Center is an interesting position when it comes to NFL team building.
On one hand, teams rarely seem to invest heavily in the center position and on average seem to be more likely to select a guard highly than a center. Many teams, such as the the New York Giants, have tried to get away with investing as little as possible in the center position.
But on the other hand, centers are the only position (besides quarterback) who touch the ball every play. They’re responsible for calling the protections, providing double teams, and managing to snap the ball and block at (almost) the same time. In short, it isn’t an easy position to play well.
Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg has been considered one of the top centers in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, he has also only briefly been considered a “Top 100” player in this draft class. Stromberg isn’t a flashy player, but he’s good at what he does.
Could that make him a great value pick in the middle of the draft?
Prospect: Ricky Stromberg (51)
Games Watched: vs. Cincinnati (2022), vs. South Carolina (2022), vs. Texas A&M (2022), vs. Alabama (2022)
Games Played: 46 (12 starts in 2022)
Best: Competitive toughness, run blocking, pass protection, football IQ, leverage
Worst: Man-gap blocking, athleticism
Projection: A starting center with scheme diversity.
(Stromberg is the Arkansas center, number 51)
Ricky Stromberg is a smart, tough, experienced, and skilled center prospect from the University of Arkansas.
Stromberg is a long-time starter for the Razorbacks, having started 44 of 46 games in which he’s played since his freshman year in 2019. His football IQ is commensurate with his experience, and he’s a very competitive center. Stromberg is an adequate athlete for most of what he is asked to do in Arkansas’ offense.
He has a flexible lower body and settles into a compact stance before the snap. Stromberg is a natural knee bender who fires out of the snap with good leverage. He maintains his knee bend throughout the rep and consistently plays with good hip and pad level. He does a good job of getting under defenders pads and using his leverage to maximize his play strength. Stromberg also plays with a wide base, allowing him to maintain good balance while engaged, as well as absorb rushes from bigger nose tackles.
Stromberg uses his hands well and consistently plays with good technique. He has solid length with 33-inch arms and does a good job of firing his punch into defenders’ chest plate. He fights to win inside leverage and has the grip strength to control defenders throughout the rep. He’s able to sustain his blocks against power rushers and is able to deal with most penetrating defensive tackles as well.
Stromberg has great football IQ and mental processing is rarely surprised by the defense. His technique allows him to shuffle defenders with guards, easily picking up and passing off defenders who try to execute stunts and twists.
He’s also a very good run blocker with the upside to execute in both zone and man-gap blocking schemes – though he’s at his best in zone schemes. Stromberg is able to uncoil his hips, strike, and drive defenders off the ball. He consistently creates movement as a run blocker and also shows a solid understanding of angles to position himself to seal off running lanes as they develop. He works well with his guards and is crisp working off of double-teams and to the second level on combo blocks.
Stromberg has great competitive toughness and plays with a definite nasty streak. He fights to sustain his blocks for as long as necessary, and looks to finish plays with the defender on the ground. He is also constantly looking for work and routinely blocks two or three defenders on a given play.
Overall Grade: 7.5
Ricky Stromberg projects as a starting center with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
While Stromberg is able to execute in both man-gap and zone schemes, he is noticeably more effective as a zone blocker than man. He doesn’t quite have the play strength to displace defenders vertically in one-on-one situations, though he’s certainly strong enough to move them laterally on zone runs.
Stromberg isn’t a flashy center, nor is he overpowering. He wins by using technique, football IQ, and sheer bloodymindedness to maximize his physical traits. He is, in almost every way, a classic “blue collar, lunch pail” lineman who shows up to work every play and seems to revel in getting his hands dirty.
He’ll need to strike a balance between playing with a competitive mauler’s mentality and not letting his aggression get away from him. Stromberg is a smart center who works well with his linemates, but that doesn’t matter much if he’s actively hurting the offense through penalties. And while he should be considered “scheme diverse” he’s probably a better fit for teams that use more zone blocking than man in their running games.
Because Stromberg doesn’t rate as a great athlete, it’s possible that teams will overlook him in favor of players at positions with higher athletic premiums and he could slide down draft boards. However, as a player on the field, there’s a lot to like. Stromberg could be an incredible value for the right team if he slips to the middle rounds.