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2014 Center Rankings

April 27, 2014

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Offensive Center

Prototype in the NFL: Mike Pouncey

Best In Class

Best Feet: Gabe Ikard                                        Best Jab: Marcus Martin

Best Run Blocker: Marcus Martin                     Best 2nd level Blocker: Gabe Ikard

Best Pass Blocker: Travis Swanson                 Best Mean Streak: Marcus Martin

Best Line Caller: Brian Stork                            Best Technician: Brian Stork

 

1. Marcus Martin USC 6’3 3/8 320 Jr.

Comparison: Travis Frederick

Combine: He didn’t perform drills or run the 40 but he did measure ’34 arms and ’10 hands which were both very impressive.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6033

320

34

10

 

23

 

 

 

 

Strengths: 1st Team Pac-12 in 2013. He has an elite frame at 320 lbs with ’34 arms and ’10 hands. It’s exactly what you would draw up if you were creating a center. He’s very tenacious and he likes to battle with opponents. He has a very good motor and really attacks defenders. He’s strong and can get a good push in the run game.

Weaknesses: He isn’t a great athlete and part of me wonders if he’s really more of an OG than a C. He ran a 5.35 40 at his pro day which is like a 5.45 40 at the Combine which would have put him near the bottom among the 50 OL. He also only had a 22 ½ vertical which would have been 3rd worst at the Combine. He only has 20 career starts and it was very surprising that he left school early. Only one season at center with his first two seasons being at guard. He is terrible at blocking on the second level and he almost never makes contact with his man.

Overall: Marcus is an easy player to grade as he’s a mauler type center with long enough arms and quick enough feet to be adequate in pass protection. He is a run offense center as he has a thick frame that can anchor against the biggest of 3-4 nose tackles and the strength to uproot smaller defensive lineman in the run game. He is a poor athlete though and I think he’s scheme specific as zone teams will not want him due to his poor speed, the questionable angles he takes on 2nd level blocks and his below average quickness. Yet in a phone booth he will be very good and there’s no denying that the kid is a fighter. In every game I watched of his he attacked opponents and took the battle to them. I like that trait in my offensive lineman so in a somewhat surprising shift I actually am ending the draft process with him as my #1 rated center. He won’t fit every scheme and he is far less polished than Swanson yet his strength and frame are much more impressive and I just think that 3-5 years down the road Martin will be the superior player. 2nd round as my #1 C 4/25/14.

2. Travis Swanson Arkansas #64 6’5 312 Sr.

Comparison: A mixture of Nick Mangold and Peter Konz

Combine: He had an average cone drill. He was average in hip drill. Good in mirror drill. He impressed at the Combine measuring a legit 6’5 312 with 10 hands. Unfortunately he only had mediocre arm length (’33 1/8), the worst bench of any of the 50 prospects (20 reps) and mediocre vertical, broad, shuttle (4.65) and 3 cone (7.73) drills. He’s still the top center but did nothing to cement his 1st round status and likely drops to the 2nd now 2/28/14. 

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6050

312

33.13

10

5.28

20

26

711

4.65

7.73

Strengths: Started all 13 games in ’10 as a freshman. 50 consecutive starts. Coach Ben Herbert (strength and conditioning) said he has the best movement skills of any player he’s coached other than Joe Thomas. Herbert previously worked at Wisconsin. He’s a veteran player with 4 seasons of SEC football under his belt as he’s matched up against Jessie Williams, Marcel Dareus, Nick Fairley, Fletcher Cox, Terrance Cody, Anthony Johnson, Dominique Easley, Shariff Floyd, etc. #11 on Bruce Feldman’s freak athlete list for 2013 due to his elite movement skills (7.39 3 cone drill).

Weaknesses: Redshirted in ’09 and played 4 seasons so he’s a bit older. On film he ends plays on the ground a lot which is a huge red flag to OL coaches. He only had 20 reps at the Combine which was the worst of any of the 50 OL prospects and it worries me as Peter Konz wowed me at Wisconsin, had a terrible bench press and became a draft bust for the Falcons. Swanson has the same coach Konz did so I wonder if he’s an elite prospect or if he was just coached up. He was mediocre at the Senior Bowl.

