2024 NFL Draft Preview: The Rebirth of the Offensive Line?

By Scott Kacsmar

The 2024 NFL draft is considered a gold mine for wide receivers and a lot of potential for the franchise quarterbacks. But what about the offensive line? So many teams love to say they want to build a team in the trenches, and so many NFL fans feel their team has the worst offensive line play in the league. When do we see the rebirth of the offensive line?

The good news for everyone is the 2024 draft looks strong at the top for offensive line prospects. We could see 9-to-10 offensive linemen in the top 35 picks, if not the first round this year.

Using the prospect rankings for offensive tackles and interior linemen (guards and centers) from NFL Mock Draft Database, we are going to look at the top 10 offensive linemen this year, and which teams could be the best landing spot for them.

But we start with a bit of a rant on the lack of great offensive linemen that have been entering the NFL recently.

Where Have the Great Offensive Linemen Gone?

A strong draft class that adds several franchise-caliber offensive tackles to the NFL would be a great thing, because the league certainly needs it. If you look at the best offensive linemen in the NFL in 2023, many of them entered the league a decade ago or longer.

For example, if you look at the Associated Press’s first-team All-Pro picks for the offensive line in 2023, it included:

  • LT Trent Williams (49ers), drafted in 2010, 35 years old
  • LG Joe Thuney (Chiefs), drafted in 2016, 31 years old
  • C Jason Kelce (Eagles), drafted in 2011, 36 years old
  • RG Zack Martin (Cowboys), drafted in 2014, 33 years old
  • RT Penei Sewell (Lions), drafted in 2021, 23 years old

Penei Sewell sticks out like a sore thumb as the only player under 31 years old. We’ve already seen Jason Kelce retire this offseason. Some of the second-team All-Pros are also getting up there in years, including Lane Johnson (Eagles) and Tyron Smith (Cowboys), who both turn 34 this season.

We need to find some younger studs not named Sewell or Tristan Wirfs (Buccaneers). Even a 2-time Pro Bowl center like Creed Humphrey (Chiefs) is a bit underwhelming with the way his snaps to Patrick Mahomes are so frequently low.

At the rate things are going, the only offensive lineman drafted in 2015-19 that looks to be on a Hall of Fame path is Colts guard Quenton Nelson. Some may say his best days are behind him too.

You would be hard pressed to find an NFL team that does not value putting together a good offensive line. But it does appear to be a position where unit play outweighs individual greatness, and a line’s true quality is defined more by the weakest link rather than the strongest piece.

This is why a team like the Chiefs can replace both offensive tackles in 2023, have one of them (Jawaan Taylor) lead all linemen in penalties by 7 penalties, and they still win the Super Bowl.

Maybe the Chiefs are an extreme example thanks to Patrick Mahomes, but for years, we have seen teams with top quarterback play work around offensive line deficiencies. Getting rid of the ball quickly on a consistent basis can cover up so much up front. Even the running game is changing in the NFL with the way the quarterback is getting more involved in that success with their mobility.

Maybe the college game has changed too much from the pro game to where you just aren’t going to produce the prospects we saw in the 1990s and early 2000s like Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace, Willie Anderson, Willie Roaf, Larry Allen, Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson, Kevin Mawae, and Will Shields.

That period may have just been the outlier in NFL history. The norm is middling offensive lines held together by solid pieces with limited weaknesses. You want greatness? You find it at quarterback, wide receiver, edge rusher, or corner. Maybe defensive tackle (Aaron Donald) or tight end (Travis Kelce) if you’re lucky.

But it sure would be nice to see a strong draft class along the offensive line this year. One can always hope.

1. OT Joe Alt (Notre Dame) – No. 9 Overall Prospect

Most experts agree that Joe Alt is the top offensive lineman in this draft. He was a 3-year starter at left tackle at Notre Dame and a team captain. His father John was a Pro Bowl tackle in the NFL, so the genes are there.

He can be a Week 1 starter as a rookie and the best odds of any tackle in this draft to be a franchise player for the next decade. He has been compared to Eric Fisher (Chiefs) and Mike McGlinchey (49ers).

Best Fit – No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers

While most have picked the Chargers to go with a wide receiver after they gave away Justin Herbert’s top weapons, do not discount the culture change Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are bringing to this offense.

We could easily see the Chargers go with Alt with the No. 5 pick to bolster that offensive line. He could start at right tackle or switch spots with Rashawn Slater, the team’s first-round pick in 2021. This should be the highest that Alt can go with quarterbacks and wide receivers expected to be the first four picks off the board.

If not the Chargers, then it would be a shock to see Alt last past the No. 7 Titans or No. 8 Falcons. Those are two more teams that are going to want to build in the trenches and run the ball and use a lot of play-action passing.

2. OT Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State) – No. 14 Overall Prospect

At 6’6” and 324 pounds, Fuaga is a big right tackle who also has guard potential in the NFL. He was a 4-year player at Oregon State with starts at right tackle in his final two seasons.

He steadily improved each year, making the climb from reserve as a freshman to a second-team All-American and finalist for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award as a senior.

He did not dominate at the combine, but he could go to a team that wants a physical presence who will use his hands well in pass protection.

Best Fit – No. 13 Las Vegas Raiders

With the 13th pick, the Raiders may be out of luck for the quarterback they want in the first round. But with Antonio Pierce taking over for Josh McDaniels, this team clearly wants to have a physical running game and play great defense to win that way.

Adding Fuaga at right guard or right tackle could help when the Raiders only have Jordan Meredith (free agent) and Thayer Munford Jr. (2022 seventh-round pick) at those positions.

3. OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State) – No. 15 Overall Prospect

Fashanu was only a 2-year starter at left tackle at Penn State, but he is coachable and has potential. He showed improvement throughout his career as he was a first-team Associated Press All-American in 2023. He started 12 games and had by far his best season.

