Bears

Hub Arkush’s 2022 NFL draft positional preview: Offensive tackle

Central Michigan offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann plays against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 26, 2021 in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

The 2022 draft class of offensive tackles is not as deep as it has been in recent years. It’s also not as loaded at the top.

There could be some maneuvering to take Evan Neal (top five) or Ickey Ekwonu (top 10), but after that it wouldn’t be stunning if there was only one other first-rounder and no more than two to four taken in the second round.

There are a fair number of high ceilings in this group, so it could be a popular position in the third round, but there are even more potential busts.

DAY 1 PROSPECTS

1. Evan Neal, Alabama (6-7 ½, 337, junior)

Neal checks all the boxes to be a perennial Pro Bowl tackle. His triangle numbers – size, speed, strength ratios – are off the charts. He’s technically sound with the natural athleticism for a man his size to dominate at left tackle, although he played both sides at Alabama. He’ll need to watch his weight, but the sky’s the limit other than that. Neal should be a top-five pick.

2. Ickey Ekwonu, North Carolina St. (6-4, 310, junior)

This is a high-character kid with a lot of the same traits as Neal other than the great natural size. His frame will handle another five or 10 pounds in the weight room, however, and what he does have is a nasty streak that has evaluators drooling. He is a fierce competitor and should have a great future at left tackle but can play anywhere along the line.

3. Charles Cross, Mississippi St. (6-4 ½, 307, redshirt sophomore)

Most of Cross’ 307 pounds are muscle, and his frame will handle a bit more. Technique is good, allowing him to play on either side even though he’s not a special athlete. He is an outstanding run blocker. He won’t get beat with a bull rush, but he’ll need time to adjust to NFL speed rushers. If he gets his hands on you, you’re probably done.

4. Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (6-6, 303, senior)

This kid is both a production and traits projection that’s unlikely to be a bust but could be a boom. He was a tight end until two years ago and has played only 18 games at tackle. As a converted tight end, he’s extremely athletic for tackle and must be coachable because his technique already is solid. All he’s missing are experience and rhythm. He’s a true left tackle.

5. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (6-7, 325, redshirt senior)

Penning has great size, is a nice athlete for such a big man and comes with plenty of experience with three years at left tackle, but his best trait may be his toughness and grit. He doesn’t just look to win, he tries to destroy and will have to control that without losing his aggression. Biggest question mark is the step up in class from the FCS to the NFL.

DAY 2 PROSPECTS

6. Tyler Smith, Tulsa (6-4, 324, redshirt sophomore)

Smith is another tough guy and a mauler in the run game that may fit better on the right side than the left, or even at guard. His pass protection will need work. He probably would have benefited from another year in school, but he has tremendous power and some outstanding traits.

7. Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (6-8, 384, senior)

This is a mountain of a man with tree limbs for arms who comes from Australia with only a few years playing the game. He’ll be a right tackle at the next level and will need a lot of coaching and technique work, but he’s a rare piece of clay that some team may not be able to leave on the board until Day 3.

8. Max Mitchell, Louisiana (6-6, 307, senior)

High-character, tough, athletic big man with surprisingly well-developed technique coming out of college. He can play on the left or the right. Unlike most prospects, he’s probably a little further along as a pass protector than run blocker, but the tools are there.

9. Nick Petit-Frere, Ohio St. (6-5, 316, redshirt junior)

Petit-Frere is a solid left tackle prospect but he will need to improve his power/playing strength in spite of his great size. At times he looks NFL ready, but his best efforts were not in his biggest games, including against Michigan when he appeared overmatched. He does, however, have the size and athleticism you can’t teach.

10. Thayer Munford Jr., Ohio St. (6-6, 328, senior )

Mumford Jr. was a four-year starter in Columbus and played tackle and guard, but he probably will be a right tackle in the NFL. His size and frame are off the charts, but he’s not a special athlete. Still, with his great size and huge wingspan, there is much to work with.

DAY 3 PROSPECTS

11. Rasheed Walker, Penn St. (6-6, 313, redshirt junior)

12. Abraham Lucas, Washington St. (6-6, 315, redshirt senior)

13. Andrew Stueber, Michigan (6-7, 325, redshirt senior)

14. Vederian Lowe, Illinois (6-5, 314, senior)

15. Braxton Jones, Southern Utah St. (6-5, 310, redshirt senior)

Previous entries in this series

Quarterback

Running back

Wide receiver

Tight end

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.