Draft outlook: centers

Though not a dominant crop of centers available next April, the prospects on the pivot offer long term potential with a good amount of depth.

 

Though not a dominant crop of centers available next April, the prospects on the pivot offer long term potential with a good amount of depth.

 

1 – Jeff Faine, Notre Dame

 

The Irish are known for tough, slug-it-out linemen up front that dominate opponents. In Jeff Faine they have one that also plays a brilliant brand of football.

 

The Good:  Tough, intelligent player on the pivot that's displayed a steady line of progression the past two years.  Quick off the snap,  explodes into his blocks and uses good body positioning to turn opponents out of the play.  Works his blocks, keeps his feet moving and gives top effort, trying to bury defenders.  Aware of his assignments, alert and a leader on the offensive line.  

The Bad: Lacks bulk and may need a little help on the inside.  Only adequate skills in space or blocking on the second level.  

The Skinny:  May not have the great upside potential but a prospect that could immediately be productive at the next level based on his knowledge of the position and way he approaches the game.

Projection: Third round

 

2—Al Johnson, Wisconsin

 

The Wisconsin Badger program has put talented offensive linemen into the NFL by the boatload and unlike some of their other prospects, for the most part the blockers up front live up to or exceed expectations. Especially at center, and Al Johnson is next to carry that torch.

 

The Good:  Powerful interior player on the pivot, upholding the Badgers trend of solid center prospects. Quick off the mark or when setting in pass protection, blocks with forward lean and smart.  Picks up his assignments, stays with the play and viciously attacks opponents, working to finish off defenders.  Quick with his hands, extends his arms and stays square, displaying strength in his upper body.  

The Bad: Bends at the waist, lacks body adjustment and lateral range. Not effective blocking on the move.  Strong at the point but does not show great pop or jolt into defenders.  

The Skinny:  Displayed a solid line of progress the past two season which leads one to believe he has a good amount of upside for the next level.

Projection: Third round

 

3 – Dan Koppen, Boston College

 

The Boston College Eagles have a recent history of putting rough-n-tumble offensive linemen into the draft; Doug Brezizinski, Paul Zukauskas and Marc Colombo are just a few names on this list. Dan Koppen would be next.

 

The Good:  Tough, nasty lineman that works hard on the pivot.  Quick off the snap into his blocks, powerful upper body and turns defenders out of the middle for the run as well as anchoring in pass protection.  Fights with his hands, keeps his feet moving throughout the play and works to finish off opponents, staying with the action.  Efficient and plays with balance.  

The Bad: Not a nimble or agile lineman nor overly effective in space.  Lacks bulk and the dominant base.  

The Skinny:  Needs time but could eventually develop into a starter at the next level and his work ethic gives him a major advantage.

Projection: fourth round

 

4 – Brett Romberg, Miami

 

There has been no shortage of talented linemen coming from the Miami program which is not a surprise; someone has got to block for all those sensational running backs and give the quarterback time to toss the ball to the great receivers they produce. But how does the man in the middle project to the next level?

 

The Good:  Heady, tough collegiate center.  Quick thinking, immediately picks up blocking assignments or recognizes defensive stunts and twists.  Explodes into his blocks, displays solid footwork and the ability to play in space.   Effective on the move, readjusts nicely and uses good body positioning to take defenders out of the play.  Shotgun snaps are on the mark.  

The Bad: Not big or bulky, lacks the dominant base and has difficulty turning opponents out of the middle.  Has trouble if/when a big thumper lines up over him.  

The Skinny:  Much like former countryman and teammate Richard Mercier; quick, smart and hard working but does not posses the great upside for the next level.

Projection: Fifth round

 

5 – Austin King, Northwestern

 

Every once and a while, during the scouting process there are always a few players that stands out to you on film; a hard working prospect that, though not the most dominant, constantly gives a honest days effort day-in and day-out and one you find yourself rooting for. Austin King has been one of those players for us the past two years.

 

The Good:  Quick, fundamentally sound center that gets the job done on the pivot.  Explosive off the snap, plays with forward lean, leverage and stays low throughout the action. Quick setting in pass protection, gets his hands into the opponent and works very hard throughout the play, blocking with a nasty attitude.  Effective when he must kick out or pull, walls off his blocks nicely and uses solid body positioning to take defenders out of the play.  

The Bad: Not big, bulky or strong.  Has difficulty handling one-on-one blocking assignments at times and his lack of pure power causes him to play off balance.  May have size limitations and does not have the frame to add much more bulk.  

