2022 NFL Draft: Who Will Be the First Offensive Lineman Drafted?

Devon Platana

The 2022 NFL Draft begins in less than three weeks, kicking off on Thursday, April 28 from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As usual, several teams will be looking to improve their offensive line with this year’s prospects. This year’s crop of offensive linemen isn’t as impressive as last year’s, however, there are still noteworthy prospects who are more than NFL-ready.

It’s anyone’s guess as to which o-line prospect will be the first to hear their name called at this month’s draft. Fortunately, oddsmakers help provide some additional insight as to how the three-day event could unfold.

Here’s a look at FanDuel Sportsbook’s odds to be the first offensive lineman selected at the 2022 NFL Draft.

Odds to Be First Offensive Lineman Drafted in 2022 NFL Draft

  • Ikem Ekwonu, NC State (-150)
  • Evan Neal, Alabama (+125)
  • Charles Cross, Mississippi State (+1400)
  • Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (+7500)
  • Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa (+7500)

Odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook.

Odds Heavily Favor Ekwonu, Neal to Be First OLs Drafted

Although there are several talented offensive linemen up for grabs, two stand above the rest on FanDuel Sportsbook’s odds list.

The players in question are none other than NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama’s Evan Neal.

Ekwonu Favored After Memorable Crimson Tide Season

NC State’s 2021 college football campaign was far from its most memorable. Although the Wolfpack finished with a 9-3 record, their season ended prematurely after their appearance at the 2021 Holiday Bowl was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols.

Nevertheless, one of the key components to NC State’s limited success last fall was Ekwonu’s play on the offensive line. The 21-year-old had the most memorable campaign of his collegiate career, amassing accolades along the way.

Ekwonu led all Power-5 0-lineman with a total of 18 big-time blocks in 12 games. He also allowed just three sacks without a quarterback hit on 500 pass-block snaps while giving up a career-low 10 hurries as well.

By the time the 2021 campaign was done, Ekwonu’s trophy cabinet was a lot fuller than it began. He won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as his conference’s top blocker while also receiving first-team All-ACC and unanimous All-American honors for the first time.

What makes Ekwonu such a terrific candidate to be the first o-lineman selected at the 2022 NFL Draft is his versatility and speed. He can run a sub-five-second 40-year dash (4.93) while possessing the ability to play either tackle or guard on the left side.

Teams drafting early like the Houston Texans (No. 3) and New York Giants (No. 5, 7) are in desperate need of offensive line help. Going with a player of Ekwonu’s caliber and potential not only addresses that issue as early as this season, but it’ll give them a reliable presence for the foreseeable future.

Alabama’s Neal Not Far Behind Ekwonu

The 2021 NCAA college football season was one to remember for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Although they lost the National Championship Game to Georgia, the fact that Alabama made it that far while winning the SEC Championship along the way was worth celebrating.

Neal’s tremendous play up front was a key to Alabama’s success. The 6-foot-8, 337-pound lineman did a great job at protecting quarterback Bryce Young, allowing only two sacks and five QB hits on 650 pass-block attempts.

Being an absolute wall on the o-line has been one of Neal’s traits from his three seasons at Alabama. He’s allowed only five sacks and nine QB hits in 40 career games with the Crimson Tide and only allowed 24 pressures in his last two seasons playing tackle.

Like Ekwonu, Neal possesses some impressive speed for a man of his size. Although he didn’t record a 40-yard dash at the Draft Combine, you only need to watch his highlights to get an understanding of his athleticism, especially when it comes to creating running lanes.

In addition to winning a National Championship in 2020, Neal received first-team All-SEC and consensus All-American honors in 2021. Some experts think that he’s only scratching the surface of his potential and it wouldn’t be a shock to see his trophy cabinet grow at the NFL level.

Other Noteworthy Offensive Linemen in 2022 NFL Draft

Even though one of Ekwonu or Neal is likely to be the first offensive lineman selected at the 2022 NFL Draft, that doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones worth watching.

Charles Cross, Mississippi State (+1400)

Although his odds aren’t as favorable, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross sitting at +1400 suggests that he could wind up being a first-round pick.

Cross is the type of player who improved with each passing college football season. This fact is highlighted by him allowing only 16 pressures on 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021 versus 44 on 574 snaps in 2020.

Additionally, Cross only allowed two sacks with a QB hit during the 2021 NCAAF season as well. The 21-year-old ended the campaign by being named first-team All-SEC for the first time while also receiving the Kent Hull Trophy as Mississippi State’s top player.

Even though Cross’ odds point to him being a longshot to be the first offensive lineman drafted, never say never. Several experts are calling him the best pass-blocking o-lineman for a reason and if one team believes that enough, he could be the first at his position to be selected later this month.

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