Overall: For most of the 2013 season I had a late 1st round grade on Swanson yet he did nothing to distinguish himself at the Senior Bowl and then had a mediocre Combine which pushes him into the 2nd round area. He no longer looks like a future Pro Bowl center, though I think he has a chance, but I still am high on him as he’s tall (6’5), heavy (312 lbs) and he has elite lateral quickness and overall mobility. He has elite experience (50 consecutive starts) against top level competition (4 seasons in the SEC) and I expect him to gain strength and become an above average C for a decade for some team. Early 3rd round as my #2 C 4/25/14.

3. Jonotthan Harrison Florida 6’3 ½ 304 Sr.

Combine: Good 40 (5.15) and okay 10 yd split (1.78) yet poor shuttle (4th worst among 50 OL) and 3 cone drills (12th worst). He had good muscle definition and appeared very NFL caliber. He was very good in the movement drill. He looked explosive in cone drills. Horrendous snap in slide step drill. Tight in hip drill. He really made an impression on me and looked like a HUGE sleeper. Solid in mirror drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6034

304

33.39

9.88

5.15

27

27

905

4.86

7.97

Strengths: 39 starts (37 at C, 2 at OG). He has a good frame at 6’3 ½ 304 with nearly ’34 arms and nearly ’10 hands. He looked stronger and more explosive than any other center at the Combine. He started 3 seasons in the SEC and played against countless 1st and 2nd round DTs. I liked his film in 2013 vs. Miami and Florida State. He was a captain in 2013. He is very strong and should be a starting C or OG that excels in the run game.

Weaknesses: There is absolutely no buzz about this kid right now and that worries me a bit. He’s a soft player and it shows on film. After the 2013 season he bashed some of his teammates in the media, some of it deserved as Florida was a mess last year, yet he came off as naïve and a little selfish.

Overall: Harrison has been on my radar throughout the 2013 season and I kept waiting for the scouting community to join me on him but it appears like it will not happen. Most lists I see of centers don’t have him as a Top 5 guy and some don’t even have him with a draftable grade which surprises me as he’s thick, long and strong AND comes from a major program in the SEC. It’s rather baffling to me as I think he looks like a future starting center as he has good athleticism for a guy his size and strength. Most have him as a late round pick but to me he’s an early 4th rounder as my #3 C and he could be one of the steals of this draft 4/25/14.

4. Wesley Johnson Vanderbilt 6’5 3/8 297 Sr.

Comparison: Barrett Jones

Combine: He checked in at 6’5 3/8 which helped his case as an OT but at only 297 lbs and with 33 1/8 arms he’s still borderline in that regard. He also was helped by a 5.11 40 (1.72 10 yd split) which was very impressive and had a 7.40 3 cone (5th best among 50 OL) which showed his quick feet. Give him 10 more lbs and 1 inch more in arm length and the kid’s in the 1st round conversation. He was smooth in cone drills and took snaps for scouts as some think he’s a future C not OT. Surprisingly bad in slide step drill. Average in hip drill. He struggled in in mirror drill but showed good flexibility at least.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6053

297

33.13

10.25

5.11

26

29

903

4.64

7.40

Strengths: Played RT in 2012. Played LT in 2013. Didn’t have a holding call for his career going into 2013 season! He’s a great athlete with a good 40 time, good 10 yd split, great 3 cone drill, etc. He reminds me of Barrett Jones if Barrett had played his entire career at LT instead of moving inside to C his final season as scouts on different teams all see him playing a different position with him being a LT, OG or even C on various draft boards.

Weaknesses: He’s a mixed bag of positives and negatives as if he’s an OT he’s quick and athletic with big hands but short arms. If he moves inside to OG or OT he’s too light and is very susceptible to the bull rush as well as inexperienced at those spots as he was an OT his entire collegiate career. Do you accept him as an athletic LT with short arms or do you move him inside, give him a year to bulk up and then hope he becomes adept at a new position which he has no experience with.

Overall: Wesley looks like a future NFL OL, the question teams have to answer is where will he line up? I consider arm length a must have for an OL and his 33 1/8 arms don’t cut it for me so he’s either a swing tackle (as a backup OT arm length isn’t as important since they often will play OG too), OG or C. His overall athleticism and potential versatility have me comparing him to Barrett Jones so I think I would try him first at C and see how he handles the position. If that doesn’t work he could always move to swing tackle where he’s experienced but no matter where he goes he likely won’t be producing for an NFL team until Year 2. He’s too light to be good in the interior and Justin Pugh of the Giants proved to everyone what a short armed rookie OT will get you (a lot of sacks given up that’s what) so he shouldn’t start at OT in his first year. He’s a tough player to evaluate but in the end I moved him to C and gave him a late 4th round grade as my #4 C since I think he eventually will become a solid starting OL 3/6/14.

