While quarterback is clearly the most important position in football, offensive tackle isn’t too far off as it’s very difficult for an offense to succeed without high-level blocking setting the tone. The 2022 NFL draft class is an epic one for the offensive tackle position with a few elite prospects at the top and some great depth throughout. In this article, I’ll break down my top offensive tackle prospects in this year’s draft class.
|Name||Pos. Ranking||College||Class||Overall Grade||Draft Range|
|Evan Neal||1||Alabama||Junior||94||Top 3|
|Ikem Ekwonu||2||North Carolina||Junior||93||Top 3|
|Charles Cross||3||Mississippi State||RS Sophomore||90||Top 10|
|Bernhard Raimann||4||Central Michigan||Senior||85||Late 1st Round|
|Trevor Penning||5||Northern Iowa||RS Senior||84||Late 1st Round|
|Tyler Smith||7||Tulsa||RS Sophomore||82||2nd Round|
|Daniel Faalele||6||Minnesota||Senior||80||2nd Round|
|Nicholas Petit-Frere||8||Ohio State||RS Junior||75||3rd Round|
|Abraham Lucas||9||Washington State||RS Senior||75||3rd Round|
|Kellen Diesch||10||Arizona State||RS Senior||74||4th Round|
|Max Mitchell||11||Louisiana||Senior||72||4th Round|
|Dare Rosenthal||12||Kentucky||RS Junior||72||4th Round|
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- Relative Athletic Score Standouts At Each Position
#1: Evan Neal – Alabama
The seventh-ranked player in the 2019 recruiting class and a five-star recruit, Evan Neal has been one of the most-discussed NFL prospects over the past few years in college football. At 6’7”, 337 lbs, Neal is a mammoth of a man and will be one of the largest players in the NFL. He moves incredibly well for his size and is destined to test very well at the combine. Neal is a lock to be a top-five pick in April.
- Experienced against some of the best competition in the country
- Positional versatility – played at guard and both tackle spots
- Carries his weight extremely well and weighed in 15 pounds lighter than expected at the combine
- Excellent fundamentals across the board, technique has been drilled into him
- Powerful hands and massive wingspan that he knows how to put to good use
- Reactionary athleticism is lacking at times and he can struggle to recover if beaten initially
- Struggled to ID blitzers at times, but could be a result of him changing positions
- Balance lets him down at times as he has a tendency to over-extend and be too top-heavy
- Footwork needs some technical improvements as his base breaks down at times
- Effort was inconsistent – didn’t always play through the whistle
Summary: Neal is a borderline lock to be off the board within the first three picks, and you have to assume that projection plays into his confidence to skip the athletic testing at the scouting combine. With a remarkable blend of size, power, agility, and athleticism, Neal is a rare offensive tackle prospect whose versatility and experience against top competition only make him more valuable. As he continues to sharpen his footwork and technique, Neal is a future All-Pro caliber offensive lineman regardless of where his NFL team asks him to line up.
Draft Range: Top 3
#2: Ikem Ekwonu – NC State
As just a three-star recruit, Ickey Ekwonu wasn’t nearly the high school prospect that Neal was, but he earned the opportunity to start at left tackle as a freshman at NC State, and he never looked back. Ekwonu has some of my favorite film to watch in this entire draft class as he absolutely bullied opposing ACC defensive linemen over the past couple of years. Ekwonu plays the game of football with a sense of anger and aggression that is perfect for the offensive tackle position, and teams will fall in love with his physical brand of football at the top of the draft.
- Wakes up and chooses violence every single game day – piles up the pancakes like he’s an IHOP server
- Plays with great control despite his aggressive demeanor suggesting otherwise
- Improved significantly in pass-blocking technique in 2021
- Ran a sub 5-second 40 yard dash – going to be a beast in open-field blocking and screen game
- Devastating power across the board – hands, lower body, etc.
- Over 200 snaps at left guard, could be asked to play there depending on where he lands
- Pass sets still need a lot of work – mirroring, hand usage, footwork, etc.
- Agility just average – not exactly the dancing bear some teams want at tackle
- Coordination still a work in progress as he learns to sync up his hands and feet
- Flies out of his stance at times leaving him vulnerable to quick inside moves
- Still working on identifying opposing defenders’ pass-rush plan and reacting accordingly
The name Ikem translates to “my effort will not be in vain,” and Ekwonu plays with a trademark physicality and aggression that suits his name. There isn’t much that separates Ekwonu from Neal as the top tackle in this class, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Ekwonu ends up slightly higher drafted. With elite strength, awesome power, and a relentless motor, the physical foundation for Ekwonu is outstanding. Once he refines his technique and builds more of a complete pass-blocking game, he has amazing upside in the NFL.
