Ranking Top 9 Centers of Draft

Scouts' opinions are mixed on whether Wisconsin's Travis Frederick or Cal's Brian Schwenke rule the roost at center.

Here is how Packer Report ranks this year's prospects at center, based on conversations with three scouts, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because they are forbidden from talking by their teams, and the NFL's longtime lead scout, Dave-Te' Thomas.

1. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 312): Early entrant started 31 games at guard and center. First-team all-Big Ten at center in 2012. Was working toward double major in computer engineering and computer science, so the mental part of the game is a snap. The verdict is split among scouts. "I think Travis Frederick is more of a guard," Thomas said. "I'm not happy with the way he sits in that pocket. His ass is up in the air so high, man. People are just going to push that guy back and forth. Added another scout, who didn't care at all about Frederick's so-so Scouting Combine: "I feel like he's a Day 1 starter in the NFL. Athletically, he has some limitations, just like (former UW teammate Kevin) Zeitler, but he's stronger than Zeitler. He's real savvy. His intelligence — he's pretty damned good."

2. Brian Schwenke, Cal (6-3, 314): Three-year starter hadn't played center in his life until this season. Proved a great fit — was named first-team all-Pac-12 and was runner-up for the Morris Trophy, which goes to the conference's best blocker. Not the biggest guy but had strong week at Senior Bowl against 360-something-pound John Jenkins. "He reminds me of Tim Grunhard," Thomas said. "Tough SOB, good quickness, head's always on a swivel. He's always looking for secondary targets to hit. Very few do you see at the center position that can get to the second level like Schwenke can."

3. Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-4, 306): Won Rimington Award, which goes to the nation's top center, and the William V. Campbell Award (aka, the Academic Heisman) as the nation's top student-athlete. Consensus first-team All-American won national championships at center (2012), left tackle (2011) and guard (2009). So, why is he No. 3 on this list? "Barrett Jones to me is just a blue-collar type," Thomas said. "Good ballplayer, don't get me wrong, and more than likely will go in the second round. People are comparing him to Matt Birk. OK, he is intelligent; yes, he is versatile. I've seen him get his ass handed to him."

4. Khaled Holmes, USC (6-3, 302): First-team all-Pac 12 and one of six finalists for the Rimington. Three-year starter and second-team Academic All-American. Grew up reading Homer and Plato rather than Dr. Seuss. Wasn't nearly as good as in 2011 due to an ankle injury that dogged him throughout the season. More athletic than strong. "Khaled Holmes is just a blue-collar type. Outside of those four, I wouldn't draft a center in this draft," Thomas said.

5. Braxston Cave, Notre Dame (6-3, 303): Three-year starter, second-team All-American and finalist for Rimington. Excellent intelligence and intangibles but he's not overly strong or quick. Didn't help himself at the Senior Bowl.

6. Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State (6-3, 302): Started the final 25 games, was a finalist for the Rimington and first-team all-Big Ten. A leader who helped galvanize the team among the Joe Paterno turmoil. Excellent hands and doesn't stop until the whistle but needs to stay on his feet.

7. Dalton Freeman (6-4, 291): This son of a high school coach (and former Wake Forest player) is undersized but tremendous athlete. Wasn't invited to the Combine but ran in 4.88 with 34 reps on the bench at pro day. A two-time finalist for the Rimington, academic all-conference and 49 career starts. A center only due to short arms.

8. P.J. Lonergan, LSU (6-3, 304): Three-year starter went from a Rimington candidate to not even receiving all-SEC recognition. Strong and intelligent; his father also played on LSU's offensive line. "He was their best lineman but that's like being the sanest man at a clown convention," a scout said.

9. T.J. Johnson, South Carolina (6-4, 310): Started school-record 53 consecutive games, playing center his final three seasons after opening his career at right guard. Intelligent, having earned his degree. Best in pass protection. Lacks quickness and needs to improve hands.

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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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