GUARDS / CENTERS
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-30 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
The surprise of the 2020 season, in my book anyway, was the emergence of Nick Gates at center. I remember watching him at 2019 Training Camp and didn’t think he was any different than Chad Wheeler. He did flash a bit during that regular season, but I don’t think anyone saw his performance at center, especially after the first few weeks, coming. Gates is a wild card on this line. On one end, he proved he can be the center of the future. On another end, in a year where the center class is especially strong, he could likely move to either guard spot and still be a strong part of the unit. The guards, both of them, are major questions marks. Kevin Zeitler fell off in a hurry and was released. Shane Lemieux flashed in his rookie year and passed Will Hernandez on the depth chart. Both have significant limitations, however. Lemieux lacks a true power anchor and Hernandez plays ultra-tight when it comes to his footwork. Veteran Zach Fulton, who has started 90 games in 7 years, was signed and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him starting while Lemieux and Hernandez battle it out on the other side. Jonotthan Harrison is a solid backup at center. Kyle Murphy is a project that I’ve heard some good things about.
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
1. Rashawn Slater / Northwestern / 6’4-304
Summary: Senior entry from Sugar Land, Texas. Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in 2019, 3rd Team in 2018. Slater’s father, Reginald, played 8 years in the NBA. Slater does not fit the prototypical profile for tackles in the NFL. He is short and may have an arm length issue that didn’t always get exposed in college. He may be best suited to make the move to guard like Zack Martin did coming out of Notre Dame when he was drafted by Dallas. No matter where he plays, Slater will be ready for a starting role early on in his career. He is really technically sound, plays really smart, and has the athletic ability to handle the speed of the NFL right away. Slater has top shelf hands and foot speed, always a good place to start. He can lock on to any kind of defender and at the very least, slow him down. There are some issues that pop up when needing to move toward his inside shoulder, but he has the ability to recover. He also could use a stronger anchor position but remember, his tape is from 2019. It is safe to assume he will be stronger next time he steps foot on the field. Wherever Slater ends up playing, he has the look of a long-term solution but his truest ceiling resides at guard in a zone-scheme.
*I know some are going to think Slater should be in the tackle group. I don’t want to get into a debate about it, this is simply where I see him at his best in the NFL. Can he play outside? Sure. A lot of good guards in the NFL couple likely play outside if needed, but they are better inside. I really see a Zack Martin type situation here. Not sure how many people truly realize how important he was and still is to that offensive line. DAL had a top 5 OL for a few years and he was a key part of that. Even if Slater is the NYG pick at #11 to play guard, I would be more than fine with it. This line absolutely needs to be better inside and outside if they want to avoid being the 31st ranked offense (second to last). “Wait until day 2” just because you don’t like the idea of using this pick on a guard is, with all due respect, completely foolish. If the line can get to a dominant level, imagine what happens with Barkley and the offense.
2. Alijah Vera-Tucker / USC / 6’5-308
Summary: Fourth year junior from Oakland, California. Two-year starter that earned All-Pac 12 honors, 1st Team in 2020. Winner of the 2020 Morris Trophy. Tucker made the move from guard to left tackle this past season, proving to be an equally effective talent at both spots. That kind of versatility and consistent production will weigh a lot for teams that have multiple question marks along their offensive line. Vera-Tucker is a nasty, powerful off the ball blocker that will stifle defenders and stick to them with active feet. He can mirror his man while playing a strong, effective game. He can rightfully grade out both inside and outside, but his ideal spot will be at guard. He has shown a few leverage and control issues when he is far into open space. He should be a starter early in his career and a guy that sticks around for a decade-plus.
*I had a 1st round grade on Vera-Tucker after the first USC game I watched in 2020. This kid is a stud and will be as reliable as you would want a guard to be. His footwork and body control in pass protection as a tackle was the best I had seen all year. Even though I think his length issue will keep him inside, which again is more than fine when talking about a 1st round pick, I bet he could back up a left tackle spot if a starter were to go down and the backup tackles simply aren’t good. Anyway, I like Vera-Tucker in the same way I like Slater. His hands are powerful and sticky, his footwork and adjustment speed are both upper tier, and he is incredibly consistent.
