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NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Offensive tackle

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 position group within that bunch could be the offensive tackles, with the best eight players all looking like top 50 picks. Here are how those eight shake out. Note: Some college tackles will be listed in the guard rankings article due to fit.

PREVIOUS POSITION RANKINGS: Quarterback | Wide receiver | Running back | Tight end.

Evan Neal, Alabama, 6’7”, 332 Pounds

What he does well: It is hard to find real holes in Evan Neal’s projection. Neal came into 2021 with two years starting under his belt at both tackle positions. Back in the fall, everyone was already on board with him being a future top ten pick. Neal came back lighter than he had in years prior however, and looked much quicker on the field as a result. Neal has a tremendous blend of size, agility, strength and technical polish. His experience is clear in his adeptness at the position and his physical gifts are clear in the way he manhandles talented opponents.

Where he 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 does not play to his size or strength, rare lapses for the three year starter.

Pro Comparison: Jordan Mailata

Ikem Ekwonu, NC State, 6’4”, 310 Pounds

What he does well: Ikem Ekwonu is just about as good an athlete can get at the tackle position. He has a great build with not much excess weight and an imposing wingspan. He moves extremely well on the field both laterally and downhill. He has a mean streak that is the best in class. Also notably a great locker room guy and high achiever in class.

Where he can improve: Ekwonu has a lot of room to grow in the way of being consistent and more refined. NFL defenders will not be so easily overpowered with just raw strength or athletic ability. Will need to be better at hand fighting, improving pad level and playing with a bit more control. There is no doubt that Ekwonu has every tool above and below the shoulders to be a game changing tackle.

Pro Comparison: Tristan Wirfs

Charles Cross, Mississippi State, 6’4”, 307 Pounds

What he does well: There is a reason the race for OT1 feels like a near three way tie. Neal, Ekwonu and Charles Cross are all likely to be top ten picks. Cross also has a tremendous combination of talent and skill. He is a tremendous athlete with great movement ability and playing strength. Cross also plays with a fierceness to bully opponents.

Where he can improve: Cross is relatively inexperienced and it can show in moments on the field. There are times he looks slow in-game because he does not quite know what to do. As he spends more time on the field and continues to get coached up, the game will certainly slow down for him.

Pro Comparison: Lane Johnson

Zion Johnson, Boston College, 6’2”, 312 Pounds

What he does well: Zion Johnson could play guard or tackle in the NFL, but his athleticism could be more valuable on the edges. He is shorter than the average tackle, but still has very good length and athleticism to thrive in space. He is a nasty, strong as hell blocker that thrives in the run game.

Where he can improve: Johnson has room to grow as a pass blocker, and his time moving back and forth between guard and tackle means he does not have the experience at tackle as 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 he does well: As a former tight end, Bernhard Raimann brings plenty to the table in terms of athletic ability and raw talent. Despite being new to football and newer to tackle, Raimann is a pretty impressive technician.

Where he can improve: Playing tackle takes more than athletic ability and technique. It also requires instincts and a special kind of demeanor. More refined pass rushers will take advantage of Raimann with counters and the tall, lean tackle can be moved off his spot with power. As he gets more time at the position, Raimann will need to continue developing his feel for the game, as well as get stronger and meaner.

Pro Comparison: Eric Fisher

Daniel Faalele, Minnesota, 6’8”, 384 Pounds

What he does well: Daniel Faalele carries around 384 pounds better than basically anyone should. He is of immense size and used it week in and week out to completely erase defenders from the equation as a run blocker and pass protector. His size, strength and downhill movement are enough to have NFL teams interested.

Where he 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 play a bit lighter.

Pro Comparison: Trent Brown

Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State, 6’5”, 316 Pounds

What he does well: Nicholas Petit-Frere has an ideal size and athleticism combination for the left tackle position. He is a smooth athlete who looks comfortable in his pass sets and is an adept technician. His awareness and movement ability also help him get downfield in the run game.

Where he can improve: Petit-Frere had trouble with powerful defenders at the college level. He needs to improve his anchoring and play with a bit more fire to avoid getting bullied by strength in the NFL.

Pro Comparison: Taylor Moton

Trevor Penning, Norther Iowa, 6’7”, 325 Pounds

What he does well: You can make a highlight reel of Trevor Penning’s nastiest blocks. He has a fire in him that he takes out on any defender lined up across from him. Pair that with fantastic athletic ability and great size and it is easy to see why so many have him projected as a first round pick.

Where he can improve: Penning has a lot of room to grow in terms of his feel for the game and technical consistency. Highlight reels are great, but Penning plays a bit out of control and will need to be reined in against NFL competition. He is absolutely talented, but there is much work to be done before he can be a dependable tackle.

Pro Comparison: Greg Robinson

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