The Big Ten is set to feature another set of high-caliber offensive linemen that could make a name for themselves in the NFL. Ohio State’s Paris Johnson and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronswi were the offensive linemen selected in the top 11 this past draft. There could have easily been another lineman drafted in the first round if they choose to stay in the draft. In the following rounds, three centers from the Big Ten were selected in the second round. This year’s Big Ten offensive line stars are deep and full of talent. They are easily some of the best offensive linemen in the country. We are not even counting the former transfers that immediately become impact players.
Big Ten’s Top Offensive Linemen Returning in 2023
#5 G/OT Isaiah Adams (Illinois) – The Overly Aggressive Run-Blocker
In one just season, former junior college transfer Isaiah Adams become a reliable star for the Illinois Fighting Illini. This past season, Adams started 12 games at left guard and at left tackle. Adam’s reliability and solid run-blocking were a big indication of why he was to the 2022 Pro Football Focus College All-Big Ten Team. He is one of the most tenacious blockers in the Big Ten and has a chance to get even better. Adams is a 2023 preseason second-team All-Big Ten selection by Athlon Sports.
#4 OT Jack Nelson (Wisconsin) – The Badgers’ Best Offensive Tackle since Tyler Biadasz
The Wisconsin Badgers have an incredibly rich tradition of developing elite and pro-ready offensive tackles. Redshirt junior Jack Nelson looks to continue that line of reliable tackles after two stellar years with the Badgers. In his first season as a starter in 2021, Nelson played and started all 13 games at right guard. This past season, Nelson was moved to left tackle due to his fast backpedal and quick hips to be a reliable blindside protector. Nelson was given an 83.1 pass protection by Pro Football Focus as a result of his dominance for the Badgers’ offensive line. This was the highest pass-blocking grade since Tyler Biadasz in the 2019 season. Nelson has the chance to make a case for one of the top offensive tackles in the Big Ten and the nation this season.
#3 G Donovan Jackson (Ohio State) – The Monster in the Middle of the Offensive Line
The Ohio State Buckeyes are no strangers to building highly efficient offensive, especially from the interior. Junior guard Donovan Jackson is a player set to mark in his second season as a starter. This past season, Jackson was one of the leading blockers in the 32nd-ranked rushing offense (192.4 yards per game). Jackson’s huge size at 6-4; 240 pounds and power is able to push the opposing defensive lineman back with ease. Pro Football Focus gave Jackson an overall grade of 76.7, which ranks among the top ten of all power five guards. He was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season a 2023 preseason third-team All-American selection by Athlon Sports. There are a lot of exceptions for him going into the second year as he starts gathering attention for the 2024 NFL Draft.
#2 G Zak Zinter (Michigan) – The Most Experienced Offensive Lineman in the Big Ten
The Michigan Wolverines’ offensive line has dominated the line of scrimmage in the Big Ten for the past two years. One reason is the leadership and reliability of 6-6; 315-pound senior guard Zak Zinter. In his three years with the Wolverines, Zinter has played in 33 games while starting in 31 of them. Zinter is a great-sized, powerful, and highly athletic dominant run-blocker. He can pull from behind the tackles and get to either the second level of defense or the defensive backs on run plays. Zinter is the leader of the Wolverines’ offensive line that was named to the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the best overall offensive line in college football. Michigan has won the award for the past two seasons. Zinter is a 2023 preseason Athlon Sports Second-Team All-American.
#1 OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State) – The Potential Top Five Pick
If Olumuyiwa Fashanu went for the 2023 NFL draft, he would have been a first-round pick. By returning for his junior season, Fashanu is in heavy consideration to be a top-five pick in next year’s 2024 NFL Draft. Fashanu is easily one of the pass protectors last season and looks to progress as well as this season. He possesses great size at 6-6; 323 pounds to match up against bigger-sized edge rushers and defensive tackles. Fashanu also has quick feet and elite speed for a big blindside blocker to slow down edge rushers that possess quick speed and explosive get-off. An underrated aspect of his pass-protecting is his quick reflexes to shuffle inside and outside to mirror the opposing defensive lineman. Last season, Fashanu was given a pass-protection grade of 84.7, which was the sixth-highest among power five offensive linemen. He is a 2023 Athlon Sports Preseason First-team All-American.