2023 NFL Draft breakout candidates at OT include Tyler Steen, Caleb Etienne

Which breakout candidates can help strengthen the 2023 NFL Draft offensive tackle class? Does anyone have early-round upside next April?

The 2023 NFL Draft offensive tackle class will rely on more than a few breakout candidates to enhance its strength by next April. Luckily, there are several bookend blockers primed for increased roles in 2022, and the stage is set for someone to emerge.

2023 NFL Draft breakout candidates at OT

Last cycle, prospects like Ikem Ekwonu and Trevor Penning rode dominant campaigns to Round 1 selections. Elsewhere, prospects like Tyler Smith and Bernhard Raimann also benefited from strong final seasons and rose into the early-round range. Not all of these prospects will find themselves rising quite as high as Round 1, but all of these prospects have the potential to factor into a wide-open tackle class.

Tyler Steen, Alabama

Interestingly, one of the top products of Vanderbilt football over the past few cycles might already be out the door, on his way to starting for another SEC program. Tyler Steen is a three-year starter. He has starting experience at both left and right tackle and held down the blind side for Vanderbilt through 2020 and 2021. Now, he heads to Alabama, where he’s in line to replace 2022 first-round pick Evan Neal.

Steen won’t be as highly-regarded as Neal was to start last cycle — and rightfully so. Steen isn’t the same menacing physical specimen, and he can further refine his hand usage, synergy, and power transfer. But Steen is still long and powerful at 6’5″, 319 pounds, and he has the athletic tools to work with. He flashes impressive accelerative capacity upfield, as well as exceptional change-of-direction ability in space.

Caleb Etienne, Oklahoma State

Caleb Etienne only saw action in three games last season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. This year, however, he’s primed to experience an uptick in snaps. And after the work he’s put in this offseason, he could emerge from obscurity and announce himself on the 2023 NFL Draft stage.

Etienne — who transferred from the JUCO ranks in 2021 and used his first season at Oklahoma State to acclimate — is a massive 6’7″ blocker with outrageous length. He came in well over 350 pounds but has reportedly dropped into the 320-325 range ahead of the 2022 season. From that weight loss, Etienne might glean enhanced mobility, and he already has exceptional power capacity and a potentially dominating wingspan.

Nathan Thomas, Louisiana

The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns sent an offensive tackle to the Senior Bowl and the NFL draft last cycle. Max Mitchell was selected in the fourth round by the New York Jets. He raises the bar for the Louisiana program, and another tackle might be gearing up to follow in his footsteps.

Nathan Thomas is very much a projection right now. He only played in seven games last season. But in his limited action, he flashed legitimate promise. Thomas is an easy athlete with a well-proportioned frame at 6’5″, 315 pounds. And on select snaps, he shows off surprising knock-back power in contact situations. With Mitchell off to the NFL, Thomas will have an opportunity to ascend and show what he’s capable of.

Logan Brown, Wisconsin

The college football world has been waiting for the Logan Brown breakout since 2019, when he signed with the Wisconsin Badgers as a five-star recruit. Since then, Brown redshirted once and spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons as a primary backup. With Logan Bruss now gone, Brown is first in line to replace him at right tackle. Perhaps this is the year he finally puts it together.

Brown was lauded out of high school for his natural talent. He’s a 6’6″ lineman with the frame of a trench warrior, and his combined quickness and strength grant him an exceptionally high ceiling. Brown’s developmental track has been more gradual than expected, and there isn’t a ton of tape on him yet. But in 2022, he’ll have a chance to change that, emerge with authority, and realize his early-round potential.

Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State

Olumuyiwa Fashanu only started one game for Penn State in 2021, but it was an eye-opening performance. It was the Nittany Lions’ bowl game against Arkansas, in relief of eventual 2022 NFL Draft pick Rasheed Walker. Fashanu started at left tackle, and his lone 2021 audition may have helped grant him the role long-term.

Now a redshirt sophomore, Fashanu is eligible for the first time, and he has a chance to shine with more experience. Fashanu has tremendous length at 6’6″, 310 pounds, but for his size, he’s an amped-up, high-energy mover. He has fast feet and impressive short-area athleticism and can lock out opponents with his reach. Fashanu can play more controlled at times, but all the tools are there to help this young prospect establish himself.

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