The NFL Draft is much like any regular weekend across the league. We all pay attention to the skill position players such as quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. But those stars cannot shine without the big guys up front doing the key work of protecting the quarterback and opening up holes in the running game. While you might not get that excited if and when your team chooses an offensive lineman in this NFL Draft, it could make a major difference between wins and losses on Sundays in the autumn and winter. I won't kid you by saying I've watched hours and hours of offensive line tape. Instead, I will merely present the five young men who have been the most talked-about in recent months.
1. Peter Skoronski – Guard/Tackle – Northwestern – 6-4/315 pounds
Even though he started all 33 college games played at left tackle, the rock-solid Peter Skoronski may be forced inside to play guard in the NFL due to having shorter-than-ideal arms. But the talk of such a move is not de-valuing a player who should hear his name called in the first half of round one and very likely in the top 10. Skoronski – who gave up just one sack in 12 games in 2022 – is being compared to Dallas Cowboys perennial Pro Bowler Zack Martin and will be a very safe selection.
2. Paris Johnson Jr. – Tackle – Ohio State – 6-6/313 pounds
Scouts feel that Paris Johnson Jr. has the ideal frame and temperament to succeed at left tackle in the NFL. He has a nasty streak in the run game and is long and athletic enough to thrive on the edge once he gets up to speed with the professional level. Johnson played 31 games (26 starts) over three seasons at Ohio State, rising to the position of full-time starter over the last two years. His cleanest campaign was in 2021 when he failed to yield a sack on 443 pass blocks.
3. Broderick Jones – Tackle – Georgia – 6-4/310 pounds
Despite playing the fewest number of snaps of the elite college prospects in this class, Broderick Jones is attracting great interest due to his "movement skills, raw power and finishing violence." He will be a first-round pick when the NFL Draft gets underway in Kansas City. Jones played three seasons in college but was not a full-time starter until 2022. During Georgia's national championship-winning campaign, Jones did not allow a sack on 449 pass blocks. Comparisons to 2022 first-rounder Ikem Ekonwu are encouraging.
4. Darnell Wright – Tackle – Tennessee – 6-5/342 pounds
While other linemen in the top five will wow scouts more on an athletic level, Darnell Wright is a plug-and-play tackle who should start from day one in the NFL. He is a massive and powerful prospect who dominates defenders when he gets his hands on them and he will fit well on the right side of an offensive line. Wright also boasts tremendous experience, starting 42 of 47 games over four years. In 2022, Wright did not concede a sack on 461 pass block snaps with the Vols.
5. O'Cyrus Torrence – Guard – Florida – 6-4/337 pounds
A massive figure for a guard, O'Cyrus Torrence has the potential to be a day one starter in the NFL. Torrence brings tremendous experience to the next level, playing in 48 games and starting 47 over four seasons (three at Louisiana and 2022 at Florida). Over that period, Torrence did not allow a sack over 1,427 pass block snaps and he earned first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC honours in 2022. While he will start NFL life as a strong run blocker, Torrence will also be a firm interior blocker.