times a game.
This has led to Cross being one of the most dominant pass-blockers in the country as he can use his quick first step to get the edge over any EDGE rusher in the country. He also has very good technique in both his hands and feet and displays a high football IQ in his pass sets. However, this could also be his undoing as he has very little experience as a run blocker having pass blocked so often.
Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
The Chippewas are known for producing good offensive lineman, having produced Eric Fisher and Joe Staley in the past, and this year looks no different. Raimann looks to be. a stud tackle despite only having played there for two years since switching over from Tight End.
I have already done a more in-depth scouting report on him, but to summarize: he is strong and dominant when faced with a bull-rush, he is light on his feet and is a mauler in the run game. However, he can be undone by a high-level speed rusher and is quite new to the position and so has not refined his technique yet.
Raimann certainly has the upside and the potential to be a first-round pick, but will there be a team willing to bet on his physical traits?
Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
While Northern Iowa might not be the biggest school, they produced a good tackle prospect in Spencer Brown and seem to have done it again here. Trevor Penning is a three-year starter with starts at both tackle spots and guard and looks to be the part.
He is an absolute monster, that goes without saying. He stands at 6’6″ and weighs 330 lbs, which he puts every bit of into throwing around defenders. He is also light on his feet and can bully EDGE rushers of almost any size. However, his footwork is not great and can look to sometimes be a bit disinterested, not giving 100% on every snap.
Penning certainly has the size profile to be a starting tackle in the NFL and should be selected with a first-round pick, perhaps towards the back-end to a team needing offensive line help.
Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Green has been in and around the first-round conversation for a long time, as he was a five-star recruit, the best in Texas, coming out of high school. However, he was a tackle recruit and now profiles as an interior offensive lineman. This is because he has amassed 35 career starts at every position except center.
Green is a powerful player. His playstyle relies on his strength and size to bully interior rushers and paw them away in the run and the passing game. He also always looks to be in it, searching for blocks to make even when he doesn’t have an assignment. However, his hand placement needs a lot of work as he can be erratic at times.
Despite his versatility and hype coming into the collegiate world, it is quite likely he is not a first-round pick and instead is selected at the top of round two.
Zion Johnson, Boston College
Johnson is a former zero-star recruit who played at Davidson College, an FCS team, before transferring to Boston College in 2019 before starting there for two years. He looked to have declared last season before returning to school and playing well. He capped this off with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl.
He is smooth in the passing game and nimble in the run game, which creates a monster to play against for any EDGE rusher. He has good hand placement and can set himself well against both bull-rushers and speed-rushers. His awareness needs a bit of work as he can set himself too well and be oblivious to linebackers bursting through the offensive line.
Johnson’s Senior Bowl performance was extraordinary and propelled him from a day two selection to a surefire first-round pick, perhaps to the Bengals who certainly need the help following the Super Bowl.
Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Linderbaum is a former three-star offensive and defensive line recruit who originally committed to Iowa as a defensive tackle before making the switch early in his career to the offensive line. He has been a starter at Iowa since 2019 and has been brilliant there ever since.
He is very quick and is able to climb defenses very easily with his lateral mobility. He is patient in his blocking, a skill necessary to be a blocker on the interior. Despite being a bit undersized, he plays with enough power to make up for it and it shows when he comes up against smaller players. However, he can be a bit excitable when at the second level and make the holes more difficult for the runner to get through.
Linderbaum is arguably the most polished center prospect in years and would easily be a top ten pick if the draft was based on true talent levels. However, center is not a very highly sought-after position and that could lead to him falling to even the 20s on draft day.