The LA Rams are 3-0 and they have two critical matchups next week against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. For more on this key NFC West showdown on Sunday against Kyler Murray, there are many posts at TST about who the Cardinals are, the injury status for some key Rams like Darrell Henderson, who the newest linebacker on the team is, and Cooper Kupp’s historic September production.
But one thing that we can’t know right now — and is no less important to Rams fans about the state of LA’s future — is how the offensive line will shake up after this season.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth turns 40 in December, which you may have heard if you’ve ever heard the name “Andrew Whitworth” before. He’s old for an NFL player and this could be his last season. Given what we’ve seen in the first three games, Whitworth may not even be the best offensive lineman on the team anymore, or even in the top-three.
The best could be right guard Austin Corbett, but Corbett is a free agent in 2022 and the Rams might need all of the savings they’ll get with Whitworth’s retirement in order to be able to re-up the outgoing Corbett. There are always ways to keep the players you want to keep, but a strong season by Corbett could lead to a contract that pays him north of $10 million per year.
And if you didn’t have enough stresses in your life prior to right now, then also consider that out of nowhere, 2022 free agent center Brian Allen has also become a priority to general manager Les Snead. Did the Rams finally find their long-term answer at center in Allen? If he plays like he has for another 14 games (and whatever might come after that), then Allen will be a lot more expensive than Austin Blythe ever was.
That leaves the Rams vulnerable next year at left tackle, center, and right guard, while also noting that left guard David Edwards, right tackle Rob Havenstein, and backup offensive lineman Bobby Evans are free agents in 2023. Reserve guard/tackle Joe Noteboom is a free agent in 2022.
So yes, Snead might need to dip into the talent pool of the 2022 class of offensive linemen.
I’ve been researching the 2022 NFL Draft nearly every day this year and it can take a long time for the crop of offensive line prospects to truly emerge. It is best then to separate them in some fashion and today I will be narrowing in on the names that could be coming out of the Pac-12 in next year’s draft. If you’re also curious about what names to start scribbling in your “Rams draft notebook” for 2022, here are 11 names in the Pac-12 to begin obsessing over.
OT Kellen Diesch, Arizona State
6-6, 300 lbs
iOL Dohnovan West, Arizona State
6’4, 300 lbs
Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards has a pair of OL prospects who could be drafted in 2022.
Arizona State iOL Dohnovan West (@dtw61_) is a superstar in the making. West is an elite athlete and has phenomenal movement skills. He does a great job of pulling and getting to the 2nd level. He’ll be a high-level OG or OC in the NFL. Going to be a really high pick. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/FgRCzngew8— Jack Borowsky (@Jack_Borowsky) May 23, 2021
Arizona State has had a player drafted in every year since 2014, and it looks like at least Diesch could keep that streak alive. The former 4-star recruit who originally committed to Texas A&M is in the running as the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12 and if his age is a hindrance at all (24), then he could slip to teams on day two, at least.
West was a three-star recruit in the 2019 class, three years after Diesch graduated high school. West could return to school in 2022, but he’s looking like a draftable prospect so far.
C Alex Forsyth, Oregon
6-3, 303 lbs
Forsyth has won honors as Pac-12 OL of the Week this season, as well as being nominated at other times, and the Ducks might put more players into the NFL next season than any other team in the Pac-12. Arguably in the country.
PFF’s Top Graded PAC-12 Centers in 2021:— WestCoastCFB (@WestCoastCFB) September 28, 2021
1. Brett Neilon (USC) - 74.9
2. Alex Forsyth (Ore) - 74.3
3. Nathan Eldridge (OSU) - 71
Forsyth — a three-star recruit in 2017 — will be in consideration as the best center in the 2022 NFL Draft, a tidbit that likely interests everybody who is worried about the future after (or with) Brian Allen. It never hurts to have better depth at OL and LA could still use that at center next year.
Look out for guard T.J. Bass in 2023 — the young offensive lineman from Deming, WA is one of four team captains at Oregon as a true sophomore.
