NFL Combine 2022: Cole Strange, Trevor Penning among 5 offensive linemen who improved their draft stock

The big men made big moves in Indianapolis. On Day 2 of the NFL Combine, which offensive linemen put up the most impressive results?

The offensive linemen got their testing results at the 2022 NFL Combine yesterday, and the results confirm: These big guys can move. There were almost too many strong performers to count in the trenches, but a select few rose to the top and stole the spotlight. Who were those select few, and where did they excel?

5 offensive linemen who boosted their stock at the NFL Combine

It’s important to note that athleticism, while important for offensive linemen, isn’t a total deal-breaker. There’s a certain threshold that players have to pass. But once you’re comparing two above-average athletes, the conversation often becomes less about athleticism and more about technique and execution.

That said, elite athletes can change the tone on an offensive line, and they have the best chance of developing into blue-chip players. With that in mind, which offensive linemen showed off the most upside with their testing results at the NFL Combine on Friday and potentially improved their NFL Draft stock?

Cole Strange, Chattanooga

There’s an abnormally large amount of quality non-FBS offensive tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft. We all know about Trevor Penning, but Matt Waletzko and Braxton Jones are two other future starters with plus athletic traits. There are also players like Nick Zakelj and Ja’Tyre Carter, who both put up strong numbers on Friday. But the biggest riser out of all of them might be Chattanooga OL Cole Strange.

Strange came into the offseason as an intriguing Day 3 sleeper. He left the Senior Bowl as a potential Day 2 pick. Now, he’s rising higher in the top 100 range.

Strange put up incredible numbers all around. He logged a 5.03 40-yard dash with a 1.73 10-yard split and also registered a 7.44 three-cone, a 4.5 shuttle, a 28-inch vertical, a 120-inch broad jump, and 31 bench reps. All of those numbers — save for the vertical — are above the 90th percentile.

Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

There aren’t many top offensive linemen on this list. The reason being is that we already knew most of them were elite athletes.

We already knew Trevor Penning was as well — but his situation is a bit different. Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, and Charles Cross all have stretches of dominance on tape against Power Five opposition. Not only is Penning an FCS prospect, but he also has serious technical flaws to address.

Nevertheless, Penning proved at the NFL Combine that athleticism won’t be a concern for him at the next level — and he proved that he has the traits to work with, along with his violent mindset.

At 6’7″, 325 pounds, his 4.89 40-yard dash, 1.71 10-yard split, 7.25 three-cone time, and 111-inch broad jump helped contribute to a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.96. Penning is a certified freak whose explosive athleticism pops on tape. Now, he probably doesn’t get out of the top 20.

Zach Tom, Wake Forest

Zach Tom always flew under the radar in college but was a consistent, steady force on the Wake Forest offensive line. Tom is a bit undersized, but he’s incredibly versatile and smooth as an athlete. His NFL Combine testing results only reinforced that fact, as he paced the offensive linemen. He came in with an elite 9.68 RAS — one of the best in his entire group.

Tom’s numbers were resoundingly strong all-around. The former Demon Deacon achieved a 4.94 40-yard dash with a blazing 1.7 10-yard split. Beyond that, he was also able to earn a 33-inch vertical, a 118-inch broad jump, and agility numbers in the 96th percentile. There’s savvy to Tom’s game as well, but his easy mobility is a constant asset on tape, and it should help him carve out a long NFL career.

Dawson Deaton, Texas Tech

Dawson Deaton consistently flashed on Texas Tech’s tape. He’s a tall, lean blocker with easy mobility getting to the second level, with the lateral agility to match blockers. He sometimes didn’t show elite strength at the point of attack, but the athleticism all appeared to be there. And Deaton’s showing at the 2022 NFL Combine only confirmed that assessment.

Of the centers who tested, Deaton put up the best composite RAS, with a score of 9.68. Key factors in achieving that number included a 5.12 40-yard dash with a 1.75 10-yard split, a 108-inch broad jump, a 29-inch vertical, and a strong 4.49 shuttle time.

Deaton’s 24 bench reps were slightly below average, and he’s a tad bit light at 306 pounds. But the tools are there to work with, and he should draw eyes as a potential starter down the road.

Zachary Thomas, San Diego State

Zachary Thomas was one of the few offensive linemen I hadn’t gotten a chance to watch in complete depth ahead of the NFL Combine. He and his teammate William Dunkle had both flashed in limited viewings. But Thomas truly turned heads in the offensive linemen group with his NFL Combine results.

Chief among Thomas’ numbers was an absurd 1.67 10-yard split on his 4.97 40-yard dash. That split alone puts Thomas ahead of 99.4% of offensive linemen ever to log results at the NFL Combine.

Overall, Thomas achieved a solid RAS of 8.92. His bench reps (21) and his vertical (22.5) brought him down a bit, but Thomas’ quickness out of his stance and agility worked very much in his favor. His tape will be near the top of my watch list in the coming weeks.

Honorable Mentions

Zion Johnson, Boston College; Tyler Smith, Tulsa; Chris Paul, Tulsa; Matt Waletzko, North Dakota; Sean Rhyan, UCLA; Kellen Diesch, Arizona State; Austin Deculus, LSU; Braxton Jones, Southern Utah; Abraham Lucas, Washington State; Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan; Andrew Rupcich, Culver-Stockton; Luke Wattenberg, Washington; Ja’Tyre Carter, Southern; Marcus McKethan, North Carolina; Dylan Parham, Memphis


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