The 2023 NFL Draft cycle is upon us, and with it comes a new batch of potential breakout candidates. Last offseason, prospects like Zion Johnson and Cole Strange were sparsely discussed in the early-round conversation, let alone Round 1. But in the end, they went within the first 32 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft. In 2023, who in the interior group is poised to follow that same path?
2023 NFL Draft breakout candidates at iOL
It’s a bit more difficult to point out breakout candidates on the offensive line. There are no raw statistics to go off of. Thus, it can be harder to distinguish who has and hasn’t broken out. But not every breakout is equal, and each one comes with different context. Taking that into account, who are some of the top breakout candidates in the 2023 NFL Draft interior offensive line class?
O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
There’s hope that Billy Napier will bring respectability back to the Florida Gators football program. Right now, it’s far too early to gauge any returns from his arrival. But one thing he’s already brought to Gainesville is a potentially dominant starting guard in O’Cyrus Torrence. Domination is just what Torrence provided for Napier at Louisiana. He started 36 games over the past three seasons and was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection in 2021.
Even with his immense success in Sun Belt play, Torrence still flies under the radar at times. A lone season with an SEC program might be just what he needs to break out as a legitimate 2023 NFL Draft prospect. At Florida, Torrence has the opportunity and the tools. He’s a massive blocker at 6’5″, 330 pounds, who brings a physical edge and awe-inspiring power capacity.
Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan
Olusegun Oluwatimi commanded a great deal of respect already with his 2021 campaign. He was a stalwart center for the Virginia Cavaliers, starting 12 games and earning a spot as a finalist for the Rimington Award. Even with his stellar play, however, Oluwatimi didn’t generate much draft hype ahead of the 2022 cycle. So Oluwatimi leveraged his strong performance into an opportunity with the Michigan Wolverines, where he’ll have the platform to truly emerge as one of the best centers in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
At first glance, Oluwatimi isn’t an overwhelming spectacle on the interior line. At 6’3″, 310 pounds, he’s around average size for his position. But Oluwatimi compensates for a non-elite physical profile with great strength, leg drive, and awareness. He can latch at contact, attain superior leverage, and drive defenders back with applied power. With his high-floor traits, he can easily use his year at Michigan to his advantage.
McKade Mettauer, Oklahoma
If it feels like this list is dominated by transfer players, that’s not by accident. The transfer portal presents a tremendous opportunity for prospects to find changes in scenery and seek out environments more conducive to their individual success. The transfer portal is a common catalyst for breakouts, and yet another transfer offensive lineman to watch, in this context, is McKade Mettauer.
Mettauer started 24 straight games at right guard for the California Golden Bears from 2020 to 2021 before transferring to Oklahoma this past offseason. The 6’4″, 305-pound blocker looks a little light on tape, and he could stand to add weight to his frame. But Mettauer is able to somewhat offset the size concerns with quick athleticism off the line, an urgent style, and an ability to redirect momentum and send opponents into the ground. He’s a steady player, and a year with the Sooners could take him to the next level.
Tre’mond Shorts, LSU
After losing both Ed Ingram and Chasen Hines in the 2022 NFL Draft, the LSU Tigers need to fill a massive void on the interior offensive line. A team like LSU always has talent waiting in the wings, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from pursuing FCS standout Tre’mond Shorts in the transfer portal. A veteran of over 40 games at offensive tackle for ETSU, Shorts now comes to LSU. There, he likely projects inside and could become an impact player.
Shorts may be from the FCS, but he looks the part. The 2021 FCS All-American is listed at a massive 6’5″, 340 pounds, and he brings a lot more than size. Sure, his incredibly wide frame and long arms serve as invaluable assets. But Shorts is also surprisingly fleet-footed and quick off the line for his size. He has the tools to play at both tackle and guard, but particularly at guard, his combination of short-range athleticism and power could be dangerous.
Connor Wood, Missouri
Unlike most on this list of 2023 NFL Draft breakout candidates, Connor Wood isn’t an incoming transfer addition. He transferred to Missouri ahead of the 2021 season, coming from Montana State. He soon entered the starting lineup, manning the right guard spot for eight games against SEC competition. Still fairly new to the starting lineup, Wood doesn’t have a ton of name recognition yet. But that could change in 2022.
Standing at 6’4″, 325 pounds, Wood has excellent size and frame density, and he can use that size and strength to gather rushers and absorb contact. Wood might not be an elite athlete, but he’s good enough to get out in space, showing great awareness. He also flashes forceful, active hands in pass protection. For the former FCS standout, another year against SEC competition could be what he needs to truly break onto the 2023 NFL Draft stage.