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John Michael Schmitz can end Giants’ struggles at center

Rookie second-rounder will likely be a Day 1 starter

Syndication: The Record Art Stapleton/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Though center is far from the most important position in football, it’s been a constant source of strife for the New York Giants over the past decade. Since releasing Pro Bowler Shaun O’Hara in 2011, the Giants have sifted through centers at an alarming rate. John Michael Schmitz is about to be the team’s seventh starter at the position in as many years.

Schmitz, though, isn’t some plug-and-play stopgap meant to tide the Giants over for another year. The intent is that he’ll be a fixture on the offensive line for years to come. Is he up to the task?

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 310
Age: 24
Position: Center
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Four-year, $6.373 million rookie deal; $3.424 million guaranteed | 2023 cap hit: $1.158 million

Career to date

Schmitz spent six years at Minnesota, including two as the full-time starter at center. He allowed just two sacks and two quarterback hits in 35 total starts. In 2022, he was named a First-Team All-American by the AP.

His impressive final season saw him gain considerable buzz leading up to the draft, with some analysts grading him as a first-round pick. Chris Pflum graded Schmitz an 8.6 out of 10, noting his excellent footwork, good hands, and versatility to fit into any blocking scheme. He was Big Blue View’s top-ranked center in the draft class, and several mock drafts projected that the Giants would take him in the first round.

The Giants selected Schmitz in the second round, No. 57 overall. He was the second center off the board after the New York Jets took Joe Tippmann at No. 43.

2023 outlook

There’s an argument to be made that Schmitz is the most NFL-ready member of the Giants’ rookie class, and the most likely to have an immediate impact. His size and athleticism aren’t necessarily that of an elite player. However, he has proven his ability both as a run blocker and in pass protection. His high football IQ and well-developed technique should make his transition to the NFL an easy one.

Schmitz’s experience with a zone run-blocking scheme should make him a good complement for Saquon Barkley’s quickness. He’s also already been working with Daniel Jones on potentially implementing a “dead ball” snap into the Giants’ offense. It’s a method where the center snaps the ball with his palm on the end of the football, sending it back to the quarterback without a spiral and allegedly reducing the room for error. That’s how Schmitz snapped the ball in college, though it’s new to Jones.

“He’s [Schmitz] been great too. He’s been great. He’s a smart guy,” Jones said during OTAs this offseason. “Been in here working hard. He’s on it every day, working to learn and understand what we’re doing in protections, what we’re doing in the run game. Obviously, this is more of a passing camp. So, a lot of that run stuff’s happening in meetings and then walkthroughs out here. But he’s doing a great job, and it’s been fun working with him.”

In a perfect world, Schmitz will live up to his status as a high-floor prospect, and Evan Neal will take the next step at right tackle in his sophomore season. Along with Andrew Thomas, that makes it possible for the Giants to end this year with three young, Pro Bowl-caliber players on their offensive line — or at least a clear direction for the position group that has plagued the team like no other in recent memory.