3. Landon Dickerson / Alabama / 6’6-333
Summary: Fifth year senior from Hickory, North Carolina. A transfer from Florida State prior to the 2019 season that was the starter all five years at the schools combined, albeit multiple of them were cut short by injuries. Two time All SEC honoree, including 1st Team in 2020. Also won the Rimington Trophy Award to cap off his career. Dickerson is an emotional leader and physically dominating presence inside that best fits in to a power blocking scheme. His size, country-power, and attitude make him a magnet to energy and constant juice in the trenches. He is a true leader that impacts a team with his actions and consistency. Dickerson’s major red flag, however, revolve around his health. For the fourth time in five years, Dickerson suffered a major injury (multiple to his knees) that ended his season short. The medicals will be crucial here but if things check out, he has starter potential.
*Dickerson is going to add a ton of personality to the offensive line he gets drafted to right away. What I mean by that is strictly on the field. His power presence and ability to straight up maul defenders play after play is fun to watch. I even think some teams will view him as a guard so he can just focus on pushing guys around rather than all of the directing traffic a center needs to do. I imagine his medicals are going to turn some teams off though, and you may see him fall into deep day 2 because of it.
4. Creed Humphrey / Oklahoma / 6’4-302
Summary: Fourth year junior from Shawnee, Oklahoma. Three-year starter and three-time All Big 12 conference honoree. The two time All American (1st Team in 2019) also earned Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year two straight seasons. Humphrey is as decorated an offensive lineman as anyone in the class. He is a true general in the middle and will be a huge mental asset to any quarterback he works with at the next level. He is steps ahead of the defense at all times and will be a strong piece of glue holding his fellow linemen together. Physically, Humphrey brings a big, wide body with strong hands and advanced technique. His consistency as a run blocker is top notch, however he needs to improve his lower body in pass protection. Too often he gets stuck in the mud and will lack the quickness and power needed on the fly. He will be a starter and he fits into multiple schemes, but there is plenty of work to be done in a league where interior pass rushers are becoming more and more effective.
*I view Humphrey as a starting center in this league. I don’t want to come across in a way where I don’t like him. I just don’t see the “sure-thing” that many speak about. To be blunt, I think his best tape was from his redshirt freshman season in 2018. He just never took that next step when it comes to lower body twitch and bend. His mind alone will be a help to an offense and that is a bigger deal than most know when it comes to playing center. I just think his physical potential will prevent him from being a truly great player.
5. Wyatt Davis / Ohio State / 6’4-315
Summary: Fourth year junior from Bellflower, California. Two-plus year starter that earned 2nd Team All Big 10 in 2019 before earning 1st Team All American honors in addition to All Big 10 in 2020. Davis also won the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, given to the conference’s top lineman. He is an easy prospect to be attracted to. He is a mauler inside with ideal size across the board. He is big and thick with long arms. He has plus straight line burst and explosion. He plays hard and wants to be the Alpha on the field. Davis has tools but he plays a polarizing style. His consistency is maddening at times. He really struggles to get across a defender’s face when moving laterally. He overreaches but doesn’t adjust his footwork well enough. The lack of balance and adjustment speed is going to hurt him in pass protection early on. He can be a solid starter if he cleans those issues up, but he won’t be ready right away. There are also knee issues that need to be investigated.
*Davis was at the top of pretty much everyone’s iOL stack going into the season. I don’t want to say he played that poorly to drop down here, but a couple other guys played really well and Davis just showed a few repeated mistakes that make me nervous. When I see an offensive lineman on the ground as much as Davis, I have a hard time getting behind him when it comes to grade. At this point in his career, if balance is an issue, I don’t see it changing much. He is so good in other areas though and his tool set is top notch. He can be a quality player, but I wouldn’t go higher than round 3 for him. This is a name I think NYG will be interested in.
6. Trey Smith / Tennessee / 6’6-321
Summary: Senior entry from Jackson, Tennessee. Four-year starter and two-time 1st Team All SEC honoree at left guard. 2nd Team All American in 2020. Smith’s career began with him seeing starts all over the line, every position other than center. He was on a trajectory of being one of the best guards in the country before being slightly derailed with blood clots in his lungs halfway through the 2018 season. After overcoming that, Smith was back on the field for the start of 2019 and didn’t miss a game since. Smith is a seasoned veteran with over 40 career starts. He is an oversized guard that will occasionally struggle with lateral movement and adjustment speed, but his size and intelligence can somewhat make up for it. He is best suited for a gap-power scheme that will allow him to come off the ball downhill and get movement with his powerful hands, heavy frame, and long arms. He is a safe bet to be a starter in the league once he can clean up his footwork and knee bend.
