The 2021 NFL draft was full of talent across the offensive line. The Las Vegas Raiders spent their first-round selection on tackle Alex Leatherwood in hopes of solidifying a unit in the trenches. Even if the re-worked Raiders offensive line has success in 2021, there will still be a need for depth and improvement at the position going into the 2022 season.
Coach Jon Gruden has always been a fan of addressing his line in the draft. The projected starters for 2021’s offensive line have potential, but the proof will be told over time. Could this be the third time in his second tenure with the Raiders that he chooses a road-grader in round one? Below, we highlight just a few offensive guard prospects the Raiders could select in the 2022 NFL draft.
Possible Left Guard Prospects for the Las Vegas Raiders
Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State
Prototypical size and athleticism are just the start of Ikem Ekwonu’s list of positives. The Charlotte native has had his hand at different sides of the sport, but has found a home on the offensive line. Playing some defense in high school, Ekwonu would log 29 tackles and four sacks in his senior season. However, the impact he made was more important in protection. 28 knockdown blocks would see him ease into the offensive line as he transitioned to college.
Stepping in immediately, Ekwonu was the first true freshman to start at tackle since 2010. He would lead the team in pancakes in 2019 with 37, seven of which came against ACC Rival Louisville. Ekwonu’s effort off the field was successful too. He would make the dean’s list in his freshman year as well.
Leading his team in pancakes again in 2020 with 50, Ekwonu looks poised to be a first round prospect going into what will likely be his last collegiate season. His intellect saw him achieve All ACC Academic honors a second year in a row. A student of the game as well, Ekwonu will have to maintain his consistency in the trenches. Another positive season for the N.C. State standout could see him drafted in the top 20. Look for the eager guard/tackle prospect to go early, maybe even to the Raiders.
Zion Johnson, Boston College
Zion Johnson is one of many interesting guard prospects for the Raiders to look at. Starting his collegiate career at Davidson, the lineman would start 19 times in 22 games. He was selected to the PFL All-Conference First Team for his efforts both seasons. In 2019, he would suit up for Boston College and play in all 13 games. Seven total starts at left guard, Johnson ended his 2019 season in the Birmingham Bowl against Cincinnati. He would go on to make the All-ACC Second Team.
Toughness and durability would describe Johnson’s shortened 2020 season. He would play 783 of 785 snaps at different positions on the line, mostly tackle. Impressive bouts for Johnson were against Syracuse, where he allowed no sacks and led backs to 191 yards on the ground, and versus Louisville, allowing zero sacks and paving the way for 188 yards. Flexibility and longevity will only play to Johnson’s favor if he is to transition to the NFL.
With many spots on the Raiders line more question than answer, the team must remain open to addressing it if the current experiment fails. Johnson could be a mid-round steal, as he has shown the ability to play every down and can slide to tackle or stay inside. If Gruden is to do more tinkering with the front five in 2022, Johnson may be a part of that operation.
Josh Sills, Oklahoma State
At six-foot-six, 330 pounds, Josh Sills is the largest player on this list. Another transfer, Sills spent his first four years at West Virginia. In 2017, the then Mountaineer would start 10 games, five at each guard spot. 2018 saw West Virginia as number two in the Big 12 on offense with 512 yards per game, likely due to Sills and the line’s effort. Sills would star two games in 2019 before sitting out the remainder of the season. He would become an Oklahoma State Cowboy in 2020.
A change of scenery saw Sills have more success in Stillwater. His 2020 season would earn him a first team All Big 12 selection. He would start all 11 games for the Cowboys and lead the line in knockdowns with 35. Injuries would nag the Oklahoma State line, and Sill would see reps at tackle in big games. He even got named captain in a contest against his former team, West Virginia.
Sills is but another possible guard prospect the Raiders could be intrigued by. Physical freaks often end up in Silver and Black garbs. The Raiders are never afraid to grab the man they think is right for the job, no matter how early in the draft. A continued rise for Sills could see him sneak into early rounds. If he does, the Raiders could be just the team to steal the big fella.
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