NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Centers

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 7, 2017

NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Centers

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The 2017 NFL draft class features elite talents at the top of the board in Myles Garrett and Leonard Fournette. After that? This is one of the deepest classes in the six years I've been scouting at Bleacher Report. 

    Stacking the board top to bottom for the '17 class was no easy task. There are a record-breaking number of first-round talents on my board. Outside of Round 1, it was easy to imagine putting 60 of the top players into the top 40. If you can't find starters in Round 4 of this class, you're doing it wrong. 

    So who is the best overall? How about the best at each position? The goal of the NFL Draft 400 series is to figure that out.

    The top 400 players were tracked, scouted, graded and ranked by me and my scouting assistants, Marshal Miller and Dan Bazal, and Connor Rogers. Together, we viewed tape of a minimum of three games per player (the same standard NFL teams use). Oftentimes, we saw every play by a prospect over the last two years. That led to the grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players were graded on strengths and weaknesses, with a pro-player comparison added to match the player's style or fit in the pros. The top 400 players will be broken down position by position for easy viewing before the release of a top-400 big board prior to the draft.

    In the case of a tie, players were ranked based on their overall grade in our top 400.

Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    At the end of each scouting report, you'll see a final grade that falls somewhere between 4.00 and 9.00. This scale comes from the teaching I received from Charley Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former and current front office personnel in the NFL. I tweaked it this year to be more transparent, and as a result, each player received a number grade as well as a ranking.

    This applies to all positions across the board.

    Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale
    GradeLabel
    9.00Elite—No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99All-Pro—Rare Talent
    7.50-7.99Round 1—Pro Bowl Potential
    7.00-7.49Round 1—Top-15 Player Potential
    6.50-6.99Round 2—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    6.00-6.49Round 3—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.80-5.99Round 3-4—Future Starter
    5.70-5.79Round 4—Backup Caliber
    5.60-5.69Round 5—Backup Caliber
    5.30-5.59Round 6—Backup Caliber
    5.10-5.25Round 7—Backup Caliber
    5.00Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.99Camp Player

9. Deyshawn Bond, Cincinnati

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'1 ½"292 lbsN/A32"9 ¾"

    POSITIVES

    Deyshawn Bond started for four years at center for Cincinnati. With excellent quickness, he has the hips and feet to get down the line of scrimmage or to space against NFL defenses. Bond is a naturally strong player with the hands to quickly jab at a defender and beat them with his punch. He has the strength to handle power-rushers, and he'll sit down against a bull rush and play with the leverage needed to anchor. Bond's overall athleticism will allow him to recover and regain his position. The core strength and flexibility on his tape are eye-opening at times. A zone-blocking scheme would be best for his NFL potential.

    NEGATIVES

    A short, undersized center with arm length that is less than ideal, Bond will be a scratch for some teams based purely on a lack of size. Without length, size or lower-body strength, he isn't going to drive many nose tackles off their spot. Bond's inability to get an angle on defenders will be highlighted by his lack of length in the pros. His instincts as a blocker aren't consistent, either. Bond can be beaten with a strong countermove to the inside.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Gino Gradkowski, Carolina Panthers 

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

8. J.J. Dielman, Utah

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'5"309 lbsN/A32 ¼"10"

    POSITIVES

    A two-year starter at right tackle before moving to center and missing half the 2016 season with a leg injury, J.J. Dielman has the strength and quickness to play in the NFL. He's naturally quick and has the hip and knee bend to climb to the second level and take on linebackers. Dielman is ideal for a zone scheme with excellent agility and overall athleticism. He can get out of his stance, open his hips and go laterally down the line. His ability to play on pulls, traps and the screen game will surprise. With light feet and quick hips, Dielman will be able to handle speedy rushers in the NFL. He can recover and adjust to pick up A-gap blitzers.