*Another guy I am confident will start a lot of games in the NFL, but I wouldn’t count on him being a top-level guard. And again, that is just fine when you are talking round 3. Smith is a guy that will elevate the attitude of an offensive line day one. He can backup multiple spots as well if injuries pile up, which happens around the league every year. Smith needs to prove he can move well laterally and maintain a lower center of gravity. That is a no-no for many in the NFL once they are matched up against that elite speed/power combinations.
7. Quinn Meinerz / Wisconsin-Whitewater / 6’3-320
Summary: Senior entry from Hartford, Wisconsin. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference two times in addition to being named 1st Team All American in 2020. Meinerz was the most talented but also the hardest working player on the team, on and off the field. He won a team award for offseason strength and conditioning work. The two-time team captain sat out the 2020 season because the school postponed its season, but he showed up to the Senior Bowl and simply dominated all week. Meinerz is plus athlete with the exact type of body and power you would expect from a Wisconsin axe man. He plays with grit, intelligence, and strength that rarely comes out of the Division III level. While the jump in competition is enormous and he did have to spend 2020 on the outside looking in, Meinerz is a safe bet to start at one of the three inside positions within a year or two at the next level and play at a quality level.
*Whenever I get a name from a D-III program, I am ultra-strict and hard on them in the scouting process. It is such a jump in competition and while it does happen every now and then, it is extremely rare to see a kid from that level make the jump to impactful NFL player. Dominating isn’t enough. Well, Meinerz checked every box, and he did so in every tape. Then he went to Senior Bowl and played well there too. Some guys that didn’t play in 2020 were unimpressive in workouts having not been in the routine they were used to for a decade plus. Meinerz didn’t miss a stride and that says a lot about his character.
8. Drew Dalman / Stanford / 6’3-295
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Salinas, California. Three-year starter that was All Pac-12 in his final two seasons respectively, including a 1st Team honor in 2020. The son of former NFL offensive lineman and Super Bowl champion, Chris, Drew brings pro lineage to the table that other simply cannot. With that said, Drew appears to be heading toward a similar if not better trajectory. He is ultra-advanced when it comes to technique, smarts, and repeatability. He displays a rare level of consistent balance and body control and it is a big part of his game. Zone blocking schemes will favor him more so than the power blocking schemes, but this is a kid that can do it all and should be NFL ready year one.
*Dalman is too small according to some. His lack of reach and a frame that looked maxed out at under 300 pounds will turn a few teams away. I am still totally on board with him. Even though there aren’t many centers that play at his size, he is more athletic, he is smarter, and he has better hand accuracy than most. While there are certain blocking schemes better for him than others, I see him as a long-time starter in the league. He could make a Garrett Bradbury type impact as a rookie.
9. Aaron Banks / Notre Dame / 6’5-325
Summary: Senior entry from Alameda, California. Three-year starter that took over for Quenton Nelson after he was drafted by the Colts in 2018. 2020 All American and 1st Team all ACC honoree. Banks is a barrel chested, long-armed mauler inside that will fit into gap schemes like a glove. He gets off the ball with heavy hands and can really roll his hips into contact. Even though there are lower body issues that stem from stiffness and lack of twitch, Banks’ sheer size is simply hard to get around. He will excel in some areas but has the potential to really struggle in others. He will need to be groomed but his upside is that of a quality starter.
*I am really curious to see what kind of interior blocker they bring in via the draft. Last year we saw them brining in a smaller-but-quicker guy in Lemieux. But historically the guards that Gettleman has drafted have mostly been big and heavy handed. I think Judge is calling the shots more so with the draft and DG is more pro personnel based. So, with that’s said, I don’t see Banks being on their radar but I like him as a 1-2 year project. He has something in him that most of these other guys do not when it comes to getting movement off the line.
