A good center is hard to find.
While much of the attention along the offensive line is paid to the left tackle position — and increasingly the right tackle position — the center position might be the hardest to play. Centers not only need to be very smart football players, able to identify rush packages and communicate protections with their linemates, but they need to walk a very fine line as athletes. Centers need to be big and strong enough to stand up to powerful nose tackles, but they also need to be quick enough to snap the ball and get their hands up to block in the blink of an eye, as well as athletic enough to pull, work to the second level, or quickly pick up blitzers (or EDGE players stunting through the A-gap).
Ohio State center Josh Myers has been a very good starting center on a very good offensive line for the last three years. Thanks to his track record, he’s expected to be one of the top interior offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft. But how well, and how, does that collegiate success translate to the NFL?
Prospect: Josh Myers
Games Watched: vs. Michigan (2019), vs. Wisconsin (2019), vs. Penn State (2020), vs. Clemson (2020)
Games played: 30 (7 in 2020)
Best: Size, play strength, football IQ, competitive toughness, run blocking
Worst: Play range, space play
Projection: A starting center in a power based blocking scheme.
Ohio State lineman Josh Myers is a big, powerful, and smart prospect with enough quickness and agility to play the center position at the NFL level.
Myers is an experienced center prospect, playing 30 games at the position since transitioning from guard during his true freshman season. He shows good football IQ, with solid communication during the pre-snap phase as well as an understanding of stunts, twists, and pressure packages.
He has enough lower body flexibility, able to keep good knee bend and hip level through the early part of the play and maintain leverage at the point of contact. Myers has solid footwork, easily mirroring interior lineman and is able to gain position on blitzers from the second level. He also has a solid base to absorb and anchor against power rushers. Myers generally doesn’t give ground against defensive tackles and has the strength to re-anchor if he is knocked back a step.
Myers is a mauling run blocker, particularly for a center. He is able to routinely create movement along the line of scrimmage, dig defenders out of gaps, and open holes for his running back. He also has enough athleticism to be an effective puller on power run plays. Myers is a bully of a blocker, who consistently looks to finish his blocks with the defender on the ground — or even out of bounds in one game viewed.
Myers’ height could work against him at the NFL level, as he needs to be aware of and work to maintain his leverage throughout the rep. He can lose his knee bend and hip level on longer reps, forcing his pads up, which can expose the 6-foot-5 center to more compact defensive tackles. Myers also has a somewhat limited effective range as a blocker, as he can find himself playing out over his toes when asked to work to the second level and block in space, or be out of position on outside zone plays. In those circumstances he can be prone to lunging at defenders, losing his balance, or losing accuracy with his punch.
Overall Grade: 8.2 - This prospect has the traits to start immediately in the NFL, though he has some scheme limitations.
Josh Myers projects as a starting center in the NFL, particularly for a team that favors a power run game based on man-gap or inside zone concepts.
Myers seems to have the football IQ to start immediately at the NFL level and communicated well with his linemates at Ohio State. Likewise, he has the play strength and enough short-area athleticism to play on the offensive line at the NFL level. Myers has solid technique for a prospect entering the NFL, which should shorten his learning curve as well.
Myers will need to continue to work on his strength and conditioning at the NFL level, as he can be prone to losing his leverage on longer reps, which is a problem for a taller center. NFL defenders will look for any advantage to be gained on a lineman, and if they notice a tendency for Myers to lose his leverage in certain situations, they will exploit it. Teams that use a high volume of outside zone plays, or who frequently ask their centers to climb to the second level and play in space, might consider other centers before Myers. Or perhaps they could ask him to play guard early in his career. He was a guard when he first arrived at Ohio State and a season at guard could allow him to adjust to the speed of the NFL game on the offensive interior without having to worry about making protection calls or snapping the ball.
He should be a starting center sooner rather than later, however.