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The 2022 NFL Draft could see at least three offensive linemen get taken within the first 10 picks with several more potentially being off the board by the end of the first round.
Brian Baldinger, an analyst for the NFL Network and former offensive lineman who played in the NFL for 11 years, revealed to Fox News Digital in a recent interview three prospects that stand out to him.
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Tackle Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu #79 of the NC State Wolfpack walks to the locker room before the start of the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on November 6, 2021 in Tallahassee, Florida.
(Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
“It’s hard not to look at Ikem Ekwonu from North Carolina State. Not to say that he’s the best fight now. He’s not finished,” Baldinger said. “There’s some things he’s got to work on. The way that he runs and moves people off the line of scrimmage in the run game … I don’t want to compare him to Trent Williams, that’s not fair to anybody. But he’s got that type of talent, movement. He’s gotta go do it. He’s gotta do it over a long period of time but he’s got really good movement and he’s probably gonna be the first guy taken.”
Ekwonu is as high as No. 3 in some NFL mock drafts. He was a unanimous All-American and won the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2021. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 301 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.93 seconds and a three-cone drill time of 7.82 seconds.
Baldinger said Alabama’s Evan Neal was another lineman he liked in the draft.
“Evan Neal, I mean look he turned down scholarships to Ivy League schools. He’s a very bright kid. But it’s always Evan Neal,” Baldinger said. “He started 41 straight games at Alabama. He started at left guard 13 games his freshman season at Alabama right away. He was coming out of high school he was 6-7, 335 pounds. He carries it well. He’s a really, really good-looking prospect. Those two are at the top.”
Alabama Crimson Tide OL Evan Neal (73) walks down the field during the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship, on January 10, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.
(Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Neal was a national champion for Alabama and was a First-Team All-SEC and consensus All-American in 2021. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 337 pounds. He could be taken off the board within the first five or 10 picks.
Baldinger, who has a partnership with CoachTube – a platform that provides online sports coaching and training from former college and professional coaches and players – revealed who is favorite lineman is in the draft. He said it was Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa.
“Maybe my favorite offensive lineman in this whole draft is Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa. We were down at the Senior Bowl and when you play for Northern Iowa everybody wants to see how you’re going to do against the best of the best at the Senior Bowl and he just mauled everybody,” Baldinger said.
National offensive lineman Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa (70) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
(Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“He gets his hands on guys and he wants to punish them and put them down on the ground. He’s got Jon Runyan’s demeanor. He’s that type of a nasty guy. He’s not getting out of the first round. He can play guard, which he has done. He can play tackle, he can play left tackle, right tackle. Lots of flexibility with Trevor Penning.”
Penning is projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick on some mock drafts. Draft experts believe he could be a good fit to potentially protect Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.
Penning was a First-Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection. He is listed at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds. He ran a 4.89-second 40-yard dash and a three-cone drill time of 7.25 seconds.
NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, left, Northern Iowa’s Taylor Penning, center, and Alabama’s Evan Neal.
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The draft is set to begin on April 28 in Las Vegas.