The 2018 NFL is drawing ever closer and it's now time to look at GiveMeSport's next crop of positional rankings. This time its the turn of the big boys up front, the offensive linemen.
With a real lack of quality tackles in the class, the position group as a whole isn't drawing rave reviews when compared to past years. However, there are a couple of elite guard prospects who could go inside the top 20 despite the normally low value on the position.
Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson is arguably the best player in the entire draft, and another potential Pro Bowler isn't far behind him in the form of Will Hernandez out of UTEP. It's very possible that no tackles go off the board on day one but Nelson's teammate in South Bend, Mike McGlinchey, is the most likely to fetch a first round pick.
Here's a look at our top five O-Line prospects in this year's draft:
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Nelson isn't just the best lineman in the draft, he's got a strong argument for being the best player, period. At 6'5, 329lbs, Nelson is an enormous human being and he uses every ounce of his frame to dominate defenders.
A unanimous All American in 2017, he was the best lineman in the college game last season and projects to be a Pro Bowl lever player in his rookie year. Nelson is a true technician who knows how to use his rare size and power to regularly manhandle opponents, creating huge running lanes and give his quarterback a clean pocket to throw from. He is aggressive, intimidating and simply dominatant in all facets of the blocking game. Nelson is one of those rare linemen who makes highlight reel worthy plays on a weekly basis and is probably the best guard prospect in over a decade.
He's drawn comparisons to Cowboys Hall of Famer Larry Allen, and it doesn't even seem like those are hyperbolic in any way. Nelson is the safest prospect in the draft, and he'll be an All Pro level player for years to come. He should join Jonathan Cooper as the only guard to be a top ten pick in this millennium, with the Colts at number six and Bears and eight being two possible destinations for the Notre Dame standout.
2. Will Hernandez, UTEP
Hernandez is another mauler, not quite on Nelson's level, but he has serious size and power, and plays with a mean streak. He routinely bulldozes his opponents in the run game and has excellent quickness for his 348lb frame.
Whilst he does need to improve his pass protection, particularly against speed rushers, he is adequate in this facet and will certainly develop with good coaching. Hernandez's strong hands and natural power allow him to lock on and drive defenders into the ground and he'll appeal greatly to to run-heavy teams.
Additionally, his his work ethic and love for the game are plain to see and he'll certainly be good fit in any locker room.
3. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
Wynn was a second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection in 2017 at LT for the Bulldogs, but his short, stout build leave his NFL future at guard. Wynn's versatility is a plus though, and his athleticism allows him to spot any position along the line in emergency situations.
He blocks with aggression in the run game and is solid and dependable as a pass blocker. Wynn is extremely adept at pull-around blocks and gets to the second level with ease. He also has strong hands at the point of contact and rarely falls off blocks.
Some teams could draft him as a center due to his shorter-than-ideal height, natural strength and awareness as a blocker. Wynn's range in terms of draft picks is quiet extensive, and depends on what position his prospective team wants him to play. He could well go off the board in the middle of round one, but it wouldn't be a shock if was still available in round two where he would be a steal.
4. James Daniels, Iowa
Daniels was a solid three-year starter for Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, providing dependable pass and run blocking. He has elite, fluid movement skills for his size and his quick get-off allows him to win on most zone blocks despite his less-than ideal strength.
He is adept as a pull-around blocker, easily outpacing defenders to get to the second level and finishes his blocks well. A technically sound operator, Daniels does need to improve his strength and power, but he can be a solid day one starter for a team requiring interior protection.
Daniels is the latest Hawkeye lineman to make the step up to the NFL, and teams will know they are getting a reliable, technically proficient blocker from what has become a factory for pro linemen under Ferentz. Expect to see his name called near the end of day one or early on day two.
5. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
McGlinchey is the consensus top tackle in the draft. He partnered with Nelson to anchor the left side of the Irish's line last season, and was a key part of their lethal rushing attack led by Josh Adams.
The 24-year-old has prototypical size and length for a tackle, but he will need to add some weight to ensure he has the durability to withstand the physicality of the professional game. A three-year starter in South Bend, McGlinchey's athleticism and natural strength will allow him to be a day one starter at right tackle in the NFL.
He has excellent feet that allow him to move with rushers on the edge, and his technical proficiencies with his hands allow him to sustain blocks. The 24-year-old was a team captain for two years under Brian Kelly and his solid character will appeal to teams greatly. A mid-to-late first round selection is not out of the question for McGlinchey, especially with a flurry of tackle needy teams that will be prepared to reach a little to secure him.
Other linemen that could find their way into round one include UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, Ohio State Guard/Center Billy Price, and Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown.