Football is the most physically beautiful game of this era and the epitome of this physical beauty is the offensive line. When thinking of the offensive line, it does not take long to think of the pulling guards of the Packer Sweep from the Vince Lombardi era. Caked in mud, trudging towards the next defender to block on the way to the end zone, this has come to symbolize what football is all about. Football is about teamwork and camaraderie as well as many, many collisions. Unfortunately, the offensive line almost never gets recognized for their contributions to the game. Too often people focus on the playmakers on offense such as the quarterback and running back. This is a shame because without the offensive line football would lose much of its beauty. A beauty that can be found in the NFL draft.
The offensive line is an often overlooked position to draft. What people fail to realize is that NFL players only have a shelf life of three and a half years. Due to this statistic, free agency is very touch-and-go. Not every player pans out. If a team were to draft an offensive lineman, he could grow into their system and, hopefully, into an impact player. While this will undoubtedly come with growing pains, the results can be beneficial. The following offensive linemen are the cream of the crop in the 2018 NFL Draft. While they may not be listed at the position they played in college, they are listed at the position they fit best in the NFL. Any one of these men would make a great addition to an NFL offensive line.
Left Tackle: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, 6’8” 312 lbs.
Built like a basketball center, McGlinchey needs to add mass to excel in the running game. He is 6’8” 312 lbs. with good footwork and long arms. Those qualities help in pass protection as defenders need to get close to offensive linemen to get out of their blocks. He has a sound pass-blocking technique and has the ability to bend his knees. This also helps in pass protection as the low-man usually has the best angle at either getting to or protecting the quarterback. It is all about leverage. He tends to lack aggression in run blocking especially when called to trap a defender. A team who needs an established pass protector and does not like to run to the left side of the field will do well in picking McGlinchey in the draft.
Left Guard: Isaiah Wynn, Georgia, 6’2” 300 lbs.
One of the leading men of a great running game, Wynn can make a difference in the trenches. Although small, 6’2” 300 lbs., he has proven mighty as a run blocker. His technique is sound and he has proven to be a quick study in other positions, having played both left tackle and left guard in college. Due to his experience at left tackle, in which he was named second-team All American, he can be an excellent pass protector at guard. His hands are vice grips when he is pass blocking. Remember, there is holding on every play but the great pass protectors are the ones who hold inside the shoulders. This way the referees can’t see if there is holding or not. Wynn is a great example of this kind of technique. He has a low center of gravity and has the ability to get to the second level of the defense. Versatility is a key ingredient in a guard and Wynn is a perfect example.
Center: Billy Price, Ohio State, 6’4” 314 lbs.
This Ohio State product is a great leader on the offensive line. With the Buckeyes in a no-huddle offense, it is his job to ensure that everyone on the line is on the same page and he has to do it fast. Unlike many no-huddle offenses, Ohio State loves its running backs and has been a rushing machine over the past couple of seasons. At 6’4” 314 lbs., Price has great size for the NFL. He should have no trouble adjusting to a spread offense at the professional level. He is a relentless pass protector. The only problem with his pass protection is his inconsistency in keeping his knees bent. While he never lets defenders beat him in the passing game, he does allow them to dictate his center of gravity. Ohio State tried to use him as a pulling center which is rare. Typically centers are not called to pull from their original spot to one side of the field or the other. He noticeably struggled with this. While he tried and failed at pulling, this should not hurt his draft stock if a team were to draft him as a center since this position usually does not pull. He is a good all-around center who can make an immediate impact on a center-needy team.
Right Guard: Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame, 6’5” 329 lbs.
Possibly the best offensive line prospect in the draft, Nelson is best known for his power. He is 6’5” 329 lbs. and would be a great addition to a team lacking a running game. He uses his massive frame beautifully but it has proven to be a hindrance in the passing game. He tends to be a bit lazy with his hands and routinely has them on the shoulders of opponents. While he got away with that in college, there is no way that he will get the same results in the NFL. Referees are pretty strict about that at the professional level and he will undoubtedly be called for holding on many occasions. He also tends to be less physical in pass protection. Too often he is seen being bullied by smaller defenders while pass blocking. He needs to be more physical and develop better technique in pass blocking if he is to excel in the NFL. Aside from all the negatives, he is a top-10 talent as a run blocker.
Right Tackle: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma, 6’8” 360 lbs.
At first glance, Brown is thought to be the perfect right tackle. He has size, 6’8” 360 lbs., and has a bit of a mean streak. Ironically, he played left tackle for a pass-happy offense but it should not take that much effort to coach him in the intricacies of playing right tackle. The only downside is that he is not always quick off the ball. Due to this fact, he can be exposed against an elite pass rusher coming off the edge of the line. This might be because of his weight. He also tends to rely mostly on his huge frame rather than technique in the running game. While he got away with that in college, he can be exposed in the NFL against an elite run stopper.
Each of these men possesses valuable traits needed in an elite offensive lineman. They each come from a wide range of offenses which can help them at the professional level. Some are born leaders while others tend to let their play speak for itself. Any NFL team needing talent at the offensive line should look at this list. While each player has things they need to work on, their talent and physical attributes alone make them valuable for a team searching for an offensive identity. Championships are won in the trenches and each of these players has the ability to bring their team a Super Bowl title. They just need a chance.