Tyler Biadasz
Getty Images
Evaluations

Top-10 2020 NFL Draft Interior Linemen

Updated On: August 20, 2019, 3:45 am ET

2020 NFL Draft at a glance

Better in 2020: QB, RB, WR, OT, CB, S

Worse in 2020: TE, OG, C, DL, EDGE, LB

 

Top-10 Guards

Rk Name College HT WT YR
1 Shane Lemieux Oregon 6'4 317 rSR
2 Ben Cleveland Georgia 6'5 335 rJR
3 Jack Anderson Texas Tech 6'4 320 JR
4 Solomon Kindley Georgia 6'3 335 rJR
5 Netane Muti Fresno State 6'3 308 rJR
6 John Simpson Clemson 6'3 330 SR
7 Ben Bredeson Michigan 6'4 320 SR
8 Logan Stenberg Kentucky 6'5 322 rSR
9 Tremayne Anchrum Clemson 6'2 310 SR
10 Tommy Kraemer Notre Dame 6'5 319 rJR

 

Just missed: Sadarius Hutcherson (South Carolina) | 6'3/312

Potential riser: Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms (Missouri) | 6'4/330

Needs a leap: Jon Runyan (Michigan) | 6'5/310

Deep sleeper: John Molchon (Boise State) | 6'5/315

 

 

Top-10 Centers

Rk Name College HT WT YR
1 Tyler Biadasz Wisconsin 6'2 318 rJR
2 Creed Humphrey Oklahoma 6'4 325 rSO
3 Nick Harris Washington 6'1 302 SR
4 Lloyd Cushenberry III LSU 6'3 309 rJR
5 Darryl Williams Mississippi State 6'2 310 rSR
6 Matt Hennessy Temple 6'3 295 rJR
7 Jake Hanson Oregon 6'4 297 rSR
8 Cohl Cabral Arizona State 6'5 291 SR
9 Zach Shackelford Texas 6'3 305 SR
10 Cesar Ruiz Michigan 6'3 319 JR

 

Just missed: Sean Pollard (Clemson) | 6'5/320

Potential riser: Keith Ismael (San Diego State) | 6'3/310

Needs a leap: T.J. McCoy (Louisville) | 6'1/305

Deep sleeper: Jordan Johnson (Central Florida) | 6'1/320


Top-10 Interior Linemen

 

1. C Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin) | 6'2/318

The Badgers stole this Wisconsin native in recruiting. Though Biadasz had been named the state’s best senior defensive linemen, he wasn’t the cleanest projection to a starting role on that side of the ball in the FBS and therefore slipped through the cracks as a three-star recruit.

He received only one FBS offer, from the Badgers, who redshirted him in 2016. Wisconsin transitioned him to center despite the fact that Biadasz had never snapped a ball. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Biadasz earned All-American honors.

In each of his first two seasons at the new position, Biadasz has drawn top-three PFF center grades in the nation. He posted an 86.7 PFF grade last fall despite battling nagging injuries. Garrett Bradbury was a TE and briefly a defensive linemen before NC State made him a guard and then a center, where he ultimately flourished. Biadasz likewise has proven to be a quick study.

Biadasz likely would have been a high second-round pick – perhaps going somewhere between 15-25 picks after Bradbury in April – had he entered the 2019 NFL Draft. Instead, he returns to campus as the undisputed top interior lineman in college football. Like Bradbury, Biadasz achieved technical mastery at his new position in a short period of time.

Biadasz fires out of his stance with speed, power and purpose. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of assignments and an innate understanding of responsibility, never fooled by blitzes, slants or stunts.

Biadasz gets to his target quicker than his target can diagnose, he latches on and doesn’t let go, he wins the leverage game, and his legs aren’t going to stop driving from there until the whistle blows. He clears out bodies on the second level.

Biadasz has a really good chance of cracking Round 1 if he tests as an above-average athlete, as expected. He's not on Bradbury's level in that area, but let's not nitpick. We’ve already seen Biadasz handle multiple NFL interior linemen the past few years as a green youngster. Odds are that he keeps improving.


2. C Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma) | 6'4/325

I said above that Tyler Biadasz is the undisputed top interior lineman in college football. That’s true. But Creed Humphrey is going to do everything he can to steal that crown this fall.

Like Biadasz, Humphrey was redshirted. Last year, as a rFR, Humphrey surrendered only one hit and didn’t allow a single sack. He ended the year as PFF’s No. 7 graded center.

Humphrey was playing on veteran Sooners team last fall with plenty of big personalities, but he still established himself as a leader on a line that included four NFL Draft picks in April – Cody Ford, Bobby Evans, Dru Samia and Ben Powers.

