After going through three different centers—Scott Wells, Jeff Saturday and Evan Dietrich-Smith—over the last three seasons, the Green Bay Packers needed to move in a direction where their center position would be more stable.
In the fourth round of the 2013 draft, the Packers took a left tackle out of Cornell, J.C. Tretter. Tretter didn't project to most as a tackle prospect, though. More people had him listed at guard or center. After sustaining an injury before the 2013 season, he never got to see the field as a rookie. But now, he's listed as the team's starting center and will likely keep that title.
The issue isn't that Tretter is the starting center, though, but that behind him there isn't an interior offensive lineman who has the flexibility to play both center and guard. Fifth-round pick (161st overall) Corey Linsley can give that flexibility to the Packers.
Starting his career as a flex guard and tackle at Ohio State, Linsley wasn't a starter his first three seasons. Then in 2012, after Michael Brewster graduated from Ohio State, he took over the starting role as a center.
So while the majority of the playing time Linsley saw in college was at center, he shouldn't be pigeonholed at the position.
Linsley will likely stick on the roster as a swing offensive lineman, be active on game days and could eventually push Tretter for the starting role.
This strong, well-groomed center had been rising up boards in recent weeks due to the involvement of coaches in the draft process. Not a supreme athlete, Linsley has the strength and drive that coaches want in an interior offensive lineman.
Land-Grant Holy Land, SB Nation's Ohio State site, had this to say about Linsley:
While Linsley may have good strength, but at 6' 3 and 295 pounds he has average size, which could hurt him on the inside against some of the mammoth defensive tackles that are seen throughout the NFL. Where you tend to see Linsley get beat is when he is trying to contain explosive inside rushers. At times he can be a little too patient, which could hurt him in the NFL where the speed of the game is even faster.
Lacking the size and explosion that his opponents are likely to possess, Linsley will have to outsmart his opponents and make sure he has sound technique. While Linsley won't make an immediate impact on a team, his versatility will make him useful on a roster and it would be surprising to see him work his way into seeing more playing time if he is given a shot.
The analysis there is on point. If Linsley puts in the work and focuses on getting better and smarter, he could stick around in the NFL for a long time. He could play guard or center for the Packers, maybe even as a starter. Linsley is now in the NFL, and his future is now in his hands.
On thing is certain, though: General manager Ted Thompson thinks enough of him to give him a chance at a roster spot in 2014, as the team is begging for him to excel in his role.