Center Big Board

April 16th, 2013

Pittsburgh center Ryan Turnley is one of several late-round/UDFA centers that could surprise at the next level.

I’m doing this one a little differently than the standard list. Because we have relatively few detailed scouting reports on centers, I’m going to give a brief one on each player after their grade and projected draft range.

Also, I included Travis Frederick here even though I believe his NFL position should be guard. He has a higher grade at guard than center. The same is true of Barrett Jones. I did not include Jonathan Cooper, who played just one game at center at North Carolina. I also left off Ivory Wade from Baylor, who played center in ’12 but projects to the NFL as a right tackle.

I only rated players I saw at least two times or in All-Star games.

1. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
Rating: 6.95P
Projected Draft Range: 40-60 overall
Notes: Converted guard with massive frame, exceptional upper body strength and big/strong hands. Still learning to make line calls and consistently keeping pads down right after the snap. Devastating heads-up blocker but range limited to one step either way. Gets a 7.15 grade as a guard. Not for a zone blocking team.

2. Brian Schwenke, California
Rating: 6.35P
Projected Draft Range: late 3rd-early 5th round
Notes: Top-heavy, short-armed street fighter who showed better at Senior Bowl week than on film. Moves well and is a polished combo blocker with good vision. Has great feistiness and likes to mix it up. Not as strong as he needs to be or as he thinks he is. Played guard before 2012 and ideally projects as a 6th lineman early on until he converts some fat to more functional bulk. Plays like a heftier, not stronger, Dominic Raiola.

3. Barrett Jones, Alabama
Rating: 6.30IP
Projected Draft Range: 4th-5th round
Notes: Cerebral and versatile, has played right tackle, guard, and center at a high level at a major program. Technically proficient and tactically astute, acts almost as a coach on the field. Has narrow frame and is coming off Lisfranc and hand surgery, major durability concerns. Doesn’t fare well against power and is only an average athlete. Often took too long making line calls or late pre-snap adjustments that led to hurried snaps or delay of game penalties. Best NFL position is left guard. Will make an excellent coach if he doesn’t become a Senator.

4. TJ Johnson, South Carolina
Rating: 6.15
Projected Draft Range: 7th round-UDFA
Notes: Big, thick, 3-year starter at center in the SEC. Very good initial power and maintains strong hands and shoulders throughout the play. Can open big creases inside quickly. Painfully slow feet, particularly when trying to get out in front of a scrambling QB. Smart and dependable but the lack of range is a real limitation.

5. Joe Madsen, West Virginia
Rating: 6.08
Projected Draft Range: 6th round-UDFA
Notes: Big and strong 4-year starter in a fast-paced shotgun offense. Fires off the snap and instigates with good pad level and bend, but he cannot sustain it consistently. Limited range and not a great athlete, more weight-room bulky and stiff than he needs to be. Looked somewhat out of his league during Senior Bowl week against quickness. Has really short arms and exaggerates his crouch to compensate, which leaves him more vulnerable to quick 0s and 1s.

6. Braxston Cave, Notre Dame
Rating: 5.96
Projected Draft range: 5th-6th round
Notes: Very quick and rangy, with good vision and anticipation. Inconsistent technique, doesn’t always stay over his toes or fire out his arms with proper width. Plays smaller than his size (6’3”, 306) and has shorter than ideal arms. Was woefully overmatched during Senior Bowl week, where he got forklifted a few times and it impacted his snapping. Does have long snapping experience as a bonus. Will draw NFL paychecks for longer than someone of his ability merits because he’s a worker and flashes just often enough.

7. Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M
Rating: 5.88
Projected Draft Range: 7th round-UDFA
Notes: Inconsistent lightweight but has starting potential if the weight room work sticks and the fire stays lit. Dominated v. Jesse Williams at Alabama and in the Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma but had substandard outings vs. LSU and Florida, where he was muscled around. Smart and has good vision and awareness in space, sees & reacts quickly to blitzes. Exceptional downfield blocker for an interior lineman, but not a guy who creates much movement in tight quarters. Reminds me of a poor man’s Scott Wells.

8. Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh
Rating: 5.40
Projected Draft Range: 7th round-UDFA
Notes: Technically sound jack-of-all/master-of-no trades. Decent athlete with good footwork and balance, just enough functional strength to anchor in the middle. Did a lot of movement at Pitt with mixed results, still working on his vision and at engaging with proper pad level in space. Played some guard and has the build and strength to play both in a reserve capacity early on. Has a chance to be a pleasant surprise if he clicks with the coaches.

9. Mario Benavides, Louisville
Rating: 5.35
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Undersized and sorely lacking functional strength and bulk. Very technically sound and smart, does his best to compensate for his lack of strength. Was better in ’11 when he was heavier. Meshed well with mobile QB, gets to second level extremely well. Possesses very active eyes and quick feet, was a four-year starter. Has a chance to surprise if he can add and maintain some functional weight & strength, but will not survive his first preseason otherwise.

10. Khaled Holmes, USC
Rating: 5.27
Projected Draft Range: 6th-7th round
Notes: Holmes has long arms and quick feet. Moves well for his size and locates/engages targets in space adeptly. Has some experience playing guard. Smart both on and off the field. Really lacks anchor strength and has generates no push at all as a run blocker. Got absolutely dominated by better competition he faced. Missed workout season with a pectoral injury, which means he’s not going to be any stronger anytime soon. Has higher name recognition value than football value.

11. Dalton Freeman, Clemson
Rating: 5.25
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Tall, upright, sneakily athletic pivot with long arms. Plays with too wide of a base and doesn’t translate his strength very well, doesn’t bend his knees consistently. Played at under 290 and struggles to anchor. Good blocker on the move with decent agility. Tested extremely well at his Pro Day, but was underwhelming during Senior Bowl week. Has upside if he can get up to 300 pounds. Smart and motivated player with potential to move to guard.

12. Graham Pocic, Illinois
Rating: 5.20I
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Extremely tall for the position at 6’6”. Has good strength and packs a good punch. Aggressive and plays with real malice, almost too wrapped up in the individual combat at times. Played better as a junior and is coming off shoulder surgery in December that wiped out his workout season. Both Kawann Short and Jordan Hill had very complimentary things to say about Pocic. Sleeper candidate as a potential Mr. Irrelevant.

13. Eric Kush, California PA
Rating: 5.15C
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Small school tactician with good fundamentals and football IQ. Decent athleticism, must prove he can anchor and redirect against better competition. Was good-not-great at Shrine Game week. Comes from a program that has produced some NFL talent.

14. Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State
Rating: 5.0
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Lightweight player who depends on being quicker and smarter than his opponent. Was outclassed at Shrine Game week and produced terrible workout numbers, but seemed more comfortable and confident in a more controlled environment. Has to get a lot stronger but could click in the right situation.

15. Skyler Allen, Ohio University
Rating: 4.95
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: His awesome choice in schools notwithstanding, Allen is a marginal prospect coming from the relatively weak-lined MAC. Decent strength and good power with his punch, but has a sloppy build and poor lateral range. His steps are too big and infrequent.

16. Matt Smith, Kentucky
Rating: 4.75
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Strong, smart, experienced player who toiled in the shadows of Larry Warford. Quick off the snap but doesn’t always bend well or transfer his strength from the weight room to the field. Very tight in the ankles and doesn’t sustain blocks as well as others. Played hurt in ’12 and could impress off the rebound, but also hurt himself at his Pro Day.

17. James Ferentz, Iowa
Rating: 4.62
Projected Draft Range: UDFA
Notes: Coach’s son with good fundamentals but inadequate size and strength (6’2”, 285, 23 reps). Wrestling background and polished technique make him competitive, but he really struggled against good competition. Might be better off shedding 15 pounds and trying it as a long snapper.

Grading Scale breakdown:

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