With those guys off to the pros, the spotlight turns to Humphrey. The youngster plays with supreme leverage and doesn’t make unforced errors. He was dominant throughout his debut campaign until he met up in the playoffs against man-child Quinnen Williams. You’ll forgive him for not dominating that matchup.

Humphrey also doesn’t have Bradbury’s athleticism – no center does – but he’s advanced beyond his years in technique, making adjustments, picking up the blitz and switching off his man.

Because of his build and play strength, Humphrey additionally offers the possibility of covering both guard positions in a pinch or evening transitioning to that position if his NFL team has a bigger need there. That kind of stuff reads like a throwaway line at the end of scouting reports, but it’s not. Pat Elflein’s ability to play guard, to use one example, is going to extend his starting window in the NFL. The more you can do, the less risky your draft evaluation becomes.

Humphrey has late-R1 ceiling with a floor of Day 2. And he still has three years of eligibility to play with if he doesn’t make a leap this fall.


3. OG Shane Lemieux (Oregon) | 6'4/317

The brutish Lemieux is a four-year starting left guard for the Ducks with 38 consecutive starts entering the fall. Lemieux has already taken 2,599 snaps, and in most of them has doled out a max serving of punishment.

Even more impressive than the long starting lineup tenure is the noticeable improvements he’s made every season. Lemieux earned a 54.7 PFF grade as a freshman in 2016, a 66.3 grade as a sophomore, and an 83.9 grade last fall. If he improves enough this fall to threaten 90.0, I think you’re going to hear Round 1 talk over the winter. There are a few things he needs to work on to get there.

Lemieux is a body-mover, a dark-alley guard. His work in the running game is outstanding, a mix of huge power and must-win mercilessness. He’s also not a stiff. Lemieux is a danger to linebackers when climbing to the second level. He’s not perfect in this phase – he gets stood up when he's in a hurry and sprints in high instead of coming in under control and loaded up – but he’s shown enough ability to win on the move to not be dismissed as a phone booth guard. 

But Lemieux remains a work-in-progress in pass pro, and that can be seen in his PFF pass pro grade (79.0 last year, compared to 84.8 as a run blocker).

Whereas he’s a natural in the run game, Lemieux gets unnaturally wide in pass pro, ready to set his heavy anchor. But this works against him – he’s not going to lose the power battle to many interior linemen, so widening to double-down on that strength doesn’t make sense.

All it serves to do is freeze him in place, with less possibility of lateral movement to counteract pass-rushing moves. In addition to that, Lemieux’s hands lose their effectiveness the further they have to travel. Those mitts will control you in the run game, but when they’re used to jar and direct in pass pro, Lemieux can look tentative, as though unsure of whether he should sit back and play under control or say screw it and charge.

Lemieux is going to appeal to a power-run team that has an offensive line coach who trusts himself to teach the fundamentals. If Lemieux can acquire those in pass pro, he could develop into a Pro Bowl guard.


4. OG Ben Cleveland (Georgia) | 6'5/335

A heralded recruit, Cleveland impressed immediately with a 72.0 overall PFF grade as a part-time true frosh in 2017. He earned the starting RG job in 2018 and was awesome for a month – not allowing a single pressure – before breaking his left fibula.

Cleveland ended with an elite 90.9 pass-pro grade in that small sample. A former star baseball slugger, Cleveland’s hand/eye coordination and ability to move fluidly are the skills of a smaller man.

He’s a 335-pounder who fires out of his snap quickly and blasts fools with power. Cleveland is a bully who’s out for blood on the football field, perhaps the reason he chose the gridiron over the diamond.

At present, Cleveland is inexperienced (569 career snaps) and unrefined in his approach. As with teammate Andrew Thomas, Cleveland too often leans on his natural gifts and gives in to his desire to demoralize opponents with violence as opposed to merely securing his block and moving to the next play.

He needs to prove he’s healthy, and he needs to learn to play with more control and purpose. If he can refine his approach and improve his technique, the sky is the limit.


5. C Nick Harris (Washington) | 6'1/302

Harris’ play took off after he was shifted from guard to center in 2018. He finished last season with the second-lowest pressure rate allowed among returning Pac-12 interior lineman, per PFF. All this despite battling nagging ankle and knee injuries.

Harris doesn’t look like much – he’s built like a metal garbage dumpster outside an apartment complex – but he packs a lot of power into that boxy frame. Harris fires off the snap and uses his hands well, skills that play up his muscle-heavy play style.

As a sort of response to his athletic limitations and lack of length, Harris has compensated by always charging forward and being the aggressor. Often that works. But he can be given fits by clever players that use this style against him, allowing Harris to lead the interaction with the intention of countering him once he’s over-committed.

