Wisconsin center Travis Frederick looks to be the next product of the Wisconsin offensive lineman factory in Madison. It's no real surprise, though, considering he was the first freshman in Wisconsin history to start a season-opening game when he snapped the ball against Northern Illinois on September 5, 2009. He later went on to start two games at left guard (UWBadgers.com).
Frederick's versatility as an interior lineman has earned him the honor of Mel Kiper's highest-rated center. "Frederick has been my top center for a while: solid player, moves well, can get to the second level or pull effectively" (ESPN Insider). Frederick took a much more modest approach to the question of what he thinks about this year's class of offensive lineman.
"I think there's a lot of great talent out there, both at center and guard," Frederick told reporters at the combine. "I think that I play very well as well. And I think that I rank up there with those guys."
Here are some video highlights to back that up.
In this video highlight, Frederick does a great job of staying low and showing great burst at the snap of the ball. When he makes contact with the defensive lineman, the level of his shoulder pads, or pad level, is lower than the defender. In football, this is a win nine times out of 10. The player with the lower pads wins.
At 6'4", it's surprising that Frederick does this good of a job staying low. His low pad level allows him to utilize his leg strength more. In this clip, once Frederick gets his hands on the defender, there's nothing the defender can do to get away. Rather than forcing the defender one way or another when he tries to spin, Frederick pushes the defender in whatever direction he wants to go, which is ultimately to the ground.
This skill entices NFL teams because with the athleticism of NFL defensive lineman today, it's important to find guys who can stay with them. Frederick has shown the intelligence to know when to wash a defender down into a pile (like he does here) and when to turn them in a particular direction.
This clip does a good job of showing just how strong and planted Travis Frederick can be. In this play, he drops into a pass set but surrenders very little ground to the defender, allowing the quarterback plenty of time to go through his progression.
While Frederick admits that his abilities in the run game set him apart from other players in this year's class, he also possesses a skill set in the pass game that make him very attractive to NFL teams.
"I think that the things I do in the run game definitely help me out, and in the passing game, being able to stop some bull rushers and things like that, that certainly helps me," he told reporters at the combine. The scouts seem to have agreed. On his NFL.com draft profile, it says that Frederick's "anchor is strong, does not get bulled backwards when man up."
In this clip, we get a look at Frederick's upper body strength and persistence. Once the ball is snapped, almost immediately he gets his hands up and on a defender. Not only does he get his hands on a defender, but he also knocks him on his butt with what looked like a routine punch for the big guy out of Big Foot High School.
Having temporarily disabled one defender, he checks his peripherals to see if any of his other linemen need help. When he sees that they don't need any, he hits the defender again, knocking him off balance. This is another good example of Frederick finishing a block all the way through to the end of the play.
Frederick's ability to get his hands up and active so quickly after snapping the ball make him special. On his NFL.com draft profile, their scouts have also identified his hand speed as an advantage, saying that he "gets his hands up quickly after the snap" and "keeps them inside" (NFL.com)
This clip comes from the 2013 Rose Bowl Game in which Wisconsin lost to Stanford. The Badgers were backed up to their own end zone, facing 2nd-and-20. If Frederick doesn't turn No. 17 for Stanford, he makes a hit on Ball at about the five-yard line. Instead, Frederick is able to make contact and turn him completely sideways, opening up a running lane for Wisconsin RB Montee Ball (who picked up another great block from the tight end).
Frederick does several things right in this play, all of which are things for NFL teams to get excited about. First, he gets to the second level of the defense and makes contact with the linebacker very quickly. Notice that by the time Ball receives the handoff, Frederick is already locked up with the linebacker and has him turned, creating a running lane.
Second, Frederick stays engaged with his block. He doesn't quit on blocks early. His NFL.com draft profile says that Frederick "Works hard to sustain and finish one-on-one blocks." The proof is in the pudding—not many defenders get away from him once he makes contact.
NFL.com describes Frederick as a "thick-bodied" lineman. In this highlight, we see how that serves him well at the center position. Again, Frederick does an exceptional job of snapping the ball and getting his hands engaged quickly. Next, we can see his strength start to take over as he turns the defensive lineman.
Next, we see raw, Big Foot High School-bred power. Frederick gets his hands where he wants and from there, it's a race to see how long it takes before the defender loses his balance. Frederick ends up throwing him to the ground in a completely legal blocking move known as a pancake. As long as Frederick's hands stay inside and his feet keep moving, that will never be called as a holding penalty.
The ability to move players with such ease and not risk a holding penalty is a huge selling point for Frederick to NFL teams. Despite starting all 14 games in 2012 at center, Frederick could be asked to play guard at the next level. Either way, he welcomes the opportunity.
"I certainly have a long way to go in my progression and I'm excited to get a chance play with an NFL team and a chance to continue to improve my craft" (49ers.com).