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Trio of centers should be selected in first two days of 2018 NFL Draft

NFL Combine - Day 1
James Daniels
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Based on our draft projection, the staff feels that seven centers are draft-worthy, and a half dozen others are on the fringes of being a late-round choice or entering camp as priority free agents.

Holding the top center spot -- James Daniels, Iowa

Body Structure...Daniels has good mass and muscle tone throughout his thick frame. He has the thighs, calves and bubble teams look for in an anchor in the middle of the line. His arms might not have the desired length for an offensive guard, but he has very good upper body strength and powerful hands, evident by the way he consistently pushes defenders back coming off the snap. He is a broad-shouldered type with good chest thickness. He has a tight midsection, good leg length and looks very athletic for a down lineman (can easily get his pads low, as he does not have the anticipated girth you see in most centers).

Athletic Ability...Daniels is a competitive athlete who plays with good athleticism that he combines with aggression, yet, he is as smart as a chess master and won’t make foolish mistakes. He has a bit of a mauler’s attitude, but gets his hands inside the defender’s jersey quickly. He has very good snap quickness and shows good flexibility and balance on the move. He displays the body control you look for in a center when asking him to reach and shade, along with showing the ability to get his hips around for wall-off activity (see 2017 North Texas, Illinois, Ohio State games). He plays on his feet and has the quickness to chip and seal, along with good angle concept when working into the second level to block for the ground game. He uses his loose hips to make plays in space and possesses more than enough strength to turn his man and widen the rush lanes. He is the strongest player on the team and uses his power to his advantage, especially doing a nice job of adjusting to movement in pass protection.

Football Sense...Daniels has no problem taking plays from the chalk board to the playing field. He is aware of defensive coverage and keeps his head on a swivel to locate and neutralize twists and games. He picks up blocking schemes well and is very good at working in unison with his guards on scoop and fold blocks. He makes proper line calls and it is rare to see him make a mental mistake.

Athletic Report

Initial Quickness...Daniels has excellent snap quickness and does a very good job of firing low off the ball with hands ready to do combat on his rise. He shows the flexibility and balance, along with the body control you look for in a center when reaching and shading. He has that quick hip snap to get then around when trying to wall off. You can see on film his foot speed when reaching and down blocking. He is also very effective at generating speed needed to chip and reach the second level defenders (see 2017 North Texas, Illinois and Nebraska games). Despite 5.24-second timed speed, he is a fast twitch type that will not have any problems when attempting to lock and load on a nose guard at the next level. Because of his balance and low pad level, Daniels has great success in gaining advantage coming off the snap. He is especially effective executing second level blocks and shows decisive movement in his stance.

Lateral Movement...Daniels is nimble for a down lineman, evident by his second level angling skills (has made 15 blocks down field the last two years). He is quick to get out in front on traps and pulls, keeping his pads down to prevent bigger defenders from getting into his chest, along with the balance and hand quickness to prevent smaller opponents from attacking his legs. He possesses the loose hips, needed for him to keep his pads down to change direction quickly. He shows good explosion out of his stance to get out front on pulls and traps. His lateral movement skills are evident on combo, cross, fold and scoop blocks. He has above average feet and agility, showing ease of movement redirecting to either side.

Balance/Stays On Feet...Daniels is not a “grass hugger” (stays on his feet), as he has that strong anchor and good balance to prevent bull rushers from walking him back into the pocket. He shoots his hands with force, especially when combating in tight areas and does a very nice job of keeping his weight low and centered. With that above average base, he has no problem sliding his feet to maintain, sustain and position. With his strong upper body, he is consistent when attempting to lock out and control. It is very rare to see him expose his chest, but even when he does, his base is strong enough that defenders still can’t knock him off his feet. He has the balance and body control to quickly get position. His balance and foot agility allows him to stay on his blocks. He also displays fluid moves adjusting in space. He can shuffle, slide and adjust with his sharp change of direction skills. The thing I like about him is his ability to keep his weight back and stay in control.

