New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
A valid argument can be made that the hole at center is the biggest one on the team. Jon Halapio likely won’t return, leaving Spencer Pulley in line to start after playing in just 4 games (1 start) in 2019. He started 9 games with the club in 2018 but over the course of the two years and multiple opportunities he was given, he has yet to prove he can be relied upon snap to snap, week to week. The Chargers thought the same thing after he started 16 games for them in 2017. There were multiple centers, all capable of at least contending for the starting job here, available in free agency but the team did not pursue them.
Both guard spots are locked up through 2021 with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler. While Hernandez has been up and down, he hasn’t missed a game in 2 years and he is more than solid enough to be relied on. Zeitler is a team leader, very solid player, and can help out a rookie on either or both sides of him, which may very well be the case. The one issue at guard is one can make the argument they are dangerously thin there. Even though Nick Gates can play inside (he will be in Sunday’s OT write up), he may be needed at tackle. NYG will likely bring in another veteran at some point but the case still exists, there is a hole in need of a rookie along the inside. Maybe even two.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
- Matt Hennessey / Temple / 6’4 – 307
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bardonia, New York. Three year starter who finished 2019 as 1st Team All AAC. Brother of Jets long snapper Thomas Hennessey. A two time team captain who was awarded a single digit jersey number for Temple, given to the team’s toughest and hardest working players. Hennessey has the look of a long time starter at center. He is a well-balanced machine who stays within himself at all times, rarely being caught off balance or out of position. If and when he adds some man-strength and bulk to his frame, he will be ready for starting duties in any scheme. He could be a starter within the first year of service if a team can help him against elite power inside. He is smart and reliable with the upside of being a top-half center in the league.
*A big part of playing offensive line is the simple but hard to find ability to maintain balance at all times. Even very good prospects struggle with it, especially when they need to block in space. Hennessey has no such problem. He probably plays with the most body control of all the OL in this class. While he may struggle against power off the bat, most rookie centers do and you can hide that with help from the guards. Hennessey will likely bring to the table what Garrett Bradbury did for MIN in 2019; solid but limited impact. Reliable week to week, most notably in the running game. For a team that needs better run blocking as much as any team in the league, he may be an ideal round 2 fit.
- Saahdiq Charles / LSU / 6’4 – 321
Summary: Junior entry from Jackson, Mississippi. A three-year starter who has seen the majority of his action at left tackle. Part of an offensive line that won the 2019 Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line in the country. Charles will likely make the move inside at the next level where he can immediately become a top tier athlete and zone-blocking scheme weapon. His burst and range from his stance will make a difference right away. The former high school soccer goalie still has a lot to learn and progress to as a blocker, but there is no denying the elite upside. Not many players his size can move and produce power like him. There are shoulder and maturity issues that need to be screened but if that checks out, he is a week 1 starter.
*Every year there are a handful of guys who I am much higher on than my boss and others I respect. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t but I don’t shy away from standing strong on my opinion. Charles is the poster boy of that group in this class. From what I hear, he is going round 4 or 5 but I am maintaining my 2nd round grade on him. He lacks control at times but I actually think this may be the best athlete of the bunch, certainly inside. Length concerns will likely move him from tackle to guard but I actually like him better in that role. He has tremendous power and explosion, he tries hard, and he developed a lot from a skill set perspective from 2018. All that said, there is a shoulder issue that needed screening, so that is a part of what will happen to him draft weekend. If he is there at the end of round 3 / start of round 4, I would scoop him up in a heartbeat if the team hadn’t addressed the OL yet.
- Prince Tega Wanogho / Auburn / 6’5 – 308
Summary: Fifth year senior. Two-plus year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Native of Nigeria and the son of a Prince and Princess. Earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. Wanogho was a sought after defensive recruit out of high school who made the move to full time offensive lineman when he arrived at Auburn. He had a rough-go early but evolved into one of the best linemen in the SEC. While there are still technique issues when it comes to consistent execution from snap to whistle, Wanogho still has plenty of untapped upside. At his best, in the SEC by the way, Wanogho had dominant stretches where he made everything look easy. The ability is there and it’s been showcased several times. A move from tackle to guard may be in the forecast and as long as he applies himself to the NFL coaching, he can be a quality starter in time.
*Depending on whom he is drafted by, Wanogho may end up a tackle. I think he has the ability to play both but I kept him in this group because his ideal spot is likely inside where his foot speed and length match up better. There was a period during the season where I was ready to put him in the round 1 talk because of how consistent he looked, how under control he played. A few issues popped up though and when you really break him down, there are sustainability problems. Also has a medical red flag but I am still looking at him as a day 2 guy.
