Combine Interview: Intrigue at Center

In yet another Packer Report exclusive, Travis Frederick's "bad" performance at the Scouting Combine was good news for one scout, who hoped to find a bargain in Round 2. Frederick is the best center in the draft. So, what will the Packers do with Evan Dietrich-Smith, and is Frederick a possibility at No. 26?

At the Scouting Combine two weeks ago, Wisconsin's touted center, Travis Frederick, ran a plodding 40-yard time of 5.58 seconds. It was the second-slowest 40 among the offensive linemen. His 21 reps on the bench press weren't impressive, either.

Those were two bits of good news to one scout, whose team is picking in the middle of the first round.

"I think people will be scared off by his 40 time, and I'm encouraged by that," he told Packer Report with a laugh after watching the Badgers' pro day on Wednesday. "I know we won't take him (where we pick in the first round) but I hope that we'll get a chance to take a swing at him in the second round. When he ran that 5.6, I was pretty happy about it."

Heading into the offseason, center might be the Green Bay Packers' most intriguing position. Evan Dietrich-Smith earned positive reviews during his late-season run as the Packers' starting center. He's a restricted free agent and the Packers in the next several days will have to decide how much they want to invest.

They almost certainly wouldn't use the first-round tender of $2.879 million, but a second-round tender of $2.023 million would send a strong signal that he'd be the starting center for the long haul. The other option is the low tender of $1.323 million, which would allow the Packers to match any outside offers but would get them no compensation if they were to lose him to another team.

The other side of the coin is what the Packers would do if Frederick were on the board when the Packers are on the clock at No. 26 of the first round.

Testing numbers notwithstanding, the scout could hardly have been higher on Frederick, who had a formal interview with the Packers at the Scouting Combine.

"That guy, in my opinion, he's a better football player than Zeitler," the scout said of Frederick's former Wisconsin teammate, Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler, a first-round pick by Cincinnati last year, was one of the most dominating interior linemen the college game had seen over the past 20 years, according to longtime league scout Dave-Te' Thomas.

"I feel like he's a Day 1 starter in the NFL," the scout who watched Frederick on Wednesday said. "Athletically, he has some limitations, just like Zeitler, but he's stronger than Zeitler. He's real savvy. His intelligence — he's pretty damned good."

Frederick, an early entrant, was the first offensive lineman in Wisconsin history to start a season-opening game as a true freshman. After starting at guard as a sophomore, Frederick replaced Peter Konz — Atlanta's second-round pick last year — at center in 2012 and was named first-team all-Big Ten.

It was an impressive rise for a player who was a two-star recruit out of Big Foot High School in Walworth, Wis.

"I'll often (be asked) if Big Foot is Sasquatch and if I am actually the mascot," said the burly lineman with the enormous beard.

He might look like a bit like a Sasquatch but that doesn't mean he's as smart as one. Much of playing center is mental, and Frederick has no issues there. He was a double-major in computer engineering and computer science. He said he frequently used two computers at the same time to get his homework done.

"Intelligence is very important, especially at Wisconsin," Frederick said. "I don't know how each individual NFL team does it. But at Wisconsin the center made a lot of the calls — the run calls, a lot of the pass calls and Mike declarations and things like that for the entire line. So at that point, you have to be able to make those calls quickly and decisively so you can get everybody on the same page and continue to move forward and have success."

In a talented group of centers and guards, Frederick says he belongs at the top of the heap.

"I think there's a lot of great talent out there at center and guard," Frederick said. "I've seen some of the other guys play and they're very, very good. But I think that I play very well as well and I think that I rank up there with those guys. The things that I do in the run game definitely help me out and in the pass game being able to stop some bull rushes and stuff like that. But I certainly have a long way to go in my progression and I'm excited to have a chance to play for a NFL team and have a chance to continue to improve my craft."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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