Forever leaning forward, Harris leaves himself open to getting clowned. I concede that I may be too high on Harris, that limitations Pac-12 defenders are unable to exploit will be picked on by quicker, smarter NFL interior defenders.

But Harris is a proven commodity who has the leg-driving firepower and the dine-in-Valhalla play style that appeals to me (as a former overachieving high school center). He might not have All-Pro ceiling, but I could see Harris starting in the NFL for a long time.

 

6. OG Jack Anderson (Texas Tech) | 6'4/320

Mike Leach and Kliff Kingsbury recruited and coached some iconic players during their tenures as Red Raiders’ head coach. Leach coached guys like Graham Harrell, Jace Amaro and Michael Crabtree, while Kingsbury brought in a group that included Pat Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb.

But none of those guys were as highly recruited as Jack Anderson, the No. 2-rated recruit Texas Tech has signed since the start of the 247Sports composite era (the highest was 2015 DT Breiden Fehoko, now starting at LSU; Anderson arrived two years later).

An early enrollee and the No. 77 overall player in his class, Anderson has started at right guard since he arrived on campus, making 25 starts at that post. He was a freshman All-American in 2017. Last fall, Anderson’s overall PFF grade of 70.4 was solid for a true sophomore, but no better than slightly above-average in comparison to the entire nation.

But there are a few contextual things I want you to keep in mind. The first is that Anderson made an odd decision to pick Kingsbury’s Red Raiders. He’s big as a house and profiles as a road-grader in the running game; Kingsbury’s Tech teams would have rather thrown five interceptions than hand the ball off 30 times in a game.

Kingsbury used the pass to set up the limited running plays he called, such that Tech’s running plays were not the downhill violence parties that many other interior linemen on this list got to celebrate in. Tech spaced out its linemen and set up for every play as though another pass was coming. Anderson would have been at home in Georgia’s scheme. He figured it out in Kliff's.

So I don’t want you to focus too hard on Anderson’s poor 67.7 run-blocking grade from last year. I want you to focus on his superb 82.4 pass-blocking grade over a huge amount of pass-pro reps. And I want you to know that Anderson is going to get more opportunities to do what he’s best at and knock some heads in Matt Wells’ balanced system.

You should also keep your eye out for center conversion talk. Anderson has experience at that spot from high school, and the versatility is only going to serve to increase his appeal to NFL teams. An athletic interior player with pedigree, plus power, plenty of pop and a petulant play persona who’s already a preeminent pass-pro prospect? Sign me up and save your alliteration.

If Anderson doesn’t take a big step forward in the running game under Wells in 2019, he can simply return to campus to work out the kinks in 2020.


7. OG Solomon Kindley (Georgia) | 6'3/335

Kindley was a different player in 2018 as a redshirt sophomore, turning into one of the best left guards in the country. Now a rJR, Kindley has two years left to ditch the tire of baby fat around his midsection and try to improve his mobility.

He shockingly developed into one of the best pass-pro guards in the nation last year with a 88.3 PFF pass-blocking grade. If Kindley can exchange 20 pounds of fat for 10 pounds of muscle and reap dividends in the quickness and agility departments, he could surge up the board.

If he doesn’t get there this fall, he can always return to school for another Georgia playoff run in 2020.


8. C Lloyd Cushenberry (LSU) | 6'3/309

Cushenberry is going to draw high marks for his athleticism and leadership. One of the class’ most active centers in the second level, Cushenberry is likely ticketed for a zone scheme in the pros.

Landing with a zone team would mitigate the amount of times he has to go power-on-power with a space-eater in a phone booth, his biggest weakness at present. But between his ability to wipe out defenders on pulls and pick off roaming linebackers, Cushenberry is a highly intriguing center prospect.



9. OG Netane Muti (Fresno State) | 6'3/308

The Bulldogs pulled a mega-sleeper out of Hawaii in the 2016 class when the two-star Muti was let out of his LOI with the Rainbow Warriors following a snafu with his application which re-opened his recruiting process.

Fresno redshirted him in 2016 (in part because of an injury discussed below) and converted him to the offensive line. In 2017, as a first-year starter at left guard, Muti’s seven “big-time blocks” led all offensive linemen in the country, per PFF.

Muti is a nasty juggernaut who plays like he’s plugged into a nuclear reactor. Defenders have all kinds of issues getting their pads lower than him. If they can't, their fate is usually sealed. They won't escape from the dungeon with their hands, it's too late. Muti’s upper-body power advantage and overall body control has the effect of stealing the defender's hands. If he's close enough to touch, you're already in trouble.

