2024 NFL Draft: Checking in on the offensive line class

Penn State v Northwestern
Penn State v Northwestern / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

This college football season, there have been a lot of discussions about the quarterbacks and the skill position players in the 2024 NFL Draft. Many people are heavily focused on the performance of the top quarterbacks like Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, as well as the top wide receivers like Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Keon Coleman. Of course, this makes sense. Those guys are incredible players, and these positions are the most flashy.

However, not enough attention has been given to the offensive linemen, the big boys doing the dirty work in the trenches. We must put a stop to this. It’s time for the offensive linemen to get more love for the value they bring to the gridiron. Let’s dive into this year’s offensive line class, looking at some of the top prospects as well as a few underrated sleepers.

Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State

Olumuyiwa Fashanu has been solid this season, sporting a PFF blocking grade of 80, which ranks 5th among tackles in this class. He has been unbelievable as a pass blocker, sporting a PFF pass-blocking grade of 93.4 (2nd among tackles in the class), as he has allowed just one pressure in six games.

Unfortunately, Fashanu’s statistical profile does not match the hype he has received as a top-ten pick. This is mainly because his production as a run blocker has been particularly underwhelming. This season, he has a PFF run block grade of just 68.8, which is really low for a top tackle prospect.

This has been a consistent issue for him throughout his collegiate career, as he has yet to record a PFF run-blocking grade of 70+ in a single season, despite totaling over 400 run-blocking snaps in the last two seasons.

Overall, Olumuyiwa appears to be a really good tackle prospect who excels as a pass blocker. If you need your tackles to be really effective in the run game, Olumuyiwa isn’t the guy for you. However, if you need a tackle who will shut down opposing pass rushers, he is worth looking at early in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Sedrick Van Pran, IOL, Georgia

Sedrick Van Pran is currently a top sixty prospect on the consensus big board and his performance this season is a big reason why. The redshirt junior currently has a PFF grade of 81.6, which leads all interior offensive linemen in this year’s class. It also ranks fourth among all offensive linemen in the class.

A big reason why his PFF grade is so high is because he’s been very good as a run blocker. hIs PFF run blocking grade is 77.8, which may seem low, but leads all draft eligible centers. He has also been pretty good as a pass blocker, sporting a PFF pass blocking grade of 82, a top five mark among centers in this class.

Prior to this season, Van Pran had yet to breakout, peaking with a PFF grade of 70 in 2021. He had always been a decent pass blocker, but his grading as a run blocker had always been a bit sub-par. He lacks the consistency that we see in other top offensive line prospects in this class, but he is performing at a high level this year.

There’s no telling how the rest of the season will play out, but Sedrick Van Pran is playing like one of the best interior offensive linemen in the 2024 NFL Draft. If he can continue performing at this level, he may go off the board within the first two rounds of this year’s draft.

Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

Like Fashanu, Joe Alt is projected to be a top-ten pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. While Fashanu has some warts in his statistical profile, Alt’s is much cleaner. This season, Alt has a PFF blocking grade of 87.8, which ranks second among all offensive linemen in this class. Most of his value comes from his pass blocking, where he has a PFF pass blocking grade of 91.8 this season.

He has been awesome in pass protection, giving up just three pressures in six games. He struggled a little bit vs. Duke, giving up two pressures and a sack in his matchup against the Blue Devils. However, he’s been excellent outside of that game, giving up just one pressure in the other five contests.

Fashanu and Alt have had similar seasons, as both players have graded much better as pass protectors than run blockers. However, Alt has been much better than Fashanu in the run game, sporting a run-blocking grade of 79.4. Fortunately for Alt, he showed he could be a dominant run blocker last season when he had a PFF run blocking grade of 91. He was less effective as a pass blocker in 2022, so it would be nice to see him dominate as a pass protector and run blocker moving forward.

Joe Alt is a massive 6-foot-8 322 lbs. offensive tackle who has consistently produced at a high level and would cement himself as the top offensive tackle prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft if he performs well at the combine next February and March.

Patrick Paul, OT, Houston

Patrick Paul is a fascinating prospect because he is having an incredible season at the moment, but there are also a lot of reasons to be concerned about his projection to the NFL.

Let’s start with the good. This season, Paul has a PFF grade of 86.2, which ranks third among all offensive linemen in this class. He has been out-of-this-world good as a pass blocker, sporting a PFF pass-blocking grade of 94.1, which currently ranks number one in college football.

Unfortunately, Paul hasn’t been nearly as good as a run blocker, but he’s still been very solid in this area, sporting a PFF run-blocking grade of 75.1. His PFF grades are very similar to Joe Alt’s, but Alt has been way more consistent throughout his career, and Paul had never been very effective as a run blocker prior to this season.

This leads to a few glaring issues with Paul’s profile. First, he is a bit of an older prospect who doesn’t have multiple years of great production. He did have a PFF grade of 70+ the last two seasons, but this would be his first season with a PFF grade of 80+ if he continues to play at this level.

Another concern is his underwhelming quality of competition. Playing at Houston, Paul has not faced much high-level competition. Even when he has, he’s struggled. Last season he played against Kansas and Texas Tech, two power five programs, and he had a PFF grade below 70 in each contest.

Patrick Paul is having an awesome season this year and he deserves a lot of praise for how he’s playing at the moment. However, you must consider everything when evaluating prospects and it’s concerning that he is a fifth-year senior who hasn’t played at a very high level before and is playing against a low level of competition. Maybe he’ll dominate the NFL combine and alleviate these concerns to some degree, but his statistical profile will always have a few red flags that you have to consider.

Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL, Oregon

Jackson Powers-Johnson is one of the most underrated offensive line prospects in this year’s draft and there are many reasons to like his profile.

Last season, Powers-Johnson primarily played right guard and he was pretty good in that role, sporting a PFF grade of 84.1 with a run-blocking grade of 84.7 and a pass-blocking grade of 86.2. This season, he transitioned to playing center and the results have still been positive as he has a PFF grade of 80.9 with a run-blocking grade of 77.1, and a pass-blocking grade of 90.

The Oregon Ducks have one of the top offensive lines in college football this season and Powers-Johnson is a huge reason why. The junior center has been the Ducks' best offensive lineman as he leads the team in all of PFF's blocking grades.

In 2020, veteran NFL interior offensive lineman Graham Glasgow described the differences between playing guard and center, first stating that it’s a big change going from one position to the other.

“Contrary to what a lot of people would say, I think that it’s actually a bigger switch than people would like to let on,” Glasgow said. “Primarily the biggest difference being the differences in blocking a three-technique versus blocking a one shade is pretty sizable.”

He further explained the different roles the two positions play.

“In the pass game, I would say that it’s definitely more challenging to play guard, but in the run game I would say playing center is a little bit harder,” Glasgow said. “I think that, in a lot of ways, center is a lot more mentally taxing than physically.”

This shows that there are some pretty big differences between playing center and playing guard, so the fact that Powers-Johnson has made that transition so smoothly is extremely impressive.

Other aspects of his profile that make him such an intriguing prospect are his age and consistency. This is his third season of college football and he will be 21 years old on draft night. Combine that with the fact that he is on pace to have back-to-back seasons with a PFF grade of 80+ and has yet to have a PFF grade of 70 is incredible.

Perhaps Jackson Powers-Johnson has some athletic concerns which would explain why he is outside the top 200 on the consensus big board, but his ranking seems crazy based on his age, production as a run blocker and pass protector, and experience playing guard and center. If he has a strong performance at the NFL combine, he may shoot up draft boards.