- Nick Harris / Washington / 6’1 – 302
Summary: Senior entry from Inglewood, California. Four year starter who has experience at all three interior spots. First Team All Pac 12 in 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Harris is one of the best athletes among all offensive linemen in the class. He is incredibly twitchy and fast and it translates into power very well. While he could use more strength training below the waist to improve his anchor, he is more than powerful enough to make a physical impact. He can reach defenders that other centers simply cannot and he has a way of turning his body with full control while engaged to make himself stick to his target. Harris is potential big time difference maker in the middle of the line because of how much range he has stemming from his athletic ability . And make no mistake, he is not a finesse blocker, there is a nastiness in him that makes him an every down threat.
*Some are going to be turned off by Harris’ lack of size and true power, thus he won’t be a fit for every scheme. But an offense that wants a center with range and pop, you have to like this kid. Really smart player who started four years and will reach the second level looking like a fullback. There are anchor issues though and ultimately that did drop him a bit on my stack. Will NYG be interested? Hard to know what Jason Garrett is requesting at OC but from his tenure in DAL, I lean no.
- Cesar Ruiz / Michigan / 6’3 – 307
Summary: Junior entry from Camden, New Jersey. A three year starter with experience at guard and center. Second Team All Big 10 in 2019, third team in 2018. Ruiz was a top tier athlete among linemen coming out of high school and he got onto the field in year one at guard. He then made the full time move to center and went onto start 26 games there. Ruiz is a powerful blocker when impressive tools. He is the kind of player who can be developed into a starter over time, but may be best suited for backup duty early on. He needs to work on his footwork and make it more precise, as his quickness and agility appears to be limited. He won’t be able to get by on hand power alone in the NFL.
*Ruiz is being discussed as a late 1st/early 2nd rounder and I’ve re-watched tapes a couple times. I just can’t put him up there because I don’t think he is going to be ready right away. He is a nice physical package but he as all over the place losing balance, hinging at the hip, and being inaccurate with his hands. I also think a lot of his issues were hidden by two guards who are going to be playing on Sundays. If Ruiz hits his potential then yes, he is number 2 or 3 on this list. But his tape was as inconsistent as anyone.
- Tyler Biadasz / Wisconsin / 6’4 – 314
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Amherst, Wisconsin. A three year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018, 3rd Team All Big 10 in 2017. Unanimous 1st Team All American in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. And lastly, the 2019 Rimington Trophy Winner and Outland Trophy Finalist. Biadasz is obviously a widely respected and accomplished center for an offensive line that produced three straight 1,900 yard rush seasons. He was the leader of that group and one of the architects of the entire offense with how much he was responsible for at the point of attack mentally. He has NFL starter written all over him and even though there are some footwork warts in his arsenal, Biadasz has the tools to be an elite center and probable week 1 contributor. If he can fix some his technique red flags, there will be very few chinks in his armor.
*I can’t get my grade higher than this because of his balance and footwork issues, but there is a stubborn side of me that says Biadasz is a sure-thing to be a 10 year starter in the league. Maybe the ghost of Travis Frederick at Wisconsin weighs too much in my evaluation. But this kid hasn’t missed a start, every opposing coach speaks highly of him, and he won almost every accolade a center can win. If Jason Garrett pounds the table for a center, I think it is this one. The question is, when? Round 2 is too high but round 3 may be too late.
- Damien Lewis / LSU / 6’2 – 327
Summary: Senior entry from Canton, Mississippi. Two year starter for the Tigers who spent two seasons in junior college. A 2nd Team All SEC performer in 2019. Lewis was a mainstay and physical leader of the offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top offensive line. Lewis is the kind of guy you want behind you when walking into a fight. He play’s the game with a bully’s mentality and has the juice to back it up. As a run blocker, Lewis can create a new line of scrimmage with his pop out of his stance. As a pass blocker, he will always win the leverage battle but simply needs to refine his footwork and mental approach. He needs some work, but there is a starter here if a team is patient developing him.
*Lewis is a fun dude to watch if you like seeing legal violence on tape. He has heavy hands and plays with a low center of gravity. I would love to see more finesse in his game as a pass blocker where his strength alone can’t get the job done. He can get a bit stiff and top heavy so he will need time to refine a couple things but he will be able to handle NFL size and power right away.