5. Gabe Ikard Oklahoma #64 6’3 5/8 304 Sr.

Comparison: Mike Pollak

Combine: He had the best shuttle drill time (4.37) and 3 cone (7.30) of any of the 50 OL prospects. His 22 reps though is a concern as it was one of the 5 worst and continues to prove he’s a zone not mauler type C. Best in cone drills. Very good in slide step drill. Very good in hip drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6035

304

33.13

9.63

5.13

22

26

807

4.37

7.30

Strengths: 1st team Big 12 in 2013. Converted TE who practiced on scout team as the C going against Gerald McCoy and switched to OL b/c of his tenacity. Started 12 games his freshman year and was a freshman All American. Has great mobility and is at his best when pulling. He’s elite at 2nd level blocks and is great at cutting DL so he would be best in a zone scheme. Extremely intelligent as he’s a scholar athlete and has made all the line calls for years.

Weaknesses: Undersized and will need to continue to gain weight but gained about 40 lbs from ’09-’10 so there is an outside chance that he will continue to be able to do so.

Overall: Gabe has been an undersized, tenacious center with elite quickness for so long that I think I’ve taken him for granted. He’s been a freshman All-American and 1st Team Big 12 so he’s had quite a few accolades yet all anyone ever talks about is his lack of size and strength. It’s actually not that bad as at 304 lbs he’s bigger than a few centers in this class and with 22 reps he’s stronger on the bench than Travis Swanson who many considered the #1 C for much of the year. Ikard has elite quickness, takes great angles on 2nd level blocks and is adept at cutting DL so he would be an immediate contributor if drafted by a zone team. I think his size is below average but he’s gotten bigger every year and I think it’s become a little extreme how much some scouts bash him for it. Ikard will at worst be a very good backup and in the right system he has a chance to develop into a starting guard or center. Late 4th round as my #5 C 4/25/14.

6. Weston Richburg Colorado St. #70 6’3 3/8 298 Sr.

Senior Bowl: Day 2: Very good in 1×1 vs. DaQuan Jones. Beat initially by Ra’Shede Hageman but re-anchored well-still a loss though. Day 3: Beat initially by Hageman but recovered okay-loss again though, good strength anchoring vs. Justin Ellis’ bull rush.

Combine: He was mediocre in pretty much everything except the 40 which he excelled at. He had some of the smallest hands of any OL at the Combine-bottom 10%. He had a great 40 (5.10) but a poor 10 yd split (1.82). His shuttle was poor (4.63-13th worst among 50 OL) as was his 3 cone (7.93-11th worst). Good in hip drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6033

298

33.38

9.25

5.10

25

25.5

810

4.63

7.93

Strengths: He made 50 consecutive career starts. He was a QB in HS. He had a solid Senior Bowl and showed the ability to anchor against some of the bigger guys which was a huge question mark coming in. Some scouts consider him a late 2nd/early 3rd round type talent.

Weaknesses: He’s a bit small for the center position both in weight (298-it’s rare to see an interior lineman in the NFL under 300 lbs) and hand size (9 ¼). He played against inferior competition for most of his career. He isn’t athletic enough to pull and looks bad on film when the team asks him to do it. I don’t see any noticeable mean streak to him.

Overall: I’ve gone back and forth on Richburg as I watched his bowl game and he didn’t dominate a mediocre Washington State defense which had me give him a late round grade. Then he went to the Senior Bowl and held his own against some top level DL prospects so I thought I might have missed something and went back to the tape. His 2013 game vs. Alabama was average to below average at best as he got no push in the run game, gave ground on bull rushes in the passing game and didn’t look athletic in space when they pulled him. I then watched his mediocre performance at the Combine and all of his momentum had been lost in my eyes. Some scouts love Richburg and have him as high as the late 2nd round yet to me he looks like a shorter, smaller player with neither the strength nor the athleticism to be more than a stop gap starter. Early 5th round as my #6 C who I consider to be very overrated 4/25/14.

7. Bryan Stork Florida State 6’4 315 Sr.

Combine: He didn’t work out due to an injury.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6040

315

32.25

10.13

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengths: 40 career starts. 1st team ACC in 2013. 2nd Team All-American in 2013. Rimington Trophy Winner in 2013. He’s the most decorated center in this draft. He has very good height (6’4) and great hand size (10 1/8) for his position. He is an amazing technician as he uses angles to block defenders that are bigger and more athletic than him. He’s an experienced center that has made all of the line calls for his team for years. He has underrated strength due to his leverage and technique as he pancakes players pretty regularly on film.

