When discussing the offensive line, the offensive tackles tend to drive the conversation. Up until recently, it almost seemed as though it was the left tackle and then everybody else, but the development of defenses that used dangerous edge rushers on both ends of the defensive line. While the cost of an offensive tackle on the free agent market will always drive offensive tackles higher in draft priority than interior lineman, the value of a good interior offensive lineman shouldn’t be underestimated.
A good, experienced center in particular provides a steady keystone in the middle of the offensive line on whom the other linemen can rely. He is the only player other than the quarterback who handles the ball on every snap and is the player responsible calling and communicating protections to the rest of the line. The New York Giants have been trying to make do with inexperienced and journeymen centers over the last couple seasons, and it is past time to address and upgrade the position.
Oregon center Jake Hanson brings a wealth of experience from the college ranks to go with very good athleticism for the position. Could he be a future answer for the Giants’ offensive line?
Prospect: Jake Hanson, C, Oregon
Games Watched: vs. Auburn (2019), vs. Colorado (2019), vs. Washington (2019), vs. Utah (2019)
Red Flags: None
Best: Lateral agility, athleticism, pass protection, experience
Worst: Power, downhill run blocking
Projection: A starting center in an offense that uses zone runs and screen passes
Oregon Center Jake Hanson is an experienced, smart, and athletic center prospect. Hanson’s snaps are usually crisp and accurate, delivering the ball to the quarterback on time. He gets his hands up quickly and in the ready position to engage defenders. Hanson shows quick feet to mirror athletic defenders in pass protection, frequently using his athleticism to move them toward the edge of the pocket. He handles stunts, twists, and blitzes well, identifying rushers and passing them off easily to his teammates. Hanson is a reliable pass protector, fighting through the snap to deal with counter moves by defenders. He truly shows his athleticism when out in space blocking for screen passes. Hanson is easily able to get ahead of the play and works to deliver accurate blocks for his teammates. He shows great range and competitive toughness running down the field to make blocks.
In the run game, Hanson is at his best in zone blocking schemes. On outside zone plays he is able to get half-man leverage, stay under defenders’ pads, and use his athleticism to help get the defense flowing. He is effective working up to the second level off of double teams on inside zone plays as well. In gap scheme runs he is a capable puller, quickly hitting his landmarks and moving behind the line of scrimmage.
Hanson’s primary drawback is a lack of size and playing strength. He is not a powerfully built center and is not good at creating movement when asked to block downhill. He can also struggle to anchor against powerful defensive tackles. Hanson typically plays with good leverage thanks to a wide base and good lower-body flexibility. However his base can narrow and knees straighten when faced with particularly athletic rushers, leading to a loss of leverage. Hanson’s issues with play strength can be exposed when he loses leverage, either mechanical leverage from pad level or if he loses inside leverage with his hands.
Overall Grade: 6.1 - Has the traits to potentially develop into a starter in the right situation but should be a good back-up for most teams. A value early on the third day. [Grading Scale]
Jake Hanson projects as a depth player, who could develop into a starting center for a team that which primarily runs zone blocking schemes. He has some utility as a puller for teams which run man/gap or power schemes, but his average size and play strength can be exposed. Offenses which make use of zone schemes (either zone running schemes or zone protection schemes) as well as make frequent use of screen plays will be able to maximize Hanson’s skill set.
Importantly for the modern NFL, Hanson is a very capable pass protector and hasn’t given up a sack in three seasons. He works very well with his guards to counter stunts, twists, and blitzes, and while he can have issues dealing with power in one-on-one situations, he can give his quarterback time as long as he is able to maintain leverage. Hanson also brings a wealth of experience to the NFL, starting almost every game since his red-shirt freshman season.