2022 OT Class; 8 Prospects with Top 64 Grades

OT1 | Evan Neal

6’7″ 337 lbs | Alabama (34″ Arms)

With the combination of size, explosiveness, motor and versatility, Neal brings as much to the table as anyone this year and is a rare high floor-high ceiling prospect. He checked all the boxes with his measurements and carries a near perfect height-to-weight ratio. Not only did Neal dominate at the highest level, but he moved around the offensive line every season and made seamless transitions every time. The Alabama Offensive Line has been a factory for NFL talent and Neal ranks near the top of that list. Neal also is one of the most explosive tackles off the line, which is incredible due to his massive frame. He is a true do-it-all tackle that has been equally successful in both the run and pass game, but this talented top tier of OTs could land him anywhere from OT1 to OT3 on draft day.

There is not much to criticize with Neal, but he is a 6’7″ tackle, which at times can play with his balance and weight distribution at times. I’ve heard that inside the league there is a belief that Neal also is enjoying the “Bama Bump” from the media and could be getting more hype than others due to name recognition, but it is hard to not love his film and believe that he will find a significant role in the NFL. He is going to start at tackle throughout his career and brings a rare blend of physicality and finesse to be an all-around player and cog of his future offensive line. The upside is too good to ignore and Neal brings the exact weight, frame and explosiveness that you would build in a lab when creating the perfect offensive tackle.

OT2 | Ikem Ekwonu

6’4″ 310 lbs | NC State (34″ Arms)

Ekwonu brings an intriguing skillset to the table that certain schemes will value over Neal or Cross. Ekwonu is extremely powerful and stout, which opens up the possibilities for a run heavy scheme or even as the potential dominant phone booth guard. The strength cannot be understated, as he was one of the biggest maulers in college football last season and he makes up in arm length what he lacks in height. He spent the majority of his career as the starting LT for the Wolfpack, but also had a brief role as LG in 2020. He moves with grace and fluidity despite being a 300+ pounder and plays with the most violence and aggression on the field. He is also a high IQ player with a huge ceiling and wide open door for development.

For everything that Ekwonu brings as a run blocking bully, he lacks a bit as a true pass blocker. His tape is a bit inconsistent at times and likely will require a steep learning curve in his early career. The biggest thing that jumps off the tape is his sloppy footwork and seemingly careless hand technique. Although that this is not ideal, it is something that many stud lineman face early in their career and it is the traits that are most important in this early tier. Ekwonu has just about everything you could ask for in terms of traits and intangibles, but very much will be a project in pass pro. The high upside he brings as a run blocker will keep him inside the top 10 and as a safe Day 1 starter.

OT3 | Charles Cross

6’5″ 307 lbs | Mississippi State (34.5″ Arms)

When we talk about big boys who can move, Charles Cross is that and more. He is one of the most nimble movers players in this class, which is exciting given this guys skillset and tape. There is a lot to work with here in Cross, but the raw ability and ideal frame is more than enough to keep him as a top tier prospect and future 1st round pick. Cross has the tangible traits to thrive and has the feet, size and length to become a longtime blindside pass protector.

Cross is a high ceiling prospect, but he is going to face a steep learning curve and is certainly a project. Although he will very much be a plug and play left tackle following draft day, but his footwork and athleticism will be challenged by top tier edge rushers early on. The pass blocking skillset is great, but it could take some time for Cross to catch up to the speed at the next level. He has the desired length and skillset to thrive as a LT in the NFL and will develop best by being thrown into the fire right away.

OT4 | Trevor Penning

6’7″ 325 lbs | Northern Iowa (34.25″ Arms)

Small school prospects are always intriguing and harder to judge, but Penning brings a ton to love. In terms of pedigree, Northern Iowa has a solid track record for NFL prospects. Just last year, Penning saw his former OL teammate and fellow behemoth, Spencer Brown, get picked by the Buffalo Bills in the third round and turn into one of the most valuable rookies in 2021. Now Penning, who started at LT over the last three seasons (and pushed Brown to RT) will get his shot. Penning is a freakishly strong tackle that brings incredible power and athleticism that will likely keep him in the 1st round.

