With the college football season almost upon us, it’s never too early to start highlighting draft prospects to watch. As it stands right now there is a massive amount of offensive linemen that will be draft-eligible this upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. So in this article find out which ones to watch for this upcoming college football season!
Evan Neal, Alabama
Starting off the list is the 6’7, 360-pound tackle Evan Neal from Alabama. Neal has started for the Crimson Tide since he was a freshman in 2019. In his freshman season, he played at guard, then was moved to right tackle in 2020, and will now move to left tackle for the 2021 season. His versatility to play across the line and still be successful should stand out to teams right away. Neal had only allowed three pressures, four quarterback hurries, and 1.5 sacks in the 810 snaps he started in the 2020 season. For Neal, he possesses a great deal of athleticism that allows him to move quickly. His strength allows him to control opponents as soon as he initiates contact he is able to latch on and will rarely ever let anyone get past him. His strength that overpowers defenders is also what allows him to be highly effective in the run game as he can easily move them to create space.
Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
The smooth footwork and fantastic upside Darian Kinnard has makes him an interesting prospect alone. Kinnard is a 6’5, 345-pound offensive tackle that plays for the Kentucky Wildcats and is heading into his senior season. Over the 695 snaps he played in 2020 he only allowed two sacks, two hits, and had a big-time block percentage of 2.5% which was ranked 15th overall in college football last season. He shows a great lateral ability to mirror rushers and has the urgency to get to the second level. Kinnard has great hand technique that allows him to get clean contact most of the time, he likes to target the arms as a latch on point to neutralize opponents. One of the improvements he needs to make is his hand techniques. He needs to focus on being more authoritative so he can improve his clean strike consistency. Kentucky’s approach on offense last season relied heavily on the run game, this led to Kinnard taking 391 run block snaps. This experience has allowed him to become one of the most elite run blockers in college football with his ability to sink his hips to move defenders back.
Thayer Munford, Ohio State
From season to season Thayer Munford has kept on improving, this growth should continue this season. Munford is one of the most experienced offensive linemen returning for this upcoming season as he has played in 45 games over his four seasons at Ohio State. In the 2020 season of the 512 snaps he took at left tackle he allowed zero sacks, zero hits, and only three hurries. Munford also has the experience of playing both on the inside or outside due to his 6’6 321 frame. The strength he shows allows him to be a solid anchor in the pass protection, but he is more of a run blocker with his stance that allows him to gain leverage on defenders to make a running lane. Munford’s flexibility enables him to maneuver smoothly and stay balanced. Where Munford can improve this season is the timing of his initial hand placement to be more on time as it can often be late, other than that he is a very solid athlete.
Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Heading into the 2021 season, Tyler Linderbaum is the number one returning offensive lineman. At 6’3, 289 pounds Linderbaum plays every snap with explosive intensity. Playing at center, in 2020 he only allowed two hits, one hurry, and had a big-time block percentage of 4.7% which was third in college football last season. Linderbaum has exceptional speed and competitive toughness that allows him to rarely ever be overpowered. He displays excellent footwork so he rarely ever gets overpowered, and he demonstrates great hand placement to reinforce this. He shows excellent transition from snapping the ball to instantly blocking with quick precision. The real weakness that is shown is that in his point of attack he is overpowered when he loses balance due to overextending, if he can work on this in the upcoming season he will definitely be a lock as the number one center in the upcoming draft.
Rasheed Walker, Penn State
Rasheed Walker showed off his impressive skills in 2019 when he started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman. What stands out about Walker is he has great size at 6’6’, 320 pounds, and has long arms for a large blocking radius. In 2020 he played 726 snaps at left tackle and allowed only two sacks, zero hits, and 12 hurries. Walker’s trait that stands out the most is his flexibility that allows him to recover and absorb contact from edge rushers. His knee bend is also worth noting as can get low to increase leverage, and he consistently keeps his body mirrored to his opponent. His football IQ is also above par, this has allowed him to read situations quickly and adapt. Walker is a strong prospect overall, his one noticeable weakness is securing his footing. Overall though the Nittany Lion should go relatively high in the draft if he can keep improving this year.
As it stands right now these guys should be the top offensive linemen in the draft, there are multiple other linemen though that could really improve this year and raise their draft stock. One takeaway is that the 2022 draft has offensive lineman depth with great prospects for any team looking to improve their offensive line.