This is the fifth in a series featuring every position in the 2022 NFL Draft. Today’s episode takes a look at the inside offensive line.
The middle rounds are where to find good prospects for the interior offensive line in the 2022 draft class.
That’s how it usually stacks up.
Nearly half of the NFL’s current starters at guard and center — 48 of 96 — entered the league on day three of the draft, either as fourth- through seventh-round picks or as free agents not fished out.
Only 15 of the 96 starters on the inside line were first-round picks. Eighteen were in the second round and 17 in the third round.
“Day 2 and early Day 3, you can get quality on guard this year,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “I think there is good depth. I think there is a lot of depth in rounds 3 or 4.”
It is possible that only three inside offensive linemen will be selected in the first two rounds. Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum and guards Zion Johnson of Boston College and Kenyon Green of Texas A&M make up the top three.
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A bunch of inside line prospects should start flying off the board in rounds three and four.
General classification by position: 7 out of 10.
Display of invoices: Buffalo has strengthened its interior by signing quality veteran Rodger Saffold and retaining Ryan Bates and Ike Boettger, who is fresh from an Achilles tendon injury. Saffold turns 34 in June and plays on a one-year contract. Replacement Cody Ford is in the final year of his contract and will have to fight to make the roster.
The Bills could use a young mid-to-late-round guard or center that new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer can turn into a starter in 2023. The middle rounds are a perfect place to find that prospect. The presumption is that the Bills will lean a bit more toward mobile offensive linemen under Kromer than they did under former line coach Bobby Johnson, who leaned toward big movers. On the Bills’ list of needs, however, a guard ranks behind cornerback, wide receiver, big defensive tackle and running back.
Invoices must be filed: 5 out of 10.
The best: Iowa’s Linderbaum is the best center. He was a six-sport athlete as a high school student in Iowa and was the only person to pin Tampa Bay star tackle Tristan Wirfs in high school. Linderbaum finished in the top five heavyweight in the Iowa State tournament during his junior and senior years. He’s arguably the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft, and he’ll excel in movement in the NFL. The concern is how he will handle the biggest two-hole defensive tackles in the NFL. He also has shorter arms.
Boston College’s Johnson is arguably the best guard.
“I think Zion is the best guard in this draft class and I like a lot of them,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said. “I think it’s a pretty good inside line class. Zion is one of the best stories. He started at Davidson in the Pioneer League, which is an FCS with no purse. He moved to Boston College, one of the top offensive line schools in the country. He went there and played very well. … He’s an immediate starter inside.
Names to know: Memphis’ Dylan Parham is a converted tight end who’s a bit small at 6-3 and 311 pounds, but uses his athleticism to tackle defenders quickly. He can play on the move and could pass through the middle as well. Cam Jurgens of Nebraska is another converted tight end who is an athletic center. Logan Bruss is the next in a long line of NFL-ready linemen from Wisconsin. Kentucky center Luke Fortner has two master’s degrees and the quickness to fit into an outside zone program. Lecitus Smith is a later pass protector guard with movement skills. Tulsa’s Chris Paul is a smart leader who converts from the tackle and will go on Day 3. He’s helped himself with athletic workouts.
Sleeper: Central Michigan’s Luke Goedeke began his college career as a tight end at Division III Wisconsin Stevens Point. After catching 12 passes as a freshman, he decided to transfer. Wisconsin offered a place to walk. Central Michigan offered a full turn. He started as a right tackle for the Chippewas in 2019 and 2021 but projects as a guard. He missed 2020 with a knee injury. It’s a Day 3 pick.
TOP 10 INTERNAL OFFENSIVE LINES
1. Tyler Linderbaum*, C, Iowa 6-2, 296
2. Zion Johnson, G, Boston College 6-3, 314
3. Kenyon Green*, G, Texas A&M 6-4, 323
4. Dylan Parham*, GC, Memphis 6-2, 313
5. Cole Strange, G, UT-Chattanooga 6-4, 304
6. Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska 6-3, 303
7. Jamaree Salyer, G, Georgia 6-3, 320
8. Logan Bruss, G, Wis. 6-5, 309
9. Luke Goedeke*, G, Michigan center 6-5 312
10. Marquis Hayes, G, Oklahoma 6-5, 318