What matters more to teams, a prospects’ floor or ceiling? Teams often draft prospects based on their upside and potential ceiling, but sometimes players with the higher floor are the smarter picks.
Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz has spent the process leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft establishing himself as one of the safest picks in the draft. He excelled in the practices prior to the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl and was very good in the field drills at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
Schmitz isn’t the biggest, strongest, or most athletic interior offensive lineman in the draft, but he might be the most pro-ready.
The New York Giants have nothing but questions along the interior of their offensive line, and could certainly use a ready answer for 2023. Could Schmitz be that guy for them?
Games Played: 37 (12 in 2022)
Best: Leverage, technique, hand usage, competitive toughness, football IQ, versatility
Worst: Size, top-end athleticism
Projection: A good starting center with scheme diversity.
(John Michael Schmitz is Minnesota center number 60)
Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz is a compact, smart, tough, skilled, and competitive center prospect.
Schmitz has natural leverage at 6-foot-3 to go with a flexible and fluid lower body. He easily settles into a compact stance and maintains his leverage throughout the play. He’s a natural knee bender who keeps good hip and pad level to maximize his play strength. Schmitz also maintains a wide base to maintain his balance throughout the play. As a former wrestler (he lettered in high school) it shouldn’t be a surprise that he has a natural feel for leverage, balance, and angles – as well as a willingness to take defenders to the ground whenever he’s able.
Schmitz is a versatile run blocker who has experience in both man-gap and zone blocking schemes. Minnesota had a run-first offense that featured a diverse running game that mixed a variety of techniques. He has enough play strength and leverage to generate movement in short-yardage situations on man-gap runs. Likewise, he has enough athleticism to stress defenses laterally on outside zone runs, or work to the second level on inside zone runs.
He is also a competitive and reliable pass protector. Schmitz has efficient footwork, allowing him to mirror interior pass rushers, as well as pick up twists or late pressure. He also has technically sound hand usage as a pass protector. Schmitz has quick hands after the snap and consistently finds opponents’ chest plates with his punch. He has good grip strength to lock in his blocks, as well as torque defenders.
Schmitz has good awareness as a blocker and processes defensive wrinkles well. He seldom seems surprised by blitzes or stunts, and does a good job of picking them up to give his quarterback time to get rid of the ball. He’s even able to block ambidextrously and pick up a defender with each hand.
There are few real weaknesses in Schmitz’s game, but there isn’t much he can do about the ones that are there. He is bordering on undersized for a center at 301 pounds and doesn’t have room to add more mass, nor does he have great length. And while he’s a good athlete for what he was asked to do, he isn’t a great athlete overall – more of a “functional” one.
That means that he can have issues if he isn’t able to establish leverage early in the rep or is forced to match up with a very athletic defender. His technique and football IQ can compensate for a lot, but defenders who are savvy and athletic (or particularly powerful) could give him issues at the next level.
Overall Grade: 8.6
Schmitz projects as a starting center with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
Schmitz should be a good starting center early in his career and has the ability to play for a team that uses man-gap, zone schemes, or a diverse blocking scheme. He has enough play strength for power schemes, the athleticism for movement-bases schemes, and the football IQ to execute either (or both).
Schmitz should also appeal to teams as a pass protector as well as a run blocker. He’s a smart and tough blocker who looks for work, processes the defense well, and anticipates what’s coming. What’s more, he has efficient feet and good hands to blunt rushes or engage with run defenders.
Teams that value size or top-end athleticism might slide Schmitz down their draft boards some, but he comes with a very high floor that few prospects can match. Other centers might have higher theoretical ceilings, but Schmitz should be a very safe pick who can start immediately and be a 10-year stalwart on an offensive line.