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NFL Draft positional rankings: interior offensive line edition

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Marmot Boca Raton Bowl - Memphis v Western Kentucky Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

It’s definitely a weird year when the interior offensive line class is stronger than the tackles, but that is exactly the case in 2017. The guards and centers of the 2017 NFL Draft have more NFL starting potential than the tackles do. This group is headlined by a small school player who posted an impressive combine workout, but one who showed that he can prosper against the best of the best when given the opportunity.

1) Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Lamp is the best offensive lineman available in the 2017 NFL Draft. Both his athleticism and his technique are excellent, and despite going to a small school, he proved multiple times in his career that he can handle NFL caliber defensive lineman.

At the Combine, Lamp ran the 40 yard dash in 5.00 seconds, he had 34 reps on the bench press, a 111.0 inch broad jump, and a 7.55 second three cone drill. Offensive lineman just don’t post those kind of impressive numbers.

Lamp played tackle at Western Kentucky, but as he is just 6’4” teams will likely have him shift inside. When he was playing tackle, he showed that he could do it against the best. In 2015, he did an excellent job slowing down LSU’s Arden Key, who could possibly be the first defensive player off the board in next year’s draft. In 2016, he got a chance to go up against Alabama, and did another great job against the Tide’s historically great defensive line, especially against Tim Williams.

Lamp has Pro-Bowl potential, and could reach that status quickly.

2) Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Feeney was regarded as a possible first round pick last year, his junior season. It’s rare to see an underclassman guard receive such high draft projections. Feeney is not likely to go in the first round this year however for two main reasons. Reason one: Lamp. Reason two: this year’s class has so much defensive talent that will consume the first round. It’s not that Feeney has done something wrong to cause him to slip, it’s just the talent of the players at other positions in this draft.

Enough negatives, let’s look at Feeney’s positives. In his senior season, Feeney was asked to move to right tackle due to injuries, and still went on to be named a first-team All-American. Feeney has a lot of talent, and that is in large part due to his quick feet, and strong arms. Feeney has a lot of power in his blocks, but he is light enough on his feet to mirror defensive lineman, keeping them away from the quarterback. Feeney is excellent in pass protection.

3) Ethan Pocic, C, LSU

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I feel like I’m higher on Pocic than most people, but that’s because I love the physical traits that he brings to the table. The biggest aspect of Pocic that jumps off the page is his size. Pocic is 6’6”, which is unusually tall for a center. Pocic is also versatile enough to play all five positions on the line, another trait that is very uncommon.

The picture above shows Pocic at the Senior Bowl, the game where he cemented his place as my top ranked center. Against NFL talent, Pocic’s blocking in the middle was excellent. He consistently opened up holes for running backs, and kept interior pass rushers away from quarterbacks.

The biggest knock on Pocic is that he is too big to be a center, and interior pass rushers could get below his pad level in the NFL. While that is a concern, I think Pocic has the smarts to overcome it. Keep in mind, he did play in the SEC where he faces NFL caliber defensive lineman nearly every week.

4) Dion Dawkins, G, Temple

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I did have Dawkins ranked in my tackles top five as well, but due to his size he may need to be shifted to guard. I have him in both lists because I believe he could be successful at either position.

Dawkins has good potential because of his technique. His footwork and hands are solid, and so is his balance. In addition, Dawkins has a lot of upper body strength that he knows how to use to his advantage when blocking. Team’s will have to decide where to play Dawkins, but his versatility should help him in the NFL.

5) Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Eflein reminds me a lot of another former Buckeye, Nick Mangold. Both are big, strong centers, that are excellent in pass protection. Elflein did not post as impressive Combine numbers as Mangold did, but the two have similar playing styles.

I’ve always liked Pocic more than Elfline because Elfline is not the most athletic, and his footwork is not the best either. His footwork can be improved, but he will never be the kind of athlete that Lamp is. I said I’m higher than most of Pocic, and I’m also lower than most on Elfline. Elfline could be a starter in the NFL, but I don’t think he will achieve the success that Mangold has had in his career.

That’s my interior offensive lineman top five. Now, I’ve completed my rankings of the offensive side of the ball. It’s time to switch over to where the bulk of the talent is in the 2017 NFL Draft, the defense. I started this series with the quarterbacks, so I’ll start the defensive rankings with the quarterbacks of the defense, safeties.