Now that the 2017 NFL Draft has concluded, the analysis continues in projecting these prospects to the next level, especially during their rookie years. I’m building a series looking at the five biggest early impact contributors among each position group, including today’s focus on several talented offensive linemen with clear paths to a starting spot and the skill sets to be impressive right away.
The players are listed in order from the most to least impactful rookies among each position group. It’s splitting hairs in some cases, but I figured it will give us another fun element to look back on when the season ends.
1. Forrest Lamp, OG, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers cut loose D.J. Fluker and Orlando Franklin this offseason, leaving both guard spots wide open for Lamp and fellow rookie Dan Feeney, who could be on this list as well.
Lamp was a top-15 prospect on my board and the best offensive lineman in the class. His combination of explosiveness and power out of his stance allow him to get leveraged movement at the point of attack, and he’s technical and clean in his footwork to hit reach blocks in a zone scheme. New head coach Anthony Lynn hails from a heavy gap/power scheme in Buffalo, but I really believe he’ll diversify the rushing concepts in Los Angeles while including some of the traps and pulls that made the Bills run game so dominant.
Lamp is perfectly suited for such responsibilities, and could ultimately become one of the top guards in the NFL.
2. Garrett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos
There is absolutely nothing to speak of standing between Bolles and a starting spot with the Broncos, as the Utah product should immediately run with the first team at left tackle. Ty Sambrailo and Donald Stephenson were disastrous last season, and Menelik Watson is more of a depth option at right tackle, even if he ends up starting.
No team was hurting for offensive tackle help like the Broncos, and Bolles gives them highly athletic lineman with the tenacity and power to be a dominant finisher in the run game. In pass protection power rushers could give his lighter frame some issues, but he has the quickness, fluidity and hand usage to be able to ward off speed and counter edge defenders with great success.
3. Pat Elflein, C, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings landing Elflein at no. 70 was easily one of the biggest steals in the draft, as the Ohio State product should step directly into the starting lineup to bring leadership and smarts to an offensive line in desperate need of both.
Elflein isn’t the biggest or most athletic, but he’s above average in both areas, and has some of the best technique, footwork and power you’ll see in this or any other class. Minnesota’s offensive line was a travesty in 2017, and drafting Elflein is the biggest step they’ve taken in changing that.
4. Cam Robinson, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars
If Branden Albert ends his holdout and returns to the team, there remains a possibility that Robinson could move to guard during his rookie season. But the Jaguars staff has made it clear that Robinson is a left tackle right now, and he may ultimately outperform Albert and win the job in camp. Robinson is incredibly talented with all the tools to become a dominant left tackle, but he needs to clean up some inconsistencies and bad technique before they become fatal habits.
If the Jaguars staff can keep him focused on the field and build on his power and explosiveness, he could be a dominant presence up front for Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles.
5. Dorian Johnson, OG, Arizona Cardinals
There’s a liver issue with Johnson that caused some teams to pass on drafting him, but he was a second round prospect that Arizona nabbed in round four. Johnson is the perfect fit up front for the Cardinals, providing the team with two mauling guards in he and Mike Iupati.
He’ll easily win the starting job if he’s healthy, and could prove to be one of the best day three picks in the draft given his technical proficiency and high football (and off-field) character.
The center spot still needs upgraded, but with D.J. Humphries impressing at left tackle last season, Jared Veldheer back from injury and Iupati and Johnson inside, the Cardinals offensive line could be significantly better in 2017.