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My favorite player in the draft might be projected as a fourth-rounder, but he’s going to produce like a Day 1 pick.

We are officially one week away from the NFL Draft. We’ve reviewed the two position groups that are widely considered the deepest in the class.

This wide receiver group has something for everybody. Seeing as many as four or five stars produced would not be surprising. I’m particularly bullish on two wideouts and could see the San Francisco 49ers gravitating toward a particular Texas and Central Florida receiver.

To be frank, the offensive tackle class is a cut above. It’s a collection of players who are not just starters with potential but also possess a polished skill set. Their youth should not be mistaken for rawness.

Today, we examine another position group with considerable talent: the interior offensive line class. By my estimation, 14 players will threaten to either start or contribute on Day 1.

Before we get to those prospects, let’s recap not only what I look for but traits that I value:

Staying inside out of the defender

The ability to redirect/shift your weight while staying on balance

Getting your second foot in the ground quickly

Timing your “punch” when the defender shoots their hands

The location of your “punch”

Winning in various ways with your hands, i.e., inside hand, independent hand usage, “Hamilton technique,” etc.

Passing off games in pass protection and looking for work when you’re uncovered

There were players omitted from the tackle group who will be listed as guards. That’s not to say they won’t or can’t play tackle in the NFL, but I view them as better players if they were to kick inside.

Many of these players have played several positions, which is why there’s a blanket “interior line” group. Let’s get to it already.

Interior offensive lineman

Tier 4 – Will not just make a roster but be active on game day

14) Isaiah Adams, Illinois – 6’5, 315 pounds
13) Dominick Puni, Kansas – 6’5 1/8, 313 pounds
12) Christian Mahogany, Boston College – 6’3 3/8, 314 pounds

Adams is a sixth-year senior who started ten games at right tackle in 2023 and two at left guard. He started 12 games at left guard for the Fighting Illini in 2022. Hand size is critical, and Adams is in the second percentile. I don’t think he can hang at tackle in the NFL. It might not be fair to hold this game against him, but Penn State is full of NFL-caliber athletes, and Adams was getting beat left and right in that game. He was late to react to just about everything.

At guard, he looked far more comfortable, where his lack of athleticism wasn’t as big of an issue. His experience showed in pass protection, and his power was apparent in the run game. But athleticism matters in athletics, which is why I believe he’s a backup.

Puni, another sixth-year senior, is quite the athlete. Per Sports Info Solutions, he had the highest yards before contact per attempt among all guards. However, he’s better against the pass.

My biggest drawback was seeing what happens when he goes against defenders with longer arms. For being a plus athlete, his range was not what you’d expect. Add that he’s been in college since 2018, and you conclude there’s little upside.

Through no fault of their own, you’ll notice a theme here, as this tier lacks ideal measurables. In Mahogany’s case, being in the 29th percentile in height is difficult to ignore.

His athletic testing numbers — 93rd percentile in the vertical and 86th in the broad jump — pop up when working in tandem on blocks. He can generate movement with the best of them. Whether it’s down-blocking or pulling, Mahogany can de-cleat you. You can’t teach his mentality.

This may be the one player I regret having too low, but he’s 24, and there are too many exposures of him taking false steps or being late with his hands. I worry that those plays that weren’t lost in college will have a different outcome at the next level.

Tier 3 – It’s not always pretty, but it doesn’t have to be

11) Zak Zinter, Michigan – 6’5 7/8, 309 pounds
10) Beaux Limmer, Arkansas – 6’4 5/8, 302 pounds
9) Hunter Nourzad, Penn St. – 6’3 1/8, 317 pounds

You won’t confuse Zinter with a graceful athlete. At times, it looks like he’s moving in slow motion. Zinter is also on the smaller side from a weight standpoint. But if you’re looking for a lineman who does not get beat, Zinter is your guy.

The four-year junior has 42 starts at right guard and was an All-American in 2023. He’ll likely land somewhere late Day 2 or early Day 3, partially because he suffered a broken tibia and fibula in the final game of the season. But his strength and hand usage are first-round traits. Those will allow him to start and play in the NFL for a long time despite being a marginal athlete. Zinter can offset his lack of athleticism with proper footwork.

Limmer, like most centers, has short arms and small hands. But he moves as well as any player we’ll mention today. He jumped 36 1/2 inches in the vertical, which is impressive for any position, let alone a 300-pounder. You can see that explosiveness in the film, as he has plays where he drives a linebacker out of the screen. He also played right guard at Arkansas, giving him positional versatility.

Despite being a superb athlete, Limmer does not take great angles on screens or at the second level, causing him to whiff. He’s also inconsistent with his hand placement, so he’s in this tier.

Penn State will have three offensive linemen drafted. Nourzad was the Nittany Lions center. The sixth-year senior gets the benefit of the doubt from me thanks to noticeably long arms and bigger hands.

