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nfl draft preview | offensive line

Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann found his preferred line of work at left tackle

Central Michigan's Bernhard Raimann packed on weight and muscle when he made the transition to offensive line.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Bernhard Raimann was looking for a change.

Growing up in Vienna, he spent most of his recreational time the same way as most kids in Europe — playing soccer. But early in his teenage years, he started to lose interest.

“I was getting sick of soccer. I was getting tired of it,” the Central Michigan offensive tackle said at the Senior Bowl in February. “It just wasn’t physical enough for me, so I was looking for something new.”

He found it at 14 when he was introduced to — and fell in love with — American football. Raimann excelled as a wide receiver for the Vienna Vikings.


It was while watching “The Blind Side” that Raimann first felt he could play high school football in the United States; the thought of playing under the lights on a Friday night was a big draw.

A quick three years later, Raimann found himself at Delton Kellogg High in Michigan as a transfer student.

He played receiver, then tight end, and though he didn’t catch a ton of passes, his athleticism and strength as a blocker were hard to overlook.

Raimann headed back to Austria for his senior year of high school before serving his mandatory stint in the Austrian military. He credits that six-month period with changing his life.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Raimann, one of the top-ranked tackles available in the NFL Draft. “Obviously, physically I wasn’t in shape before that. I always tried my best to stay in shape for that.

“The whole mental aspect of waking up in the middle of the night, packing your stuff, being on time all the time, working as a team, having the discipline to clean your boots every day, have your bed check every day, is something that I took away from that the most because that discipline [is different].


“You still make your bed when your mom wants you to, but once you do it with the military, it becomes a whole different mindset of getting ready for the day, finishing your first tasks, then looking forward to being productive.’’

He returned to Michigan, participated in some recruiting camps, and landed a scholarship to Central Michigan.

Raimann played tight end for two years with the Chippewas but totaled only 20 catches in 26 games. Following his sophomore year, coaches asked him about switching to tackle. He was all in.

Raimann started taking nutrition more seriously and packed on considerable weight and muscle — going from 265 pounds to 303 — as he morphed into Central’s blind-side quarterback protector.

There was a bit of an adjustment period making the switch to left tackle, which started during the spring of 2020.

“The pass sets were probably the most difficult part because you don’t usually go backwards as a tight end,” he said. “You’re still involved in all the strong-side zone schemes and everything. You feel involved in the run blocking more than the pass blocking, so that was a little bit more unnatural for me.

“But that’s really when my O-line coach, [Mike] Cummings, helped me out tremendously. Even in the offseason during COVID time when he wasn’t allowed to work with us, he would still send me long texts about what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong.


“I would send him clips of myself doing the drills. He would even record himself doing the right thing and try to coach me through his phone. That was tremendous of him.’’

Cummings was impressed by how quickly Raimann caught on to the position, telling reporters, “He needs to see something once and it’s another tool in his toolbox.”

Raimann is very fluid in his backpedal and plays with excellent balance and leverage. He’s efficient on combination blocks in pass protection and shows nice power in the run game.

Raimann uses the terms “smart aggressive” and “situationally aware” to describe his game.

“I always try to finish people, but never at the cost of the team,’’ he said. “I don’t want to jeopardize the team with my own actions. That’s something I take a lot of pride in, too, being smart enough about what I do on the football field and put my aggression out there.’’

Raimann, who counts former Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer as a role model, could be a nice fit in New England, which doesn’t have an immediate need at tackle but will need to address depth and the possible exit of left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.

The top offensive linemen

The top offensive linemen available in the April 28-30 NFL Draft, with name (position), college, height, weight, and projected round.

Ikem Ekwonu (T), North Carolina State, 6-4, 310, 1

If you’re not familiar with ee-KEHM eck-WAHN-ew, now is a good time to start, because he’s going to be somebody’s left tackle for the next decade or so. Exceptionally light on his feet for a behemoth his size (his backpedal is sublimely smooth), with long arms and active hands that keep defenders at bay. Can maul like an interior lineman, but his athleticism is best suited for tackle. Quarterbacks love him for keeping them safe and running backs adore him for clearing paths. His twin, Osita, is a linebacker at Notre Dame.