Draft Range: Top 3
#3: Charles Cross – Mississippi State
Cross is a former five-star prospect who was an integral part of Mike Leach’s Mississippi State offense. Cross’s development in pass-blocking has been very impressive, and he’s a player who is constantly improving his game. While he doesn’t have the same pizazz in terms of athletic flash and upside potential as Neal and Ekwonu, he’s incredibly technically sound and arguably the most pro-ready offensive lineman in pass-protection in this class.
- Excellent mirroring ability – arguably the best in the class
- Absurd pass-blocking production – didn’t allow a single pressure on 66 pass-blocking snaps against Alabama per PFF
- Technique is outstanding from footwork to hand placement to blitz awareness
- Uses length very well in pass sets, paired with awesome core strength
- Lacks the same high-end athletic traits of Neal and Ekwonu, somewhat limits his upside
- Very few run-blocking reps in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense
- Lean frame limits the amount of power he can generate
- Limited versatility, especially compared to the top two tackles
Summary: There seems to be a growing public perception that there’s a wide gap between Cross and the top two tackles in this class, and I don’t quite buy into that narrative. While Cross doesn’t possess the same high-end athletic traits of Neal and Ekwonu, he makes up for it with incredible technique that makes him the cleanest projection in this draft class. Cross likely won’t ever have the strength and physicality to be dominant at the point of attack in the run game, but he can mirror a wide range of pass-rushers and will translate immediately as a high-level starter.
Draft Range: Top 16
#4: Bernhard Raimann – Central Michigan
Raimann may not be the best tackle in this year’s class, but he easily has the best story of the group. Born in Austria, Raimann went to Central Michigan as a foreign exchange student and started playing football. In his third season with the Chippewas, he transitioned from tight end to offensive tackle and hit the ground running. While he hasn’t been playing the position for long, Raimann is one of the cleanest offensive tackle projections to make in this class.
- Very coachable – improved a remarkably fast rate after changing positions
- Background as a tight end gives him the foot quickness to handle speed rushers
- Footwork on pass sets is very polished despite inexperience
- Excellent play strength despite smaller frame – doesn’t need to add too much more weight
- Flashes high-level football IQ and natural instincts
- Already 24 years old, but late to football so less concerning
- Short arms at 32 7/8″, could be concerning for some teams
- Some concerns about functional strength, but he benched 30 reps!
- A bit predictable on pass sets, could use some coaching in that regard
- Some competition level concerns but film against LSU was some of his best
Summary: With the NFL increasingly shifting towards spread offenses with zone-running concepts, it’s more and more important that offensive linemen have good movement ability. With Raimann’s tight end background, he has some of the best footwork in this class and is a tremendous athlete for the position. At 24 years old, the arc is atypical as a late bloomer, but he’s more polished than you’d think with his story. If he can add some more weight while maintaining his finesse game and sharpening his technique, he has Pro Bowl upside.
Draft Range: Mid 1st Round
#5: Trevor Penning – Northern Iowa
It’s no surprise that the hype surrounding Trevor Penning has continued to rise – his tape is incredibly fun to watch. Penning plays the tackle position with violence, and he dominated FCS pass-rushers. There’s time on film where he looks like a dad playing in his kids’ Pop Warner game. The question for talent evaluators will be whether or not that nastiness and physicality will translate to the NFL as Penning jumps to a much higher level of competition.
- Prototypical size at 6’7″, 325 lbs, 34 1/4″ arms
- Has added almost 100 pounds of muscle since arriving at Northern Iowa with a monstrous weights program
- Ran a ridiculous 4.89-second 40 yard dash – nobody saw that coming
- Very patient on his pass sets, good at reacting to what defenders throw at him
- Enough quickness and athleticism to eventually be a good move blocker
- Posture isn’t always great, bends too much at the waist, gets him in trouble at times
- Needs to learn to control and harness his competitive fire
- Hand usage and footwork are inconsistent
- Can get lost at the second level at times
- Too many holding penalties last year
- Untested at higher levels of competition
Summary: Penning put on a clinic at the Senior Bowl against a higher level of competition than he ever faced at Northern Iowa, and it was great to see his physical nature translate against better teams. However, questions still persist about his technique and whether or not he can harness his competitive aggression. Penning has done enough between the Senior Bowl and combine to play his way into the first round, but I still see a gap between him and the top three that others aren’t as bought into.
