The work never seems to end in the NFL player evaluation world, which means front offices have already turned their attention toward the upcoming college football season in advance of the 2024 NFL Draft. With that in mind, let's continue our CBS Sports summer prospect series. We've covered the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and . Now we wrap up the offensive side of the ball with one of its most important, unsung positions: offensive line. Five went off the board in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft, a strong number.
Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State)
Darnell Wright (Tennessee)
Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)
Broderick Jones (Georgia)
Anton Harrison (Oklahoma)
However, former longtime Minnesota Vikings general manager and current CBS Sports HQ NFL analyst Rick Spielman considers this upcoming 2024 class of maulers more ready to roll on Day 1 in the NFL from the players he has watched on tape so far. High praise considering how well-regarded the 2023 crop was.
Here's an in-depth look at the current top offensive linemen with some pro comparisons from Spielman and CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson, plus some names who could rise through the ranks in the season to come. The offensive linemen are ranked by their readiness for the NFL entering the 2023 college football season.
Honorable Mentions: Cooper Beebe (Kansas State), Amarius Mims (Georgia)
5. Graham Barton (Duke)
- Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 314 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-ACC; only Power 5 tackle to have a Pro Football Focus grade of 85.0 or higher as both a run-blocker and a pass-blocker in 2022; only two sacks and nine QB pressures allowed on 457 pass-blocking snaps in 2022
Rick Spielman's comp: Ezra Cleveland (Vikings)
Note: Spielman drafted Cleveland 58th overall (second round) in the 2020 NFL Draft as the Vikings general manager.
"You have to see him in person, but I like his body type. I think he's a guard at the next level. I liked his height, but I don't know that his arms are long enough to be at left tackle. I think he's a good enough athlete to move inside to guard. His movement skills would fit an outside-zone scheme. My biggest issue is I think this guy is a good athlete, but he plays too many plays out of control. He spends too much time on the ground. I love the aggressiveness in the kid. Good space athlete, especially out on screens. He's too aggressive in pass-protection, could use more patience. This guy is a Day 2 prospect, but I love his toughness."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Josh Myers (Packers)
"He played left tackle last year, but he played some center early in his career. He doesn't look like a Joe Alt or JC Latham. He looks like an interior offensive lineman. He is tasked with playing outside at Duke because of need and athleticism, I get it, but I wasn't necessarily sold on him with the eye test. More of a technician, moves well in space. Strong at combo blocks, but he wasn't particularly sound at the point of attack. I thought he struggled to re-anchor against power edge rushers. That could be fixed if he moves inside. I think he has a chance to be a good interior offensive lineman, and he has a chance to go in the top 100 picks."
- Games to circle: vs. Clemson (Sep. 4), at Florida State (Oct. 21)
- Draft range: Second or third round
Graham Barton is a versatile blocker, in both the run game and pass game, as well as his positional range, playing both inside and outside in college. PFF assigned him 17 big-time blocks, their highest-graded blocks, which were the most of any offensive tackle in the country. What that statistic indicates is Barton's unrelenting drive to launch into defenders and absolutely bury them. He can become more fundamentally sound in terms of his balance and patience as a run-blocker instead of solely being a heat-seeking missile. However, many NFL teams would probably enjoy honing that quality and sharpening him into a high-end offensive guard.
couple of fun clips of Graham Barton (#62) with the loooonnnggg pull from the backside showcasing his movement ability.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) July 17, 2023
runs into some muck in the first clip, but good to see him keep his balance and reestablish his path before delivering the pancake. pic.twitter.com/yx0wtwyla2
4. Patrick Paul (Houston)
- Height: 6-foot-7 | Weight: 315 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-AAC; 91.1 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2022 (second-best in FBS behind only Northwestern's Peter Skoronski, who was selected 11th overall in 2023 NFL Draft by Tennessee Titans); only one sack and 12 QB pressures allowed on 566 pass-blocking snaps in 2022
Rick Spielman's comp: D.J. Humphries (Cardinals)
"He's a little high cut, but I don't have any issues with the athleticism. I think he is a good athlete. He needs to add some bulk and strength. He has grit and tries to finish in the run game. He plays with too high of a pad level. His hands are all over the place, technically. As athletic as he is, he's almost too spastic. That means he wants to try and bury people all the time. I love the grit and toughness, but you have to do it in a controlled manner. He can sometimes be a bull in the china shop. He could use a little more control and patience because he has the athleticism to be under control. He needs to get a little stronger and get better a little technically in pass-protection. He's a block of clay, and you can mold his skills well at the next level. I don't think he's a Day 1 starter as a rookie. I think it will take a year to develop him. I think he can be a good left tackle in this league. He's a little bit more of a projection. This guy showed on tape that he has a passion for the game of football with his demeanor on the field."