Evan Neal (T), Alabama, 6-7, 337, 1

The most versatile player in this group, Neal started at left guard as a freshman, right tackle as a junior (when Mac Jones was his QB), and left tackle last season. Looks like he was crafted in an offensive tackle laboratory with his enviable mix of length, power, and quickness. Consistently lands a violent initial punch, and it’s easier to negotiate the Southeast Expressway than it is to get around him. Detractors (and there’s not many) say he will lean too much, but his balance and technique will be refined at the NFL level.

Trevor Penning (T), Northern Iowa, 6-7, 325, 1

Get this man a deal with IHOP ASAP, because he’s a pancake machine. Possesses superior physical traits and a junkyard dog mentality — just the kind of makeup NFL coaches and NFL QBs love. Didn’t receive a lot of recruitment love out of high school but worked to become a likely first-rounder. It was hard not to notice him at Senior Bowl practices, where he was determined to outwork everybody and made it clear he could play with the big boys. He’s a fluid knee bender who can mirror defensive ends and keep his QB out of harm’s way and can also crash down the line and open running lanes.


Zion Johnson (G), Boston College, 6-3, 312, 1

The latest in a long line of standout big uglies from The Heights. A mobile mauler with excellent size and power, Johnson can stun the initial defender and get to the second level consistently. An incredibly durable player, he saw action in 58 straight games (22 at Davidson and 36 at BC). Worked at center during Senior Bowl week and looked completely at home there. Scouts say he aced his interviews in Mobile, as well.

Charles Cross (T), Mississippi State, 6-5, 307, 1

A superior pass protector who shined in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Sets up quickly and stays square to defenders, relentlessly jabbing and exhausting them into submission. Can shed his initial block and attack at the second level. Once he adds some muscle and bulk and refines his run-blocking skills, he will be a Pro Bowler.

Bernhard Raimann (T), Central Michigan, 6-6, 303, 1-2

A very athletic fella who can pull, trap, and smoothly execute combination blocks. Raimann is very flexible and can mirror defenders flawlessly, acting like a mobile wall as he seals them off. Has the power to be an effective run blocker but will need to add some bulk at the next level.

Kenyon Green (G), Texas A&M, 6-4, 323, 1-2

Another versatile hombre, Green started 35 consecutive games for the Aggies: 17 at left guard (where he projects at the next level), 15 at right guard, 2 at right tackle, and 1 at left tackle. Blessed with quickness, strong hands, and an ornery on-field disposition, he’ll punish defenders at the snap and drive them into submission.

Tyler Linderbaum (C), Iowa, 6-2, 296, 1-2

Started his career in Iowa City as a defensive tackle before switching sides and starting the last 35 games at center for Kirk Ferentz. Linderbaum (that name just sounds like an O-lineman) is smooth and smart. A tad undersized, he’ll put on some size soon. Explodes out of his stance and will engage and redirect defenders. Outstanding on combination blocks where he often delivers a finishing death blow on linebackers.


Tackles: Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (6-8, 390); pounds); Tyler Smith, Tulsa (6-5, 324); Abraham Lucas, Washington State (6-6, 315); Rasheed Walker, Penn State (6-6, 315); Matt Waletzko, North Dakota (6-8, 312).

Guards: Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (6-5, 322); Sean Rhyan, UCLA (6-5, 321); Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma (6-5, 318); Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (6-3, 321); Lecitus Smith, Virginia Tech (6-3, 314).

Centers: Cam Jurgens, Nebraska (6-3, 303); Luke Fortner, Kentucky (6-4, 307); Dylan Parham, Memphis (6-3, 311); Cole Strange, Chattanooga (6-5, 307); Alec Lindstrom, BC (6-3, 296).

Here’s a look at the other positions profiled

Tight ends: Colorado State’s Trey McBride looks like the prize among tight ends in NFL Draft

Running back: Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams has complete confidence in his skills at running back

Defensive line: Ex-water polo player George Karlaftis stands out in NFL Draft defensive line talent pool

Wide receivers: If Patriots target a receiver in draft, Alabama’s John Metchie has a lot going for him

Linebackers: Georgia linebacker Channing Tindall could fit nicely into a speedier Patriots defense

Defensive backs: Versatile Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie already has a lot of Patriot traits

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.