Draft Range: Late 1st Round
#6: Tyler Smith – Tulsa
Following the combine, the NFL’s own Daniel Jeremiah moved Tyler Smith from unranked in his Top 50 list to the #30 overall player. While one analyst’s opinion isn’t enough to shift the universal understanding of a prospect, this change from Jeremiah indicated to me that NFL teams are taking a closer look at Smith. I believe we all should too.
- Turns 21 in April, will be one of the youngest players in the draft class
- Powerful frame that’s well-built, good length and big hands to boot
- Violent play style with power and strength, stout anchor
- Nimble mover, enough lateral movement ability to get a shot at tackle
- Very little bend in pass sets shown on film
- Tends to hook defenders, resulting in penalties
- Inconsistent hand usage and footwork
- Takes bad angles on the move against smaller defenders
Summary: There are plenty of more polished prospects to consider in the middle of the draft at offensive tackle, but Smith has higher upside than all of them. With a promising blend of strength and agility, teams will fall in love with his traits and his high upside at such a young age. He’s been one of the fastest risers in the pre-draft process, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team take a chance on Tyler Smith as soon as the back of the first round.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#7: Daniel Faalele – Minnesota
You thought Evan Neal was big? Well, let me introduce you to the 6’9″, 380-pound Daniel Faalele who’s the heaviest player to ever participate in the modern scouting combine per the NFL Research database which dates back to 2003. Faalele is a former rugby player who transitioned to football for three seasons at Minnesota. With his unique size comes some question marks, but he moves much better than you’d expect for how imposing he is. With an unquestionably high ceiling, I hope Faalele lands with a team that is proven in player development.
- Ridiculous size – heaviest player at the modern combine by 15 pounds
- Simply won’t be beaten by many bull rushes with his enormous stature and stout anchor
- Moves really well for his size, above-average athlete when grading on a curve
- Considerable upward trajectory over his five-year football career, still room to grow
- Very mechanical play right now, lacks killer instinct
- Will struggle on vertical pass sets against explosive NFL pass-rushers
- Some issues redirecting against inside counter moves
- Not the road-grading, people-moving run-blocker you’d want at his size
Summary: Faalele presents as an intriguing developmental prospect with all of the size and strength you could want in an offensive tackle. There have been plenty of comparisons of Faalele to current Eagles’ offensive tackle Jordan Mailata. Like Faalele, Mailata had a rugby background and is a monstrous player at 6’8″, 365 lbs. Mailata has developed into a high-level offensive tackle, and Mailata can follow a similar trajectory as a high-value project tackle for whichever team takes him.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#8: Nicholas Petit-Frere – Ohio State
A former five-star recruit, Petit-Frere never quite lived up to the billing as a top prospect in his high school class, but he has solid traits to build on at the next level. The inconsistencies in tape and in Petit-Frere’s overall demeanor will leave evaluators with questions, but he has room for significant improvement.
- Experience starting at both tackle positions for Ohio State
- Above-average athlete with solid agility and lateral quickness
- Thick, powerful lower body with good core strength
- Good starting point with frame and physical traits
- Needs to add play strength to be more of a factor in the run game
- Loses confidence throughout the course of the game if/when he loses reps
- Gets too wide in pass protection, struggled against some speed rushers
- Hand usage is inconsistent with both timing and placement
- When the film was bad, it was really bad (Michigan and Penn State 2021)
Summary: There are plenty of scouts who would have wanted Petit-Frere to stay at Ohio State for one more season, but as it stands he’s an unfinished product with plenty of athletic traits to be intrigued by. Petit-Frere can likely be a starting-caliber contributor at either guard or tackle in the NFL, and if he can improve his technique and demeanor, he may even have a future as a starting tackle.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#9: Abraham Lucas – Washington State
With over 2,195 pass-protection snaps under his belt per PFF, Abraham Lucas has been through the ringer of pass-blocking and has come out the other side with solid NFL potential. Lucas is fighting against the reputation of recent disappointments among Washington State offensive line prospects, but his pass-blocking technique is translatable to the NFL level.
