NFL Draft 2013: Tracking the Best Available Centers

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystApril 25, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Tracking the Best Available Centers

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    There is a lot of offensive line depth in the 2013 NFL draft—except at center. It's actually doubtful you will see a center drafted until the third round because it's a bad class overall. The center class is so bad that top offensive guard prospect Jonathan Cooper is being praised for his ability to also play center.

    Matt Miller has done a great job all year providing us prospect rankings, so we will be tracking his best available centers in the draft here. Each one will be updated as the picks happen, just don't expect this particular slideshow to have much action until Day 2 and 3. 

5. Braxston Cave

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    You can view Braxston Cave‘s complete scouting report from Jon Dove by clicking here.

    Cave is a competitive player that may be have some major limitation and need to technique issues that will need to be developed at the next level.

    Cave's strengths per Dove:

    Quickness off the snap

    Effort/Leg Drive

    Leverage

    Those traits alone should give Cave a shot at a roster, but since he's strictly a center he may end up on the practice squad.

    Cave's weaknesses per Dove: 

    Overall Athleticism

    Shorter Arms

    Versatility

    Cave's not going to blow anyone away, but he's a hard-working guard prospect that is going to give himself a chance to be successful.

    Overall, Cave is the fifth-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted:

6. P.J. Lonergan

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    You can view P.J. Lonergan‘s complete scouting report from Ryan McCrystal by clicking here.

    Reserve centers almost always have to be able to play guard and Lonergan appears to have that ability.

    Lonergan's strength's per McCystal:

    "What you see is what you get with Lonergan, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. He's an intelligent, technically sound offensive linemen who gets the most out of his ability. 

    He has the skills to play center or guard, and that type of versatility will make him a valuable backup on the depth chart."

    Good technique will appeal to coaches and front offices looking for depth on the offensive line. 

    Lonergan's weaknesses per McCystal:

    "Lonergan was a productive three-year starter at LSU, but his physical tools limit hisNFL potential. 

    He's sort of a 'tweener, who lacks the strength to dominate as a power run blocker but also lacks the athleticism to be an asset on the move."

    A team that mixes man and zone-blocking concepts might end up landing Lonergan late in the draft, but he'll get to a camp and some team will loves that he can play guard and center with sound technique.

    Overall,  Lonergan is the sixth-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted:

7. Matt Stankiewitch

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    You can view Matt Stankiewitch‘s complete scouting report from Ryan McCystal by clicking here.

    Coaches love blue-collar grinders and by most accounts that fits Stankiewitch. Once he gets into camp, he's going to have a chance to make a coaching staff fall in love with him.

    Stankiewitch's strengths per McCystal:

    "Stankiewitch is an old-school lineman who wins with physical strength. He can excel in the power run game and does an excellent job driving his man off his spot. 

    Scouts have praised him for his blue-collar work ethic, which will endear him to coaches in the NFL."

    Stankiewitch's weaknesses per McCystal:

    "While Stankiewitch would fit nicely into a 1970s offensive line, he lacks the athleticism that many teams are looking for in linemen these days. With more teams running zone-blocking schemes and read-option offenses, linemen such as Stankiewitch simply aren't on the radar of certain teams."

    Stankiewitch doesn't have great athleticism, but he did play center and guard, which means he will have a chance to make the back-end of a roster. It will take the right team that doesn't require their linemen to pull or get to the second level regularly.

    Overall, Stankiewitchis the seventh-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted:

8. Dalton Freeman

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    You can view Dalton Freeman‘s complete scouting report from Dane Brugler of CBS by clicking here.

    Zone-blocking teams are always looking for athletic linemen that might lack the prerequisite size to play in other scheme. Freeman is a smaller guard prospect, but he can move around.

    Freeman's strengths per Brugler:

    "Sets up quickly off the snap with good athleticism for the position. Utilizes angles well and understands how to use body position to his advantage. Smart and the leader of a young offensive line in 2012 for Clemson. It doesn't always look pretty, but more often than not, he gets the job done. Strong resume as a four-year starter, recording 48 starts over his Clemson career."

    Zone-blocking teams might be less concerned with his lack of size and base strength, but they are still working against him.

    Freeman's weaknesses per Brugler:

    "Lacks a stout frame and plays light in the pants. Not a glass-eater and plays a tad passive at times. Needs to get stronger and add bulk to his frame to better sustain at the point of attack, but doesn't appear to have the body type to carry 300-plus pounds. Base strength is a question mark as he can be often moved from his spot. Plays a bit tight and needs to stay comfortable in his stance, popping too tall off the snap at times."

    Even if he's not drafted, Freeman could get a look in camp and probably land a gig on the practice squad. 

