The 2021 NFL Draft is over and teams are getting comfortable with their new draft picks. The next class of players is getting prepared now for another year of college football. Each position will be analyzed in the coming days. Here is the 2022 NFL Draft prospect watchlist: Offensive guards and centers.
Ikem Ekwonu, NC State Wolfpack
A two-way player and wrestler in high school, Ekwonu stayed in state to play for the Wolfpack. During his time at NC State, he has played both guard and tackle. His play as a freshman earned him Freshman All-American honors by several outlets. As a sophomore, Ekwonu was Second Team All-ACC, as the Wolfpack won eight games on the season.
He has solid size for a guard at 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds. Ekwonu has great strength, which helps him have a great anchor and be effective in run blocking. When NC State runs the ball, Ekwonu clears huge holes and often pancakes defenders. He isn’t the best in space and doesn’t have great reactive athleticism, which is why he projects as a guard at the next level. His physicality could see him rise up draft boards before the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kenyon Green, Texas A&M Aggies
Green went straight from being an Under Armour All-American to starting for his home-state Aggies. His play saw him get recognized as an SEC All-Freshman team selection. He moved from right guard to left guard for the 2020 season and was a First Team All-American by many different outlets. Green played well and so too did the Aggies, who won the Orange Bowl following the season.
At 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, Green will fit right in as an NFL guard. Green has shown great strength for the position and his hands pack a heavy punch. He has a great anchor in pass protection. Green has a nice burst at the start of the play. He has also shown the ability to get to the second level decently as well. If he plays well again during the 2021 season, Green will be the first interior lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Zion Johnson, Boston College Eagles
Johnson started his college football career at Davidson in the FCS. He was an all-conference player who decided to transfer to Boston College for the 2019 season. Johnson played both the 2019 and 2020 seasons for the Eagles and earned playing time at guard and tackle. He was an All-ACC Second Team selection in 2019 and was a Third Team selection in 2020.
He isn’t the biggest guard at 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, but Johnson has enough size to make it in the league. Johnson does lack the desired length for an offensive lineman and will need to add strength. He moves well for a guard and can stay in front of more athletic pass rushers. Johnson did not play well at tackle and if he plays at guard and plays well in 2021, he could be a good 2022 NFL Draft prospect.
Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa Hawkeyes
Linderbaum is an Iowa product, who was a U.S. Army All-American and decided to play fore the home-state Hawkeyes. He played one game in 2018 and then took over as the starting center in 2019. For his play in 2019, he was named an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. In the 2020 season, Linderbaum was a Rimington Trophy finalist, as the country’s top center and was a First Team All-American by several media outlets. His play helped Iowa go 6-2 for the season.
He is undersized for an NFL offensive lineman at 6-foot-3 and 283 pounds. Linderbaum maintains good leverage and can get to the second level pretty well. His athleticism is good, as he moves very well. He lacks strength for an interior lineman and can get outmuscled by bigger defensive linemen. Linderbaum also needs some technical improvements. Teams will likely not like his measurements, but Linderbaum has the physicality and athleticism of a good center.
Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Patterson was a part of one of the best offensive lines in college football at Notre Dame over the last few seasons. He appeared in three games as a freshman in 2018. The next season, he took over as the starting center and did not allow a sack. In 2020, his play helped Notre Dame make the College Football Playoff.
He is 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, which is solid enough size for the NFL. Patterson has good hand placement and his length helped him in pass protection on the interior. His lack of elite athleticism does limit him a little bit. He may be moving a position for the 2021 season and will have to recover from a foot injury, but he is one of the more experienced players in the class.
Other Draft Prospects
Ben Brown, Ole Miss Rebels- Ole Miss wil have a few NFL Draft prospects on their offensive line and Brown is one of the most experienced prospects in college football.
Ed Ingram, LSU Tigers- Ingram was arrested and sat out the 2018 season after impressing as a freshman. He started three games for the Tigers in 2019 and started in 2020. He has experience and has blocked for some pretty good teams.
Alec Lindstrom, Boston College Eagles- His older brother Chris was a first round pick in the NFL Draft, but Alec is no slouch himself. He and Johnson will be fun to watch on the offensive line together.
Cade Mays, Tennessee Volunteers– Most of the talent has transferred out of Tennessee, but Mays could play his way into being an early round pick. He started his career off at Georgia and played well in 2020 for the Volunteers.
Colin Newell, Iowa State Cyclones- Iowa State has prospects all over the field, which isn’t something that seemed reasonable just a few seasons ago. The Ames-product was First Team All-Big 12 last season.
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