Weaknesses: He had a terrible pro day with a 5.44 40, 21 reps, ’26 vertical and a 5.02 shuttle all of which would have put him near the bottom among OL. He has extremely short arms for his position. They are so short that many teams will have him completely off their draft board if they eliminate players that fall below certain thresholds.

Overall: Stork has been on my draft radar for the past 3 seasons. He’s always been a quick, intelligent center that looked like a good fit in a zone scheme due to his lack of strength. He is this draft classes most well known and decorated center yet with his 32 ¼ arms and below average athleticism I wonder if we are looking at a future draft bust. In a zone scheme he will be mediocre due to his poor athleticism and in a man scheme he will be mediocre due to his lack of strength and short, almost T-Rex like, arms. I once was extremely high on him yet I just don’t see him ever being anything more than an average starter. Most of his value will come as a technician and as a student of the game as I suspect he could make NFL line calls from Day 1. Hopefully that will be enough for an NFL team otherwise he could have a precipitous fall on draft day. Early 5th round as my #7 C who just doesn’t have NFL measurables 4/25/14.

 

Late round types:

Khalil Wilkes Stanford #65 6’3 290 Sr. 3rd Team Pac-12 in 2013. 27 career starts. In the 2013 Michigan St. game (Rose Bowl) he looked good as a run and pass blocker. He’s tough to grade as he has two NFL caliber OGs next to him but he looks draftable. 6th round 1/26/14.

Corey Linsley Ohio State #71 6’3 297 Sr. 1st Team Big 10 in 2013. In the 2013 Michigan St. game (Big 10 championship) he looked quick and agile. He didn’t face any NFL caliber DTs but had a “clean” game and looks like a late round guy. Tentatively give him a 6th round grade 1/26/14. Combine: Good in hip drill. He didn’t do any drills at the Combine except the bench and the vertical. He had an above average vertical and an elite bench with 36 reps. He came in sub 300 which is a huge red flag to me and I rarely noticed him on film despite me scouting at least 5 games of Ohio State’s in each of the past 2 seasons. 7th round 4/25/14.

Tyler Larsen Utah St. #58 6’4 313 Sr. In the 2012 Utah game he went up against DT Star Lotulelei, false start, lacked quickness to get double block not out in time to LB. In the 2012 Toledo game he wasn’t noticed good or bad. In the 2013 Northern Illinois game he was solid overall (was beat on initial move for a TFL by DT) but wasn’t dominant like he should have been considering the DL he went against. He has elite experience but shows neither the strength nor athleticism to wow me. Free Agent 12/27/13. In the 2013 San Jose St. game he again didn’t impress me as he didn’t look extremely athletic, didn’t look in shape, and didn’t give a great effort. He’s experienced (+40 career starts) but looks like a fringe prospect at best to me, Free Agent 9/28/13. #58 Jr. 1st team All WAC in 2011.  In the 2011 Ohio game he showed average strength but elite mobility getting out on RB screen, continued to show elite movement but needs to gain weight and functional strength for the next level, beat on penetration yet reacted well to shield off on inside run to other side, poor block on MLB allowing him to get into gap before he could get between him and the RB for the 1yd tackle, nice snap and quick cut of DT over him. Senior Bowl: Day 3: Pancaked by Ra’Shede Hageman in double team drill? Solid vs. Aaron Donald staying in front of him throughout, barely held onto edge for slight win vs. Hageman, lost to Justin Ellis on power move-Larsen has great quickness but he’ll struggle against the bigger boys. Combine: Smooth in cone drills. He was terrible in pad drill getting no push at all. Average in hip drill. He had a good Combine and an okay Senior Bowl so he barely gets a draftable grade. I love his experience but he just never seemed that good on film to me. 7th round as my # C 4/25/14.

 

Free Agents

Matt Pradis Boise St. 2nd Team MWAC in 2013. In the 2013 NFLPA practices and game he was solid but overall it was hard to grade him as he got help from his RG on almost every play. Free Agent 4/25/14.

Nate Richards Rice Sr. 2nd team C-USA in 2013. In the 2013 Mississippi St. game (bowl game) he didn’t impress me at all. Camp invite 1/15. 

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