Today I wanted to look at the interior offensive lineman, a position Pittsburgh could be looking to upgrade for the 2022 season. The graph below uses their 2021 PFF Grade and their current rank on PFF’s Big Board that updates through the draft process:
Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum lands by himself as the top prospect at the position and in the top ten on the board, playing all his snaps the last three seasons at center. He had respectable plus 90 overall, run block, and zone grade but lacks ideal size along with his high 70 pass block grade and a mid 60 gap grade. Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green played mostly guard in college and played both tackle spots last season. He is the second ranked player on PFF’s current big board but has a much lower overall grade than Linderbaum in the high 70’s. Green has good size and his best a plus 90 zone grade along with a low 80 run block grade, but mid 60 pass block grade, and worst mark in the low 50’s in gap grade.
Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson is the final player in the top 50, playing mostly guard and has left tackle experience, where he played the entirety of the 2020 season. He has good size and the steadiest grades thus far, with plus 80 overall, run block, pass block, and zone grade along with a high 70 gap grade. Johnson played for the National team in the Senior Bowl and enjoyed his play with a few nice blocks in the run game highlighted by a pancake but did have a false start penalty. I like his versatility and if the Steelers go with this position sooner rather than later, would love to see him in the black and gold.
The next players landed in the top 100 on PFF’s Big Board with lower overall grades. Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham has spent most of his time at guard and played all his snaps at right tackle in 2020. He had a high 70 overall and run block grade last season, fared best with plus 80 pass block and zone grades, but is undersized and had a low 60 gap grade. Parham played in the Senior Bowl for the American team and had an up and down performance, showing good things as a run blocker early but getting beat as the game went on, particularly when he played center (while not experienced there), got pushed back allowing a sack and had a bad snap.
Oklahoma offensive lineman Marquis Hayes had a plus 75 overall, run blocking, and zone grade with his best above 80 pass block grade with good size. He played nearly every snap at left guard the past three seasons and had a mid 60 gap grade. Hayes played for the National team in the Senior Bowl and had a great game, repetitively successful in the run game along with pulling a lot but was pushed back and allowed pressure in the pass game. Arizona State offensive lineman Dohnovan West is the final player in PFF’s current top 100 and played all three interior spots in college, with all of them at center last season. He had a low 70 overall, run block, and pass block grade with average size along with a zone grade just above 80 but low 60 gap grade.
Getting outside the current top 100, Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange played predominantly at left guard the last three seasons along with time at left tackle last season. He had plus 80 overall, run block, pass block, and zone grades but a mid 60 gap grade and average size. Strange started at center for the National team in the Senior Bowl, had a nice pancake in the pass game and enjoyed his hustle making a tackle following an interception, but struggled more in the run game and had a bad snap as well.
Ohio State offensive lineman Thayer Munford has good size and played most of his snaps at left tackle the past three seasons, with left guard being his primary spot in 2021. He had plus 70 grades overall and run blocking, a plus 80 zone grade, but mid 60 pass block grade and mid 50 gap grade. Virginia Tech offensive lineman Lecitus Smith has good size and primarily played left guard the past three seasons, with time at left tackle in 2021. He had low 70 overall, run block, and pass block grades with his best mid 70 zone grade, but a high 50 gap grade. Smith played in the Senior Bowl for the American team but seemed quiet and noted him for a good run block.
Notre Dame offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson has average size with plus 75 overall and gap grades, better plus 80 run block, pass block, and zone grades and all his snaps coming at center the past three seasons. The second Boston College offensive lineman is Alec Lindstrom, who also played all his snaps at center the last three seasons. He had a low 70 overall grade, with his best mark of plus 80 pass blocking, but plus 60 run blocking, zone, and gap grades along with being undersized. Lindstrom started at center in the Shrine Bowl for the East team and seemed average but did have a botched under center snap/exchange.
The remaining players are currently PFF’s later round/undrafted possibilities, and I will comment on a few. Georgia offensive lineman Justin Shaffer has good size and played at guard exclusively the last three seasons. He had plus 70 overall and run block grades, a high 80 zone grade, but low 60 gap grade, and mid 50 pass block grade. Shaffer played for the American team in the Senior Bowl and struggled in my opinion, noted a good run block but pushed back especially in the pass game, getting pancaked immediately on a snap and allowing pressures and a sack.
LSU offensive lineman Ed Ingram has good size and played exclusively at left guard the last three seasons. He has plus 70 overall and zone grades, his best a plus 80 pass block grade, a high 60 run block grade, but high 50 gap grade. Ingram started at left guard for the American team in the Senior Bowl and had highs and lows, with a good run block on an early explosive run and a couple positive pass blocks, particularly one out in front on a screen but a couple missed pass blocks as well, with one allowing a sack.
Washington offensive lineman Luke Wattenberg is undersized and played all his snaps at center the last two seasons along with his highest season total at left guard in 2019. Last season he had plus 70 overall, run block, pass block, and gap grades with a high 60 zone grade. Wattenberg started at left guard for the West team in the Shrine Bowl and enjoyed his performance, contributing a handful of times to the strong line performance that excelled in the run game.
A player lower on the big board but a strong grade was Kentucky offensive lineman Luke Fortner. He has average size and played each interior line spot the last three seasons, all of them at center in 2021 with a plus 80 overall, run block, pass block, and zone grades but a mid 60 gap grade. Fortner started at center for the American team at the Senior Bowl and enjoyed his performance, with a couple negative blocks early but improving as the game went on, highlighted with a nice block on an explosive run and a strong punch as a pass blocker.
A name that did not appear on the board that I enjoyed in the Shrine Bowl was Virginia Tech offensive lineman Brock Hoffman. He played for the East team and noted a few good blocks in both the run and pass game.
I doubt many will disagree that offensive line should be addressed in the offseason, and with the interior lineman normally being pushed down the draft board it will be interesting to see when (hopefully not if) the Steelers select an offensive lineman, and if it’s an interior, tackle, or hopefully a versatile player that can compete and contribute to a positive 2022 line trend.
While the ranks on PFF’s board with certainly change, and surely some names missing from this list, I especially hope you enjoyed the grade data (while not the be all-do all) and some notes from the all-star games. Later in the process as the Steelers Depot draft team continues to compile more draft profiles, I plan and look forward to providing visuals with their Depot draft grade and projection.
What are your thoughts on this year’s interior offensive line class? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!