The Jaguars have been fortunate enough to find long-term continuity at the center position with 12-year veteran Brad Meester. Meester will turn 35 this month and his best days are clearly behind him. With a need to get younger on the interior of the offensive line, Jacksonville may call the name of Georgia center Ben Jones on draft day.
Ben Jones may not have the lateral agility and balance of a Maurkice Pouncey, but he more than makes up for any of his shortcomings with intelligence and experience, as the former Bulldog has started 48 collegiate games.
"I think intelligence is one of the biggest factors as a center—coming out, making the calls and getting everybody on the same page. I take pride in that as a center. That's one of my most important jobs," Jones explained.
Although Jones likely won't hear his name called in the first round, it doesn't mean he's a stiff by any means. The Georgia center has very good initial quickness off the snap and can seal defenders in the run game. As a pass protector Jones was very impressive as he was able to routinely absorb blows from bigger opponents and could hold his ground.
"I think I'm pretty normal size for a center," the Rimington Trophy finalist said. "I'm 6-2 ½, 305. I have lower body strength and the game of football is about leverage, getting under guys and standing them up."
Few centers will be more prepared for the jump to pros than Jones, as he's faced elite SEC competition for his entire collegiate career.
"I've played against a lot of different defenses. We play a 3-4 so I'm going against 360-pound guys every day. In the SEC, you see a lot of over and under fronts. I've seen all different kinds of fronts and I'm able to adjust to either one," Jones said.
When asked who was the best competition he faced in the SEC, Jones paused momentarily before answering.
"I'd say somebody from LSU, whether it's Drake Nevis back in '09, '08. He was a great player. Brockers from LSU this year is a good playmaker. He makes a lot of plays. He slides off blocks good and can really read the ball. Worthy from Michigan State, the D-tackle, is a great player that plays with a lot of effort. So I've seen a lot of great guys. Nick Fairley. I've seen a lot of great guys in my four years."
Jones doesn't have the highest ceiling of any lineman in this draft, but he may have the highest floor.
CBS Sports Draft Analyst Rob Rang spoke glowingly of Jones.
"There are few prospects at any position in the 2012 draft, however, with Jones' "floor." He may not be flashy, but should compete for a starting position immediately and has all of the intangibles to maintain that role for a long time."
Ben believes that he can start right away and make an immediate impact on whichever team drafts him.
"I'm going to come in, work my tail off and do whatever it takes," Jones proclaimed. "If a team needs me, I'm going to be ready to play."
The Jaguars have always been about personal obscurity and team concepts and that is right up Ben's alley, as the best center's are generally the most anonymous players during a game.
"If your name's getting called out, you're doing something wrong," Ben said while smiling.
This lunch pail type of football player patterns his game around another quiet star.
"There are a lot of great centers in the NFL, but I'd say Jeff Saturday," Jones responded when asked who he emulates. "He's a little under 6-2, 6-1, very intelligent, can get the job done and has played for a while. I think I can come in and play hopefully for a long time."
With the Jaguars need to get younger at the center position and Jones' versatility to play all over the line, don't be surprised if Gene Smith opts for the "safe" pick with Ben Jones.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie
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