Explosion/Pop...When Daniels keeps his hands inside his frame, he generates a powerful punch (see 2017 Iowa State, Minnesota and Nebraska games). He has very good hip explosion to be highly effective for the running game in moves into the second level. He latches on to a defender with strong hands to control and knows how to maintain balance when trying to pop and slide at the point of contact to sustain his blocks. He simply gets on his opponent in an instant, giving his man no time to set up or execute counter moves. He plays with very good functional strength and has outstanding foot quickness to explode into the defender when making contact. With his hip explosion, he is a perfect fit for an inside running game.

Run Blocking...Daniels is very strong at the point of attack (strongest blocker on his team). He has a very good understanding for angles and leverage, sliding his feet well on scoop and kick-out blocks. He has the ability to sink his pads and open his hips while maintaining the strong base needed to get movement off the line. Once he locks on to an opponent, he has no problem driving his man out. He has nice road-grading skills with his base blocks when trying to remove first level defenders and good strength in his shoulders to widen and maintain the inside rush lanes. He is a productive blocker inline whose balance and leverage allows him to quickly get in the way of a defender. Even when he has to stand up and face up to the larger defensive tackle, he has the hand punch and placement to quickly neutralize his man and maintain the rush lane. When he stays at a low pad level and delivers his strong hand punch, he will consistently gain leverage. Even though he does not have the body mass you’d like, he has had very good success in attempts to get movement vs. the bigger defenders, as he uses his hand placement and base to maintain position and sustain.

Pass Blocking...Having allowed just 4.5 sacks on 783 pass plays, it is safe to say that Daniels has no problem protecting the quarterback. Most of the nineteen pressures allowed by his blocking assignments have been because of the “happy feet” by the mediocre talent at quarterback for the Hawkeyes. He shows a very strong pass set and good balance, along with the athletic agility to recover when beaten, along with the solid anchor to maintain position at the point of attack. He also has excellent vision, doing a nice job of keeping his weight back, staying square so he can slide and adjust to change of direction. He can anchor vs. the bull rush and shows great alertness to tricks. The thing you notice on film is his good feet and lateral agility. He can certainly slide and mirror defenders, using his hand placement to defeat swim moves. He shows a good base set to pop and drop, quick hand usage upon initial contact and tenacity in his play. He plays flat-footed with good knee bend to deliver the full force behind his hand jolt.

Pulling/Trapping...For a center, he is quite effective angling and stalking second level defenders. He has the flexibility and balance to snap and lead the charge on screens, showing good knee bend to strike in space and the hand placement to sustain after contact. He plays on his feet and is one of those powerful centers with an above average base. He is very light with his feet to pull and run down the line of scrimmage and is a highly effective combo blocker, showing that rare ability to pop a defender at the first level and then use his agility to execute a crunching second level block. He comes out of his stance with good balance, especially excelling when he impacts on the edge in attempts to turn and seal.

Adjust on Linebacker Downfield...Daniels has nineteen second level blocks at Iowa, a nice total for a pivot blocker. He has more than enough strength to lock on, along with the nimble feet to mirror the linebackers. You can see he uses his body control with effectiveness when bumping two-tech types and the ability to climb with flexibility and balance when striking in space. He is also agile enough to slide his feet to sustain when walling off. When he locates his target, he excels at staying on the defender and making the cut-off.

Use of Hands/Punch...Daniels can punch donuts into a chest of a defender when his opponent gets too high in his stance. He has very quick hand placement to control the defender on running plays and is a strong puncher in pass protection. He is also savvy enough to know when to extend for lock-on and steering purposes in the aerial game. He shows an explosive and forceful hand punch on the rise. He plays with leverage and can immediately get control of the defender with his proper hand placement, effectively grabbing and gaining control.

Reactions/Awareness...Daniels will not only play from snap-to-whistle, but maintain control, so as to not induce costly and foolish penalties. He knows when to move his feet, slide his hips and maintain a solid base. He is alert and quick to secure position vs. twists and games, as he has the nimble feet to mirror. For a center, he does a nice job of getting out on the edge to impact a defensive end, thanks to his body control and balance when sliding. He has great field vision, doing a nice job with his feet to adjust with his lateral kick and slide. He is alert to movement and change of direction along the line and reacts well to stunts and twists. The coaches call him the “complete package” at center, with great intelligence and technique, tremendous vision and a terrific sense of his surroundings.

