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 tackles.
Charles Cross, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Cross was the number one prospect in the state of Mississippi and decided to stay in state to play for the Bulldogs. He played in three games as a freshman and then redshirted. As a redshirt freshman, Cross took over the starting job at left tackle for Mike Leach. He was named Freshman All-SEC for his play and is now heading into his redshirt sophomore season.
His 6-foot-5 and 305-pound frame, gives him good enough size to compete at tackle at the NFL level. While he only started in 2020, Cross will end up being one of the most experienced linemen in pass blocking reps when the 2022 NFL Draft comes around. He has good footwork and athleticism to be able to stay in front of athletic pass rushers. In Leach’s offense, Cross will not be the most experienced run blocker. He needs to show he can consistently sustain blocks in the running game when given the opportunity to help raise his stock.
Thayer Munford, Ohio State Buckeyes
Even though he played at two different high schools in two different cities, Munford decided to stay in the state to play for the Buckeyes. He was able to see the field as a freshman and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. In 2019, Munford was named second-team All-Big Ten. He continued to play well in 2020 and was named first-team All-Big Ten for the season. Over his career, he has blocked for players who are now in the NFL like Dwayne Haskins, J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields.
During his high school days, Munford struggled to keep off the weight, but he has done well at Ohio State and is now 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds. He has great strength and uses it well in the running game, as he clears pretty big holes on the left side of the line. His strength also gives him a solid anchor in pass protection. Munford may not have elite athleticism, but he has plenty of experience and has held up at the college level.
Zion Nelson, Miami Hurricanes
While he wasn’t the most highly recruited tackle out of South Carolina, Nelson made his way to Miami to play for the Hurricanes. Despite not being heavily recruited, Nelson started as a true freshman. He took his lumps as a freshman, but greatly improved as a sophomore in 2020, especially down the stretch of the season. Now, he is one of the most interesting tackle prospects to watch in the 2021 college football season.
He has added a lot of weight to his frame at Miami and now stands 6-foot-5 and 316 pounds. Nelson has good movement abilities and solid body control. This helps him to stay in front of speedy pash rushers. He can get off balance at times and does need to work on his hand usage for the 2021 season. Teams will love his athleticism, but if he can improve his weaknesses in 2021, he could also be a first round pick in 2022.
Evan Neal, Alabama Crimson Tide
As a nationally-heralded recruit out of high, school, Neal decided to attend Alabama for college. Despite the Crimson Tide having a lot of talent on their offensive line, Neal started at left guard in 2019 and was named a Freshman All-American. For the 2020 season, Neal moved to right tackle and helped pave the way for Alabama to go undefeated and win the National Championship.
At 6-foot-7 and 360 pounds, Neal has tremendous measurements for an offensive tackle. Not only is he big, but he moves well for his size as well. He has specifically been good in pass protection, but can struggle against pass rushers who are agile. Neal needs to improve his run blocking, as he can lunge and get off balance too often. He will be switching over to left tackle for the 2021 season and could cement himself as the top tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
Rasheed Walker, Penn State Nittany Lions
Out of high school, Walker was a U.S. Army All-American who chose to go to Penn State. In his first year in Happy Valley, Walker played in four games before redshirting. He took over the left tackle spot as a redshirt freshman and performed well. His play improved in 2020, even with the team struggling, and was a Third Team All-Big Ten selection.
Walker is 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, which is the traditional size for a tackle in the NFL. He can clear space as a run blocker and has solid strength. While Walker is also solid as a pass blocker, there are times where he can give up the edge too easily. He’ll also need to work on improving his hand placement, as they can get too wide and even end up around the arms of a defender. Another season to get better in those areas though could give him the ability to hear his name called by the commissioner in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Other Draft Prospects
Nick Broecker, Ole Miss Rebels- A freshman All-American in 2019, Broecker needs to continue to progress, even if he doesn’t have the best measurables for the position.
Austin Deculus, LSU Tigers- The 2020 season was one to forget for LSU, but Deculus
Obinna Eze, TCU Horned Frogs- Eze has the athleticism and the size as a former basketball player, but is still very raw at the position.
Darian Kinnard, Kentucky Wildcats- Kentucky has built some great offensive lines over the last few seasons. Kinnard has been a solid right tackle for the Wildcats with a lot of experience under his belt.
Abraham Lucas, Washington State Cougars- Teams looking for an experienced pass blocker may look Lucas’ way in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Wanya Morris, Oklahoma- Morris started his career at Tennessee and left for Oklahoma with a few other players. The Sooners perenially have good offensive lines and Morris could be one of the best left tackles in the country.
Sean Rhyan, UCLA Bruins- Rhyan doesn’t get much publicity on the west coast, but he can play. A solid 2021 campaign could see him rise all the way to the top of the list.
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