The Skinny:  Were he one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier a premiere prospect but the way it presently stands, a late round choice based on size/strength concerns.  A real "throwback" that can start if someone gives him the opportunity.  Tenacity, intelligence and general feel for the position will make him successful at the next level.

Projection: Sixth round

 

6 – Gene Mruczkowski, Purdue

 

One of the most prolific lineman in the nation the past three seasons, Gene Mruczkowski is a name rarely mentioned yet this Purdue blocker has started every game since he was a red-shirt freshman and will broach 50 consecutive starts, a mark only few have achieved. How does he project to the next level?

 

The Good:  Former guard that has been productive three years running.  Nasty lineman that looks for someone to hit and opens the middle of the field as he works to take defenders out of the play.  Starts with leverage, forward lean and strong at the point.  Stays square, keeps the opponent in front of him and easily controls defenders once engaged in a block.  

The Bad: Not quick or explosive off the ball, stiff and best in a small area.  Has difficulty sustaining his blocks as the play develops with a tendency to get tall and loses leverage.  

The Skinny:  A versatile lineman and good to have around in the pinch.  Lack of athleticism will push him into the later rounds.

Projection: Seventh round

 

7 – Ben Claxton, Mississippi

 

A reliable starter on the Rebel line, Ben Claxton is one of the toughest and most efficient starters at center. So how does he project at the next level.

 

The Good:  Intelligent, hard working center that does the best with what he has to offer.  Quick off the snap, explodes into his run blocks or immediately sets in pass protection, getting his hands into defenders and working to keep them away.  Plays with a mean streak, looks to hit someone and works to finish his blocks.  

The Bad: Not big or bulky but fires into the opponent and then turns them out of the middle. Lacks body adjustment, the ability to play in space and not effective on the second level. Adequate strength at the point but not powerful nor does he posses a lot of growth potential. 

The Skinny:  Hard not to like Claxton watching him on film but size/strength factors will push him into the later rounds.

Projection: Seventh round

 

8 – Ben Nowland, Auburn

 

Ben Nowland has been a steady center for the Auburn Tigers, one of the SEC's most consistent programs. Early in his career he helped out at guard. How does he project to the next level.

 

The Good:  Hard working lineman with limited potential for the next level.  Quick off the snap and immediately sets up in pass protection, fights with his hands and for the most part keeps his pads low to the ground.  Displays some ability to anchor at the point and does not give up ground.  Looks to help out line-mates and quarterbacks the line.  

The Bad: Not nifty or nimble and has difficulty blocking in space.  Not a natural knee bender, plays tall and lacks the dominant base, which makes the situation even worse.  

The Skinny:  Could find his way onto a practice squad.

Projection: Seventh round

 

9 – Marcus Ogden, Howard

 

One of our favorite prospects, just like his brother was back in '95, Marcus Ogden is a player we've closely watched the past three years. Like his older brother Jonathan, the little Ogden is a sensational athlete that dominates opponents at the point of attack for the Howard Bison and has a lot of potential for the next level if he applies himself.

 

The Good:  Top-flight athlete that can play left or right tackle as well as center.  Fundamentally sound; bends his knees, sets with a wide base and gets great leverage on opponents.  Strong and jolts opponents at the point, turning them out of the play blocking for the run, also anchoring in pass protection.  Patient, plays with balance and does not overextend into his blocks.  Quick and fluid getting out to the second level.  

The Bad: Late with his hands, must learn to use his blocking angles better and compete for sixty minutes.  Leans on defenders at times and lacks the killer instinct.  More complacent and plays with less urgency then his All Pro sibling Jonathan Ogden.  

The Skinny:  Has the tools to get the job done but must apply them.

Projection: Seventh round

 

10 – Bruce Nelson, Iowa

 

Tough, versatile offensive lineman have always been offered by the Hawkeyes; Ross Verba immediately comes to mind. And though not as good a prospect as Verba, Bruce Nelson justifiably deserves consideration for the next level.

 

The Good:  Former walk-on that moved to the pivot from tackle after spending time at tight end.  Smart, tough prospect who uses all his assets to get the job done.  Quick with his hands, extends and strong in his upper body.  Blocks with forward lean, displays adequate footwork and showed some ability to block the edge when he played left tackle as a sophomore.  

The Bad: Not a knee bender, lacks the dominant base and has difficulty handling one-on-one blocking schemes.  Seems to have the frame to add bulk, which would be a major bonus.  

The Skinny:  Late round choice and solid developmental prospect.

Projection: Seventh round


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