Every team needs offensive linemen, whether that be to fill an immediate vacancy, provide depth, or solve a long-term problem, the big uglies up front are always in demand. According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, which averages dozens of mock drafts for a more composite view, currently, 14 teams (Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, Dolphins, Steelers, 49ers, Commanders, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Patriots, Saints, Giants, and Jets) have either an offensive tackle or an interior offensive lineman in their top three team needs.
The Michigan Wolverines have six linemen entering the 2024 NFL Draft and after the NFL Combine in a few weeks, at least four – if not all six – players will hear their names called in one of the seven rounds. But what are the best spots for each of these players? The Philadelphia Eagles make sense for all six (and any offensive lineman for that matter) because Jeff Stoutland is the best offensive line coach in the NFL, but limiting this article to one overarching sentence would ruin the fun.
Let’s look at the best landing spot for each Michigan offensive linemen, while also factoring in where they will be drafted.
RG Zak Zinter
Although Zinter’s draft positioning will be negatively impacted due to his season-ending injury against Ohio State, expect the former team captain to still go in the top three rounds. Zinter is a top-five guard prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, and while the guard position doesn’t carry the same value as a tackle, Zinter’s athleticism and prowess in both the running and passing games will be coveted at the next level, and no one covets versatile lineman with a mean streak quite like Kyle Shanahan.
Best fit: San Francisco
LG LaDarius Henderson
The 23-year-old Henderson has great length for his position and brings a wealth of experience under his belt (39 career starts). In his one year with the Wolverines, while playing out of position, Henderson earned first-team (coaches) All-Big Ten honors and anchored the left side of the offensive line. Despite exclusively playing left tackle last season, LaDarius Henderson projects as a guard at the next level. Henderson is a mature player who still has room to grow in multiple areas making him an exciting prospect. Look for Henderson to bring his versatility and maturity to a franchise looking to take a step and protect its franchise quarterback in the middle rounds.
LG Trevor Keegan
Keegan has rocketed up draft boards the last month as scouts finally became aware of the “other” guard who played alongside Zinter for three years. Keegan is a tried-and-true veteran whose nastiness on the field is only matched by his durability. Keegan is not a special athlete and struggles with pad level at times, but he is devastating at the point of attack and already possesses the desired NFL frame. Keegan could be one of the steals in the middle rounds and could have a chance to be reunited with his former center, Olu Oluwatimi.
Best fit: Seattle Seahawks
C Drake Nugent
Nugent was a Rimington finalist in 2023 and is projected as one of the top five centers in the upcoming draft. However, it is rare for more than one center to go per round, so unless Nugent plans to kick out to guard, he could be forced down draft boards due to his positional restrictions. Despite these limitations at center, Nugent rarely loses a rep. A consistent player through and through, Nugent is a workhorse behind the scenes and a mauler on the offensive interior. NFL teams will draft Nugent for depth, but don’t be surprised when he finds his way onto the field quicker than expected.
RT Trente Jones
Jones should test exceptionally well at the NFL Combine and just feels like the type of player that could have a better professional career than college. Jones is already a force as a run blocker and although he has room to grow in pass protection, he possesses the necessary athleticism to allow him to take that next step in the NFL. I had to mock one player to the Eagles, and Jones’ unique draft profile just feels like the perfect late-round project for Jeff Stoutland to develop into an All-Pro.
Best fit: Philadelphia Eagles
RG Karsen Barnhart
Barnhart is a fascinating study: a Swiss Army knife who can play up and down the offensive line, but projects best as a right guard at the next level. Barnhart already possesses NFL size, and while the majority of his tape won’t “wow” you, it has to be asked, how much better could he be if he just focused on one position and one particular set of skills? Barnhart will be a late-round selection and it feels right that he would stay home and work with some of the best in the business as he refines a specific skillset.
Best fit: Detroit Lions