Every year, there is one (or two) position(s) that has tons of talent and tons of players that are drafted early. This year, it seems that those positions are the big boy positions: offensive line and defensive line. While the defensive line group may have more talented players overall, the offensive line is nothing to laugh at. Let's start with the offensive big boys.
How is a class considered good or very good? Well, you have to compare the amount of players selected early on to years past. Since we don't know where the 2016 guys will be drafted, we can only assume using a large array of boards and mock drafts. In the last 5 NFL Drafts, there has been an average of 2 centers, 10 offensive tackles, and 6 offensive guards taken in the first 3 rounds. The 2014 NFL Draft was the strongest year with 3 centers, 8 guards and 11 offensive tackles taken in the first three rounds. Anything higher than the average can be considered a strong/above average year.
So, how does this year's class stack up. Based on the all the draft experts around the league and the rumours flying around, this is how the offensive line this year stacks up. The following list is comprised of players who have a top 3 round grade, according to the consensus. You can agree or disagree all you want, but this is what the large consensus believes and what people around the league are saying.
The list/consensus I'm about to show you is comprised from big boards and mock drafts from: Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr, Matt Miller, Mike Mayock, Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, Charley Casserley, Chris Burke, Rob Rang (CBS Sports), Bucky Brooks, Pro Football Focus, Jon Ledyard, and Andrew Aziz (me). The list is also based on what rumours are floating around by top NFL insiders (Schefter, Glazer, Rappoport, etc) and Rotoworld.
The following players have grades listed in the first three rounds:
Laremy Tunsil -- OT (Top 10)
Ronnie Stanley -- OT (Top 15)
Jack Conklin -- OT (Top 20)
Taylor Decker -- OT (1st Round)
Ryan Kelly -- C (1st Round)
Cody Whitehair -- OG (1st-2nd Round)
Jason Spriggs -- OT (1st-2nd Round)
Nick Martin -- C (2nd Round)
Josh Garnett -- OG (2nd Round)
Germain Ifedi -- OT/OG (2nd-3rd Round)
Chrstian Westerman -- OG (3rd Round)
Jerald Hawkins -- OT (3rd Round)
Joe Thuney -- OG (3rd Round)
Vadal Alexander -- OG (3rd Round)
Isaac Seumalo -- OG (3rd-4th Round)
Alex Lewis -- OT (3rd-4th Round)
Max Tuerk -- C (3rd-4th Round)
Willie Beavers -- OT (3rd-4th Round)
Le'Raven Clark -- OT (3rd-4th Round)
There are 10 offensive tackles, 6 offensive guards and 3 centers for a total of 19 offensive linemen. That's more than the average, which indicates that this is a strong class. While it is not the strongest class in the last five years, there is enough consensus to believe that this is a better than average class. What's also worth noting is the talent at the top of the class. In the last 5 draft classes, there has been an average of 6.5 (unfair to round up or down) offensive lineman drafted in the first round. Based on the list, there are 7 offensive linemen projected to be drafted in the 1st round. This is slightly above the average, but nothing to write home about.
All of this tells us that this is a slightly above average class for offensive linemen.
The defensive linemen group is the strongest we've seen in a long time. If you think the offensive linemen group is strong, then you're going to think the defensive linemen group is incredible. In the last 5 drafts, we've seen an average of 8 defensive ends and 10 defensive tackles for a total of 18 defensive linemen. The 2011 NFL Draft had the most defensive lineman taken in the first 3 rounds (21) and the most taken in the 1st round (9). These drafted players are players who have a hand in the dirt in the NFL.
Using the same method as the one above, we come up with this list:
*Note: Only players who are projected to have a hand in the dirt in the NFL will be listed*
Joey Bosa (Top 10)
DeForest Buckner (Top 12)
Shaq Lawson (Top 20)
Sheldon Rankins (Top 25)
Robert Nkemdiche (Top 25)
Chris Jones (1st Round)
Kevin Dodd (1st Round)
Jarran Reed (1st Round)
Andrew Billings (1st-2nd Round)
A'Shawn Robinson (1st-2nd Round)
Vernon Butler (1st-2nd Round)
Kenny Clark (2nd Round)
Jihad Ward (2nd Round)
Shilique Calhoun (2nd Round)
Emmanuel Ogbah (2nd Round)
Jonathan Bullard (2nd-3rd Round)
Austin Johnson (2nd-3rd Round)
Javon Hargreave (2nd-3rd Round)
Bronson Kaufusi (3rd Round)
Maliek Collins (3rd Round)
Sheldon Day (3rd Round)
Willie Henry (3rd-4th Round)
Hassan Ridgeway (3rd-4th Round)
There are 23 players on this list, which would be the highest (by two players) of any draft in the last 5 years and is much higher than the average (18 players). This truly is a special class.
There are also 11 players with a 1st round grade attached to their name, which would also be the most in any of the last 5 drafts and nearly doubles the average.
You don't see classes like this often.
What can we take away? The defensive linemen class is amongst the best classes you'll ever see. It is a special group. Behind them are the offensive linemen. They're an above average group and have plenty of talent at the top.
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