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Pre-combine NFL Draft rankings: Offensive tackles

Prior to the NFL Combine, we rank the best offensive tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Florida Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Scouting Combine begins on March 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs could be looking to further invest in the offensive tackle position — so let’s take a look at the best ones we currently see.

1. Evan Neal | Alabama | 6 feet 7 | 360 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The class’s top offensive tackle is also the betting-odds favorite to go first overall in the draft, and there wouldn’t be any argument from me.

As a true freshman at Alabama, Neal was too talented to leave on the sideline. The staff got him on the field at left guard, then eventually transitioned him to left tackle by the 2021 season — where he looked special. His incredibly large frame is combined with unbelievable athleticism to be dominant in the run game and seemingly impossible to get around in pass protection.

On top of his impressive play, he is expected to produce unreal results at the upcoming NFL Combine.

2. Ikem Ekwonu | North Carolina State | 6 feet 4 | 320 pounds

NC State v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Over his three years as the Wolfpack’s left tackle, Ekwonu evolved into a human highlight reel with the way he attacks defenders.

Specifically in the run game, Ekwonu absolutely dominates. He has the raw power and strength that leads to some embarrassing moments for opponents — paired with good movement skills that allow him to get on off-ball defenders quickly.

He will need to be refined as a pass protector — but Ekwonu’s raw abilities are rare, and he should be taken very high in the draft.

3. Charles Cross | Mississippi State | 6 feet 5 | 300 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Mississippi State at Auburn Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cross doesn’t jump off the screen as a physically-intimidating player like the first two on this list, but he rivals some of their technical skills — specifically in the pass game.

His quick feet and side-to-side movement ability allow him to stay with speed rushers around the arc, then also mirror the attempts at inside counter moves. He showed disciplined and strong hand usage while also playing with a fundamentally-sound balance that can make up for the power he lacks at times.

He projects to be an exceptional pass protector at left tackle — but he doesn’t have the build and frame to become a consistently dominant blocker at the lead of a run play.

4. Bernhard Raimann | Central Michigan | 6 feet 7 | 305 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Central Michigan at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With shades of another offensive tackle prospect out of Central Michigan in former Chief Eric Fisher, Raimann has the look of a high-floor, quality starter at the next level.

That’s even more impressive when you consider he’s only played left tackle for two years: Raimann was born in Steinbrunn, Austria — moving to the United States in high school. He went to college as a tight end and played two seasons at that position. In 2020, he transitioned to left tackle — and he has looked the part more and more with each game.

Using a naturally strong base and the movement skills that came from his tight end days, Raimann has quickly picked the position up — but the sky could be the limit for his potential.

5. Trevor Penning | Northern Iowa | 6 feet 7 | 320 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When you talk about highlight-reel blocks, Penning is a player that appears to live for them.

At the FCS level, Penning played with a mindset to bully defenders — whether it’s in the midst of a pancake block or it’s an extracurricular action after the whistle. He did it because he could, but he also showed that same ruthlessness against Iowa State and at the Senior Bowl.

That natural power was coupled with incredibly quick feet and a very sound base. He has a very high ceiling as a starter at either tackle position, but I see him as a more volatile prospect than the first four on this list.

6. Daniel Faalele | Minnesota | 6 feet 9 | 380 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Guaranteed Rate Bowl - West Virginia v Minnesota Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Faalele will be a prospect with a particular market in this year’s draft due to his monstrous size.

As a right tackle for the Golden Gophers, he constantly led the point of attack in the run game by bulldozing front-side defenders — but also has the length and hand strength to swallow up pass rushers.

At his size, there will be some movement ability that could be taken advantage of naturally by speed rushers — but Faalele could be a valuable asset in the right offense that utilizes his skills correctly.

7. Darian Kinnard | Kentucky | 6 feet 5 | 345 pounds

Chattanooga v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There’s a theme to my top 10 offensive-tackle rankings — and Kinnard is another example of it.

As a college right tackle, Kinnard’s very solid foundation and broad base make him a brick wall to deal with as a defensive lineman. He has very strong hands and the length to be the more powerful player in any one-on-one matchup he faces.

Those things give him a great start, but he’ll need to work on the finer points of playing the position still to become a legitimate starter in the NFL.

8. Abraham Lucas | Washington State | 6 feet 7 | 320 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 13 AdvoCare Kickoff - Washington State v Houston Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yet another college right tackle lands on the list — but Lucas differs in playstyle from the last two prospects.

Lucas showed off sound fundamentals as a pass blocker, staying patient, keeping his elbows tucked and not reaching or grabbing at pass rushers. He lacks the anchor or strength that some other prospects have, but he still has a solid base and has quick feet to defend against outside rushes.

He’ll be worth the shot to see if his pass-blocking skills can translate to becoming a starting left tackle.

9. Tyler Smith | Tulsa | 6 feet 6 | 330 pounds

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Central Florida Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Smith will be the biggest project on this list — but his frame and raw skills are too intriguing to leave off.

As a left tackle at Tulsa, Smith never looked physically outmatched — even in matchups against Oklahoma State and Ohio State. He has the power to move anybody and the violence streak to finish through the block with great leg drive; he is a people mover on down blocks.

Everything about his game is inconsistent and not technically refined right now — especially his true pass sets — but he was a redshirt sophomore in 2021. He has a lot of room to grow.

10. Sean Rhyan | UCLA | 6 feet 5 | 320 pounds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Oregon at UCLA Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As a true junior in 2021, Rhyan was in his third season starting for the Bruins at left tackle.

That kind of experience is valuable to me, and you could see it in how proficient he was with his footwork and the plan he had as a pass protector. That is stacked on top of the reason he started as a freshman in the first place: his powerful base. His tree-trunk legs give him strong roots that work to his advantage.

There are some bad snaps that placed him below the other prospects, but I’m a fan of Rhyan’s potential at either tackle spot.

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