The wealth of the 2022 NFL Draft class is in the trenches…on both sides of the ball. This is a true “meat and potatoes” draft that will help a ton of NFL teams rebuild their lines. The best group of positions within this group might be offensive tackles, with the top eight players all looking like the top 50 picks. Here’s how these eight get rid of. Note: Some college tackles will be listed in the guard rankings article due to their adjustment.
CLASSIFICATION OF PREVIOUS POSITIONS: Strategist | wide receiver | Return | tight end.
Evan Neal, Alabama, 6’7″, 332 pounds
What it does well: It’s hard to find real holes in Evan Neal’s projection. Neal entered 2021 with two years under his belt in both tackle positions. In the fall, everyone was already in agreement with him as the future top ten. However, Neal came back lighter than he had in previous years and therefore looked much faster on the pitch. Neal has a terrific mix of size, agility, strength and technical finishing. His experience is clear in his skill at the post and his physical gifts are clear in the way he manhandles talented opponents.
Where it can improve: If you were to stretch and point out some areas that can be improved, it all comes down to consistency for Neal. He has brief moments where he doesn’t play to his size or strength, rare lapses for the three-year-old starter.
Pro comparison: Jordan Mailata
Ikem Ekwonu, NC status6’4″, 310 pounds
What it does well: Ikem Ekwonu is about as good as an athlete can be in a tackle position. He has a good build with little excess weight and an imposing wingspan. It moves extremely well over the terrain both laterally and downhill. It has an average streak which is best in class. Also notably a great locker room guy and high performer in class.
Where it can improve: Ekwonu has plenty of room for improvement to be consistent and more refined. NFL defenders won’t be so easily overpowered with just brute force or athletic ability. It will be necessary to be better in the manual fights, to improve the level of the pads and to play with a little more control. There’s no doubt that Ekwonu has all the tools above and below the shoulders to be a game-changing tackle.
Pro comparison: Tristan Wirfs
Charles Cross, Mississippi State6’4″, 307 pounds
What it does well: There’s a reason the race for OT1 feels like a three-way tie. Neal, Ekwonu and Charles Cross are all likely to be among the top ten picks. Cross also possesses a formidable combination of talent and skill. He is a formidable athlete with great movement ability and playing strength. Cross also plays with a ferocity to intimidate his opponents.
Where it can improve: Cross is relatively inexperienced and it can be seen in moments on the pitch. There are times when he looks slow in the game because he’s not quite sure what to do. As he spends more time on the pitch and continues to train, the game is definitely going to slow down for him.
Pro comparison: Lane Johnson
Zion Johnson, Boston College, 6’2″, 312 lbs
What it does well: Zion Johnson could play guard or tackle in the NFL, but his athleticism might be more valuable around the edges. He is shorter than the average tackle, but still has very good length and athleticism to thrive in space. He’s a nasty, strong-as-hell blocker that thrives in the running game.
Where it can improve: Johnson has room to grow as a pass blocker, and his back-and-forth time between guard and tackle means he doesn’t have the tackling experience like some of his peers. That being said, his physical gifts and demeanor are more than enough to play well wherever he lines up.
Pro comparison: Joel Bitonio
Bernhard Raimann, central Michigan, 6’6″, 305 pounds
What it does well: As a former tight end, Bernhard Raimann brings a lot to the table in terms of athletic ability and raw talent. Although new to football and newer to tackle, Raimann is quite an impressive technician.
Where it can improve: Playing tackle takes more than athletic ability and technique. It also requires special instincts and behavior. More refined passing throwers will take advantage of Raimann with counters and the tall, lean tackle can be moved out of place with power. As he spends more time in this position, Raimann will need to continue to develop his sense of the game, as well as getting stronger and meaner.
Pro comparison: Eric Fisher
Daniel Faalele, Minnesota, 6’8″, 384 lbs.
What it does well: Daniel Faalele carries about 384 pounds better than anyone. He is immensely tall and has used it week after week to completely erase defenders from the equation as a run blocker and pass protector. His size, strength, and downhill movement are enough to interest NFL teams.
Where it can improve: Faalele has only been playing competitive football for five years, so there is room to improve everywhere in terms of technical ability. Some teams might also prefer Faalele to play a bit lighter.
Pro comparison: Trent Brown
Nicolas Petit-Frère, ohio state6’5″, 316 pounds
What it does well: Nicholas Petit-Frère has an ideal combination of size and athleticism for the left tackle position. He’s a fluid athlete who looks comfortable in his passing streaks and is a skilled technician. His awareness and ability to move also help him get down in the running game.
Where it can improve: Petit-Frère has struggled with powerful defenders at the collegiate level. He needs to improve his grounding and play with a little more fire to avoid getting bullied by force in the NFL.
Pro comparison: Taylor Moton
Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa, 6’7″, 325 lbs.
What it does well: You can make a highlight reel of Trevor Penning’s meanest blocks. He has a fire in him that he knocks down any defender lined up in front of him. Couple that with fantastic athletic ability and great height and it’s easy to see why so many people pitched him as a first-round pick.
Where it can improve: Penning has a lot of room for improvement in terms of sense of play and technical consistency. Highlight rolls are great, but Penning is playing a little out of control and will need to be mastered against NFL competition. He’s absolutely talented, but there’s a lot of work to do before he can be a reliable tackler.
Pro comparison: Greg Robinson