Compares To...Jason Kelce-Philadelphia Eagles...I prefer centers who are squat and able to maintain a low pad level while showing sold lateral movement skills. Like Kelce, Daniels comes off the snap well and pulls with balance, showing proper adjustments on the move. He has a strong pass set, with good knee bend and very good usage of his hands to sustain. He has good lateral slide to pick up the blitz and stunts. He makes all the line calls and shows a very good understanding of angles and positioning.

Day 2

Billy Price -- Ohio State

Body Structure...Note-Price’s left pectoral/shoulder injury at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine required surgery to repair. What was first diagnosed as an “incomplete” pectoral tear proved to be otherwise. Whether the surgery will affect his draft status remains to be seen. Recovery time is estimated at four months, so he is expected to be able to participate in training camp for the team that selects him.

Price has a thick frame, with a barrel chest, broad shoulders, good bubble, thick thighs and calves. He has the height teams look for in current centers and displays the hip snap and balance to play low in his pads. He has a wide waist and hips with a frame built for power and tight skin.

Athletic Ability...Price shows adequate foot speed, with good agility and balance playing along the line. His overall strength has dramatically increased since he first arrived on campus in 2013, thanks to long hours in the training room. He has good athleticism, body control and change of direction ability for the short pulls, but does have some hip stiffness that becomes noticeable when he has to sudden redirect. Despite his good timed speed, he is not really explosive, but stays low in his pads and shuffles his feet well to mirror. He is the strongest player on the team, with a reported power clean mark of a 374-pound lift. He does a nice job of adjusting to movement in pass protection. He plays with a flat back and has good balance when trying to recover (just not sudden). He is not considered a “sudden burst” type off the snap, but he uses his hand placement and leg drive to generate movement. He runs with a normal stride and builds his acceleration nicely getting into the second level. He has good body control on the move, but will labor some when having to move laterally down the line.

Football Sense...Price is a highly intelligent athlete with several conference and school academic honors to his credit. He has no problems digesting a complex offense and despite his youth, has called blocking assignments up front since 2016. It is easy for him to learn and retain plays and he knows all of his line mates’ assignments, doing a good job of making adjustments up front.

Athletic Report

Initial Quickness...Price is not really an explosive mover off the snap, but it is good enough for him to move and adjust on his blocking assignment with ease. On the move, he has some hip stiffness when trying to redirect, but takes good angles into the second level. With his low pad level and strong lower base, he is consistent in attempts to gain advantage at the snap, showing decisive movement in his stance. He shows good initial quickness off his snap on both run and pass plays, but will labor some if he has to travel long distances. With his above average knee bend and newly found strong hand punch, he gets through trash well and does a good job of keeping his pad level proper to leverage on the move. Even though 2017 was his first experience at center, he showed that he has enough balance and sufficient enough burst to get out on traps and pulls in the short area, whether from the center position or when lined up at left guard in practices prior to that game.

Lateral Movement...Even though he gets out in front with good urgency on traps and pulls, along with showing good knee bend, he will revert to bending at the waist when having to move past the line of scrimmage. Price is not the type that can change direction in an instant and when he does try this, he will trip over his feet or false step. He has above average feet when planting them in the ground, but just marginal-to-adequate lateral agility. He will compensate by staying low in his pads, but lacks that ease of movement when redirecting to either side. He does do a good job of getting out in front on screens, taking good angles to neutralize linebackers when leading the ground game around the edge.

Balance/Stays On Feet...Price has the balance and body control to quickly get position, but does spend a bit of time on the ground when he gets overaggressive with his hands, as defenders have good success knocking him back when his chest is too exposed. Despite his tall frame, he knows how to sink his weight, but when he gets tall in his stance, his base narrows and defenders can then walk him back into the pocket. He uses his body too much to lean into his man when space blocking and is slow to recover his balance, making him susceptible to double moves. His balance and foot agility allows him to stay on his blocks when battling in the trenches. He just does not have fluid moves adjusting in space. He can shuffle, slide and adjust to inside movement, but will never develop that sharp change of direction skills. The thing I like about him is his ability to keep his weight back and stay in control. When he stays low in his pads, he can gain position, anchor and sustain with good knee bend to finish.

