The 2022 NFL draft is just days away. It’s time to evaluate and rank this year’s tackle class. It is a top-heavy class. Will teams find hidden gems and potential starters in the middle rounds?
Offensive tackle is one of the premier positions in the NFL. There are always many needs and not enough players to fill those needs, so NFL teams usually look to the draft to fill this position.
The 2022 tackle class is top-heavy and drops off quite steeply after the first few players. It will be interesting to see how high the top tackles will be drafted in this year’s NFL Draft. Below are my personal evaluations of how this class stands up.
10. Andrew Stueber, Michigan
Stueber is a towering offensive lineman standing at 6 feet 7 inches and almost 340 pounds. With this size, he also offers great length. Stueber won’t win any athletic competitions, but along with that size, he offers excellent strength and a good anchor. You will rarely see him get significantly pushed back once he squares up on his defender?
Stueber missed the entire 2019 season with an ACL tear but had a productive following two seasons starting at both tackle and guard. He has the potential to be a starter at either position, depending on where his future NFL team sees him best.
9. Abraham Lucas, Washington State
The redshirt senior was a four-year starter for Washington State, without missing any games due to injury. Like Stueber, Abraham Lucas provides excellent length that could make him a future starter. He also has good pass sets, which give him the basis to be a functional pass blocker at the next level. Unfortunately, he lacks ideal play strength and anchor which makes Lucas somewhat of a risk if he gets drafted too early.
8. Braxton Jones, Southern Utah
Jones is one of the more interesting tackle prospects in this year’s class. Jones is a small-school prospect, yet his film clearly demonstrates he has real natural ability as a pass blocker. His footwork is very quick and smooth for his size, and he’s athletic enough to have a solid ability to mirror the edge rusher.
Like Lucas, there are concerns about Jones’ play strength, and he has somewhat of a lanky build. Jones is an uncertain projection, but his ceiling is intriguing.
7. Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
The first player in the next tier of prospects is the Ohio State Buckeyes left tackle, Nicholas Petit-Frere. The Buckeyes played Petit-Frere at both right and left tackle during his two full years as a starter. He had the benefit of playing in the Big Ten against some of the better defensive fronts in the country, showing some promise.
Petit-Frere is an excellent athlete, and he explodes off the snap. He is at his best when he is on the move. Though, he does need some technical refinement to succeed in the NFL and is somewhat scheme-specific.
6. Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
The most obvious thing about Daniel Faalele is his freakish size. Standing at an astronomical 6’9, 380 pounds, Faalele will overwhelm most NFL defenders when he is able to square them up. What makes Faalele even more exciting is the fact that he has surprisingly nimble feet, especially for someone of that size.
Faalele is originally from Australia, thus is new to the game of football. His background is in Rugby. He is raw to many technical aspects of the position. Many of the movements do not come naturally to him yet, but there is no question that his ceiling is sky-high.
5. Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Like Faalele, Raimann is also an international player. Originally from Austria, Raimann was recruited to Central Michigan originally as a tight end, so he is also very new to the position. What is evident about Raimann’s game are his athletic tools. He is probably the best mover in the class, and teams that utilize heavy zone blocking schemes will love Raimann’s natural skillset.
He is a bit lean and does need development, especially when it comes to his arm placement and technique. With refinement, Raimann could easily be a top-10 tackle in the NFL in a few years.
4. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Trevor Penning has all the physical tools you could ask for in an offensive tackle. He is an elite athlete, explodes off the ball, is a good mover, and he combines it with elite strength. Penning is powerful at the point of attack and is impossible to push back.
The problem with Penning is with his balance and footwork. He gets beat quite often in these areas and doesn’t always position his body in a way to gain leverage to win his blocking assignment. Penning needs the right environment and coaching staff to mold his traits and help him to succeed.
3. Evan Neal, Alabama
Here we get to the top tier of tackles in this class. Evan Neal started at both right and left tackle the past two years and was instrumental to two elite Alabama offenses. Evan Neal is your prototypical top tackle prospect with size, length, power, and athleticism. Yet, he also towers at 6’7 and 350 pounds. Neal still stands to improve his pass sets and footwork, but it does not take away from his other elite traits.
2. Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Cross is probably the best pass blocker in the entire class. He is a great athlete, with elite footwork that makes mirroring the edge rusher seem effortless. He gets into his pass sets off immediately off the snap. Even the most athletic and explosive edges in the NFL will struggle to bend around him.
Cross does have a leaner build, so there are questions regarding Cross’ play strength. He also comes from an air raid offense, but anyone who is as good a pass blocker as Cross should be at the top of any team’s draft board.
1. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Ekwonu is as complete a prospect as anyone in this tackle class. What is most noticeable about Ekwonu is his “nasty” demeanor. He is always playing hard and is not content with just getting wins, he looks to dominate his opponents. Ekwonu packs an incredibly strong punch and explodes off the line every single snap.
These traits make him a day one impact run blocker in the NFL, with the ability to start his career at guard as well. He is not a bad pass blocker in his own right and has the potential to greatly improve there. He is a high floor and even higher ceiling prospect and the number one tackle in the 2022 NFL draft.