Carolina Panthers

NFL draft: Top 10 offensive linemen

Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil (78) is the NFL draft’s top offensive line prospect.
Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil (78) is the NFL draft’s top offensive line prospect. AP

The Observer’s top 10 offensive linemen available in the 2016 NFL draft:

1. OT Laremy Tunsil

College: Mississippi.

Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 310.

Projected round: 1.

Comment: He’s clearly the top offensive lineman in this draft when it comes to size, speed, balance and hips. Tunsil could well be the most sure-fire pick this year.

2. OT Ronnie Stanley

College: Notre Dame.

Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 312.

Projected round: 1.

Comment: Stanley comes from a program that can turn out offensive linemen. His long arms (35 5/8 inches) will do him well at the next level.

3. C Ryan Kelly

College: Alabama.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 311.

Projected round: 1.

Comment: He may not be the third lineman taken in the first round but he’s the third-best. Kelly opened holes for the Heisman Trophy winner.

4. OT Jack Conklin

College: Michigan State.

Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 308.

Projected round: 1.

Comment: He’s such a tough blocker and was the leader of the Spartans’ offense last season. He has come a long way from being a preferred walk-on.

5. OT Taylor Decker

College: Ohio State.

Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 310.

Projected round: 1.

Comment: Would have been a first-round pick last year and he will be again this year. At 6-foot-7, he plays a little too high, though.

6. OG Joshua Garnett

College: Stanford.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 312.

Projected round: 1-2.

Comment: Garnett is a powerful lineman who was the country’s top offensive interior player in 2015.

7. OG Cody Whitehair

College: Kansas State.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 301.

Projected round: 1-2.

Comment: He played a lot of tackle during his career at Kansas State but his shorter arms (32 3/8 inches) will place him at guard in the league.

8. OT Jason Spriggs

College: Indiana.

Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 301.

Projected round: 2.

Comment: One of the top performers at the combine among the linemen. He ran the 40 in 4.91 seconds and benched 225 pounds 31 times.

9. OT Germain Ifedi

College: Texas A&M.

Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 324.

Projected round: 2.

Comment: He has 36-inch-long arms to go along with his giant frame and can use it well if he gets the right coach.

10. OG Christian Westerman

College: Arizona State.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 298.

Projected round: 2.

Comment: At his weight, don’t be surprised to see him take early reps at backup center to try to make him more versatile.

Panthers’ perspective

Carolina really upgraded its offensive line after a down 2014 season, but it has to be more than a one-off. The Panthers are always looking for tackle depth, especially with Michael Oher entering the final year of his contract. They love their guards but would like more athletic competition on the depth chart. Center Ryan Kalil is also in the final year of his contract.

Local connection

N.C. State guard Joe Thuney is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the draft. He played all five positions along the line in his time with the Wolfpack, and NFL teams will love that. He ran a sub-5-second 40, though it did help that he’s less than 300 pounds. Even still, Thuney can be a third-round pick if a team values him highly enough.

Sleeper

North Carolina’s Landon Turner does one thing and really one thing only. His run-blocking ability is among the best in the draft. He moves the line of scrimmage yards ahead on almost every running play and that’s not an exaggeration. His pro day basically turned into a workout by the Patriots offensive line coach. The problem with Turner, though, is that the NFL is a passing league. He’ll get scooped as early as the fourth round.

Worth noting

Tackle Brandon Shell, a South Carolina product, is the great nephew of Hall of Famer Art Shell. At 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, Shell is every part of an NFL tackle.

Jonathan Jones

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