Ryan Wilson's comp: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (former Jet)
"I think he is further along than Broderick Jones and Anton Harrison [two first round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft], two guys that went first round last draft. High-waist, long legs and arms. He moves well laterally, does well against inside stunts. He showed a good inside anchor against Tyree Wilson [the Raiders' seventh overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft] in pass protection. Tyree got after him a few times, but he's a great player. He showed strong hands and that he can be a strong anchor. Shows a high center of gravity, which means he can be susceptible against a bull rush. He needs to be better as a run-blocker, can get beat inside there."
- Games to circle: Big 12 opponents
- Draft range: Middle of first round (Ryan Wilson), second or third round (Rick Spielman)
Patrick Paul is huge and has long arms, both traits that are pluses as an NFL offensive lineman. However, he can sometimes have issues firing off the ball in the run game because of his high center of gravity. He'll need to spend plenty of time widening out his frame and honing in his aggression with more polished moves off the line of scrimmage. As a pass-blocker, he has everything you need technically to be elite, as evidenced by his PFF grade in that area. The Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, two teams with a history of strong offensive line development, would be quality landing spots at the back end of the first round if he puts together a strong season in the Big 12. If Paul lands with the right team, he can become one of the better offensive tackles in the league.
Houston’s Patrick Paul (LT #76) plays with violence and balance as a run blocker and pass protector. First you’ll see him clear the DL out of the gap and then executes a snatch and trap.— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) July 29, 2023
Paul is among the top OTs in the 2024 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/uLTG0vheSd
3. JC Latham (Alabama)
- Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 335 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 84.5 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets per PFF (fourth-highest among FBS offensive tackles); no sacks allowed and 12 quarterback pressures allowed on 486 pass-blocking snaps
Rick Spielman's comp: Orlando Brown
"I think this kid is great at reading and reacting. But, I think he's a right tackle athlete only. I love his size. I've seen him in person when I was down there in the spring, and he is a BIG MAN. This guy is powerful, creates movement at the point of attack in the run game. He needs to be more consistent against some of the more athletic defenders he'll face that come the back side in the run game. He needs to get hands on guys earlier to prevent lunging at defenders. That's something that needs to be cleaned up. I thought he was one of the better pass-protection guys for players I've seen on the right side. He can anchor versus power. Very patient pass rush moves with counters. He's great at using his feet instead of just waist bending. When he is set deep, that's where he is susceptible to pass rushers beating him to the inside. He'll definitely be a top 15 pick. He's a better athlete at right tackle than Darnell Wright from Tennessee."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Lane Johnson
"He's a prospect on the rise who can get better. He hasn't played a ton, so I took that into consideration. He's thick, well-built. He moves well in space. He shows good balance against stronger defensive ends. He has a good base in pass-protections and is strong against twists and stunts as any player I watched in this class."
- Games to circle: Practice against NFL-caliber teammates
- Draft range: First 15 picks
"Shout out to my right tackle, JC Latham," former Alabama quarterback and 2023 first overall draft pick Bryce Young said about Latham. "He actually is crazy. He actually lowkey blocks two people off of the edge."
Sure enough, as you can see in the clip below of this Young touchdown pass at Tennessee last season, Latham blocked two defenders, providing his quarterback time to move up in the pocket and deliver a strike to a wide-open target. With his strength, he truly can absorb two defenders in one pass-blocking set. His only issue is occasionally being a step slow when having to prevent rushers coming at his left side toward the right guard. Latham has a clear path to being a dominant force as run-blocker with solid upside in pass-protection at the next level.