Check out Muti’s 2017 highlight reel below. You’ll note innate, Babe Ruthian power. The thing that jumped out about Jawaan Taylor’s 2018 tape was how defenders’ would seem to be zapped of all power once they touched him. Muti is this year’s electric fence linemen – when he hits you, you go flying, and when you engage with him, all your power seeps out.

He’s got Taylor power and Dru Samia’s wild-child play style, which makes Muti one of the most enjoyable linemen in the class to evaluate. But he’s very young, very raw, and very new to offensive line play.

Fresno State hoped to draw every ounce of value they could from the recruiting diamond, so they shifted him to left tackle prior to last season. Muti played awesome in the first two games, but most unfortunately suffered a ruptured Achilles in the third quarter of a devastating last-second 21-14 road loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. That was the second Achillies injury of his career. The first came in his first fall camp in 2016, prompting the redshirt.

After the Minnesota game, HC Jeff Tedford told the media: “I hate to lose Muti because he’s just such a strong competitor and the kind of guy on the line that everybody looks to. ... I just hate for him having already been through one Achilles to have to go through another one. It’s a pretty long rehab process, those Achilles.”

Muti is such a fun oddball of a prospect. He’s a left tackle who will not play tackle in the NFL. He’s a two-star defensive line recruit from Hawaii who was a collegiate standout from his first snap on the offensive line. He’s raw as can be and has suffered serious Achilles injuries in two of his three years on campus. He’s a G5 player with limited experience. 

Despite all that, I had to make a spot in my preseason top-10 interior linemen for this kid. Players like Muti are so rare, offensive linemen who jump off the screen because they seem to be so juiced-up with natural power that cats get zapped if they wander too close to the force field. His development must be monitored. And that’s going to be a joy for all of us.


10. OG John Simpson (Clemson) | 6'3/330

Simpson’s HS coach, Fort Dorchester’s Steve LaPrad, believes Simpson is good enough to join Byron Maxwell, Robert Quinn and Carlos Dunlap in a group of his four-best players ever. Heading into Simpson’s final year in the prep ranks, LaPrad said:

“He’s got the size. He’s got the speed. He bends really well. That’s his thing, as far as recruiting goes, that’s what those guys see. He’s just special. He bends so well. He’s not stiff. He’s got the long arms, big hands, he’s a wrestler. He runs very well. Really, work ethic is just amazing… he’s just a great kid.”

Rivals’ No. 11 ranked guard in the class of 2016, Simpson chose Clemson over a bevy of suitors. A 15-game starter for Clemson’s 2018 title team, Simpson has developed into a force in the running game. Once he gets his hands on you, you’re going backwards.

Simpson isn’t the most graceful on the move. So while he won’t be a fit for zone teams, power-running outfits will prioritize him. Draft wizard Tony Pauline is one notable fan. Pauline banged the drum for Simpson on Fran Duffy’s podcast earlier this summer and assigned him a Round 3 grade.

Pauline isn’t the only veteran evaluator who’s become smitten by Simpson. The Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy has already predicted that Simpson (along with Gage Cervenka) will break Clemson’s offensive line’s puzzling streak of five consecutive NFL Drafts without a player selected from its ranks.

Simpson isn’t the most exciting prospect to think about because his game is so straightforward, but we know he’s going to move bodies in the NFL. And his work in pass-pro last season for Trevor Lawrence was very promising. With the potential of 15 more games in 2019 – including, hopefully, the ACC title and two playoff tilts – Simpson will have plenty of opportunities to make his case for a Day 2 call in the spring.


Quick hitters….

C Darryl Williams (6'2/310) has started at guard the past two years at Mississippi State but will kick to center for his final season in Starkville. 247Sports reported in the spring that multiple NFL scouting organizations rated Williams as the nation's No. 1 offensive guard prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft. His move to center is an exciting one. Williams’ play speaks for itself, but his build is better suited for the pivot than a guard spot. Taking over for Elgton Jenkins, whose own draft stock was boosted by versatility, Williams will hope to entice the NFL with sterling center tape in addition to his catalogue of people-moving at guard. The reason I’m lower on him than some others is that while I love Williams’ always-on playing style, I wonder if he’s too small and too lacking in power to swing becoming an average NFL starter at guard, and too stiff athletically to become a standout at center. Williams is an upper-tier SEC lineman who could be a Quadruple-A tweener once he enters the pros.



C Matt Hennessy (6'3/295) doesn’t get talked about a ton as an undersized center in the G5, but his play with Temple was graded in the same neighborhood as Nick Harris and Lloyd Cushenberry last fall. Hennessy’s special sauce is pass-pro. He’s the only returning center in college football to receive a PFF pass-pro grade over 90.0 last fall.