      

    NEGATIVES

    A tall center with short arms, Dielman will need to focus on adding strength at the next level. Filling out his long, lean frame is a rookie-season priority. Dielman doesn't have the power to anchor against head-up defenders, and he must improve his leverage to better get under the pads of defenders. He's not an accomplished drive-blocker and can struggle in a box as opposed to playing in space. Despite having good feet and hips, Dielman sometimes plays with a lack of ideal body control on the move.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Luke Bowanko, Jacksonville Jaguars 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.30/9.00 (Backup Caliber—Round 6)

7. Kyle Fuller, Baylor

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'5"307 lbs5.24s34 "10 ¼"

    POSITIVES

    Kyle Fuller is a three-year starter with excellent NFL size, length and hand size. On the hoof, Fuller will impress. His 34 ⅛" arms are great for a center, and you see him using that length in his pass-protection technique. The Baylor scheme asked Fuller to cover a lot of ground in the gaps beside him, and he handled that space well thanks to his strong hands and long arms. Fuller has solid strength (better than his 23 reps on the bench press showed) and can lock up defenders with his grip. 

    NEGATIVES

    Fuller is an average athlete playing in a shotgun-only scheme that hasn't developed his blocking angles or recovery skills. The film doesn't show a center with the agility to get to the second level to take on linebackers or the lateral ability to get down the line and kick out defensive ends or outside linebackers. Fuller isn't agile enough to play in a zone scheme. Despite having ideal NFL size, he doesn't have light feet or loose hips. Without movement skills, Fuller will be limited to a backup role.

    PRO COMPARISON: Gabe Ikard, Cleveland Browns

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Backup Caliber—Round 6) 

6. Jon Toth, Kentucky

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'5"307 lbs5.51s33 "10"

    POSITIVES

    A four-year starter who played every game at center, Jon Toth is both experienced and poised. His toughness and instincts are what you'd expect from a 48-game starter in the SEC. Toth has ideal NFL size with massive hands. He's a stud in a power scheme, as he can get underneath the pads of a defensive lineman and drive them off the ball. Toth is tight with his punch and arms, which helps him win once he has his hands on a defender. His hand placement and speed are ideal for the NFL, as they allow him to keep pace with speed-rushers. Toth is somewhat average athletically, but he has the experience and hand use to start in the NFL. Anyone doubting that should watch his play against Alabama.

    NEGATIVES

    Average athleticism shows up across the board for Toth. He's not great outside of a box and can't beat defenders down the line when asked to move laterally. His testing scores in athletic workoutshe ran the short shuttle in 4.84 seconds and did the three-cone drill in 8.09 secondsalso raise questions about how well he'll be able to block in space. Recovery skills rely heavily on athleticism, and Toth doesn't show that type of quickness. He's not a twitchy player and has to win with power. 
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Cody Wallace, Free Agent

    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Backup Caliber—Round 6) 

5. Chad Wheeler, USC

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'7"306 lbs5.30s33 "9 ½"

    POSITIVES

    A four-year starter at USC, Chad Wheeler lined up at left tackle for the Trojans but is versatile enough to play all five positions in the NFL. Due to his movement skills and football IQ, we're listing him at center. Wheeler has the short-area quickness to explode up the field and beat defenders to the ball. He can be a lead blocker at the first and second level, as he possesses the agility and balance to run upfield. In the screen game, he's special. Wheeler can slide, shuffle and mirror at a pro level. He's a high-motor player with the poise and patience of a seasoned pro. Wheeler doesn't panic and doesn't get confused by blitzes, stunts or countermoves from defenders. He can play against a head-up or gap defender.

    NEGATIVES

    Injuries are a big part of Wheeler's history, as he missed games in 2014 and 2015 and was hobbled by plantar fasciitis at the beginning of this past season. He likewise missed time in high school after undergoing shoulder surgery and sat out most of USC's spring practice in 2013 due to a knee injury. He also had to miss the 2017 East-West Shrine Game due to injury. Wheeler is tall but has short arms and small hands. He plays with a stiff back and a bent waist. Wheeler's technique as a pass-blocker needs refinement so he's more balanced and light in his stance. His ability to anchor is poor due to below-average power in his lower body. Wheeler has to begin playing with better leverage.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Max Unger, New Orleans Saints

    FINAL GRADE: 5.60/9.00 (Backup/Developmental Prospect—Round 5) 

4. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'3 ½"298 lbsN/A32 ¼"9 ¾"

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starting center at West Virginia, Tyler Orlosky is a potential mid-round steal at center. He plays like a bouncer at a bar with a mean, physical style. He has the power in his hands and arms to control defenders once he gets his hands on them, and he'll throw rushers to the ground with force. Head-up nose tackles are no issue for Orlosky with his natural leverage and top-notch upper-body strength. He's quick in a short area and has the instincts and reaction time to do damage picking up blitzes and stunts. The best trait from Orlosky are his hands. He's a lightning-fast puncher, and once he gets his hands on you, it's game over.