    Overall, Freeman is the eighth-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted:

2. Travis Frederick

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    You can view Travis Frederick‘s complete scouting report from Ryan McCrystal by clicking here.

    In what is a very limited center class, versatility is key and Frederick is another good example.

    Frederick's strengths per McCystal:

    "Frederick's best asset is his physical style. He's a mauler who can hold his ground in one-on-one battles with any defensive lineman.

    He is especially valuable as an a power run-blocker who can easily drive a defensive lineman off his spot to create holes up the middle. "

    Some teams value size and nastiness over athleticism and Frederick could find a home at center or guard with one of those teams.

    Frederick's weaknesses per McCystal:

    "In tight spaces, Frederick is an immovable object and will win the overwhelming majority of his battles. But ask him to move or make plays in space, and his effectiveness diminishes greatly. 

    Frederick simply isn't an athlete and lacks the ability to get to the second level, or the footwork to stay with interior pass-rushers when they have room to operate."

    You can't teach size, which Frederick has, but you also can't make him a better athlete. He'll appeal to some teams and not others. 

    Overall, Frederick is the second-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted: Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, Pick 31

     

3. Brian Schwenke

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    You can view Brian Schwenke‘s complete scouting report from Ryan McCrystal by clicking here.

    Schewenke is good evidence that looks can be deceiving. At first glance you would expect that he's an nonathletic guard type of prospect, but that's not the case.

    McCystal's take on Schewenke's strength:

    "Schwenke's best asset is his athleticism, which may be more valuable to NFL teams now than ever. More teams are running a zone-blocking scheme and some form of the read-option, both of which fit Schwenke's skill set perfectly."

    He doesn't look athletic, but he's surprisingly agile and moves really well.

    McCystal on Schwenke's primary weaknesses:

    "It's tough to find a glaring weakness in Schwenke's game, but his limited strength is what holds him back most. In certain matchups, Schwenke simply lacks the ability to anchor against the bull rush and requires help, which may or may not be available depending on the situation."

    For whatever reason, Schwenke seems like a guy that is going to find his way into a starting lineup in a zone-scheme somewhere. 

    Overall, Schwenke is the third-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted: Tennessee Titans, Round 4, Pick 10

1. Barrett Jones

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    You can view Barrett Jones‘ complete scouting report from Ryan McCystal by clicking here.

    Jones was the center at Alabama, who had one of the best offensive lines in college football. Both Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker are certain to go in the first round.

    Jones' strengths per McCrystal:

    Jones' greatest asset is his versatility. During his career at Alabama, he made 25 starts at guard, 10 at left tackle and 14 at center.

    While he doesn't project as a star at any of those positions in the NFL, teams absolutely love offensive linemen who can play multiple positions. The type of versatility that Jones has displayed could bump him up at least a full round from where he would be projected based on his skill set at any one spot. 

    Versatility might give Jones a roster spot and time to develop even further, but there is a perception that players that played under Nick Saban are already fully developed. 

    Jones' weaknesses per McCrystal:

    Jones isn't going to win any battles based on his raw physical tools. He lacks the strength to overpower anyone and there will be certain matchups in which he needs help at the next level, especially as an interior lineman. 

    Despite the fact that he is as technically sound as any collegiate lineman, his physical limitations are tough to ignore. He has a fairly low ceiling and he's already pretty close to reaching it.

    The concerns about prospects from Alabama and Jones' limitations are probably enough to scare teams away. 

    Overall, Jones is still the best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class. Weak class.

    Drafted: St. Louis Rams, Round 4, Pick 16

4. Khaled Holmes

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    You can view Khaled Holmes‘ complete scouting report from Ryan McCrystal by clicking here.

    Like many of this year's centers, they may be limited to just one scheme.

    Holmes' strengths per McCystal:

    "Holmes' athleticism is his best asset. While he isn't in an elite category, he has more than enough athleticism to play center or guard in a zone-blocking scheme. 

    With more and more teams running zone-blocking schemes and read-option offenses, an athlete like Holmes may be more valued now than ever."

    Scheme limited, but worthy of a selection and lower-ranked interior linemen because starters on zone-blocking teams all the time,

    Holmes' weaknesses per McCystal:

    Strength, especially in his lower body, is a concern for Holmes. He struggled to hold his ground against more physical interior lineman and may need to add some weight in order to do so in the NFL.

    Holmes was dominated by Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, so there's obvious concern about Holmes going against NFL tackles.

    Overall, Holmes is the fifth-best offensive center in the 2013 NFL Draft class.

    Drafted: Indianapolis Colts, Round 4, Pick 24