C Nathan Eldridge, Oregon State
6-4, 297 lbs
Whether or not Eldridge has a future in the NFL is unclear but he’s been one of the top offensive linemen in the Pac-12 for an Oregon State team that has surprised many people to open the season. The former three-star recruit in the class of 2015 — seven years before the 2022 draft — originally went to Arizona and he started as a true freshman.
An injury cost Eldridge the 2018 season and he transferred to Oregon State, winning the job as the starting center in 2020. He returned as a super senior in 2021 and he’s in the running as All-Pac-12 for the second year in a row.
OT Sean Rhyan, UCLA
6-5, 320 lbs
OL Alec Anderson, UCLA
6-5, 305 lbs
C Sam Marrazzo, UCLA
6-3, 301 lbs
The 3-1 Bruins shocked people early in the year and Chip Kelly’s offense is taking off again after several embarrassing years in the NFL. That hasn’t just led to UCLA getting in the running to win the conference title, but to send more players to the league than the program has in years.
Running back Zach Charbonnet, S Quentin Lake, TE Greg Dulcich, WR Kyle Philips, and QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson are in draft conversations already but the Bruins might also have a trio of 2022 draft prospects along the offensive line.
That starts with Rhyan, who has long been expected to get to the league. The former four-star recruit in 2019 started at left tackle as a true freshman and he’s been there all along the ride towards UCLA becoming a rushing game powerhouse in the country.
#74 T Sean Rhyan is able to put up a good rep against a budding star for the LSU defense BJ Ojulari— Brandon Coyle / NFL Draft (@CoyleNfl) September 28, 2021
Great foot speed, Rhyan is able to take on the Bull rush from Ojulari and anchor. Readjusts his hand placement and turns him upfield. DTR needs to step up more here pic.twitter.com/1SWB5E7RTY
There’s little I can find out Marrazzo’s recruitment, but he’s drawn a lot of praise from Kelly and the coaching staff over the last couple of years and every team in the NFL is looking for another option at center.
Anderson is starting at right tackle. He was a three-star recruit in 2018 but he’s now grown a fairly long resume of starts in the Pac-12 at the right tackle position and could be an option if he has a strong draft season in 2022.
OL Braeden Daniels, Utah
6-4, 300 lbs
It may be too soon to say that Daniels will be drafted in 2022. He’s a redshirt sophomore and he can return to school to build up his resume. But he has experience starting every game at left guard for Utah in 2019, then playing some right tackle for the Utes in 2021. That versatility could prove valuable, whenever he decides to give the NFL a shot.
OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
6-7, 310 lbs
C Luke Wattenberg, Washington
6-5, 300 lbs
Kirkland was only a three-star recruit in 2017, but he’s making a case to be a first round pick in 2022. In all likelihood, Kirkland is the highest-rated 2022 offensive line prospect in the entire conference. He most likely won’t be the first tackle drafted (Alabama’s Evan Neal gets that recognition most often) but Kirkland will be viewed as a team’s right or left tackle of the future.
Wattenberg was seen as a better prospect — four stars in 2016 — but his path has been unusual in one way. By getting a sixth year of eligibility, Wattenberg has a chance to become the program’s all-time leader in starts and games played. Perhaps he could be the day three or UDFA center for Snead’s tastes.
OT Abe Lucas, Washington State
6-7, 320 lbs
If there is a player in the Pac-12 looking to challenge Rhyan and Kirkland as the first tackle drafted next year, it’s Abe Lucas. The massive wall from Everett, Washington was All-Pac-12 first team in 2020 and he might win that award again, if not the Outland Trophy as the country’s top lineman.
Abe continues to dominate— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) September 21, 2021
This season, Lucas is rated the 4th-best pass-blocking tackle in the country and the best in the @pac12 by @PFF_College!
ZERO pressures in 123 snaps.#GoCougs | #BackHome pic.twitter.com/NS4svDhrTh
If Lucas could possibly fall anywhere near LA’s first pick in the 2022 draft, that might be an opportunity that even Snead can’t pass up.