Hub Arkush’s 2021 NFL draft positional preview: Interior offensive line

There is quality and depth in this year’s draft at the interior offensive line positions.

More than ever before though the big questions and puzzles are which tackles belong inside, which guards could make it as tackles and which guards and centers are better off at the other position?

Expect some surprises in the first two rounds due to the uncertainty of how to project so many of these kids, and assume some of our Day 3 kids will sneak into the back of the third round.

DAY 1 PROSPECTS

1. Landon Dickerson, Alabama (6-6, 333, Redshirt Senior)

After starting at Florida State and then transferring to Alabama, Dickerson has flashed enough intangibles to suggest he could be the best center, guard or even tackle in this draft. The problem has been keeping him healthy and on the field long enough to determine his best position. He suffered a knee injury in the most recent SEC championship game that required surgery. If he’s healthy he can be special, but with so much unknown which team is going to take the risk and how high in the draft?

DAY 2 PROSPECTS TO WATCH

2. Wyatt Davis, Ohio St. (6-4, 310, Redshirt Junior)

Davis is a road grader in the run game. It will get him drafted high and give him a chance to play early in the NFL in spite of some technique work needed in pass protection. He might even add another five to 10 pounds in the weight room and has a very high ceiling at the next level.

3. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma (6-4, 302, Redshirt Junior)

Almost any center can play guard if he has to, but Humphrey is a pure center. It’s what he’ll be drafted to play and he should be a good one. Like so many of the great ones to come before him, he has a solid wrestling background, is a true tough guy and has the football savvy to make all the calls and lead an O-line, but he does have shorter arms for his size, a concern with all interior offensive line prospects.

4. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan (6-5, 326, Redshirt Sophomore)

Could be the toughest call this year in whether he’s a tackle or a guard and the real deal or just a guy. He was a right tackle in 18 games at Michigan, but that’s all he played before opting to leave early. The guard projection is mainly because of his short arms. He would have really benefited from another year in Ann Arbor and will be a developmental project wherever he lands.

5. Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin Whitewater (6-3, 320, Redshirt Junior)

It used to be a red flag but a number of FCS offensive linemen have made the leap to the NFL in recent years. His standout performances at the Senior Bowl pretty much sealed his Day 2 draft status, and if he performs in the NFL like he did in Mobile he could make a real impact as a pro.

6. Trey Smith, Tennessee (6-5 ½, 321, Senior)

Smith played left tackle as a freshman and sophomore, but serious health issues shortened his sophomore seasons. He switched inside to guard as a junior and senior, starting 23 of 24 games. He is as high a character young man as you’re going to find and will be a blessing in any locker room. His position versatility will be valued, but he’s not a special athlete and will need improved techniques and time to learn.

7. Deonte Brown, Alabama (6-3, 344, Redshirt Senior)

Another ‘Bama stud, Brown is fascinating because he’s a guard in a nose tackle’s body and at times he plays like one. You don’t want to get in a one-on-one brawl with him, but speed and athleticism can be his kryptonite. Some teams will want to know more about a suspension from the NCAA that cost him six games across the ’18 and ’19 seasons.

8. Josh Meyers, Ohio St. (6-5, 310, Redshirt Junior)

Meyers switched from guard to center in 2019 and has started all 21 Buckeyes games since. He has pretty much everything you look for in a starting center including the mass and strength to handle two-gapping nose tackles and anchor tackles lining up on his head or shoulders.

9. Aaron Banks, Notre Dame (6-5, 325, Senior)

The heir to All Pro Quenton Nelson’s spot on the Irish front, Banks started the last 25 games for Notre Dame. We rank him a bit lower than most because he’ll look great in a power run game but pass protection may be a concern.

DAY 3 PROSPECTS TO WATCH

10. Jackson Carman, Clemson (6-5, 317, Junior)

Carman was a left tackle all three of his seasons at Clemson including starting their last 27 games. He’s projected at guard here again because of very short arms for his size, and because his pass pro has never quite matched his run blocking.

11. Ben Cleveland, Georgia (6-6, 343, Redshirt Senior)

A mountain of a man, Cleveland was a right guard all four years at Clemson but not the full-time starter until last season. He does have some technique and nice traits to go with his great size, but you wouldn’t call him an athlete. He will have to explain being academically ineligible for the Sugar Bowl as a junior.

12. Kendrick Green, Illinois (6-2, 305, Redshirt Junior)

Green has starting experience at both guard and center over the past three seasons, and while he lacks great natural size, his outstanding quickness should make him attractive outside zone-read run games.

13. David Moore, Grambling St. (6-2, 330, Senior)

This kid is intriguing due to his great temperament off the field but easy to see nasty streak on it and outstanding functional football power and strength. He also has nice long arms for his frame. He’s a Day 3 pick that could start for a long time in the league.

14. Jack Anderson, Texas Tech (6-5, 314, Redshirt Junior)

He had 38 starts at right guard and the only serious black mark on his checklist is he doesn’t appear as strong as you’d expect for a man his size, occasionally getting manhandled by bulkier power defenders.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media