Explosion/Pop...Price is an aggressive player who performs with a “take no prisoners” mantra, but that has led to a rash of costly penalties (ten in the last two years) and needs to play with better control of his emotions (some opponents call him college’s Richie Incognito). Price is not really explosive to come off the ball, but a dedicated weight training program during his off-seasons have resulted in him combining good strength and pop on his run blocks. He does a solid job of rolling his hips and driving defenders working along the line, but he lacks that sudden explosion to generate great movement in short yardage situations. While he lacks ideal size, he will get into the defender immediately after the snap and plays with above average strength.

Run Blocking...Price generates adequate power to drive and stay on a defender. When he stays on his feet, he can consistently work to finish. He shows inconsistency with his redirection skills and needs to develop better hip snap working in space, as this is where he will revert to bending at the waist and this allows defenders to get into his body and knock him off stride (see 2017 Iowa, Michigan and Southern California games). He is a much better blocker in closed quarters, as he will get a bit “antsy” trying to make contact against second level defenders, where he is more prone to over-extend and get washed out of the play. His low center of gravity has seen him have great success rooting out the defender, thanks to Price’s ability to keep his pads down and leverage. What separates him from most centers is his good understanding of angles and positioning. He is a productive blocker in-line whose balance and leverage allows him to quickly get in the way of a defender. The only time he struggles is when he has to stand up and face up to the larger defensive tackle, due to his lack of lower body explosiveness (good, just not great). When he stays at a low pad level and delivers his strong hand punch, he will consistently gain leverage. Even though he has the brute power to get movement vs. the bigger defenders, he uses his hand placement and base to maintain position and sustain.

Pass Blocking...When he plays in control, Price does a good job of extending and anchoring vs. the inside pass rusher. His anchor is sometimes too soft vs. the bigger opponents, but he has enough punch and slide to stay with his man shooting the gaps. His raw strength prevents him from getting walked back into the pocket, but when he gets too tall, he did struggle quite a bit to anchor vs. the bull rush due to not relying upon his power base. He certainly has enough strength development to be able to handle the much bigger, more physical nose guards at the NFL level, not needing to rely upon his guards for help when a defender gets over his head. His biggest problem in pass protection is that he does not have that sudden lateral movement needed to stall the three-tech types or pick up the inside blitz. Even with a punishing hand punch, Price does a good job of latching on and getting his hands into the defender’s jersey to lock out and control. He shows good hip sink to prevent the taller defenders from pushing him back, but could use more flexibility in his anchor. When he plays in control and does not try to lunge, he is perfectly capable of sustaining and riding out the rusher. He showed in 2017 improvement in attempts to keep his weight back, stay square and slide and adjust. He can anchor vs. the bull rush and shows great alertness to tricks.

Pulling/Trapping...Because of his ability to move out and lead along the edge on screens, he could see some action at guard earlier in his NFL career. He does not look fast running long distances, but he can pull and trap when uncovered and does show good urgency when asked to cut off on the front side of the gaps. When he gets too aggressive, he will struggle to engage with his blocks, but he has enough quickness to pull and reach the block point on short traps.

Adjust on Linebacker Downfield...Price might not be fast into the second level, but he has a strong angle concept. He is just adequate changing direction in space, but will give full effort to get down field and neutralize the linebackers. When he gets out of control with his hands, he will swing and miss, though. When he does make contact, he does a very good job of staying on his man and cut him off when working in space. He will look up defenders down field, flashing good urgency with adequate foot speed to get into the second level.

Use of Hands/Punch..Price has good hand placement to grab and control, but even with his strength, his hand punch is not going to shock and jolt too many opponents when he fails to keep them inside his frame. He also needs to be more consistent shooting his hands and keeping them inside his frame on the move. In space, he will revert to taking wild swipes in order to get a piece of his man and this leaves his chest exposed for a defender to push him back into the pocket. With a little more refinement of his technique, he should be able to rectify this problem. He does know how to grab, turn and steer the defender, as his hands are active in attempts to control the defender, though. In 2017, he did a good job of getting his hands up quickly on run, but did seem a bit hesitant in his pass set, where he did not always show an explosive and forceful hand punch on the rise. He plays with leverage and can get control of the defender with his proper hand placement, but must continue to improve his consistency when using his hands.

