TEAM NEED: The Minnesota Vikings to be set here if the status quo remains in place. If Berger and Easton are both going to be viewed as the starter and backup at center, that will be fine and the Vikings shouldn’t need to invest a draft pick in the position. However, at the current time, the Vikings list Berger as a guard on their official website roster list and Easton as the only center. Until that changes, the option is always open, especially if there is someone on the board the Vikings really like.
POSITION ANALYSIS: The center position is an awful lonely one on draft weekend. Teams only have one center in the lineup and when they find one they tend to keep the same guy for years, making it difficult for a young player to crack the lineup. This year’s class isn’t elite. In fact, it’s pretty average, but there are a couple of players who could go on Day 2 and there will be a handful of players that will get selected along the way. For their sake, they hope it’s to a team that has an immediate need.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Pat Elflein, Ohio State, 6-2¾, 303 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter who spent 2014-15 playing both guard spots and 2016 at center…In 2016, he won the Rimington Award, given annually to college football’s top center, and was named Big Ten Lineman of the Year…Two-time team captain…Uses his hands extremely well and gets into blocking position quickly after the snap…Has good knee bend and can consistently stand his ground against power rushers up the middle…Reads formations well and consistently makes the correct line calls to change protection schemes…A versatile player who played all three interior line spots at a high level…Does not have great footwork…Does not always play with the same intensity and can get a little lazy in his fundamentals…Had the worst vertical jump of any interior O-lineman in the draft, which signifies a lack of lower body burst and explosion…Ran a 5.32 40 at the Combine with 22 reps of 225 pounds, a 23½-inch vertical jump and an 8-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: A versatile player who can fill three roster spots as a center and either guard spot, he brings more value than the typical center given his experience with a high-end program. He likely won’t last in the second round and someone will jump on him.
Ethan Pocic, LSU, 6-6, 310 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who started the final 36 games of his career – 26 at center, nine at right guard and one at right tackle…A consensus All-America in 2016…Has a very quick snap-and-step release and gets into blocking position quickly…Has unique size for an NFL center and uses his size and strength to his advantage…Has good footwork and can be used pulling and attacking the second level of the defense with ease…Has the skill and versatility to play center, guard or tackle…Does not play with extreme power and gets stood up too often in the run game…Will struggle against bull rushers when he comes out of his stance too high…Didn’t have a strong Senior Bowl…Ran a 5.15 40 at the Combine with 26 reps, a 27-inch vertical jump and an 8-11 broad jump. PROJECTION: A versatile veteran of the SEC wars, he has rare size for a center, which could cause some problems for him. But, if he embraces the coaching he will get at the next level, he could be a long-term starter who will come off the board on Day 2.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia, 6-3¼, 298 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter who started all 39 games in that span…A two-time captain…Allowed just one sack in his final three seasons…First-Team All-Big 12 in 2016…An intelligent player who makes the line calls and reads pre-snap looks well…Has strong hands and can lock on to defenders and steer them in the run game…Extremely coachable a proven team leader…Has short arms and is about maxed out in terms of growth potential…Is not explosive coming out of the snap…Doesn’t consistently finish tackles and can be neutralized by powerful defenders…Didn’t run or jump at the Combine after getting a medical exclusion with a hamstring injury, but did 24 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: An intelligent player who is ideally suited for a zone blocking scheme. He isn’t a physical specimen, but is a good technician who should come of the board early in Day 3.
Jon Toth, Kentucky, 6-5, 307 – Fifth-year senior…A four-year starter who started 48 of 50 career games…A team captain…Left-handed, which is rare for a center…Has good size for the position and is a solid technician…Has the type of body that can add core strength and bulk if the system he plays in calls for it…Is an intelligent player who is quick to read and recognize blitzes and does a lot of film study to improve his recognition skills…Does not have great upper- or lower-body strength…Relies too much on leverage and quickness over brute strength…Does not fare well in space and will struggle to adjust on the fly or consistently make blocks at the second level…Ran a 5.51 40 at the Combine with 21 reps, a 25½-inch vertical jump and an 8-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: A huge, hard-working center with limited agility and movement skills, he is best suited for a man-blocking scheme, which will limit interested teams a bit. He has a passion for the game, which will serve him well and he is likely to come off the board in the first couple of rounds of the third day of the draft.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Kyle Fuller, Baylor, 6-4¾, 307 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter who started the final 39 games of his college career in that span…Has good size and long arms to jolt and steer defenders…Has good initial quickness off the snap and plays with very good balance…Consistently holds up well because he has good hips to go with solid anchor strength…Has a tendency to come out of his stance a little too high, which power defenders can take advantage of…Didn’t have the QB line up under center very often and will need to adjust…Will lunge and get himself out of position, ending up on the ground too often for a center…Ran a 5.24 40 at the Combine with 23 reps of 225 pounds, a 26-inch vertical jump and an 8-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: He’s going to need to get stronger, but he has the requisite size and skills to be a solid developmental project that will likely come off the board in the fifth-round range. Ideal for a team with an aging center who still has a couple of years left in the tank.
Chase Roullier, Miami, 6-3¾, 312 – Fifth-year senior…A three-year starter that started all 24 games in 2014-15 at left guard and all 14 games at center in 2016…A two-time captain…Has good size for the position and has the ability to add more strength and bulk…Is quick out of his stance and has the agility and balance to get to the second level with ease…A smart player who made line calls and was quick to diagnose defenses and change blocking schemes on the fly…Age may be an issue – he will be a 24-year old rookie…Plays too upright and will need to work on playing low and being a more natural knee-bender…Is not overly strong in either his upper or lower body…Ran a 5.54 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 26½-inch vertical jump and an 8-1 broad jump. PROJECTION: His calling card is his experience and versatility. He is an intelligent player who is likely going to get consideration late in the draft.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Gavin Andrews, Oregon State, 6-5, 339
Daniel Brunskill, San Diego State, 6-5¼, 273
Lucas Crowley, North Carolina, 6-2¼, 297
Jay Guillermo, Clemson, 6-2, 308
Tobijah Hughley, Louisville, 6-1¼, 289
Joe Scelfo, North Carolina State, 6-0¼, 294
Cameron Tom, Southern Mississippi, 6-3, 291