You may have heard this statement already: It’s not a great year to draft interior offensive linemen.
But is that actually true?
It depends on how you view the positions.
“There are a few (interior offensive linemen) who will still go in the top 50 or 100 picks, but it might not be as strong (of a class) as recent years, particularly if a couple underclassmen don’t declare,” said Steve Shoup, who is the co-founder and creator of Fanspeak’s On the Clock draft simulator. “We might see only five guys maybe in the top 100, and that could leave some decent options for the fourth or fifth round. These players might not have the same upside, but could be developed into starters.”
According to a Fanspeak analysis, 38 out of 51 interior offensive linemen drafted between 2017 to 2019 are either starters, part-time starters or are on an active roster. That’s a hit rate of about 75 percent.
The center position in particular has loaded up on new starters the past three seasons. Out of 19 centers drafted, 14 (about 74 percent) are either full- or part-time starters.
The guard position has been a bit trickier to find talent, as a little over 50 percent – 17 of 32 – are either full- or part-time starters.
Overall, though, only 20 percent of the interior offensive linemen are either retired, out of the league or on a practice squad.
Keep in mind, the above numbers are skewed somewhat by the number of rookies (four) who are out for the year with injuries. In other words, by this time next year, the number of starters, part-time starters or contributors could be even higher.
Of course, every draft is different. When the draft is over, it’s possible that a higher-than-average number of linemen wind up getting selected. The opposite could be true, too.
But, statistically speaking, the number of IOLs has remained steady the past three seasons, with 17 guards or centers drafted each year.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be a surprise if around the same number of players are drafted this year.
And if your team drafts one of those players, they’re expecting a contributor, if not an immediate starter, even in the later rounds.
So, back to the question: Is it really a down year for guards and centers?
Right now, the Fanspeak-Steve big board lists 23 interior linemen (15 guards, 8 centers) among its top 254 picks, while the Fanspeak-Jake big board lists 24 (15 guards, 9 centers). Of course, this doesn’t take into account the number of underclassmen who will declare, like Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadsz (redshirt junior) or Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey (redshirt sophomore), who are considered the top two centers in the upcoming draft.
Therefore, once all the underclassmen have declared and more time has elapsed to further evaluate players, it’s more than likely that both big boards’ number of interior linemen will shrink. If recent history holds true, it’s more likely that 17 to 20 interior linemen get drafted. Specifically, it’s more likely that the number of centers and guards drafted in 2020 is 6 and 10, respectively.
So, either the Fanspeak big boards have too many interior linemen listed among its top 254 players, or it’s a better year for those positions than many are led to believe.
Coming tomorrow: A closer look at the teams that are drafting interior offensive linemen.