Reactions/Awareness...Price generally plays with good control in the trenches, but does have some technique lapses when on the move. He is good to get into a defender’s body, but when he gets overaggressive with his hands, he can be beaten by quick counter/double moves. He shows good urgency in attempts to gain position, anchor and sustain. With his field smarts and vision, he shows better instincts and awareness than most young centers, as he seems to react well to stunts and twists.

Compares To...Jeff Hartings-ex-Pittsburgh Steelers...Price is a tenacious blocker, but when he gets overly aggressive, the flags will start flying. He has a very powerful hand punch, but did regress a bit as a pass protector last season.

NFL: Combine
Frank Ragnow
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Ragnow - Arkansas

Body Structure... Ragnow is a solidly built athlete with long arms, large hands, good bubble, defined upper body muscles in the shoulders and chest, thick thighs and calves. He is tall with good forward body lean and balance, along with thick muscle development in his lower frame.

Athletic Ability...Ragnow shows excellent initial quickness and good hand placement. He is very light on his feet for a center and uses his timed speed to get into the second level to stalk linebackers. Even with his acceleration, he does lunge and over-extend when getting into his down field blocks, though. Still, he moves well, showing balance, flexibility and lateral agility on running plays. He has ideal lower body strength, but can also utilize quickness, demonstrating a solid short area burst and knows how to take proper angles to block. With his foot speed, you would think that he could shift his weight for balance in pass protection, but while he has good knee bend, he will revert to bending at the waist at times. When he does bend his knees properly, he has enough burst to get to the second level with ease.

Football Sense...Ragnow has very good field smarts and that intelligence also translates to the classroom. He has earned several academic honors and shows the ability to take plays from the chalkboard to the playing field with minimal reps. Even in a complex offense, he does not need more than normal reps to retain plays. He is quick to locate twists and games and takes pride in his ability to make proper calls and adjustments.

Athletic Report

Initial Quickness...Ragnow has excellent initial quickness off the snap, using explosion and technique to combine with raw hand strength in attempts to shock a lethargic defender. He shows good hand technique to widen the rush lane and has the acceleration needed to get into the second level. He shows a sudden burst coming off the ball to gain advantage. The thing you notice is that he can snap and get his hands up and into defender immediately. He has a quick first step and set up. He has the athletic agility and balance to keep his feet vs. the bull rush, using a strong anchor to prevent from getting walked back into the pocket.

Lateral Movement...Ragnow might bend at the waist more than you would like to see in the open field, but his lateral agility is one of his better assets, along with his field awareness. He displays a good lateral slide that allows him to pick up defenders sneaking through the gaps (best taking on defenders playing over his side than over his head). He can slide with ease in either direction, and has the lower body strength to anchor. He does a nice job of playing over his feet and staying under control when sliding in pass protection, but will get a little reckless and lunge into his blocks when he thinks he might not make impact quick enough on running plays.

Balance/Stays On Feet...Ragnow has just as effective balance at the line of scrimmage and when he is on the move. He does have a strong angle concept, but more there are some times when you will see him lunge and over-extend trying to stalk second level defenders. At the point of attack, he will generally help his guards in attempts to stonewall bull rushers. He is better when taking on defenders on his side, but he does have the strong anchor to hold ground with the bigger nose guards lining up over his head. When he gets too high in his pass set, he struggles to recover and gain leverage, though. When he gets a good fit with his head and hands, he does a very efficient job of rolling his hips and driving his legs to get movement, showing the lower body power to stymie the bigger nose guards without assistance from other blockers. If he bulks up a bit, he could provide some immediate value at offensive guard earlier in his NFL career, as he shows functional balance on the pull. He has more than enough speed to mirror the pass rusher’s moves and finishes with aggression, demonstrating the strength to sustain working vs. the bull rush, as he rarely allows the transfer.

Explosion/Pop...Ragnow’s game features his foot quickness, balance and hand technique, but he also has the raw strength to consistently generate movement off the snap. He is consistent in attempts to be active with his hands and play with a wide base, as even bigger defenders have struggled when attempting to walk him back into the pocket. He has the upper body strength, along with the lower base power to hold ground vs. twists and stunts. He also shows very good vision, along with the willingness to help his guards when trying to neutralize NFL bull rushers and nose guards. Once he makes contact, he can neutralize the larger defenders and this results in him maintaining his hand placement to lean into the defender. He has enough explosion behind his hand punch to create movement, and he is a sound technician.

