The interior offensive line group in the ACC does not look like a strong one in terms of depth entering the season. While Chris Lindstrom has plug and play upside in the NFL and Phil Haynes is an ascending prospect, the rest of the group has a lot to prove in 2018 or there could be very little in the way of draftable talent come next spring.
Let’s examine my top five ACC interior offensive lineman entering the 2018 season.
1. Chris Lindstrom, Senior, Boston College (6'4, 305)
Entering his fourth year as a starter for the Eagles, Lindstrom has played both guard and tackle but he projects inside in the NFL. A second-team All-ACC selection in 2017, Lindstrom is a big reason why BC has featured such prolific rushing attacks in recent years.
Lindstrom is an aggressive run blocker that does well to fit his hands, leverage his hips and accelerate his feet to drive opponents out of gaps and create space. Once his hands are fit, Lindstrom showcases impressive grip strength to sustain his blocks and he is an excellent finisher. Lindstrom has outstanding play strength throughout his frame and has the upside of a high impact run blocker in the NFL.
In space, Lindstrom does well to lead block into gaps and is mostly successful connecting with moving targets at the second level/perimeter. Lindstrom finds work when uncovered and executes aggressively.
As a pass blocker, Lindstrom has a stout anchor and works into his sets with good balance, posture and body control. With that said, there are times when his feet lag behind when he’s hip to hip with opponents and needs to be more committed to staying square. Most of those issues on film show up when he’s playing outside at tackle.
Building on his strengths should lead to a productive senior season and opportunity to start early in his NFL career.
2. Phil Haynes, Senior, Wake Forest (6'4, 310)
The Wake Forest offense produced 35.3 points per game in 2017 and significant credit is due to its offensive line. While there are other NFL-worthy prospects on the front five, Haynes is the best one. Entering his fourth year as a starter for the Deac’s, Haynes has exciting potential.
Haynes is a powerful run blocker who is very deliberate about fitting his hands. From there, he does well to play with leverage and has a strong leg drive to create movement. Haynes is committed to staying square on his blocks and he executes with good balance.
As a pass blocker, Haynes effectively uses his long arms to keep rushers at the end of his reach. He generally wins with first contact and features a soft anchor to protect the depth of the pocket. Haynes isn’t overly nimble but he has smooth footwork and is capable of redirecting his weight to stay square in pass pro. Haynes has flashed positive moments in space landing his punch and using his length to seal pursuit.
Haynes may not be a household name but he’s among the top interior blockers in the ACC and has an NFL future.
3. Jon Baker, Senior, Boston College (6'3, 290)
Boston College arguably boasts the top offensive line in the ACC and it gets that much stronger with the return of Jon Baker who missed all of 2017 with a season-ending injury in Week One. While Baker will need to prove he’s healthy and regain his form, the player he was in 2016 has my attention.
Like most Boston College offensive lineman, Baker is an aggressive run blocker that plays with low pads, violent hands and a desire to bury opponents with his powerful leg drive. He has the competitive mentality to finish blocks and always finds work when he’s uncovered. His functional strength shows up in pass pro where Baker absorbs contact and anchors well.
Baker executes with a high football IQ and awareness for how his role fits within the blocking scheme. His timing with combo blocks and working to the second level is precise and he has sharp mental processing skills to diagnose pressure packages from the defense.
The task ahead for Baker is picking up where he left off in 2016. If he does, Baker has an NFL future.
4. Ryan Anderson, Senior, Wake Forest (6'6, 305)
Anderson enters his final season amid a streak of 29 consecutive starters. After becoming the starting right tackle in 2016, Anderson kicked inside to center in 2017 where be projects best to the NFL.
The most notable strengths of Anderson’s are his length and technique. Anderson is a technician that understands the importance of fitting his hands. Once he is locked in, his length allows him to sustain and control reps. Anderson has positive reps in space and generally plays with good control.
While there is some NFL appeal with Anderson, he must add functional strength. As it stands, Anderson has below average power and it doesn’t help that his pad level has a tendency to get high. Additionally, Anderson is a modest athlete with ordinary to below average foot speed. He lacks to strength to win consistently in a gap-power scheme and the mobility to be a factor in zone schemes.
As a senior, a quicker and stronger Anderson would go a long way in his chances to become an NFL Draft pick.
5. Justin Falcinelli, Senior, Clemson (6'4, 305)
It took until 2017 for Falcinelli to earn a starting role but he took full advantage, earning first-team All-ACC honors in his first season as the Tigers’ starting center. Part of an experienced Clemson front five, expectations couldn’t be higher for the Tigers in 2018.
The most notable strength of Falcinelli’s game is his functional strength. His anchor is fairly stout and he does well to absorb contact. While he isn’t a mauler in the run game, Falcinelli holds his own in terms of generating an initial surge.
Where Falcinelli lacks is in terms of his mobility and technique. Falcinelli labors to stay square to his opponents and often times folds at the waste trying to sustain his blocks. This root of the issue stems from below average foot speed and it causes his upper and lower body to not be in unison. Falcinelli must become more committed to fitting his hands.
Falcinelli has work to do in solidifying himself as a prospect but a big stage awaits him as part of a Clemson team expected to challenge for a National Title.
Others to keep an eye one:
Alec Elerbe, Florida State
Garrett Bradbury, NC State
Parker Braun, Georgia Tech
Tyler Gauthier, Miami
Tyler Jones, NC State
Terrone Prescod, NC State