The NFL is forever hunting for starting offensive linemen. Teams will search high and low to to find offensive linemen who can be reliable starters. Obviously, the New York Giants are in the process of rebuilding their offensive line and are still looking for long-term answers at a few positions. The center position might be high on their priority list.
The rise of NC State left tackle Icky Ekwonu over the course of the 2021 season put a lot of eyes on the Wolfpack’s offensive line. That means scouts watching their tape also got a good look at center Grant Gibson, who has seemingly been a member of NC State’s team for a decade.
Let’s see why Gibson has a chance to be one of the first interior offensive linemen off the board in next April’s draft.
Grant Gibson (50)
OC, NC State, Graduate Student
(Grant is NC State center, number 50)
- Natural leverage.
- Highly experienced.
- Great competitive toughness.
- Good awareness, looks for work.
- Reliable pass protection.
- Good lateral agility and mobility.
- Understands half-man leverage.
- Good hand usage.
- Wide base in pass protection.
- Effective slide and zone blocker
- Non-contact knee injury (January 2021)
- Can be overwhelmed by power heads-up.
- Lacks lower-body power for downhill man-gap blocking.
- Base can narrow when run blocking.
Why is he a top prospect?
Grant Gibson is a compact, stocky, and experienced center prospect from North Carolina State University.
Gibson announced his decision to return to NC State as a graduate student following the 2021 season. He first arrived on campus in 2017, making this his sixth season with the program. He’s made 35 starts to date and should leave NC State with nearly 50 starts under his belt. Gibson is, predictably, very well regarded around the program. He was named a team captain in 2020 and 2021, received the “Heart of The Pack” award in 2021, and has received the team’s “Mike Hardy Award” each of the previous three years for his attitude and effort.
Gibson’s compact stature belies impressive athleticism on the field. He has very good quickness out of his stance and shows solid lateral agility in the opening instants of the play. He executes the center-quarterback exchange cleanly, and didn’t have any botched snaps in the tape viewed. Gibson is quick to get his hands up after snapping the ball and shows good hand usage throughout the play.
Gibson is a reliable pass protector with enough quickness and agility to mirror athletic interior rushers. He plays with a wide base and good arm extension in pass protection to maximize his leverage and length. Gibson is generally calm and unhurried as a pass protector, dealing well with stunts, twists, and blitzes. He has a solid understanding of leverages and angles as both a pass protector and run blocker. Gibson routinely takes half-man leverage against larger, more powerful defenders, allowing him to neutralize their size advantage. He uses his agility to gain position on defenders, deflecting pass rushers when he can’t stop them outright.
Gibson’s athleticism and mobility makes him a natural fit in zone blocking schemes. He’s quick out of his stance and has plenty of foot speed to stay in phase and get the defense flowing. Likewise, he’s an effective pulling center, able to snap the ball and pull as far as the C or D gaps without issue. He is also effective climbing to the second level to block linebackers in space, or getting out in front of screen plays as a lead blocker.
Gibson plays with good competitive toughness, working to sustain his blocks for as long as possible and looks for work whenever possible. He has been relatively durable throughout his career at NC State, though he did suffer a non-contact knee injury in January of 2021 when celebrating a touchdown in the Gator Bowl. Tests showed no ligament damage and he was able to return to the field without issue, though teams will want to check for any potential future issues with the knee.
What does he need to improve for 2022?
Gibson is currently best suited for zone blocking schemes that rely on athleticism and intelligence in their offensive linemen. He will need to continue to build lower-body power to play in man-gap schemes at the NFL level. Gibson struggles against bigger, more powerful nose tackles in head-up situations. He can be overwhelmed by power rushers when he isn’t able to maintain leverage and use his athleticism to gain position on them. Likewise, he lacks the power to be a down-hill run blocker in one-on-one situations, though he still has utility as a puller in power oriented schemes. Gibson also has a tendency to allow his stance to narrow when blocking downhill, compromising his play strength and leverage.
Overall, Grant Gibson is a high-floor center prospect who brings athleticism, competitive toughness, experience, and a high football IQ to the position. If he isn’t able to show improved play strength in 2022, his stature and relative lack of power will likely limit his appeal across the league. That said, Gibson has the tools to be an attractive prospect for a team that values speed and agility in its blockers.
One game to watch
There isn’t much question that if you’re going to circle one NC State game it has to be their October 1st game against Clemson. While Clemson had a disappointing season in 2021, they still have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Clemson is particularly good on their defensive line, and that should be a great test for Gibson. A good performance against iDL Tyler Davis could be a big boost for Gibson’s draft stock.