I was pleasantly surprised by Nourzad’s agility and awareness. He looks comfortable on the move, locked onto smaller defenders in space, and held up when bigger defensive tackles attempted to walk him back into the quarterback.

He can get stuck on the first block and miss the second level. There are also occasions where he gets stuck onto the looper too long, but he’s a starter in the NFL who can sustain a block and cut off a player who is shaded a gap over. Consider me a fan.

Tier 2 – Every day, a star is born

8) Christian Haynes, UConn – 6’2 3/4, 317 pounds
7) Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon – 6’3 3/8, 238 pounds
6) Cooper Beebe, Kansas State – 6’3 1/4, 322 pounds
5) Tanor Bortolini, Wisconsin – 6’4 1/4, 303 pounds

Haynes is in the 9th percentile for height, and his hand size is in the second percentile. He’s also a sixth-year senior. Yet, he’s in Tier 2? Haynes is an easy-mover who does not make many mistakes and does seemingly everything adequate to above average.

Powers-Johnson is a popular prospect, and many believe he will go as high as the first round. However, the “it” factor wasn’t there for me. He will start, but something is missing, and I can’t put my finger on it. He’s a bad player by any means, but nothing is extraordinary about his game to select him in the first round.

If you put two penne noodles on each side of a soup can, you’d have Beebe. He’s the definition of squatty, and I’m not sure his arms go past his waist. But my goodness, he packs a punch in his hands.

Beebe always seems to find the correct route to the second level for a player with clunky feet and doesn’t possess the most remarkable balance. He has tremendous awareness and is outstanding in pass protection. Beebe is the real deal, and if he had better measurables, he would be a top-15 pick. He has 49 career starts, with 28 at left guard, but he’s also played both tackle spots. Beebe has been one of the best college football players during the past two seasons, and there’s little reason to think that’ll change in the NFL.

When Rohan wrote about Bortolini, I smiled like a father watching his son score his first goal. My love for Adonai Mitchell is a notch below my infatuation for Bortolini. This is my favorite player in the draft. We have ourselves an elite athlete, as Tanor tested in the 96th percentile in the 40-yard dash, the 88th percentile in the vertical jump, and the 93rd percentile in the broad jump.

Why he’s not in Tier 1: Bortolini doesn’t always bring his hips with him, which causes him to fall off the block. First-rounders have jarring power when they strike you. Plus, like many centers, you aren’t afforded the same margin for error with T-Rex arms. It’s not their fault, but that will inevitably come up three or four times a game against bigger, longer defenders.

Why he’s the next Jason Kelce:

No. 51 is projected to go in the top 50 and is known as one of the better athletes at defensive tackle. He won two reps out of maybe 20 against Bortolini. I put more weight on reps against NFL-quality players, and Bortolini won that fight 10-7 on the scorecard.

We’re looking for traits, and in two games, we see Bortolini (the center) reach a defensive tackle a gap over, show awareness, anchor and reset his hands multiple times to hold up against a bull rush, redirect his weight and mirror against an inside counter, look for work while he’s uncovered, show awareness against the blitz, and routinely throw haymakers.

This player is projected to go in the early fourth round. I have him closer to the 25-30 range. I’m willing to be wrong about him. Gimme.

Tier 1 – The Fantastic Four

4) Zach Frazier, West Virginia – 6/2 5/8, 313 pounds
3) Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State – 6’5 3/4, 324 pounds
3) Graham Barton, Duke – 6’5 3/8, 313 pounds
1) Troy Fautanu, Washington – 6’3 3/4, 317 pounds

These four are annoyingly good at football. I’d expect Frazier to fall to the middle to the latter part of the second round, but there’s no way he’s outside the top 50 in this draft. He’s a winner; you can see his wrestling background on a snap-by-snap basis. Speed might give Frazier trouble in the NFL, but there aren’t many gripes about his game.

I had the name on the tip of my tongue watching Fuaga. Who is a linear/explosive athlete who looks athletic when he pulls but is far from spry? And when he makes minimal contact, you go flying? At times, he seems stiff, but he consistently gets the job done, and you can eliminate some of his issues by moving him inside at guard.

Mike Iupati.

Barton’s weight may be the only thing preventing him from being a tackle in the NFL. The fun part about watching these players is not having any preconceived notions. Duke’s left tackle is a tough son of a gun who wants to put you in the dirt on every play. You have to cycle through dozens of plays for a bad rep. Some inconsistencies with his hands and underwhelming arm length will increase his value at guard.

If there are ten players better than Fautanu in this draft, I have yet to find them. His range and depth in his pass sets look more like a tight end. I’m not going to pretend like there aren’t flaws, but it feels nitpicky to talk about them, as most of Fautanu’s reps look like he’s bored to death. Don’t be fooled by the conference he played in. His intent in the run game is apparent, as he possesses plenty of power to displace defenders.

It’d be a grave mistake if Fautanu falls past pick No. 15.

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