The Bears seem to have lucked into finding a long-term starter along the interior offensive line by switching Teven Jenkins to guard.
After trade rumors aplenty leading up to the season and a demotion at tackle, Jenkins has been, by most metrics, the Bears’ best offensive lineman this season. Alongside him on the interior is Cody Whitehair, the veteran guard who has a decent-sized cap hit next year but has put together a pretty solid 2022 campaign.
The center position is where things get murky, though. Sam Mustipher has rebounded a bit in recent weeks after a horrendous start to the season, but it remains unlikely that he’s entrenched in the starting lineup going forward. Lucas Patrick is currently injured, and even when he was healthy, he wasn’t exactly playing all that well.
This gives the Bears a bit of a dilemma along the interior. Patrick will presumably start at center with Whitehair at left guard and Jenkins at right guard, but what about beyond this year? Will Chicago exercise the reasonable out they have in Patrick’s contract? Will they keep Whitehair at guard or kick him back to center if they make a splash in free agency? Or, just maybe, could the Bears draft an interior offensive lineman and give him a shot to fight for a starting role?
I have decided to share my current top 15 guards and centers on my 2023 draft board to give you all a bit of an understanding as to which prospects the Bears could be tied to once draft discussion really picks up. Keep in mind that these rankings are obviously a work in progress, and that things will change from now until April.
That said, let’s dive right in and look at the best interior offensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tier 1: Immediate starters
1. John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
6-foot-4, 320 pounds; center
In my opinion, Schmitz has been the best interior offensive lineman in college football this season. He’ll be 24 in March, but his flexibility, power, body control, intelligence all indicate he should be an immediate starter at the next level, and a good one at that.
2. O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
6-foot-5, 347 pounds; guard
If Schmitz isn’t the best interior offensive lineman, Torrence is likely your best bet. He dominated during his time at Louisiana and has excelled at Florida in 2022; he’s nasty, powerful, uses his hands well and flattens the opposition in the run game.
3. Andrew Vorhees, USC
6-foot-6, 325 pounds; guard
With five years as either a full-time starter or a starter for most of the season, Vorhees has both an impressive resume and an awesome last name for an offensive lineman. His grip strength and power in his anchor are impressive, and the accuracy behind his strikes allows him to overwhelm defenders at the point of attack.
4. Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia
6-foot-4, 310 pounds; center
Armed with vise grips for hands and a nasty edge, Van Pran stood out to me as a run blocker when watching him in 2021. This year, however, I’ve been taken aback by his improved burst off the snap and overall coordination.
5. Cooper Beebe, Kansas State
6-foot-4, 322 pounds; guard
Beebe is a stout lineman whose pad work and situational awareness indicate he could start right away at the NFL level. He’s not the most explosive athlete up front, but he keeps his center of gravity low and offers good flexibility in his lower half, and that helps him win at the point of attack more often than not.
6. Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame
6-foot-4, 310 pounds; center
If Patterson, a four-year starter on Notre Dame’s offensive line with pro-ready power, good instincts as a zone blocker and accurate hand placement, doesn’t intrigue you, I’m not sure what will.
Tier 2: Starting upside
7. Steve Avila, TCU
6-foot-4, 320 pounds; center
Avila is a powerful blocker with experience at center, guard and tackle, and he blends a wide base with good bend in his knees and effective pad level. He’s not a very flashy prospect, but he does a lot of the little things right and should be able to contribute at the next level.
8. Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan
6-foot-3, 307 pounds; center
With four years of starting experience, a season as a Rimington Trophy finalist for Virginia and another one likely on the way with Michigan, Oluwatimi is an accomplished collegiate blocker with a strong anchor, a low center of gravity and a nasty edge who keeps his head on a swivel in pass protection.
9. Luke Wypler, Ohio State
6-foot-3, 300 pounds; center
Wypler may not declare for the 2023 draft being a redshirt sophomore, but he now has two seasons of strong starting tape at center. His physical upside is just okay, but he’s flexible, technically sound and is proportionally strong in both his upper and lower body.
10. Nick Broeker, Ole Miss
6-foot-5, 315 pounds; guard
Analytically speaking, Broeker has been one of the best offensive linemen in the nation this year. He has good footwork in pass protection, good drive out of his lower half, great situational awareness and plays with a solid motor.
11. Javion Cohen, Alabama
6-foot-4, 305 pounds; guard
Cohen is an above-average athlete on tape who offers good redirect ability and solid burst off the line of scrimmage. Though not the biggest or strongest blocker out there, he thrives on the move and is intelligent in zone situations.
12. Emil Ekiyor Jr., Alabama
6-foot-3, 307 pounds; guard
Ekiyor has done a great job losing weight and shedding fat from his frame, and he’s still a densely-built blocker with very good raw play strength. He won’t wow anyone athletically, but his weight loss has seen him shown promise in how he develops his acceleration off the snap and body control at the point of attack.
13. Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas
6-foot-4, 318 pounds; center
I feel as though Stromberg has fallen into the “solid for a couple of years so he fades into the background” category. He isn’t the most athletic or flexible center out there, but he’s strong, tenacious, intelligent and lands his jabs well inside the frame of opposing defensive linemen.
14. Mark Evans II, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
6-foot-4, 295 pounds; guard
Evans plays as a tackle in college, but I think he could be a very good guard at the NFL level. What he lacks is significant length and size, he makes up for in his impressive athleticism, coordination at the point of attack and ability to roll his hips through contact. He’s a sleeper prospect worth remembering in this class.
15. LaDarius Henderson, Arizona State
6-foot-5, 310 pounds; guard
Henderson started at left tackle as a true freshman at 17 years old in 2019, and he has improved ever since. He’s still a work in progress from a pad level and weight distribution perspective, but he’s a nasty man along the interior with good straight-line quickness for his size.