10. Jackson Carman / Clemson / 6’5-317
Summary: Fourth year junior from Fairfield, OH. Two-year starter that earned All ACC honors both seasons. Jackson is a bruiser with NFL-ready power and strength. He is a factor in the league right now in that department. The questions with him revolve around speed and quickness to the edge and when he is up against quality athletes with an array of double moves. If he doesn’t get the initial positional advantage, he gets really sloppy in his quest to recover. There is a possibility his game could be better suited for interior play where is ability to move defenders off the ball and anchor his position naturally and consistently would be of better service. Regardless of where he plays, he fits into a power blocking scheme right away and should be able to contribute in year one.
*After watching a lot of Carman, I formally moved him to guard a few weeks ago. I had written him up at tackle, and I still think he can play put there, but his best days would be at guard. Offensive line coaches love to see thick lower bodies, especially between the hips and knees, and there aren’t many thicker than Carman. He produces so much power from his base and if his hand placement improves, which is a tall ask once in the NFL, he can be a difference maker. Similar to Banks above, I think NYG won’t be looking at him very hard unless Gettleman gets full say on who they are bringing in. Yes, he can be a guard and emergency tackle.
11. Deonte Brown / Alabama / 6’3-344
Summary: Fifth year senior from Decatur, Alabama. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors in 2020. Brown is an absolute mauler that could take hold his ground against an 18-wheeler rolling down hill. He absorbs contact like its nothing and shows some twitch in tight spaces. He will be one of the heaviest players in the NFL, but one can question if he has too much bad weight that inhibits necessary movement traits for the position. He is lethargic in space and simply doesn’t adjust well to late, sudden, lateral movement up front. He is a non-factor in space. He needs a gap-blocking scheme and even then, he will have to clean up the body and footwork if he wants to be anything more than a backup.
*Like the two names above, Brown may not bring to the table what this new NYG regime wants when it comes to skill set. While he can hold his ground against the biggest and most powerful defensive linemen in the game right now, the movement issues would worry be no matter what scheme he is in. I’ve seen snaps where he looks like he doesn’t even belong on the field in college followed by stretches of play where he looks dominant. I really think if this kid lost 20-30 pounds, he could be a big-time player. With some guys though, that is just near impossible. That is what I hear on Brown.
12. Trey Hill / Georgia / 6’4-319
Summary: Junior entry from Warner Robins, Georgia. A three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in both 2019 and 2020. Hill was moved around the line early in his career before settling in at center. He has overwhelming size and power with plus straight-line athletic ability. He has plenty of tape on display showing dominant stretches of play. Where he gets into trouble revolves around adjustment speed and pad level. He simply does not have the natural bend in his ankles and knees, which forces him to play top heavy and that leads to a lack of balance. There is a lot to work with here, but Hill will need time and a lot of consistent effort to maximize his physical traits. He will also need to prove his knees are healthy, as both were scoped in December 2020.
*Disclaimer here: Hill’s knees are a question mark. The medical reports (which won’t be public) are going to impact his grade and potentially leave him undrafted. I did factor knee issues into his grade for the record, but not a lot. Hill was a guy that jumped off the screen last year when I was scouting Thomas, Kindley, and Wilson. He can really move guys off the line, and he reaches the second level in a hurry. He is sloppy around the edges in multiple ways, but a good coach can work with him. He didn’t look as natural in 2020 and later I found out about the dual meniscus tears, which I am impressed he played with. Could be a hidden gem here if NYG wants a project that could play all the interior spots.
13. Robert Jones / Middle Tennessee State / 6’4-319
Summary: Senior entry from Chicago, IL. Two-year starter at Middle Tennessee after starting for two years at Highland Community College. Two-time Honorable Mention All-Conference USA. Jones played tackle at Middle Tennessee but will likely move back inside to guard in the NFL where he played at in junior college. He has the ideal body type for the interior and his skill set matches up there as well. Jones has a really snappy, explosive upper body that can gain control after the initial punch. He has extra pop, and the foot speed post-engagement is a plus as well. Jones needs to get more consistent with his technique all around before he can be put into a starting lineup, but the ceiling is there to be a really solid player.
*I think Jones is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the class. I look for balance, then quickness, then power when scouting. It goes more detailed than that in the long run, but that is where I start. Jones’ balance and foot speed is top notch, I just question how much he can move NFL defenders off the ball. That can come in time as he comes from a program that is a little behind the times when it comes to strength and conditioning work in comparison to Power 5 schools. I just have a feeling about this kid, but I know the value for him is day 3. If NYG ignores OL early on, this may be the one I want day 3.
