Interior offensive linemen drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft

Factoring in guards and centers combined, a strong class of interior offensive linemen entered the league this past April in the 2021 NFL Draft. How many interior linemen were selected in the, and where do some of the top players’ project? Here’s a look at the class as a whole.

Which interior offensive linemen were drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Let’s take a look at the interior offensive linemen selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC | Round 1, Pick 14 | New York Jets

The New York Jets made a point to protect their new quarterback early in the 2021 NFL Draft. After selecting Zach Wilson with the second overall pick, the Jets traded up from 23rd overall to snag Alijah Vera-Tucker at 14. Given that the Vikings selected Christian Darrisaw with the Jets’ former pick, one can question whether or not the Jets scored optimal value. Still, if they plan on playing Vera-Tucker inside, that’s something Darrisaw can’t replicate at this point.

The unique value that Vera-Tucker provides derives from his ability to play both tackle and guard at an exceptionally high level. Joe Douglas and the Jets reportedly had Vera-Tucker as a top-ten player on their board. He can play tackle and do well there if needed, but it’s especially fun to think about him playing left guard next to Mekhi Becton.

Landon Dickerson, Alabama | Round 2, Pick 37 | Philadelphia Eagles

Creed Humphrey was the top-rated center in the 2021 NFL Draft for many onlookers, but he wasn’t the first center off the board. That honor went to Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, who Philadelphia picked at No. 37 overall. Dickerson was a highly-respected prospect in his own right, but his extensive injury history had some wondering if he’d slip down the board.

Nevertheless, Dickerson was the first interior lineman picked outside of Round 1. On tape, it’s clear why he was considered this high.

Dickerson isn’t a top-tier athlete. Yet, on the interior, spaces are smaller and easier to traverse. What matters most is a player’s physicality and proactivity. Dickerson excels there. He has the strength and mauler mentality to be a valuable depth piece, and he could potentially succeed Jason Kelce at center.

Jackson Carman, Clemson | Round 2, Pick 46 | Cincinnati Bengals

This felt a little high for Jackson Carman, but if the Bengals know how to use him, he can be a solid addition. The Bengals could have addressed offensive tackle here instead. However, they may see Riley Reiff as an adequate short-term fix opposite Jonah Williams. Thus, getting a versatile, experienced player like Carman is appealing.

Many speculated early on that Carman would kick into guard at the NFL level. He played tackle in college, protecting Trevor Lawrence‘s blindside. That said, taking Carman’s merely serviceable athleticism and average length into account, his traits fit better on the interior. He has the solid play strength and proactive mentality to fill an important hole for the Bengals.

Aaron Banks, Notre Dame | Round 2, Pick 48 | San Francisco 49ers

In January, NFL teams got to see some of the top offensive linemen in the nation at the Senior Bowl. At that event, Aaron Banks was one player who flashed his potential. He wasn’t as consistent as the event’s top performers, but it was clear that he brought an intriguing physical skill set. His impact there was enough to make him one of the highest-selected guards in the 2021 NFL Draft.

At over 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, Banks is no doubt a large human being. He’s also a solid athlete for his size, and he brings noticeable natural power, something not all of the draft’s offensive linemen boast. In San Francisco’s scheme, where creating separation is key for blockers, Banks can be a proficient player. That is why he was one of the highest-picked guards in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Josh Myers, Ohio State | Round 2, Pick 62 | Green Bay Packers

Unless Josh Myers ultimately becomes the better pro, you won’t be able to convince me that picking him over Creed Humphrey was the right move for the Packers. As a prospect, Humphrey was easily above Myers. Nevertheless, Myers can become a solid center in his own right, and he should have early starting utility.

He helped anchor an Ohio State offensive line that made it to the national championship game in 2020. He’s not the high-end athletic prospect that Humphrey is, and he wasn’t individually as impactful either. Regardless, there is something to be said for Myers’ ability to simply do his job. Although his upside is limited, he has a high floor, and he could be a decent long-term starter.

Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma | Round 2, Pick 63 | Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs committed highway robbery twice on the interior line. The first infraction occurred in Round 2 when the Chiefs drafted the best center in the class. At the end of the day, draft evaluation is always subjective. Having said that, Creed Humphrey‘s case to be the highest-ranked center is much stronger than Dickerson’s or Myers’.

While Dickerson has a checkered injury history, Humphrey was a dependable multi-year starter for the Sooners. Myers lacks the athletic upside to be a game-changer on the interior, but Humphrey tested as the most athletic center in modern draft history. Humphrey paced the center class for the entire offseason, and the Chiefs got him at a bargain price. He can be a high-level starter at the line’s fulcrum.

