Center of Attention

The Cardinals offensive line steadily improved last season and looks to take another step next year. One key ingredient will be building depth through the draft. CardinalInsider.com looks at one offensive lineman who's overcome his lack of size through his work-ethic and passion for the game.

One of this year's top interior line prospects is former Wake Forest center Steven Justice. Justice was a three-year starter for the Demon Deacons and was an All-ACC performer in 2006 and 2007.

He appeared in 49 games and made 38 consecutive starts to close out his college career. Justice was named to the 2007 AP All-America team and was runner-up for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center.

Justice (6'3", 283 pounds) is a skilled blocker who utilizes his awareness and quickness. His technique and work ethic compensate for his lack of bulk. He possesses good lateral quickness and shows excellent body control when adjusting to line stunts and blitzes.

Justice is known as an extremely consistent player, one of the many qualities he's determined to showcase leading up to the draft.

"I'm a hard-nosed player with quickness and consistency," Justice said, "I want to prove my passion for the game and show my abilities."

Arizona could be in a position to select Justice if he's available in the third round. Justice has the potential to be an immediate contributor and could push for the starting job next season. At the very least, he would provide much needed depth.

Center Al Johnson currently sits atop the Cardinals depth chart. Last year, he started 14 games in his first season in Arizona. Johnson is an adequate blocker but is far from dominating.

Johnson has good measurables (6'5", 305 pounds) but fails to play up to his size. He lacks the strength and agility needed to lead an offensive line in the NFL. According to some NFL scouts, he would be a better fit at guard.

Justice, on the other hand, was rated as one of the top center prospects in the nation following his senior season at Wake Forest. He was invited to the 2008 Senior Bowl, where he continued to make a positive impression on coaches and scouts.

However, he realized that his performance in Mobile, Ala., wasn't just about his showing on the field.

"Teams are looking at how you handle the pressure and how well you adjust to new surroundings," he said.

Justice has the intangibles all NFL teams crave. He is an articulate young man with the football IQ to call out protections from the hub position.

If he's still on the board late on day one of the draft, look for him to get serious consideration from Cardinals GM Rod Graves.


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