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Top 5 NFL draft-eligible offensive lineman to watch this season

Joe Marino

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AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25: Texas Longhorn tackle Connor Williams (55) drops into pass protection during NCAA game featuring the Texas Longhorns and the TCU Horned Frogs on November 25, 2016 at Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. The TCU Horned Frogs defeated the Texas Longhorns 31 - 9. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)
John Rivera/Icon Sportswire

The 2017 crop of offensive lineman in the NFL draft left much to be desired. With that said, an early look at the 2018 class of offensive lineman shows a deeper and more talented pool of prospects.

With the amount of money franchises are paying quarterbacks, they must protect their investment by fielding a sound group of blockers in front of them.

Who are the top offensive line prospects entering the season? Let’s examine the top five.

1. Connor Williams, Texas

Williams looks like he could be special. Entering his third season as a starter, Williams became the Longhorns starting left tackle as a true freshman. In just his sophomore season, he was a consensus first team All-American.

Williams is a smooth and balanced blocker with considerable refinement. He looks natural when sliding his feet to mirror pass rushers and has the mobility to shut down speed off the edge. He pairs his technique and movement skills with good power throughout his frame, making him a dominant blocker.

Williams has the makeup of a high first-round pick and traits of franchise left tackle in the NFL.

2. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

Notre Dame left tackle McGlinchey would have challenged to be the first offensive lineman drafted and a first-round selection if he would have declared for the 2017 NFL Draft. To the delight of Notre Dame fans, McGlinchey returned to South Bend and pairs with fellow senior Quenton Nelson to give the Irish a devastating pair of blockers on the left side.

McGlinchey has an ideal frame and desired length to become a blindside protector in the NFL. His smooth feet and natural movements translate perfectly to today’s game. A balanced player, McGlinchey excels in all facets of blocking. His technique is consistently sound, play strength is outstanding and football intelligence is apparent.

If he stays healthy, McGlinchey should enter the NFL with nearly 40 college starts under his belt. His experience, physical attributes and blocking ability have the makeup of a decade starter at left tackle in the NFL.

3. Billy Price, Ohio State

Price has started 41 consecutive games and, barring injury, will break Luke Fickell’s school record for starts and consecutive starts of 50. His experience shows up on tape, where his outstanding technique and apparent football intelligence shine.

A dominant run blocker, Price has the overall play strength to create significant movement in the running game and open up lanes. The center is an outstanding finisher who looks to pancake opponent and plays through the whistles. His punch, hip roll and leg drive work in unison, often putting defensive lineman on skates.

22 October 2016:  Ohio State G Billy Price (54) blocks. The Penn State Nittany Lions upset the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes 24-21 at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

2(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

As a pass blocker, Price demonstrates the mobility to slide his feet, mirror rushers and close gaps. His powerful punch stymies pass rushers and jolts pads to halt their rush. He does well to work his hand fits, play with proper bend, remain balanced and maintain his technique.

Price should be in the mix to be the first interior offensive lineman drafted next spring.

4. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Brown’s father, also named Orlando Brown, spent a decade in the NFL as an offensive lineman and the younger Brown has the skills to do the same.

Having started all 26 games since walking on campus, Brown earned All-American honors as a sophomore and was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year by the league’s coaches.

A massive man listed at 6 feet 8, 345 pounds, the left tackle is a dancing bear with a surprising amount of mobility. He’s as powerful as his frame suggests, making him an all-around force.

Brown has a bright future ahead of him given his physical traits, bloodlines and accomplishments to date.

5. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas

Ragnow should firmly check the size, experience and athleticism boxes while featuring all-around skills on the field.

A dominant blocker in space, Ragnow is effective climbing to the second level, pulling into the boundary and releasing on screens. The center plays with a tremendous football IQ and understanding of pass protection schemes.

Ragnow has the power to uproot defensive lineman out of their gap while executing with good pad level, body control and balance. He’s a good finisher that routinely puts defensive lineman on their back as he creates running lanes.

While he is a fit for any scheme, NFL teams that run zone run blocking concepts and need a center to function in space should be targeting Ragnow.

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Marino began his career as the Assistant Editor for USA Today Digital Properties Draft Sites Network in 2011. A member of the FWAA, Marino writes about the NFL, College Football and NFL Draft for FanRag Sports.

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