Browns, NFL Draft

An early glance at the interior offensive line class in the 2018 NFL Draft

Another week, another loss. There are three weeks left in the Cleveland Browns 2017 season and the team is yet to win a game. With the season winding down, we at WFNY have taken an early move to focus on the 2018 NFL Draft. WFNY’s Joe Gilbert and Jake Burns have laid out most of their top five draft prospects and their overall thoughts for each of the positions on the offensive side.

Today, we finish up on the offensive side of the ball by focusing on the interior offensive line class. The interior offensive line consists of the offensive guard and center positions, who are in charge of controlling the massive interior defensive linemen.

So with all that, let’s take an initial look at what we might see in the 2018 interior offensive line class.

2018 NFL Draft Early Glance Series: Running backWide ReceiverTight EndOffensive Tackle

Joe Gilbert’s Top 5 OGs/CsJake Burns’ Top 5 OGs/Cs
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
2. Billy Price, Ohio State2. Billy Price, Ohio State
3. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas3. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
4. Will Hernandez, UTEP4. Will Hernandez, UTEP
5. Braden Smith, Auburn5. Braden Smith, Auburn


Best of the Rest: Will Clapp (LSU)Mason Cole (Michigan), Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama), Cody O’Connell (Washington St), Scott Quessenberry (UCLA), Isaiah Wynn (Georgia), Maea Teuhema (SE Louisiana), Sean Welsh (Iowa) and Beau Benzschawel (Wisconsin)

Which offensive guard or center do you feel stronger about than most people?

Joe: I do not really have a stronger feeling about a prospect than most draft analysts have. This class just does not wow me much. The player I have the strongest belief in is Quenton Nelson, but most analysts also have the Notre Dame guard as their number one player.

Jake: I personally love Billy Price probably more than I should. He has been a beacon of leadership at Ohio State for four years, playing center and guard when needed. He is ridiculously smart, strong, and cerebral in his approach to interior offensive line play. An above average athlete with solid quick twitch abilities inside. He will be a valuable asset for whoever drafts him.

Why do you believe Quenton Nelson is the best interior offensive lineman?

Joe: I think Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame is the cleanest prospect in the class in terms of technique. He has good feet, hand usage and body positioning to always be in position to make the block. Nelson has a well-rounded skill set to be a tremendous blocker in pass and run situations.

Jake: I’m with Joe on Quenton Nelson. His body of work is the best in this class. He is a monster in the run game, whether down blocking, handling a 3-tech defensive tackle, or pulling in the power game. He is also a gifted athlete in the passing game as well. Always on balance and able to shift his hips quickly inside to work angles. Nelson is an elite prospect in the 2018 draft.

What are your thoughts on the overall interior offensive line class? How would you rate the class?

Joe: Overall, this interior offensive line class is not too deep and I believe the class will not produce a lot of productive NFL starters. The top five players in the class are pretty good, but I think Quenton Nelson is the only elite talent in the class. I think last season’s class is far better than this year’s class.

Jake: Much like the offensive tackle group, it isn’t overwhelmingly deep. It has an elite prospect or two, but there won’t be a run on center and guard players early in this draft – which is usual, but we have seen this happen in the late first round in some recent drafts. Having said that, there are still plenty of guys who will contribute to NFL roster’s in here.

Who has the best single skill set and what is that skill set?

Joe: I believe Quenton Nelson’s body positioning is the class’ best skill set. Nelson has the ability to move his body to get in front of the rusher. He uses his hands, feet, strength and athleticism help him to win this battle and to almost always be between his man and the ball carrier.

Jake: It’s again tough for me to pass on Billy Price’s constant ability to work double teams and then peel off for another man. If you have watched Ohio State enough you will notice Price often blocking one man on the first level, and perfectly timing when to peel off onto the second level defender to spring a long run. It’s one of his best traits.

Who is a sleeper offensive guard or center who you are keeping an eye on?

Joe: I think Mason Cole of Michigan is a sleeper because of the strong group of Billy Price and Frank Ragnow leading the center class. Cole is my third rated center in the class, but that is not a slight to him, but praise to Price and Ragnow. What I like about Cole is his versatility. He played left tackle this season for Michigan, but his best is likely center. He should be a lineman who can play guard or center, which is a valuable asset for a team.

Jake: Sean Welsh at Iowa has had a really impactful season for the Hawkeyes. Iowa is known for producing front line talent along the offensive line, and Welsh fits that mold. He is quick on his feet and from everything I see, he rarely looks off balance or over-extended with opposing interior lineman. He has started all over the offensive line for Iowa and in a down offensive lineman group, he will rise if he has a strong showing in Mobile in January.

What is the impact of this interior offensive line class to the Browns?

Joe: The Browns interior offensive line is pretty much set. The Browns could have one of the best guard combos in the league with Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Joel Bitonio at left guard. J.C. Tretter has gotten better as this season has gone on and I believe he is the future at this position for year’s to come. The only impact this class has on the Browns is if the Browns would look for some depth and try to add a player later in the draft who could be a swing lineman with the skill set to play guard and center.

Jake: Well, like Joe said, the Browns have invested heavily into their interior three offensive lineman. Spending high on Joel Bitonio, Kevin Zeitler, and JC Tretter. All three have played well for the Browns this year, and will be imperative for the success of whatever quarterback they end up taking in this year’s draft. They could probably use a late round guy for some depth, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them pass on guard and center positions entirely with this draft. Keep an eye on Beau Benzschawel of Wisconsin late in the draft.

Quenton Nelson Clips (LG #56)

Billy Price Clips (C/RG #54)

Frank Ragnow Clips (C #72)

Will Hernandez Clips (LG #76)

Braden Smith Clips (RG #71)