This past draft saw just one interior offensive lineman go in the first round, in guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. That should change with the upcoming 2022 draft, as several players who have the talent are selected very high in the draft at both guard and center. Here are the five interior offensive linemen who could hear their name called in the first round next April (alphabetical order):
The Aggies are moving Green outside to left tackle for the upcoming season, which could end up being his home for the long term. With that being said, there is a chance teams want him to kick back inside, where Green has a chance to be a perennial pro bowler. His upside is that of Quenton Nelson, and there is no reason he can’t be viewed in a similar light. His pass blocking is outstanding for such a young player, and he consistently wins the leverage battle in the run game. His technique is very impressive, which allows him to have excellent balance and finish plays. No matter where teams want to play him at the next level, Green is a 1st round talent and a blue-chip prospect.
The Fighting Irish had a historically good offensive line in 2020, which resulted in them sending four players to the NFL. Patterson, the lone returner, might be the best of the bunch. His tape at center over the past two seasons has been fantastic, yet there is a good chance he moves to guard because of personnel. He’ll be able to show teams that he has the flexibility to play either spot. It is easy to see that Patterson has the highest football IQ of any player on the field when you turn on the film. He is excellent at getting to the second level and attaching to defenders, and he has a great understanding of his blocking assignments. Patterson is also an outstanding athlete, which has helped him develop into one of the best pass protectors in college football. He hasn’t given up a sack in his two years as a starter. If a team is looking for a plug-and-play starter for over a decade, Patterson is a player to target in the first round.
The Hokies offensive line garnered much attention last season, with first-round pick Christian Darrisaw at left tackle. His running mate at left guard has that same kind of ability. It starts with Smith’s playstyle. He consistently put players in the dirt and is a textbook finisher. Smith, a high school tight end, has great athleticism to get to the second level or pull in the run game. He created several gaps for running back Khalil Herbert to run through last season. What stands out with Smith in pass protection is his patience. He trusts his play strength and movement skills to consistently stay in front of defenders. There is still much-untapped potential with Smith. He is the best returning offensive lineman in the ACC, but if he can take another jump next season, Smith has the talent to be an exceptional offensive guard prospect.
Arguably the most underrated player in the nation, Stromberg dominated against SEC competition last season. He improved over the course of the season, displaying unbelievable explosiveness and great movement skills. He is excellent in both the run game and as a pass protector. There were very few weaknesses in his game, and Stromberg always did his job, something many younger offensive linemen struggle with, especially in the SEC. Next season, Stromberg should be first-team All-Conference at center and potentially even an All-American. With his combination of experience, consistency and talent, there is no reason why Stromberg can’t be a first-round pick and maybe even drafted higher than former Arkansas center Frank Ragnow.
From the jump, it is easy to see that West is an incredible athlete on film. He is going to excel at either guard or center in a zone-blocking scheme. West does a fantastic job at the 2nd level and is excellent on the move. He has excellent flexibility, agility and quickness to counter defensive linemen. His power is very underrated, as he wins with technique and leverage. Going into his junior season, West is a two-year starter and has been very good throughout his career. He can play either guard spot or center and will excel at any position on the interior. He’ll have an easy transition to the next level in a zone scheme and should be a day one starter, with the talent to develop into one of the top interior offensive linemen in the NFL.