For a long time, the interior of the O-line was a position that was neglected by a lot of NFL teams in the draft. Recently, however, we have seen an uptick of interior O-lineman being taken in the first round of the draft. In 2018 we saw four interior linemen go in the first 35 picks of the draft including three first rounders. Quenton Nelson went 6th to the Colts, Billy Price went 20th to the Bengals, Frank Ragnow went 21st to the Lions, and Will Hernandez went 34th to the Giants. In 2019, we saw Chris Lindstrom get taken 14th overall by the Atlanta Falcons.
I remind you all of this because the interior of the offensive line is just as important as the offensive tackles. These are the people who need to block the likes of Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, and Geno Atkins.
Sometimes I like to divide centers from guards but the positions are becoming more and more blurred with so many players being able to play both guard spots and center. This year’s class has some really intriguing interior players so let’s get to it.
As always any comments and questions feel free to reach out on Twitter @DanteCollinelli.
Tyler Biadasz, Junior, Wisconsin
Wisconsin just seems to have an assembly line of NFL offensive lineman every single season. Last year Biadasz was one of four Wisconsin O-linemen who could have entered the 2019 draft, but he chose to go back to school for his Junior season. Due to his movement skills, elite anchor, and fantastic mirroring skills Biadasz was a top 25 player for me until he made the choice to go back to school. I found out, on Twitter, recently that the NFL draft decision committee gave Biadasz a “Return to School” grade, which is outrageous. I don’t think they saw the same tape that I did because he would have been a first-round pick last year. Biadasz uses leverage and leg drive to be a people mover in the run game and does a great job pulling out into space to be the lead blocker on running plays. I’m interested to see how Biadasz handles having so many new offensive linemen around him this season. Continuity is big deal for a lineman, so Biadasz will have a lot of adapting to do this season.
Creed Humphrey, RS Sophomore, Oklahoma
Oklahoma had one of the best offenses in the entire country which had plenty to do with their talent at all the skill positions but their offensive line didn’t get enough credit. Dru Samia, Ben Powers, and Bobby Evans were all drafted in 2019. With that said, Humphrey might be the best of the group. He does a great job moving to the second level and finishing linebackers while having a great anchor in the passing game. He does a great job sliding his feet and looking to help out his fellow guards with the more troublesome interior defenders. Humphrey is inexperienced so he could use some more work identifying twists and stunts up front. He’s a prospect that I will be looking for to take a huge jump in play this season despite having a lot of new faces around him. All of the physical tools are there for him to be a first-round pick, so if he continues to build on a strong freshman season look for Humphrey to shoot up boards around draft season.
Shane Lemieux, Senior, Oregon
The Oregon offensive line has 5 players that will at least get a look from NFL teams, and two of them will appear on this list (Spoiler Alert). Lemieux is up first for me, and I know that may be an unpopular opinion. Lemieux comes in third for me because I just love his style of play up front. I’m a sucker for guards that are absolute bulldogs in the run game and have that killer mentality up front. Will Hernandez ended up being a top 20 player for me in 2018, and I see a lot of the same style when it comes to Lemieux. The senior guard does a great job using leverage, hand usage, and leg drive to move people in the running game. I saw him finish so many people into the ground on tape which really gets my blood pumping. In the passing game, I think Lemieux has a good enough anchor to hold up against some of the bigger DTs in the NFL. Lemieux struggles a bit in space and isn’t a great climber to the second level which limits his upside a good bit. If Lemieux can improve his pass blocking technique and prove to be a better player in space then he can be the first true “guard” off the board in April.
Jake Hanson, Senior, Oregon
Here is the other Oregon player that I promised to be on the list. Hanson is widely considered to be the best of the Oregon offensive lineman by the draft community, and I like him a good bit. If Lemieux is considered to be the hammer of the Oregon line then I would call Hanson the scalpel. He’s a great mover in space and looks to have some great burst out of his stance when asked to be the lead blocker on outside concepts. Hanson has good technique in the passing game using his powerful hands to stun defenders in there tracks while using his anchor to just absorb power rushers. I wish Hanson took a little more after Lemieux when it comes to the running game. He’s not bad in the running game by any extent, but I just wish he finished guys a little more often instead of just riding them. Hanson has the highest ceiling of the Oregon O-line, so I’m excited to see what he does this season in order to build on an already strong resume.
Matt Hennessey, Senior, Temple
Y’all thought I wasn’t gonna be a homer at least once on these prospect previews? While there may be some prospects from more prestigious schools Hennessey provides a certain level of safety as a prospect that others don’t. If you follow Pro Football Focus on Twitter then you have probably seen that Hennessey grades out pretty well in almost every category. On tape, I saw a smart player who used angles and leverage to create running lanes for his backs. He knew when to disengage and get to the second level in order to seal off linebackers. I thought he did a good job at handling twists and stunts up front. In the passing game, I liked Hennesey’s anchor and ability to always get the job done. Hennessey is a little limited as an athlete and didn’t show the greatest burst or movement skills in space. Outside of that, it is quite hard to find a real weakness in Hennessey’s game because he is just so solid. Temple will be in a different offensive scheme this season, so I’m excited to see if Hennessey can continue to be such a solid blocker in the middle of the line.
Number 6: Alex Leatherwood, Junior, Alabama
Number 7: Ben Bredson, Senior, Michigan
Number 8: Nick Harris, Senior, Washington
Number 9: Tommy Kreamer, Senior, Notre Dame
Number 10: Darryl Williams, Senior, Mississippi State
Number 11: Tremayne Anchrum, Senior, Clemson
Number 12: John Simpson, Senior, Clemson
Number 13: Logan Stenburgh, Senior, Kentucky
Players I need to watch still:
Number 1: Cohl Cabral, Senior, Arizona State
Number 2: Zach Shackleford, Senior, Texas
Number 3: Josh Knipel, Senior, Iowa State
Number 4: Kenny Cooper, Senior, Georgia Tech
Number 5: Joe Runyan, Fifth Year Senior, Michigan