Run Blocking...Ragnow shows good snap speed when he generates proper knee bend coming off the line. He explodes with a flat back and fits well for the beginning of his slide. With his leg strength, his explosion off the ball usually gets the surge needed to generate movement. He is consistent at controlling the defender with his hands (when kept inside the frame), as he has the lower body power to anchor. When he gets high in his stance at times, it results in him spending too much time chest blocking. He does an efficient job of rolling his hips, but will waist bend and lose leverage when he gets too tall in his stance.

Pass Blocking...Ragnow is one of the best pass protectors at this position in his draft class. He has worked hard to play with better knee bend than he did as a guard as a sophomore, and he can shock an opponent with his strong hand jolt. He has good timed speed for his position, but does struggle when having to redirect (waist bends at times). When that happens, he sort of becomes a foot shuffler, but it is rare to see him on the ground, as he makes a concerted effort to step over trash and use his hands to protect his legs. He has the knee bend to solidify his anchor, along with the necessary foot speed to slide when trying to face up on slippery in-line rushers, as he has that forceful punch to stop defenders in their tracks. He is very alert to stunts and blitzes, keeping his head on a good swivel to locate defenders working down the line. While he has the lower body strength to anchor down and maul vs. most defensive tackles, his technique, positioning and hand placement helps him in preventing the pass rushers from taking the short route to the quarterback. When he gives the defender a soft shoulder, he will struggle to lock out, though, and he has to be conscious of setting low to prevent from slipping off blocks.

Pulling/Trapping...Ragnow might be a very capable blocker on traps and pulls, as his surge off the snap could make him valuable as a guard in a zone-blocking scheme. He has the ability to snap and get out of his stance with good balance on the short pulls, but for some reason, he strikes with marginal knee bend working in space. He is light on his feet running down the line of scrimmage in attempts to impact on the edge, turn and seal. He is athletic working in the short area, as he has the lateral movements to get out front on sweeps, showing functional balance when heading up field (if he misses with his first hit, he will lunge or over-extend in attempts to recover, though).

Adjust on Linebacker Downfield...Ragnow makes the attempt to climb with balance after bumping the one-tech types to strike the second level defenders, but he does not always show the same knee bend and balance going long distances to get the controlled wall-off effect. He takes good angles and is a good drive blocker, but he needs to improve his hip snap and stay in control, as more often than not, he will lunge and over-extend when having to get deep into the second level. When he takes good angles, he can wheel and change direction to target defenders up field.

Use of Hands/Punch...Ragnow is active with his hands, putting good force behind his punch to shock and jolt. He needs to keep his hands inside his frame more, as he does get a bit careless with them, taking too many glancing blows rather than locking on to control, mostly occurring when on the move. His ability to sustain blocks for long are more evident when called upon to drive block and widen the rush lanes. When he generates proper hand usage, he can lock on and gain advantage over his defenders. He has improved his ability to use his legs to move the opponent away from the play. He never gets complacent executing just one punch when trying gain control to steer out his man. He does have quick hands and uses them well to control working in the short area, but will short-arm when blocking on the move. When he fails to put force behind his hand punch, he will not reset them quickly. When he places his hands suddenly and accurately, he will immediately gain advantage over the defender, though.

Reactions/Awareness...Few players show Ragnow’ awareness on the field. He has that ease of movement to shift his weight back and good knee bend to slide and mirror pass rushers working in the trenches, but when he reverts to waist bending, losing leverage. He sees twists and stunts coming almost immediately and has the athletic agility to adjust at the line of scrimmage, but needs to move his feet better instead of reaching when playing in space. His short area burst that allows him to lock on to the defender, as he is quick to locate the opponent when working through trash (needs to use his hands to protect his feet better on the move, though). The thing you notice on film is his ability to get all his line mates in place.

Compares To...Brandon Lindner-Jacksonville Jaguars...Both players have experience to play any of the three interior line positions and both are highly intelligent blockers with very good initial explosion off the snap to get into the defender in an instant.