Ranking the Top Offensive Linemen in the 2014 NFL Draft
The battle in the trenches is often overlooked by fans, but many games are won and lost on the offensive line. NFL teams will undoubtedly be looking at a number of these top prospects in May's draft.
Three of the first four picks in the 2013 draft were offensive tackles, and while that is very unlikely to happen again, there are still a few very good tackles available.
The interior line is also not quite as strong as last year, when two guards and a center were taken in the first round. There are a few top guards, but the center class is extremely weak.
There are also a few players who have played tackle in college but will be looked at as a guard for the NFL, and I tried to place them at the position I feel is most appropriate at this time.
Here are the top offensive linemen in the 2014 NFL draft.
1. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
2. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
3. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
4. Tyler Larsen, Utah State
5. Bryan Stork, Florida State
This is the weakest center class in a while, and it lost a potential high pick when Hroniss Grasu decided to go back to school. There's no Mike Pouncey in this class, and there isn't even a Travis Frederick, who was selected 30th overall in last year's draft.
Ikard is a fine prospect, and he could start right away for a number of teams. He's the only one that will definitely be taken in the top 100 picks. His combination of quickness and experience in a pro-style offense cements him in the top spot.
Richburg and Swanson make up the next tier, and a team could decide they need a center enough that they take one on day two. But there isn't much to get excited about here, as both players are a bit limited physically.
Larsen and Stork are average prospects at best, and will make rosters but likely will not push for starting positions any time soon.
1. David Yankey, Stanford
2. Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
3. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
4. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
5. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
6. Anthony Steen, Alabama
7. Dakota Dozier, Furman
Each of the top five guards are very talented and close in my rankings, but they are also extremely different players.
Yankey is a well-balanced player, Su'a-Filo is a superb athlete who's spent time at left tackle, Richardson is an enormous guy with surprising quickness, Jackson is a pure mauler and Martin is a short left tackle who projects better at guard.
They are all very good prospects, but none of them are in the Jonathan Cooper/Chance Warmack range. While they each bring something to the table, they just aren't dynamic or explosive enough to warrant top 10 consideration like Cooper and Warmack did.
As for the others, there is talent but nothing to get particularly excited about. Steen is a good but not great prospect whose experience at Alabama will endear him to teams, and Dozier is a tackle who was moved to guard at the Shrine Game and impressed everyone.
Dozier has the ability to move up some because he's new to the position but showed a real natural knack for it. If he continues to impress in the coming months, he could be a surprise high pick.
1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2. Greg Robinson, Auburn
3. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
4. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
5. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
6. James Hurst, North Carolina
7. Morgan Moses, Virginia
8. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
Matthews is the best tackle in this class, and he is just a hair behind Jadeveon Clowney as the top prospect in the entire draft, for me. He does everything well and is exactly who you would build if you were to create an ideal left tackle from scratch.
Robinson stormed onto the scene this year as a redshirt sophomore and showed unbelievable quickness, his upside is really high. He lands in the second spot partially because of that upside.
The next three are all seniors who had good but not great seasons, and will not be super exciting picks. But they're talented enough to warrant first-round selections, and have the experience to start right away. Richardson is the most physically imposing of the three, and his ceiling is the highest.
Hurst, Moses, and Mewhort are all intriguing, but they have some footwork and quickness issues. These limitations keep them from being first-round talents, but they're all solid day two picks at this stage.
Of the three, Moses has the most potential to rise. He's got a really impressive frame at 6'6", with long arms and great upper body strength.
After these eight, it becomes a complete crapshoot in my eyes, which is why I limited the ranking to here. But there's always an impressive athlete who emerges late, which I'm sure will happen again this year.