Top 10 Interior Offensive Linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft: Tyler Linderbaum takes center stage

With less than a month until the 2022 NFL Draft, Tyler Linderbaum and Zion Johnson headline the top interior offensive linemen in the class.

Although a number of offensive tackles sit at the top of the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board, there’s an exciting array of interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft. From game-changing guards to sensational centers, and some that merge both with positional versatility, who are the top interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft?

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Top 10 Interior Offensive Linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft | 6-10

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10) Luke Fortner, Kentucky

While teammates Darian Kinnard and Dare Rosenthal have attracted attention in the offensive tackle class, Kentucky interior offensive linemen Luke Fortner is an underrated gem. With 23 starts at right guard and 13 at center, he’s been a versatile and important component of the Wildcats’ offensive line that saw Chris Rodriguez Jr. rush for 6.1 yards per carry in the 2021 season.

Smooth and quick footwork demonstrate the athletic capability that Fortner brings to the game. His ability to effortlessly transition from guard to center is a testament to his football intelligence. Additionally, the Kentucky interior offensive lineman plays with excellent pad level, technical refinement in his hand placement as a run blocker, and the requisite understanding of leverage.

9) Cole Strange, Chattanooga

Chattanooga’s Cole Strange is another player with center/guard versatility on our list of the top interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s also had two career starts at left tackle. While that’s an unlikely NFL projection for the FCS talent, having that experience certainly does no harm. Most of Strange’s college starts are at guard, but he likely has an NFL future at the pivot.

Level of competition is often used to belittle FCS prospects. However, Strange has the size, athletic profile, and nasty demeanor to go against any competition level. His near 6’5″ height with 33″ arms meets NFL requisites. His testing numbers from the NFL Combine back up the athleticism you see on tape. There are some technical refinements to be made, but you’d be willing to bet on a team coaching up the natural savagery and athleticism.

8) Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma

From Trent Williams, through Lane Johnson, to Creed Humphrey, and many more in-between, the Oklahoma Sooners have a rich history of sending top-caliber offensive linemen to the NFL Draft. That tradition is set to continue this year with starting left guard Marquis Hayes settling in as one of our top interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Hayes is an experienced, mauling, powerful guard who plays the game with a ferocious competitive toughness. The best part of 6’5″, the Oklahoma guard has excellent functional length with almost 35″ arms. The length gives him a natural advantage, but he’s also demonstrated the ability to use independent hands to manipulate his opponent. Teams looking for an excellent run blocker should cast their eyes his way.

7) Lecitus Smith, Virginia Tech

A shorter, stouter guard, what Lecitus Smith lacks in height compared to the other top interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft, he makes up for with ferocity. The Virginia Tech prospect is a monster who loves nothing more than prising open holes in the run game. He plays the game with endless competitive toughness, power, and violent hands.

Aside from the physical excellence, Smith also brings some technical refinement to the position. He plays with a consistently low pad level, keeps himself square to his opponent, and routinely demonstrates the ability to pick up stunts and twists. While his anchor and shorter arms might cause pause for some teams, Smith should prove attractive to run-heavy offenses at the NFL level.

6) Cameron Jurgens, Nebraska

Nebraska center Cameron Jurgens catapulted himself into the national spotlight with an exceptional showing at the NFL Combine. Earning a 9.94 Relative Athletic Score, the former tight end posted elite grades for speed, agility, and explosion metrics. Most impressive amongst them was a 9’11” broad jump at 303 pounds and a 7.19-second three-cone.

The Nebraska center’s testing numbers translate to tape. Jurgens is extremely adept at moving in space and gets out well to the second level. He also displays the ability to mirror moves by even the most athletic defensive tackles. He’ll likely make a zone-run NFL team extremely happy, although his limited size and power may restrict his value to these teams.

Top 10 Interior Offensive Linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft | 1-5

Who are the top five interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft?

5) Ed Ingram, LSU

LSU guard Ed Ingram is an absolute monster on the interior. While he might not be the most athletically gifted offensive lineman in the class, he’s technically sound with impressive power and punch timing. Ingram also reacts well to any challenges thrown at him by opposing defenses.

With size, length, and technical ability, Ingram lands as a top-100 overall player in addition to his standing as one of the top interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft class. There are some off-field red flags to consider, but Ingram should be residing on an NFL roster next summer on talent alone.

4) Jamaree Salyer, Georgia

Versatile Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer comes in as the fourth-ranked interior player and the 101st overall prospect. However, there’s a wide range of opinions across the four NFL Draft analysts, ranging from 60th overall to 147th. Although all but one of his 21 career starts have come at tackle, Salyer best projects at guard for the NFL level — potentially one of the reasons for the disconnect between analysts.

Although Salyer meets the length requisites to play outside in the league, his 6’3″, 321-pound frame is more conducive to playing inside. Playing on the interior will mask some of the lateral agility issues present on his tape. Furthermore, going into battle in the phone booth that is the interior will allow him to showcase the devastating power and physicality that he possesses.

3) Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Despite a difficult season for Texas A&M, Kenyon Green’s scouting report at the guard position oozes excellence. The 6’4″, 325-pound prospect plays from an exceptional stance. He also routinely maintains a low pad level throughout the play and manipulates his opponent with handwork, leverage, and strength.

The Texas A&M star plays the game with violence and athleticism. He exhibits an anchor that would be strong enough to root a cruise liner to the floor of the ocean. Furthermore, Green plays the game with intelligence. That said, there have been some examples this season where he needs to play with a little more control.

2) Zion Johnson, Boston College

Boston College’s Zion Johnson might be the most schematically and positionally versatile offensive lineman in the entire 2022 NFL Draft class. At Davidson, Johnson spent two years in a triple-option offense. During his first season on Chestnut Hill, he saw time in Steve Addazio’s power-run scheme. For the last two seasons, the Boston College offense has incorporated more passing concepts.

Johnson has played left guard and left tackle for the Eagles. Furthermore, he lined up at center during Senior Bowl practices. Johnson is a strong and athletic run blocker who showcases technical refinement in pass protection. With great hand placement and timing, he’s also demonstrated the mental fortitude to pick up twists and stunts to a high level.

1) Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Despite NFL Draft rumors suggesting that Iowa Hawkeyes center Tyler Linderbaum might be set to slide out of Round 1, he sits atop the interior offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft according to the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board. He currently sits as the 16th overall prospect. Yet, Linderbaum’s ranking from our draft analysts varies from the ninth to the 28th-best prospect in the class.

The NFL may consider him undersized. However, Linderbaum makes up for his apparent lack of bulk and strength with an exceptional understanding of leverage. A former wrestler, he’s adept at using his opponent’s weight against him to win the battle in the tranches.

A stellar athlete, Linderbaum thrives on getting out to the second level in the ground game. Relatively inexperienced having converted from the defensive line, his best football might well be in front of him.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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