- Great lateral quickness with NFL-ready mirroring ability
- Solid frame that can be filled out over time
- Allowed zero sacks in 477 pass-blocking snaps last year per PFF
- Decent combination of length and strength makes him difficult to speed rush
- Posted elite short shuttle time at the combine
- Very little translatabe run-blocking experience
- Doesn’t anchor as well as you’d want for his size
- Lack of power will result in him getting bull-rushed relentlessly
- Lots of his technique needs to be reworked
Summary: If you’re simply looking for a tackle with polished pass-blocking technique and mirroring ability, Lucas would be higher on this list, but I don’t see him translating very well to the NFL for other reasons. Lucas’s lack of power is problematic, as is his lack of real run-blocking experience and unpolished technique. However, his athleticism is coveted by some teams at the position and his combine performance could see him come off the board sooner rather than later on Day 2.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#10: Kellen Diesch – Arizona State
Coming off an excellent season at Arizona State, it’s time for NFL teams to find out if Diesch’s high-level college success can translate to the pro game. Diesch looks and moves like a tight end, which has its obvious strengths and weaknesses for the offensive tackle position, and questions remain about his small frame and lack of strength as he enters the draft at 24 years old.
- Excellent mobility – he’ll be a big contributor in offenses that utilize the screen game
- Quick hands help him maintain and regain leverage
- Tremendous base and solid footwork help overcome some issues with lack of power
- Highly productive against Power 5 teams last year
- Enters the draft at 24 years old – makes projecting improvement more difficult
- Very short arms at 32 1/4″, shows up in his lack of strength with his hands
- Was never able to add weight despite being a sixth-year senior
- Bad fit for power running offenses
Summary: Diesch ran a 4.89-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which was much more expected than Trevor Penning’s 4.89-second finish among the best in the class. With high-level movement ability, Diesch can be a valuable swing tackle for specific schemes in the NFL. If he were ever able to get his play strength to even a serviceable level, he could be a solid starter, but it seems unlikely that will happen at this point.
Draft Range: 3rd or 4th Round
#11: Max Mitchell – Louisiana
Mitchell was just a two-star prospect coming out of high school, but he worked hard to refine his technique as a pass-blocker and consistently improved year-over-year. The jump in competition level will be significant from Louisiana to the NFL, but coaches have loved Mitchell at Louisiana and he has the traits to make him a valuable member of an NFL roster.
- Coaches raved about his toughness, consistency, and leadership
- Checks lots of boxes in pass-blocking technique – depth, balance, control, etc.
- Added ten pounds from the Senior Bowl to the combine, good sign for adding strength
- Consistency in approach to the game could earn him starting reps early
- Athletic testing was disappointing across the board
- Needs to find a way to get more physical without losing agility and footwork
- Untested against pro-level talent – only one Power 5 opponent in 2021
I had expected to put Mitchell at seven or eight heading into the combine, but his athletic testing didn’t live up to the hype across the board. As a finesse tackle who lacks high-level power to help with anchoring, you would have wanted him to do better than one of the worst 40 times in the class. His starting experience and technique could still make him a Day 2 pick, but he needs a massive Pro Day to be back in the fringe second-round conversation.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#12: Dare Rosenthal – Kentucky
Originally a top-20 rated defensive line prospect in the 2018 class, Dare Rosenthal originally committed to LSU before transferring to Kentucky to play offensive tackle. Rosenthal has taken a unique path to this point that included a month-long suspension when he was with LSU, and his constantly changing outlook makes him a tricky prospect to figure out. There are plenty of developmental traits to love, however.
- Awesome quickness, very light-footed in his movement
- Excellent lateral movement, can get to the second level and make an impact
- Great power, can be a mauler with how he plays through the whistle
- Hard worker – I’ve enjoyed his approach to the game and commitment to improving
- Lacks basic fundamentals – needs a multi-year coaching plan
- Needs to fill out his frame with more muscle
- Footwork, hand usage, timing, awareness – it all needs work
Summary: Rosenthal ran the fastest 40-yard dash among offensive tackles at the combine, and the raw athleticism you see on tape showed up in his testing numbers. If you’re looking for a fundamentally sound pro-ready tackle who can contribute right away, Rosenthal certainly isn’t your guy, but there are some teams in the middle rounds who will covet his upside with the ability to be one of the biggest steals of the draft.
Draft Range: 4th Round