Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects- Center
These guys will be drafted in order to anchor the center of the offensive line. Today I rank the top five center prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Billy Price, Ohio State
Bio: The Ohio Division I Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior, Billy Price moved to the offensive line during his redshirt freshman season. He started all 15 games between both guard spots on Ohio State's 2014 National Championship team. When Pat Elflein left for the NFL, Price moved to center in 2017 and was awarded the Remington Trophy as the nation's top center.
Strengths: Surprising strength and explosiveness. Should put up impressive bench press numbers at the NFL Combine and his pro day. Plays with excellent snap to punch quickness. Lands hands under defensive tackle's shoulders and snatches pads to gain control. Core strength and balance through contact are above average. Has redirect power to wipe out gap shooters and recover from early misses. Terrific knee bend and flexibility in hips unleashing his leg driving power. Operates from consistently perfect position. Gets push against larger defensive linemen. Highly intelligent. Able to work in space and in a box. Keeps hands inside rusher's frame in pass protection. Pass blocks with wide base and strong anchor. Starting experience at center and both guard spots. Mean streak will not be a concern.
Weaknesses: Has had a lot of game tape where impatience gets the best of him. Lunges out to find delayed defenders causing him to reset and lose balance. Early lunging may be a muscle memory issue at this point. Lack of length makes it tough for him to sustain blocks at the pro level. Could be more smooth on second level climb so backs can set up his blocks easier. Could improve hand placement against longer defensive tackles. Feet need to follow hands more consistently on redirects rather than leaning towards defenders. Feet begin to freeze in his mirror allowing athletic rushers to challenge him with counter moves. Needs to improve footwork to go with his brute strength. Can be a tough personality to deal with according to coaches and teammates.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Pat Elflein
Possible landing spot: Detroit Lions
2. James Daniels, Iowa
Bio: As a true freshman, James Daniels played in every game for the Hawkeyes at left guard. The next year, he was moved to center and was named third team All-Big Ten.
Strengths: Elite movement for the position. Smooth, fluid, and flexible. Good snap to step quickness. Initial punch is balanced and well timed. Outpaces defenders laterally and gets to three-techniques tackles all day long. Slides feet into position and swivels hips to secure the block. Easy second level climber with agility to always connect on blocks. Takes smart angles. Can beat inside linebackers to the spot and make them non-factors. Has reactive athleticism to open hips and redirect against slants and counters on the backside. Snatches and mirrors for block. Top level finisher. Technically sound and works well alongside guards. Pass blocks with wide base and A+ balance. Rarely caught lunging or over extending against more athletic rushers. Has the foot quickness to stay mirrored and handle counter moves. Flips hips under him for quality anchor.
Weaknesses: Lighter than ideal NFL centers. Has to continue to add muscle mass to his frame. Power at the point of attack is average at best. Bull rushers make him work harder to maintain his anchor. Will struggle to recover if nose guards get their hands on him first. Target points can be too high in pass protection, causing hands to slide up and off tackles. Gets in a hurry to climb to the second level linebacker and will leave initial block unsecured for guard next to him. Iowa's scheme didn't allow for much drive blocking.
Projected Round: 2
Compares to: Justin Britt
Possible landing spot: Buffalo Bills
3. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
Bio: Despite losing his father to a heart attack in 2016, Frank Ragnow didn't miss a game for the Razorbacks and was named second team All-SEC. In his four years at Arkansas, he saw playing time at both center and right guard.
Strengths: Good size and overall power for the position. Solid snap to step quickness and doesn't waste time getting in position. Quick to get into defender's body as a down blocker. Has decent knee bend into contact. Will drive block from insteps and can generate enough movement through force. Does a really nice job of locating his second block early in the play. Transitions from first to second block with good timing and pop. Has above average feel for angles up to linebackers and does a good job of shifting and finding targets on short pull outs and sweeps. Block finisher with a nice level of aggression. Has strong hands to get into defender's frame and ride blocks out. Able to hold his own against bull rushers and will find work when left uncovered.
Weaknesses: Average athlete and can be a little heavy footed in space when asked with sudden redirections against moving defenders. Plays with a high pad level while blocking on the move. Post contact base can be slightly erratic causing balance issues. On the ground more than coaches like him to be. Has tendency to maul with wider hands when trying to get his man turned and sealed at the snap. Can improve his awareness for oncoming twists. May struggle against quicker defensive linemen. Coming off of season ending high ankle injury that will need to be examined by combine and team doctors.
Projected Round: 2-3
Compares to: Nick Martin
Possible landing spot: Tennessee Titans
4. Mason Cole, Michigan
Bio: In 2014, Mason Cole became the first true freshman offensive lineman in school history to start the season opener at left tackle. After Graham Glasgow left for the NFL, Cole moved inside to center as a junior and moved back to tackle as a senior.
Strengths: Thick frame. Offers versatility up and down the line with starts at center and left tackle. Extremely durable as he has started every game since his freshman year of high school, that's 104 total starts. Decent enough athlete. Gets out of his stance and around the corner with good quickness as lead pull blocker. Shows reactive quickness to handle traps and blitzers. Pushes hips into angle blocks to turn defender's pads the other way. Lives to deflect defender's punch and reestablish his own. Intelligent and aware in pass protection. Has the foresight to see twists coming. Motor won't be an issue. Takes what should be a loss and turns it into a positive.
Weaknesses: Lacks wide shoulders. Needs to play better with his hands. Hand placement is sloppy and falls off the mark. Lacks the hand strength to sustain blocks. Play strength and contact balance are all over the place. Could struggle when matched with big bodied tackles across from him. Unable to prevent power defenders from playing through his lateral blocks and eliminating his early advantage. Needs to control weight on second level climbs. Overplays targets at times. Plays with some lean and lunge in pass protection at times.
Projected Round: 3-4
Compares to: Chad Wheeler
Possible landing spot: Cleveland Browns
5. Will Clapp, LSU
Bio: In three seasons at LSU, Will Clapp helped Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice run over SEC defenses. He saw playing time at both guard spots before moving to center fulltime in 2017.
Strengths: Good overall size for the position. Has experience and ability to handle guard reps if and when needed. Uses consistent footwork as wall-off blocker in tight situations. Decent ability to pancake down blocks. Has hand strength to latch on for long haul. Plays with impressive intelligence and awareness in pass protection. Spies when and where presnap trouble is coming. Has outstanding recognition and timing with dual blocks against blitzers. Carries the muscle and anchor to absorb power rushers and sustain the block. Durable workhorse.
Weaknesses: Lacks broadness in his upper body and overall arm length. Build is very top heavy. Below average athleticism. Lacks consistency in his second level climbs. Long armed defenders fight through and get free too quickly from his blocks. Below average leg drive as run blocker. Unable to find positioning and strength to keep a nose tackles from playing through his move blocks. Pass blocks lack knee and waist bend. Plays with heavy feet in pass protection against more athletic interior rushers.
Projected Round: 4-5
Compares to: BJ Finney
Possible landing spot: Atlanta Falcons