2. Joe Alt (Notre Dame)
- Height: 6-foot-8 | Weight: 322 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-American; started at left tackle for 21 consecutive games; 91.4 PFF offensive grade (best among Power 5 offensive tackles, including Notre Dame because it plays a Power 5 schedule); 91.0 PFF run-blocking grade; no sacks allowed and only six QB pressures allowed on 389 pass-blocking snaps
Rick Spielman's comp: Eric Fisher
"I think he's a little tight as an athlete. In the run game, he waist-bends, which indicates he's a little stiff through his lower body. A lot of that can be corrected with coaching and technique stuff. I liked his aggressiveness. I thought he brought his feet on contact, The waist bend thing is what bothered me, and I didn't think he was an elite athlete in space in the second level against linebackers and in the open field. However, because he's so long, it's tough to get around him and his length. He's very sound in pass-protection. He looks like a savvy vet with how he sees things off the edge. He doesn't recover great, which could hurt him against elite pass rushers when they gain the edge at the next level. He's talented enough to play left tackle. However, I wouldn't be surprised if some teams looked at him as a right tackle. His technique is very sound."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Mike McGlinchey
"I liked him a lot. He was way more athletic on tape than I thought he would be. Great size at 6-foot-8, but sometimes those can be too lumbering. Not Alt. He felt pretty athletic, moves well in space. Not a plodder. He plays with great leverage for his size. Sometimes he can get too upright, but that's not unexpected. I thought he did will against Myles Murphy [the Bengals' first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft] in the Clemson game. I like him a lot more than I thought I would."
- Games to circle: vs Ohio State (Sep. 23), at Clemson (Nov. 4)
- Draft range: First 10 picks
Joe Alt is a mountain of a human being. He is an absolute destroyer in the run game, bulldozing defenders with ease. He hands out more pancakes than an IHOP as run-blocker. As a pass-blocker, his agility could get him into some trouble at the next level, but that's something that can be improved upon with the right coaches and strength and conditioning program. Alt would be a Day 1 starter for many NFL offenses.
1. Olu Fashanu (Penn State)
- Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 319 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 coaches second-team All-Big Ten; 84.7 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2022 (sixth-best among Power Five tackles); no sacks allowed and only six QB pressures allowed in 2022
Rick Spielman's comp: Ronnie Stanley
"All the physical traits are there to play left tackle [in the NFL]. He is going to be 21 in December. In the run game, you see the power and how he moves people. This guy, for as big as he is, plays on his feet well in space. I think he needs to finish [some blocks] better sometimes. He's not always a consistent finisher, but the games come so easy to him. I would just like to see a little more grit in him until the whistle blows. He's a really great athlete in pass-protection, really smooth mover. No question about about having left tackle feet. He plays with great body control, recovers with his feet. He has the arm length, which is is friend... knows how to reset and anchor. Can moves rushers well past the pocket. He has big upside. This guy has Pro Bowl written all over him, he has all the tools. Stanley is a Pro Bowl left tackle, and when he's healthy, he's one of the best in the business."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Trent Williams
"The athleticism grabs your attention. Trent Williams has a lot more grit at this point than Fashanu, but Olu has a ton of upside. Williams is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL right now."
- Games to circle: at Ohio State (Oct. 21), vs Michigan (Nov. 11)
- Draft range: First 10 picks
Olu Fashanu's blend of developmental experience and athletic traits make him the clear-cut top offensive tackle in this class right now. Despite only being 20 years old, he's a redshirt junior who is coming back to Penn State to get his master's degree. He'll have a lot of college football under his belt by the time he goes pro next April. Fashanu is almost flawless from a technical perspective in pass-protection, and the only nitpick to him is he doesn't always look to run opposing defenders over near the end of a play during his run-blocking. That's an easily correctable issue, and with Fashanu's athletic gifts, the sky is the limit.
just finished studying my first game of Penn State LT Olu Fashanu (#74) and WOW there's a lot to like.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) June 26, 2023
there's the obvious size and length. But he plays with calm feet and eyes and constantly shows off his balance, technique and athleticism. With plenty of pop in the run game. pic.twitter.com/PTGEHuZuMU