14. Josh Myers / Ohio State / 6’5-310
Grade: Summary: Fourth year junior from Miamisburg, Ohio. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2020, 2nd Team in 2019. Myers does not have the prototypical body of an interior offensive lineman. He is tall and plays with high pads. While he may be a candidate to change positions, Myers has the physical tool set and smarts to try and develop over time. He has a strong punch and shows the athleticism to play fast. If his hands line up well on the defender, he can ride defenders, both big and fast, out of a play. He needs to enhance his lower body power and mechanics, however. Myers projects as a versatile interior backup early on but certainly has the tools of a starter down the road.
*I am lower on Myers than the general consensus. A lot of guys see a 10-year starter here, but I just can’t there on him. He is too stiff for my liking and I see someone that will be too dependent on initial contact. When he was matched up against defensive linemen that really knew what they were doing with their hands and feet, Myers struggled. I think he has a longer way to go than what others think. Smart kid, good kid, and could be a player down the road but I don’t see It early on.
15. Ben Cleveland / Georgia / 6’6-350
Summary: Fifth year senior from Toccoa, Georgia. Four-year starter that was in and out of the lineup because of injuries and inconsistent level of performance. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Cleveland is almost always going to be the biggest guy in the room. He is tall and long with a Strongman’s body type. His immense muscle mass is lean enough to keep away useless weight. His hand strength and upper body drive is enough to send season NFL veterans violently backwards. Cleveland can factor right away in an offense that goes for downhill push more than lateral movement. There are, however, significant issues with his ability to react with twitch and quickness. He is really stiff below the waist. The knee bend looks overly labored, and his movement in space is poor. Cleveland may be big and strong, but his game is awfully limited.
*Cleveland is one of the enigmas of this class. I don’t know if I have ever seen a body type like this that can actually play football. He looks like he belongs on Game of Thrones. He is absolutely massive, he carries minimal body fat, he has one of the strongest upper body’s you will ever see, and he has elite timed-speed. Honestly, I can see a team falling in love with him to the point where he ends up in the 2nd round. Something just doesn’t click with him mentally, though. He is late to react and bending his knees looks overly labored. He is a hard guy to get around but I question if he can chop his feet well enough. He will be an interesting player to follow.
16. Kendrick Green / Illinois / 6’2-305: 72
17. Sadarius Hutcherson / South Carolina / 6’3-321: 71
18. Robert Hainsey / Notre Dame / 6’5-306: 71
19. Jared Hocker / Texas A& M / 6’6-325: 71
20. Michael Menet / Penn State / 6’4-301: 71
21. Jake Curhan / California / 6’6-323: 70
22. Kayode Awosika / Buffalo / 6’3-307: 70
23. Bryce Hargrove / Pittsburgh / 6’4-310: 70
24. Jack Anderson / Texas Tech / 6’5-314: 69
25. William Sherman / Colorado / 6’3-3-4: 69
26. Tommy Kraemer / Notre Dame / 6’6-309: 68
27. Jimmy Morrissey / Pittsburgh / 6’3-303: 68
28. David Moore / Grambling / 6’2-330: 68
29. Drake Jackson / Kentucky / 6’2-293: 67
30. Brett Heggie / Florida / 6’4-310: 67
As I wrote a few times in this preview, I am very curious to see how NYG approaches this interior offensive line class. Gettleman loves the big maulers with heavy hands and to a fault, will overlook movement issues at the position. Jason Garrett has always wanted his guard to seamlessly pull laterally seamlessly with good body control and coordination. I think it is pretty clear this group needs to add a rookie inside. Will it be a mauler? There are plenty in this class. Or will it be more of an athlete? The supply there is a little less. Another question will be how they address Nick Gates and his versatility. This is an unusually strong OC class. Perhaps the value could be there and NYG could move Gates to one of the guard spots? A lot to think about with this trio and whatever they end up doing, they need to at least hit a double. No more strikeouts on the offensive line in the draft. I can see them using the #11 pick on a lineman and if Penei Sewell falls, things can get really interesting. I can see Slater and Vera-Tucker being in the discussion as well. What do I think will happen? I see a day two pick being used on a guard like Quinn Meinerz or Wyatt Davis. If the value isn’t there or they’re off the board, I think it will be an early day 3 pick like Josh Myers, Robert Jones, or Trey Hill.