- Lloyd Cushenberry III / LSU / 6’3 – 312
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Carville, Louisiana. Two year starter who earned a 1st Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honor respectively in 2019. The leader of the offensive line earned the much-respected #18 jersey honor for LSU which is revered for the leader of the team on and off the field. The LSU offensive line won the Joe Moore Award – given to the nation’s top unit – and Cushenberry was the one in front among that group. He is a smart player who is capable of making the calls and adjustments. Physically, his legs are roots which can make it very difficult for a defensive tackle to move, most notably against the run. He plays low and strong and keeps his hands intact. There are significant lateral movement issues, however, and he won’t be a fit for blocking schemes that want their centers to get from point A to point B quickly. In the right scheme, he is a good fit, but he isn’t for everyone.
*I may have Cushenberry a bit further down the stack than some, but I think most agree he is a day 2 prospect who needs the right scheme. He isn’t very light footed and it shows up when he face s off against lateral movers and linebackers. For a guy with such a strong base, and it really is strong, I wish he would simply keep the feet chopping more often. His issues are coachable and if his lack of lateral movement can be hidden, he is another good one who can play year one.
- Solomon Kindley / Georgia / 6’3 – 337
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Jacksonville, Florida. A three-year starter who missed some time with separate ankle and knee injuries. Kindley is a brute-force blocker who consistently gets movement off the ball in the run game. He creates a new line of scrimmage and will open a different kind of lane for running backs. His weakness is against quick, lateral movement as a pass blocker but even with that, he was a productive pass blocker in his three seasons. He needs work on his body and overall lower body techniques, the ability is there to ensure improvement and he is a weapon for the running game right away.
*If I could forecast the future and see whether or not Kindley is going to put his best foot forward when it comes to working on his weight and footwork, he would be in the discussion to be the top guard in the class and a possible 2nd rounder. He is too heavy for his frame and if his suddenness can improve by simply weighing 20-30 pounds less, I think he can be a star. He is a dominant run blocker and his natural power can keep pass rushers at bay. He just needs to clean it up and stop being reliant on simply leaning on guys to get the job done. Maybe an ideal fit for a day three pick to try and develop for a year or two.
- Ben Bredeson / Michigan / 6’5 – 315
Summary: Senior entry from Hartland, Wisconsin. Four year starter who was 1st Team All Big 10 as a senior, 2nd Team as a junior and sophomore. A 2019 3rd Team All American. Bredeson started 46 games over his career and was a two time team captain. He is on the higher end of experience, toughness, and on-field intelligence. He is rarely caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing when it comes to technique and he always seems to know how to respond to any situation. When it comes to physical ability and potential, he is limited but there is still a good chance he sees starter-duty at some point in his career. He will be in the league for a long time.
*You don’t see prospects coming out of big time programs like Michigan with 46 starts under their belt too often. Bredeson won’t be anyone’s favorite guard in the class but I bet he stays in the league as long as anyone on this list. There may be a chance he moves to center, as some teams are worried about his length shortcoming but they respect his intelligence and grit.
- Hakeem Adeniji / Kansas / 6’4 – 302
Summary: Senior entry from Garland, Texas. Four year starter who has experience at both tackle spots. A 1st Team All Big 12 honoree. Adeniji spent his entire career at tackle, but because of his size and lateral movement issues he is destined for a move to guard. He is a really effective straight-ahead blocker who will fire out of his stance and get a violent pop on the defender. The issues with him are technique based, most notably with his footwork. He struggles to maintain the mirror and lock-on if the defender goes left or right. There are developmental tools here though and he could play tackle in a pinch.
*Even though he played tackle in college, he was moved inside at the Senior Bowl and that is usually a sign teams won’t use him outside. I will say it is always good to have a guy on the depth chart who can move out there in an emergency situation where multiple guys go down in the same game. I actually see some David Diehl here, a college tackle who began his career inside before moving back to tackle. They both have violent hands, sub-par foot speed, and a gamer’s mentality. Really nice day three option here.
- Ben Bartch / Saint John’s (MN) / 6’6 – 309
Summary: Senior entry from Dayton, Oregon. Two year starter who only played the offensive line for two years after spending his first two seasons at tight end. Earned 1st Team All Conference honors and Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year Award in 2019 after being named 2nd Team in 2018. Bartch is an interesting athlete who simply bloomed late. He ran track in high school (hurdles and 4×400 relays) before going to college to play tight end. His body screamed offensive line as he continued to grow and once he moved there, he was home. Bartch absolutely dominated the Division III level and more than held his own at the Senior Bowl. He won’t be an immediate contributor in the NFL, as he needs to add power and bulk in addition to making the move to guard from tackle. However the upside is undeniable, as he is a rare athlete for the position who can at least somewhat make up for a lack of lower body strength.