OG Ben Bredeson (6'4/320) is one of the most experienced and seasoned guards in the class, having already played 2,297 collegiate snaps heading into the fall. He’s a heady player with a quick processor and an ideal build, but Bredeson will get pushed down the board due to middling athleticism, inconsistent pass-pro, and surprising struggles in the run game last year.



OG Logan Stenberg (6'5/322) is the best pro prospect on Kentucky’s roster. A big road-grader, Stenberg was rated above-average in both run blocking and pass-pro by PFF last fall, but he returned to school in hopes of making a jump into that elite neighborhood former teammate EDGE Josh Allen was able get to during his senior year. Specifically, Stenberg told reporters that he spent the offseason working on his technique. “He is a guy that could have come out this year but he is definitely coming back and has that mentality that many of these guys did to concentrate on some of the areas that he needs to improve,” UK HC Mike Stoops said in April.



OG Tremayne Anchrum (6'2/310) is a short right tackle for Clemson who’ll kick inside in the NFL. He’s able to swing outside in the ACC because of his slick feet, and those will serve him well on the interior. Particularly because Anchrum may have to be a zone guard due to his lack of pop in the run game. A dearth of play strength is the biggest question along with the boxy build, but he can’t be dismissed because of the way he moves and the success he’s had in big spots against NFL talent.



C Jake Hanson (6'4/297), like Ducks teammate Shane Lemieux, is heading into his fourth year as a starter. Hanson has already logged 2,737 snaps at center in his Oregon career, and he’s never allowed a sack. But in contrast to Lemieux, Hanson’s stock has dipped the past two years. Hanson posted a 74.6 overall PFF grade as a freshman and hasn’t reached even 71.0 in the past two seasons. Hanson remains awesome in pass-pro – he’s long, he shuffles smoothly, and he knows what he’s going with his hands – but he really struggles in the run game because he doesn’t bring much power and struggles to get low. Right now, I see a three-position backup ceiling in the NFL with the ability to handle both guard spots. Will likely have to come with a zone team due to Hanson’s issues with power.



OG Tommy Kraemer (6'5/319) kicked inside from right tackle last year. He’ll likely remain a guard at the next level. A ballyhooed former five-star recruit who signed with Notre Dame in 2016, Kraemer has allowed only one sack in 621 career pass-pro reps. While he brings a high football IQ and plenty of effort, Kraemer lacks the athleticism for the outside and his deficiencies in the run game along with a lack of quicks and pop at contact make his NFL projection at guard hazy.



C Cohl Cabral (6'5/291) of Arizona State is an athletic lineman who’s started at LT in the past. He has the ability to cover every position on the line in an emergency. One of the better centers in the Pac-12, Cabral is able to win the leverage game with a low pad level despite his length. He’s quick north-to-south and gets to his spot quickly while run blocking, and Cabral’s footwork allows him to smoothly shuffle laterally in pass-pro. We need to see another improvement in his pass-blocking, but Cabral is definitely a sleeper to monitor.



C Zach Shackelford (6'3/305), a First-Team All-Big 12 pick last fall, is is an experienced pivot who’s appeared in 40 games and started 27 during his collegiate career with the Longhorns. He’s shown to be strong in pass pro, but Shackelford has issues run blocking that could be exacerbated at the next level.



OG Sadarius Hutcherson (6'3/320) ranked No. 20 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list as a 320-pounder with a 31.5-inch vertical, a 650-pound max squat, and a 500-plus pound max bench. His tools are currently ahead of his play. Riser candidate, but he needs to improve in pass pro, improve his technique, and learn how to use his hands.


C Cesar Ruiz (6'3/319) showed enough flair for pass-blocking as a sophomore in 2018 to enter the 2020 NFL Draft preseason discussion. Ruiz is a smart player who overcomes athletic stiffness with power, desire and brains. Heading into his third year on campus, Ruiz must get to work on polishing his technical shortcomings and slowing down his frenzied approach. If he doesn’t get there this fall, he can take a mulligan and return to school in 2020. For now, he’s a watch-list guy.



John Molchon (6'5/315) was a 2018 All-Mountain West first teamer and a 2019 Feldman Freak with a 425 hang clean, two power clean reps of 365, and a 27.5-inch vertical jump. “John is an explosive athlete that stops all activity in the room when he maxes because everybody wants to watch him,” Boise State strength coach Jeff Pitman told Feldman. “Not only does he lift heavy weight with ease, but he lifts his team’s energy level when he is in the room.”


Source URL: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/article/evaluations/top-10-2020-nfl-draft-interior-linemen