He has ideal size (6’6” and 312 pounds) for the left tackle position in today’s NFL, and he could be an asset in a run-minded offense as he continues to get experience with pass blocking.

Best Fit – No. 14 New Orleans Saints

The Saints do not have a lot of good pieces for the long-term outlook. Adding a left tackle like Fashanu who may not even have to start Week 1 could be a good move in the first round. 2022 first-round pick Trevor Penning has not lived up to his draft status so far for the Saints. They should be in this market in the draft.

4. OT J.C. Latham (Alabama) – No. 18 Overall Prospect

He started 27 games at right tackle at Alabama, so you know he was well coached under Nick Saban. Latham is huge at 6’6” and 342 pounds, so analysts have called him a “tackle in a guard’s body.”

One NFC executive believes Latham has the chance to be better than Joe Alt in the NFL. That is high praise for this draft.

Best Fit – No. 19 Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have had their share of issues in protecting Matthew Stafford since he came into town in 2021. A true successor to Andrew Whitworth at left tackle sure would be nice as the team only has Alaric Jackson as the likely Week 1 starter there right now.

But Latham also could be the future at right tackle with the Rams. Rob Havenstein was drafted by the team in 2015 and is getting long in the tooth. Latham could be the franchise pick here for a rare first-round pick by the Rams.

5. OT Troy Fautanu (Washington) – No. 20 Overall Prospect

The Washington offense was prolific the last few years with Troy Fautanu starting at left tackle. He had his best season in 2023 after he was a 5-year player at Washington with some starts at guard, but at 6’4” and 317 pounds, he is built to be a left tackle in the NFL.

Best Fit – No. 16 Seattle Seahawks

The thing about a new coaching staff is they don’t have any loyalty to the players who were already there. The Seahawks do not owe 2022 first-round pick Charles Cross anything after a couple of underwhelming seasons at left tackle.

The Seahawks could pull the trigger on Fautanu in the first round and keep him in Washington State this year as he protects Geno Smith’s blind side.

6. OT Amarius Mims (Georgia) – No. 22 Overall Prospect

This right tackle played for a machine at Georgia, but he only started 8 games, so experience is a major issue. This could also be a classic case of production vs. potential. While Mims lacks experience, he has unbelievable size at 6’8” and 340 pounds.

If a team is willing to be patient with him, he could be a major asset down the road.

Best Fit – No. 25 Green Bay Packers

The Packers had the youngest offense in the NFL last year, and they were great down the stretch once Jordan Love got comfortable with his young weapons. But they lost some offensive line starters, and they also said goodbye to longtime left tackle David Bakhtiari after injuries severely limited him in recent years.

But with a hole at left tackle to fill, Mims is someone the Packers could draft at No. 25 and redshirt him for a year if they want to. He doesn’t have to be a Week 1 starter.

7. C Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon) – No. 24 Overall Prospect

The top center prospect in this year’s draft is Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson. He allowed no sacks on 714 pass blocking snaps in his college career according to Pro Football Focus.

But JPJ only moved to center in 2023 when he won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center. He showed his best stuff at the right time, and it should be enough to get him to go in the first round, and likely to a playoff team from last year.

Best Fit – No. 20 Pittsburgh Steelers

A center in the first round? This would be right up Pittsburgh’s alley, a franchise that has long valued dominant center play going back to Mike Webster in the 1970s.

The other good news is the Steelers are unlikely to use this No. 20 pick on a quarterback after acquiring Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. They also aren’t going to go tight end, running back, off-ball linebacker after signing Patrick Queen, and they probably will wait until the second night to get a wide receiver.

This is your classic Pittsburgh back to build up the interior line for quarterbacks who are expected to hold the ball longer than Kenny Pickett did.

8. IOL Graham Barton (Duke) – No. 27 Overall Prospect

Graham Barton is one of the most versatile lineman in this draft with the chance to play anything from tackle to guard to center. He was mostly a left tackle with plenty of starts over four years at Duke.

Center could very well be his full-time position in the NFL, but he is such a consistent player that he could likely excel no matter where they stick him.

Best Fit – No. 26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While the Buccaneers have one of the best young linemen in left tackle Tristan Wirfs, they can afford to get better on the rest of the line. They lost center Ryan Jensen to retirement a year ago, so that remains a void with Robert Hainsey not showing irreplaceable qualities last year.

The Buccaneers could be interested in upgrading at center with Barton snapping the ball to Baker Mayfield.

9. OT Tyler Guyton (Oklahoma) – No. 30 Overall Prospect

He may be a project, but a patient team could get a lot out of this 6’8” prospect from Oklahoma who has H-back experience. Guyton was able to start games at both left and right tackle in 2022. He was more at right tackle in 2023 and his season was shortened by injury.

Best Fit – No. 24 Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys let long-time left tackle Tyron Smith go, so that is a void to fill and Guyton can do it. He has even drawn some comparisons to a young Smith. The Cowboys might be in win-now mode under Jerry Jones, but Guyton would be a solid pick at No. 24 with long-term potential for the team if developed properly.

10. OT Jordan Morgan (Arizona) – No. 37 Overall Prospect

The 6’5” Morgan is a multi-year starter from Arizona who can play left tackle in the NFL. He has good size and strength. He could slide to the second round, but it would not be surprising if one of those elite teams picking late in the first round scoops him up.

Best Fit – No. 31 San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers love to build in the trenches, and we started this piece talking about Trent Williams’ advanced age in the intro. He’s not going to be there forever, and Morgan can learn a lot by watching a Hall of Famer like that operate. This would be a solid pick for the 49ers late in that first round.

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