April 20, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
The Top Centers in the 2016 NFL Draft
I have always thought of center as an undervalued position. By the nature of the position, the center is the leader of the offensive line group. He not only has to be productive, he also has to smart, aware and instinctive. It’s his job to recognize defensive formations and instantly make the line calls and protections. That said, the group this year is as strong as I have seen it in years. Not only are there some quality players at the position but there are also s few guards that can also slide over and play center in a pinch. I will talk about those prospects when I write up the guard group later this week. Ryan Kelly – Alabama Kelly is a fifth year senior, a three year starter and the Remington Trophy winner. At 6’4 – 311 with 33 5/8” arms he has ideal size to go along with outstanding smarts and instincts. He has the strength and power to move big nose tackles and the athleticism to adjust on the move and get to the second level on combo blocks. In pass pro, he sets quickly, has a strong punch, can mirror and anchor as well as pick up blitzes and stunts. Earlier in the scouting process, I felt that he would easily start as a rookie, but as I have watched more tape, I can see that Kelly is the type of player who will be a future Pro Bowl type player. He will be the first center selected and could perhaps get drafted in the later part of the first round. Nick Martin – Notre Dame Martin was a three year starter for Notre Dame and has starts at both center and guard. He is also the younger brother of All Pro guard Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys. While at Notre Dame he accumulated 37 starts. Martin has good size at 6’4 – 300. While his arms are a bit short at 32 ½”, he has very good strength and power to go along with very good overall athleticism. Martin grades out well as both a run and pass blocker. He stays low coming off the ball and has some snap in his hips on contact. He demonstrates good hand use, keeps good position and can anchor and mirror in pass protection. He easily gets to the second level and does a good job in space. When at guard he can pull and adjust on the move to hit a moving target. While Martin may never be an All Pro like his brother, he will be a solid starter who should be able to come in and start as a rookie. Max Tuerk – USC Earlier in the process I had Tuerk as my number one center. That was before he tore a ligament in his knee, had surgery and missed the rest of the season. He was unable to work out for any clubs during the post combine evaluation period. Tuerk has excellent size (6’5 – 300) to go along with very good overall athleticism. He has made starts at center, guard and tackle for USC during the course of his career. Tuerk is a sound technician and plays with strength and power. He plays an aggressive game and demonstrates the movement skills to be very good in space. He shows he can play with bend and he is a consistent run and pass blocker. If he has a negative, it’s that his lower body is a bit on the lean side. To compete at a high level in the NFL he will need to add some lower body strength and bulk. If his knee is sound once camps open, I see no reason why he can’t come in and start as a rookie at either center or guard. While he has the talent to be drafted as high as the second round, his draft status will be determined by far along he is in the rehab process with his knee.