There are obvious risks with selecting a player from the FCS level in the early draft, but Penning has shown a lot to ease those concerns. He had an incredible week at the Senior Bowl, where he was an absolute bully and held his own against edge rushers from even the most prestigious programs. Penning quickly stood out as the alpha of the group and legitimized his stock as a Day 1 type of player. He is far from a developed and refined pass blocker, but has the tools, size, length and athleticism to be a longtime starter in the NFL. At 6’7″, he may be relatively boxed in as a tackle, but his athleticism and versatility will transfer well to most schemes. There is a lot to love with Penning in terms of traits, but his stock remains a bit riskier than most due being so untested at the FCS level.

OT5 | Tyler Smith

6’5″ 324 lbs | Tusla (34″ Arms)

When you talk about traits and raw ability, a guy that should immediately come to mind is Tyler Smith. Tyler Smith was built in a lab and brings one of the most solid and sturdy frames among this group and adds 34 inch arms to the equation. He is a nasty and violent mauler with some of the best combination of size, power and explosiveness. Although he checks the boxes with traits, Smith also has some of the sloppiest tape in the class. He’s often undisciplined and at times rather reckless. He will get to the NFL and turn into any OL coaches number 1 project because the traits are there but the technique isn’t. He is a class high potential-high risk prospect, but someone likely could reach due to the insane upside and ability that Smith brings to the table.

OT6 | Bernhard Raimann

6’6″ 300 lbs | Central Michigan (32.88″ Arms)

Bernhard Raimann enters the draft with one of the most interesting backgrounds in the class. Raimann arrived at Central Michigan as a 240 lbs exchange student from Steinbrunn, Austria who was joining the football team as a Tight End. Over the course of his first two seasons, he packed on an additional 60 lbs of mass and made the switch offensive line and became the teams starting Left Tackle to begin his third year. Since then, Raimann has steadily shown incredible improvement each and every outing and finished his career on a high mark by not allowing a single pressure in his final six games. Raimann earned a well deserved invite to the Senior Bowl after a successful two season, where he allowed just 1 sack in his career.

Raimann is an athletic specimen that moves around the field like he did as a Tight End. The footwork, explosiveness and hands are incredible, especially given his limited time in the position. His improvement and coach-ability is very encouraging and will intrigue teams to take a shot on a guy that has the potential to develop into a steady NFL starter. However, on the downside, he has limited experience in the position, doesn’t have the best frame (sub 33 inch arms) and will certainly need to continue to pack on weight (only at 300 lbs). At the end of the day, we have seen many successful transitions from TE to OT and he brings a rare set of athleticism and intangibles that should keep his floor as an early day 2 pick.

OT7 | Max Mitchell

6’6″ 307 lbs | Louisiana (33.5″ Arms)

Max Mitchell was one of the most productive lineman in college football, as he allowed just 5 sacks in the last 3 seasons. He lacks flashiness in his game and may appear underwhelming at times, but he is one of the most steady and consistent players coming into the draft. With Mitchell you just know what you are getting. He is coming out of a smaller conference, but graded out terrifically in 2021 with a 94.8 from PFF. He only played a few P5 opponents, but rose to the occasion against Texas in 2021 and played on of his best career games.

There were concerns with Mitchell’s size, but he weighed in at 307 lbs at the combine. He most likely will play at a bit smaller in season, which could be a detractor in the NFL, as he is also one of the least powerful players in the class. However, Mitchell is one of the more polished players in the group, which will keep him ready to be thrown into the mix early in his career. He will be an attractive day 2 pick for teams looking to add steady depth on the offensive line.

OT8 | Daniel Faalele

6’8″ 384 lbs | Minnesota (35″ Arms)

Faalele is hard to miss on the field at a whopping 6’8″ 384 lbs, but the question that will have to be weighed will be “is that even good?”. Yes, offensive line is a position that you obviously want to bring in size, but there isn’t much of a track record for guys THAT big, which is a rather high risk in the early rounds. However, Faalele produced at a high level at Minnesota, where he started at RT in 2021 and allowed just 1 sack all season and just 1 pressure in his final 8 games.

What is most concerning about Faalele’s game is he is a gentle giant. Yes, he has an absurdly huge body even for an NFL offensive tackle, but he certainly plays down to his size in several ways. On the upside, he moves rather well for a guy who is a few cheeseburgers shy of the 400 pound club. On the downside, he is somewhat of a soft player and there isn’t much aggression to his style of play. Despite only having a half decade of football experience, Faalele has constantly made improvements. However, there is a long way to go and he is as much of a prospect as there has ever been. The size is too much to ignore, but teams will have a lot to consider before drafting one of the biggest players in NFL history.

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