As the commentary on the linemen is smaller, I combined the tackles and interior guys into one piece. This is a tremendous class for interior linemen, notably the top-end guards. On the flip side, the list of tackles who I would be comfortable starting next season ends at three.
1. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
McGlinchey wound up having the fewest overall flaws and most NFL-ready polish. He’s got great length on the left side and understands how to use it to make the pass rushing path that much longer. He’s got a big, prompt punch that can jolt weaker edges and he drives well in the run game. His balance and the technical precision of his feet is often lousy and belies his impressive overall athleticism. He’s almost too tall at 6-8 and doesn’t anchor well, in part from the natural leverage disadvantage. Strikes me as a less-powerful Jack Conklin, and like the former Titans first-rounder he projects much better on the right side than the left. Belongs in the 20s but might not last past the early teens.
2. Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
Plays tackle like a street fighter. Has solid length and arm reach, but his punch and placement can be wild. His feet are similar; Crosby can quick-step and square his targets but sometimes sets flat-footed or doesn’t extend his legs far enough. Can lock his shoulders, sink his hips and blow people into the sidelines. Does play a little top-heavy and he relies more on upper-body strength than most tackles. Winds up out in space but not engaged with anyone in the run game far more often than he should. Must learn to use his inside shoulder and post leg more consistently in pass protection. Compares to Rick Wagner with higher ceiling but lower floor. Second rounder to me.
3. Connor Williams, Texas
The healthy Connor Williams from 2015-16 is a viable top-10 overall talent and instant starter at left tackle. His range, lateral agility and overall athleticism all leapt off the game tape. A knee injury changed everything, however; his 2017 game was more indicative of a player who is either a late-round tackle or someone who must move inside to guard. The issue for Williams is that he’s neither long (6-5, 33” arms) nor strong for the tackle position, and when he has to get the friction on, he cannot win without his athleticism. If he gets it back, Williams is handily the best in class. If he doesn’t get back above around 90 percent, he’s very reminiscent of Houston Texans 2017 starter Chris Clark, who remains unsigned for good reason. Huge risk, and my ranking him here and bestowing him worthy of a 25-35 overall pick is indicative of my relative confidence in his recovery.
4. Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
Jones has one dominant, standout trait: he’s a ridiculously good down blocker. There is a palpable enthusiasm when he gets to plow inside and catch targets from an angle. Strong shoulders, powerful hands. Footwork in pass protection can be too tight, and he will underset versus wide rushers. More of a dancer than an aggressor and his dance moves aren’t as swift as most of the guys he has to keep away from his QB. Plays with his emotions on his sleeve, for better or worse. Did not test well athletically and his limitations do show against defensive speed. 2nd-3rd round.
5. Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
Experienced at both tackle spots and blessed with easy natural strength on his 6-6 frame. Played in a pro-style offense with emphasis on the run and play-action. Devastating initial punch he fires out with impressive accuracy and often follows with locked-out shoulders to steer defenders in the run game. His pass protection can be clunky and was better in 2016 than ’17, when he showed more of a habit to pop too upright and kept his feet too close together. Relative newcomer to football and it shows at times with his hesitation and lack of consistent intensity. Forgets he’s got dominant athletic traits at times, notably when he plays lesser-regarded competition. Plays stylistically similar to Michael Oher. 3rd-4th round grade but will go higher.
6. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
A giant at 6-8 and 360 pounds, the son of former NFL starter Orlando “Zeus” Brown is easy to spot. That’s good and bad based on his game film. Brown is violently competitive (that’s a good thing in football) and tries to bury his opponent on every snap. He uses his length adeptly on the edge to create a long path to the QB, and it isn’t easy to cross his face to the inside because of his jolting punch. That’s all very good.
His athleticism is tragic, like a supermodel having a unibrow that cannot be shaved. Brown’s Combine is one of the worst ever. He redeemed himself a bit at the Sooner pro day, but his game tape shows someone who is never going to win because he’s quicker or more explosive than the guy he’s facing. There are plays where he flat-out whiffs and his decided lack of athletic ability prohibits him from recovering in-play. He’s different stylistically but those same maladies afflicted Andre Smith, the onetime Bengals first-rounder. Like Smith, I can see Brown being an effective starter at right tackle that needs help against speed on the edge. High bust potential for a third-rounder.
7. Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
This will sound a lot more negative than it should, but I absolutely love Rankin as a team’s No. 6 offensive lineman. He’s got size to play guard or tackle, enough flexibility and length to stick at tackle but enough strength and nastiness to kick inside. At any spot he’s a pass protection specialist with smooth feet and good ability to recover if he’s initially beaten. In the run game, a stalemate is a win for Rankin. Did have an ankle issue in 2017 that slowed him and appeared to impact his leg drive and anchor strength. Some evaluators see him best as a center. I’d rather have him be a capable fill-in across the entire line, but if I have to pick a position it’s left guard. Third round seems right for Rankin.
8. Kolton Miller, UCLA
He lit the Combine on fire with a truly astonishing athletic display. That hints at his considerable upside. Why so low then? His game film shows sloppy technique, bad habits with his feet and Miller losing the war of diminishing returns on height (he’s 6-9). There’s a whole lot to work with here but also a whole lot of work needed before he’s ready to protect an NFL quarterback. 5th-6th round, will be selected considerably higher, perhaps top 20 overall. Caveat draftor.
9. Alex Cappa, Humboldt State
Small school bruiser with flowing locks and a great 6-7 frame to work with. Showed he could dominate at the D-II level with both his size and technique, and he’s proud of his progress as a tactician. Showed he could hang at the Senior Bowl. His athletic performance, notably in agility drills, at the Combine might not yet have ended. Might be a guard in a tackle body and might be too upright to play inside, but Cappa has starting right tackle upside if he continues to improve. 5th-6th round, will likely go a round higher.
10. Will Richardson, North Carolina State
Better athlete than technician despite his round midsection and high center of gravity. Might be the best in class at staying engaged with defenders, showing balance and quick footwork in tight quarters for a 6-6 guy. Very good initially on screens and stretch runs. Not a natural bender and often relies more on function than form to get the job done. Has some off-field issues (DUIs) and his play was streaky throughout his Wolfpack tenure, so it’s tough to trust Richardson right off the bat. Has starting potential but could also be out of the league quickly. 5th-6th round.
11. Brandon Parker, NC A&T
12. Joseph Noteboom, TCU
13. Greg Senat, Wagner
14. Desmond Harrison, West Georgia
15. Geron Christian, Louisville
16. Toby Weathersby, LSU
17. Timon Parris, Stony Brook
18. Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh
19. Matt Pryor, TCU
20. KC McDermott, Miami FL
Parker has the length and some technical prowess but needs reps against better competition. He could be a pleasant surprise if he learns to keep his butt down.
Noteboom got better every week for TCU last fall, though an uninspiring Senior Bowl week showed his ceiling. Horned Frogs teammate Pryor is bigger (6-7, 338) and more versatile but not as refined technically.
Senat is a former basketball power forward with great feet and length. His Shrine Game week showed tremendous promise but also the need for at least a year on a practice squad to develop his technique. He holds the last draftable grade here.
Harrison must add weight (he’s 288) and has a lot of off-field baggage. His agility and quick hands/feet are exceptional and could develop. Could.
O’Neill could be a top 60 overall selection. You don’t want it to be with your team.
While the positions are not interchangeable by any means, enough of the players who are projected at one interior spot can/will be playing the other as well, so I lumped them together. I listed the primary position I want them to play in parenthesis.
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (guard)
Best player in the draft regardless of position. The second-best OL prospect I’ve graded, and No. 1 was Joe Thomas. There are no can’t-miss prospects but it’s a mystery how Nelson won’t be great in the NFL. Not good, great.
2. Austin Corbett, Nevada (guard)
It’s awfully convenient to compare Corbett to Joel Bitonio, who made the same move from Nevada left tackle to NFL left guard (and a very good one) with the Browns. Must be something in the water in Reno because Corbett might be even better, a little more naturally strong and nasty. First round talent in my book.
3. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia (guard)
College left tackle and guard kicking back inside due to lack of length and better utilization of his short-area temperament. Was above Corbett initially here but I like Corbett’s strength and slight length advantage just a little more. Consider them 2a and 2b. Should start as a rookie and can thrive if Wynn can develop better anchor strength. High football IQ helps raise his floor. Belongs in the 20s overall, might slide to the early second round.
4. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas (center)
Missed a lot of time to impress teams with injury in ’17 but still has great range and power on the move, decent feet and quick hands in tight spaces. Ready to start right away if he’s fully recovered. Top 40 overall talent in my eyes, won’t be drafted before the third however.
5. Billy Price, Ohio State (center)
Would have been ranked above Ragnow as the top center but Price will miss his rookie season with a torn pectoral suffered doing the bench press at the Combine. Played his best against top competition and let them know about it, too. Still a 2nd rounder despite the lost rookie year.
6. Braden Smith, Auburn (guard)
Athletically special, natural right guard---which is not always easy to find. Can fire off the ball and blow away defenders with great leverage for a 6-6 interior lineman. Has anchor strength and bulldog attitude. Doesn’t always play to his athletic potential and can be slow to react to what the defense is doing against him. Was better in ’16 than ’17. 2nd-3rd round is likely higher than he will hear his name called.
7. Will Hernandez, UTEP (guard)
Built like a refrigerator with arms. Plays with great power and surprising bend and range for a guy of his build. Can dominate in 1-on-1 situations, notably in the run game. Quick enough to pick up stunts and twists, but not always patient enough to get the timing right. Moves himself out of too many plays (see So. Miss game) and will go for the knockout blow too frequently. He’s a fully capable NFL starter but I don’t buy the considerable hype; less of a sure thing than you’ve been told. Doesn’t mean he still can’t be very good right away. Late 2nd-early 3rd grade, won’t last past about No. 40 overall.
8. James Daniels, Iowa (center)
Built just like a center should be, 6-3 with long arms for his height and his 295 pounds is nicely distributed over his frame. Quick hands. Excellent snapper with someone breathing down his neck. Has mobility and 1-2 step agility. Not much of a people mover or interior anchor. Tends to play with blinders on compared to better NFL centers. Reminds me of a higher-end Greg Mancz, a pass protection specialist for the Texans, but Daniels has the ability to add strength to vault that fate. 3rd round, will go higher.
9. Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech (guard)
Weight room freak who plays the role of immovable object quite well as a pass protector. Plays with leverage and heavy hands with a quick punch. Can bend and redirect effectively. Fairly stiff mover, not a guy who will get comfortably to the second level or pull well across the formation. Sometimes forgets to move his feet and it happened more often as the season dragged on. His good tape says 2nd round but enough bad tape exists to drop him to the 3rd/4th. NFL teams probably don’t like him that high.
10. Mason Cole, Michigan (center)
Michigan moved him to left tackle where his lack of length and foot quickness were a huge problem. Back in the pivot, Cole has enough of both to be effective. Underrated football IQ, sublimated his own game often to help cover for inferior teammates. Shouldn’t have to do that in the NFL. Would be my choice as the first pick of the 4th round to kick off the draft’s third day properly.
11. Maea Teuhema, SE Louisiana (guard)
12. Colby Gossett, Appalachian State (guard)
13. Dejon Allen, Hawaii (guard)
14. Brian Allen, Michigan State (center)
15. Taylor Hearn, Clemson (guard)
16. Scott Quessenberry, UCLA (center)
17. Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State (center)
18. Matt Gono, Wesley (guard)
19. Tyrone Crowder, Clemson (guard)
20. Will Clapp, LSU (center)
Others in relative order:
Tony Adams, North Carolina State
Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
Jamil Denby, Maine
Anthony Coyle, Fordham
Kyle Bosch, West Virginia
Skyler Phillips, Idaho State
Nick Gates, Nebraska
Aaron Stinnie, James Madison
Austin Schlottman, TCU
Jacob Ohnesorge, South Dakota State
Cody O’Connell, Washington State
The draftable grades end with Coyle, though I wouldn’t object to seeing down to Stinnie being selected. Very deep class that could leave a long mark on the NFL.