Interior offensive linemen selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Round 3

7) Jalen Mayfield, Michigan | R3-P68 | Atlanta Falcons
8) Wyatt Davis, Ohio State | R3-P86 | Minnesota Vikings
9) Kendrick Green, Illinois | R3-P87 | Pittsburgh Steelers
10) Ben Cleveland, Georgia | R3-P94 | Baltimore Ravens
11) Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame | R3-P95 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12) Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater | R3-P98 | Denver Broncos

You can find a stout offensive lineman in the middle rounds. They’re always there, every year. The hardest part is making the right pick. Most, if not all, of the interior linemen selected in Round 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft have potential, but there is undoubtedly projection involved. Wyatt Davis, Kendrick Green, and Ben Cleveland all played on the interior at the Power Five level. The others, however, have more significant leaps to make.

Quinn Meinerz is the obvious highlight. He was voted as the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, and he tested in the elite tier athletically. He also can play both center and guard.

The question remains whether the leap from D-III football to the NFL will be too large for him. Still, he’s dominated whenever he’s received attention, so there is optimism there. Mayfield will likely be switching from tackle to guard. Meanwhile, Hainsey has some tackle-guard versatility. He played guard at Mobile and held his own.

Interior offensive linemen selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Rounds 4 & 5

13) Drew Dalman, Stanford | R4-P114 | Atlanta Falcons
14) Royce Newman, Ole Miss | R4-P142 | Green Bay Packers
15) Larry Borom, Missouri | R5-P151 | Chicago Bears
16) Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan | R5-P155 | San Francisco 49ers

The common theme in Rounds 4 and 5 is positional versatility. Royce Newman, Larry Borom, and Jaylon Moore all played tackle in college but project as values on the inside in the NFL. All three are different types of players as well.

Moore is a little bit smaller but well-leveraged and flexible. Newman is athletic and smooth. Borom, on the other hand, is reasonably long and explosive. He could ultimately remain at tackle, while the other two will presumably stay at guard.

The fourth lineman selected in the Round 4-5 range is Drew Dalman, who started to gain steam as the draft process went on. Dalman’s calling card is his athleticism. He tested with a Relative Athletic Score of 9.9, generating a 5.05 40-yard dash, a 33-inch vertical, and a 109-inch broad jump at 6-foot-3, 299 pounds. With his potential, he could ultimately be the long-term replacement for Alex Mack.

Interior offensive linemen selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Round 6

17) Trey Hill, Georgia | R6-P190 | Cincinnati Bengals
18) Deonte Brown, Alabama | R6-P193 | Carolina Panthers
19) William Sherman, Colorado | R6-P197 | New England Patriots
20) Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin | R6-P214 | Green Bay Packers
21) Trey Smith, Tennessee | R6-P226 | Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs pulled off the dangerous double-heist and successfully stole All-American offensive guard Trey Smith in Round 6. Smith likely fell due to concerns surrounding a blood clot issue that forced him to miss time earlier in his career. Still, if he can stay healthy, he can be one of the best guards from the 2021 NFL Draft. Smith is a mauler as a run blocker, and he has the leverage and lateral mobility to hold his own in pass protection.

Outside of Smith, the other players mentioned possess some intrigue. Deonte Brown was a standout at Alabama whose weight shrouded his projection. If he can keep trimming down, he can be a potential starter.

Trey Hill provides good depth for the Bengals, while William Sherman, a former guard recruit, has the projected versatility New England craves. There’s also Cole Van Lanen, a former four-star recruit, who infuses Green Bay’s line with more depth.

Interior offensive linemen selected in the 2021 NFL Draft | Round 7

22) Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh | R7-P230 | Las Vegas Raiders
23) Jack Anderson, Texas Tech | R7-P236 | Buffalo Bills
24) Matt Farniok, Nebraska | R7-P238 | Dallas Cowboys
25) Michal Menet, Penn State | R7-P247 | Arizona Cardinals
26) Will Fries, Penn State | R7-P248 | Indianapolis Colts

The later rounds are often where the depth of each draft class truly lies, and several of these offensive linemen have a chance to contribute. Jimmy Morrissey, Matt Farniok, and Will Fries are all elite athletes entering solid situations for their development. Fries, in particular, has the positional versatility and spryness to benefit from a Colts’ coaching staff that always proves its mettle in the autumn months.

Michal Menet and Jack Anderson don’t provide top-end athletic traits, but both players have immense starting experience. Menet gives the Cardinals some depth behind newly-acquired center Rodney Hudson. Anderson gives the Bills a former top recruit to bolster their interior ranks.

How many guards and centers were drafted in 2021?

The exact number of interior offensive linemen drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft depends on where some players end up. There are a few athletes with tackle-guard versatility who may spend just as much time on the outside. Nonetheless, the 2021 NFL Draft still produced a strong crop of interior linemen, with teams selecting 26 candidates within the seven-round slate.

Of those 26 interior candidates selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, eight were centers. The rest were primarily guards, 10 of whom played tackle at one point in college.

The total number of 26 was slightly lower than the 2020 NFL Draft, which produced closer to 30 interior offensive linemen. Even so, over two dozen guards and centers went off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft, and those players should be able to legitimize the class come fall.

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