*There was a lot of talk about Bartch toward the end of the fall. Some were comparing him to a recent Division III prospect, Ali Marpet, who Tampa Bay took in the second round of the 2015 draft and is now one of the top guards in the league. No disrespect to Bartch because I do have a draftable grade on him, but he is nowhere near the prospect Marpet was. He has a lot of work to do on his body, a lot of strength to gain. He doesn’t have the ideal body for development but he did play well at the Senior Bowl week but he is going to be a multi year project.
- Darryl Williams / Mississippi State / 6’2 – 304
Summary: Fifth year senior from Bessemer, Alabama. Three year starter who played guard in 2017 and 2018 before moving full time to center as a senior. A team captain who coaches laud for his intelligence and quick mind. Williams is a tough, hard nosed, blue collar blocker who gets the most out of himself. He lack athletic ability and ideal size for the NFL trenches, but his interior versatility and productive blocking career in the SEC will get him a spot on a depth chart in the NFL. Maybe never a starter, Williams should be in the league for a long time.
*I’m not sure Williams is going to evolve into a pure starter, but I bet he starts games in the league. The reason I say that is the fact he can legitimately project to both guard and center. That is really important for teams that are trying to maximize their active game day roster. Williams is a limited mover, not a fit for zone blocking heavy schemes, but I can see NYG giving him a good look late. Good kid, hard worker, versatile.
- Shane Lemieux / Oregon / 6’4 – 310
Summary: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.
*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.
- Jon Runyan / Michigan / 6’4 – 306
Summary: Fifth year senior from Moorestown, New Jersey. A two year starter at left tackle who earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors both years. The son of former Eagles Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jon Runyan. A highly versatile and reliable player, Runyan will make the move inside in the NFL but will carry versatility onto the field which will only help his stock. He isn’t a “wow” player in any way when it comes to physical tools or when it comes to his skill set, but he gets the job done. There is a lot of intelligence and attention to detail in addition to him being a tough guy. I don’t see him being a starter, but rather a valuable inside backup who could shift outside in an emergency situation.
*I’ve spoken with a couple people who have been around Runyan during his pre-combine training and they were glowing about how good of an athlete he is. The lineage is going to help his stock because you can trust him, you know he can think his way through things. Another guy who won’t wow you on tape but he brings some position versatility and could be a guy who is a solid 6th or 7th lineman for a long time.
- Michael Onwenu / Michigan: 71
- Jack Driscoll / Auburn: 71
- Tremayne Anchrum / Clemson: 70
- Jonah Jackson / Ohio State: 70
- Netane Muti / Fresno State: 70
- Danny Pinter / Ball State: 70
- Cameron Clark / Charlotte: 70
- Kyle Murphy / Rhode Island: 69
- Calvin Throckmorton / Oregon: 69
- Luke Juriga / Western Michigan: 69
When you look at the guards, NYG can go into the season confident they have their starters, which a lot of teams can’t say. NYG can go into the season confident they have their 2021 starters as well, which most teams can’t say. The glaring issue resides at center, the spot where I’m not sure if the starter is on the team right now. Spencer Pulley is the fallback option but as I said above, he needs to be the interior backup. No matter what NYG does at #4 (OT or defense), center will be in play with their second rounder. It will come down to the grade between their top 1-2 centers and how they compare to others that are on the board. I don’t think NYG will look past OC as a direct result of taking OT in the first.
One thing I noted about grading this class, there is an enormous cluster of draftable interior guys who will be available in rounds 6-7. Only an average of 22 OG/OC get drafted year, but I have 30 draftable grades on guys inside plus a few tackles who can possibly move to guard. A lot of this will come down to teams and their schemes, so I think they are going to have multiple guys on this back end list (16-25) available when they are on the clock in rounds 6-7. Considering the depth is so thin at OG, it would be wise to bring one of these bodies in who is worth trying to develop. Every good offensive line gets “lucky” one or two times and what I mean by that, they all have a late round draft pick and/or an undrafted free agent who ends up being a key cog. In recent NYG memory? Rich Seubert. Kevin Boothe. David Diehl.