    NEGATIVES

    A lack of size and power show up on film for Orlosky. He doesn't have great hips, either, and he can be stiff getting opened up to attack down the line of scrimmage. Orlosky is undersized with small hands and short arms. The quickness on tape doesn't translate well to a zone scheme, where Orlosky would be asked to get outside the box and attack linebackers and defensive ends on the edge. He's limited to what work he can do in a box and without having to reach with his short arms.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers

    FINAL GRADE: 5.70/9.00 (Future Starter—Round 4)

3. Chase Roullier, Wyoming

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'4"312 lbs5.54s32 ¼"9 ½"

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starter at Wyoming, Chase Roullier played two years at left guard before making the move to center in 2016 and starting 14 games. Roullier brings versatility to the NFL and could be a starter down the road at either guard or center. He plays with enough bend and hip pop to explode out of his stance and get into defenders quickly. With a high football IQ and great toughness, Roullier has the makings of a mean center in a power scheme. His ability to move zero-technique defenders out of the hole makes him intriguing as a mid-round starter. He can be a drive-blocker with the power and mentality to dump defenders.

    NEGATIVES

    Despite having ideal height and weight, Roullier has small hands and short arms. A lack of lateral quickness will limit him from playing in a zone scheme for which his size and lack of length would be ideal. Roullier's football instincts don't appear to be well-developed, and it doesn't help that he rarely faced NFL-level talent in the Mountain West. Quick interior rushers could make life hell for Roullier, as could delayed A-gap pressure from fast linebackers. With his struggles to match speed, Roullier will have to develop faster hands. 
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Jeremy Zuttah, San Francisco 49ers

    FINAL GRADE: 5.70/9.00 (Future Starter—Round 4) 

2. Ethan Pocic, LSU

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'6"310 lbs5.12s33 "10 "

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starter for LSU, Ethan Pocic has played center, guard and even right tackle. His versatility and ability to pick up new positions without a drop-off in play will only increase his value to NFL teams. Pocic is a natural athlete with good movement skills both laterally and in a straight line. Watching him work down the line or kicking upfield to attack linebackers, it's easy to imagine him making a transition to the NFL and playing in any scheme. Pocic has smooth, developed lateral quickness, and he makes accurate contact with defenders in space. He has quick feet and uses his length well to punch in pass protection. Popic is versatile enough athletically and has a high enough football IQ to play multiple spots in the NFL, but his ideal position is at center. He'll be just 22 years old as a rookie.

    NEGATIVES

    Pocic's height may be a problem. Some NFL teams want centers to be shorter than 6'6". Despite that height, his arms came in shorter than expected. Pocic had hip surgery in 2016 but didn't miss any games. His ability to handle defenders head-up is an issue on tape—partially due to poor leverage and partially due to inadequate hip flexibility and lower-body power. His ability to anchor at center is average, but fixable. Improving balance and leverage are keys to Pocic becoming a high-level NFL starter.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs

    FINAL GRADE: 6.30/9.00 (Rookie Starter—Round 3) 

1. Pat Elflein, Ohio State

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 TimeArm LengthHand Size
    6'2 "303 lbs5.32s33 ¼"9 ¾"

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starter at Ohio State, Pat Elflein played two years (2014-15) at guard before shifting inside to center as a senior. He thrived at the position, being named a consensus first-team All-American. Elflein is a model leader and an excellently wired football player. He plays with power and great instincts. At the point of attack, he can be a bully with his naturally low center of gravity and mean streak. With ideal technique and fundamentals, Elflein can be a Year 1 starter at guard or center. His football IQ makes him a perfect center candidate. One of the most durable players on the Ohio State roster, Elflein made three years of starts without missing one. He's pro-ready and is a rookie starter.

    NEGATIVES

    Elflein is a little undersized at 6'2 ⅝" and with 33 ¼" arms. He didn't test well athletically and could be limited in how well he gets upfield and attacks linebackers. Unlike last year's top center, Ryan Kelly, who dominated in space and at the second level, Elflein struggles there. He can be overaggressive and needs to tone down his tough-guy mentality. He was a shotgun-only snapper in college.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears

    FINAL GRADE: 6.50/9.00 (Rookie Starter—Round 2)

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