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2022 NFL Scouting combine - Wrapping up the offensive linemen and running backs

Which offensive linemen and running backs made money at the Combine?

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NCAA Football: Clemson at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The second day of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. It was another good one, featuring great workouts from the offensive line and running backs, which is good news for the New York Giants

We started out with a great workout from the offensive linemen, featuring 12 sub-5 second 40-yard dashes. The top offensive line prospects on the property obviously performed well and confirmed their status, but this workout also served to show just how deep the offensive line group is.

The running backs ended the offense’s time in Indy, and they went out on a good note. Nobody really separated themselves, but we saw a bunch of really good performances from throughout the running back class.

Offensive linemen

The top guys

One of the biggest names in the draft, Alabama’s Evan Neal, didn’t work out today. We’ve seen a number of prospects elect to skip some of the measurable drills, but Neal elected to skip the Combine workout entirely and wait for the Alabama pro day.

We still got workouts out of four of the top offensive linemen in the draft, and they were impressive.

Ikem Ekwonu (NC State)

Ekwonu had the best workout of the offensive tackles, and arguably the best performance of all the offensive linemen.

He tested well — much as that matters for offensive linemen — but it was his positional drills that really set him apart. Ekwonu was one of the best performers in every drill, with the exception of the mirror drill. While Ickey’s feet were plenty quick in mirroring, he seemed to try and “game” the drill and didn’t really move that far to the left or right.

Charles Cross (Mississippi State)

Cross isn’t quite as highly regarded as Ekwonu, but nobody can doubt his athleticism. The questions around Cross are all about how well he will translate to the NFL, considering what the Mississippi State offense asked — and didn’t ask — him to do.

He didn’t run block that often, and his pass sets are somewhat different from what he’ll be asked to do in the NFL. The team that drafts Cross is likely going to be betting on his upside. He has plenty of tools, and teams are going to want to bet on those tools.

Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa)

Penning has the reputation as one of the meanest dudes on the field, but today he was one of the best performers on the field.

Penning tested out with prototypical measurements: Ideal height, weight, arm length, and athleticism to be an offensive tackle at the NFL level. He has some things he needs to clean up, and maybe doesn’t need to try to start a fight on every snap, but Penning has likely made himself a lot of money over the past two months or so.

Zion Johnson (Boston College)

Johnson has been steadily rising up the public draft boards since the end of the college season. Over the last two years he’s shown that he can play offensive tackle (2020), left guard (2021), and center (Senior Bowl).

Johnson has been getting buzz as a high second or first round pick after the Senior Bowl, and he might have worked his way into a solid first round pick with his performance today. He had one of the best all-around workouts of anyone present today. While he didn’t put down any mind-blowing performances, Johnson did in the drills what he did on the field for BC: Everything that was asked of him, and he did it well.

Pleasant surprises

It isn’t all about the top guys. There are a lot of offensive linemen in this draft, and there are a lot of good ones in this draft class. Today’s workout showed just how deep this class is, and teams are going to be finding starting linemen well into the second day of the draft — and maybe even beyond.

Bernhard Raimann (Central Michigan)

It doesn’t take long looking at Bernhard Raimann’s tape to know that he’s a great athlete. After all, he is a former wide receiver turned tight end... turned offensive tackle. But his workout definitely backed up what we saw on tape.

Raimann only has two years at offensive tackle and is a relatively old prospect at 24 — he had to take time out his football career to complete his compulsory service in Austria’s military. So it makes sense that Raimann still needs to really learn how to harness his tools. However, he has tremendous tools with explosiveness, agility, and strength.

Central Michigan’s right tackle has a chance to be a good one with a bit of coaching.

Luke Fortner (Kentucky)

The first of three centers to show up on the field at the Combine was Kentucky’s Luke Fortner. We’ve talked a fair bit bout his teammate Darian Kinnard, but Fortner stood out in drills today.

In particular, Fortner was quick and smooth moving in space, showing easy feet and fluid hips.

Cole Strange (Tennessee-Chattanooga)

Our second center to show up was Cole Strange from Tennessee-Chattanooga. Strange played guard for UTC, but surprisingly moved to center at the Senior Bowl. He played well in mobile in his first outing at center, then backed up the athleticism we saw on tape with a great workout at the Combine.

Strange isn’t just a fluid athlete, he showed off his strength as well. He repped out 31 reps of 225 on the bench press, which backs up the play strength he showed against the talented DL class in Mobile.

Zach Tom (Wake Forest)

Our final center was lauded for his football IQ before he even started, with the announce crew praising Tom for having the final call — even over his quarterback — on the protections. Once Tom got on the field, he proved that he belongs with a great workout that put everyone on notice that he’s a player worth going back to on tape. Tom is one of the players who made himself some money today.

Running backs

We saw historically fast wide receiver and offensive line groups, and while the running back group didn’t quite match the marks set by the OL and WR groups, it was still impressive. We saw six running backs break the 4.40 second mark, and another eight runners clock below a 4.50.

But the important part of the running back workouts are on the field in the positional drills.

As with the other groups we’ve seen this week, there aren’t any unquestioned headliners in the running back group. But while nobody has really set himself apart, that might because of how good the group was as a whole.

In particular, all of these running backs did a great job of catching passes in their receiving drills. They were all smooth, framed the ball well, and ran crisp routes.

Breece Hall (Iowa State)

Hall is one of the players who is challenging to be the first running backs off the board, and he had an impressive day. Hall was one of the players to break the 4.40-second barrier, an impressive 40-inch vertical leap and 10-foot-6 broad jump.

Hall moved really well on the field and showed off all the tools that were plain to see on tape.

James Cook (Georgia)

He wasn’t the biggest or fastest running back on the property, but James Cook had himself a workout that will make teams take notice. Cook showed that he is athletic-enough to be a playmaker in the NFL, had great feet in all the drills, and showed natural hands as well.

The best part of Cook’s workout? His 4.42-second (official) 40-yard dash beat his older brother’s 4.49-second 40.

Pierre Strong Jr. (South Dakota State)

We might as well end on an FCS guy, and the small-school kid was one of the two fastest running backs on the property. He tied with the fastest time at 4.37 seconds and was an explosive jumper as well.

Strong backed up his good measurables with a good performance in the positional drills as well. His feet were quick and clean navigating the bags on the ground and he caught the ball well in receiving drills.

Strong hasn’t gotten mentioned at the national level, but he sent some scouts back to his tape today.

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