It’s not often that a player seemingly comes from nowhere to be the best in the country at his position. But that’s exactly what happened with Oregon Ducks center Jackson Powers-Johnson.
Powers-Johnson had the ingredients to be a good interior lineman. He was a three-year letterman as a wrestler in high school, and has a prototypical build as a stout-yet-athletic 6-foot-3, 320 pounds.
Yet he had played just 607 total snaps in 2021 and 2022 combined. They mostly came at right guard, but he also played some left guard, right tackle, center, and defensive tackle for the Ducks. Then Powers-Johnson settled into the center position and helped Oregon to the cusp of a Pac-12 championship.
The Giants just drafted center John Michael Schmitz in the second round last year. But could Powers-Johnson’s versatility and upside put him on the Giants’ radar in the 2024 NFL Draft?
Prospect: Jackson Powers-Johnson (58)
Games Watched: vs. Colorado (2023), vs. Washington (2023), vs. Utah (2023), vs. Oregon State (2023)
Weight: 320 pounds
- Play strength
- Hand usage
- Football IQ
Powers-Johnson is a stout and athletic interior offensive line prospect. He has experience playing multiple positions (left and right guard, center, and right tackle) as a depth player on the Oregon offensive line, but settled as their starting center in 2023. He quickly emerged as one of the best centers in the nation and ended the season as a Rimington Award winner as the best center in the country.
Powers-Johnson has a good build for an interior offensive lineman with natural leverage and plenty of strength throughout his frame. He has a remarkably quick and crisp snap for a player who is so new to the position. He does a good job of getting his hands up quickly after the snap and is ready to engage defenders immediately. He shows good awareness after the snap and a solid football IQ to identify late pressure or deal with games along the defensive front.
He appears to be a natural knee-bender and a natural feeling for leverage from his time as a high school wrestler. Powers-Johnson plays with a wide base and does a good job of maintaining his hip and pad level, even when moving laterally. Powers-Johnson also makes good use of his hands, both to deal with stunts and twists along the line of scrimmage and to control defenders when blocking. He shows a good understanding of angles and is willing to use half-man leverage to maximize his play strength.
Powers-Jackson has plenty of athleticism for zone blocking schemes, as well as the play strength to excel in man-gap schemes. He also shows the kind of bloodymindedness you want to see in an interior lineman. He plays with a mauler’s mentality and consistently looks for opportunities to finish with the defender on the ground, or discard them like a rag doll. On the flip side, he fights to sustain his blocks and to re-anchor if he’s initially beaten.
- Hand placement
- Leverage consistency
Powers-Johnson’s weaknesses largely seem to stem from his inexperience at center. There are instances where his hands, while very quick to come up after the snap, can be inaccurate. He can find himself missing with his initial punch or having his hands land outside defenders’ framework. That can open his chest to bull rushers, or make him vulnerable to savvy pass rush moves. Likewise, he can allow his hips to rise immediately off the snap, standing up and sacrificing his leverage. This happens most often when trying to drive off the ball on downhill blocks.
Finally, and this isn’t a function of his inexperience, Powers-Johnson has some hip tightness despite his athleticism and movement skills. He can be mechanical (as opposed to fluid) when asked to open his hips and pull or otherwise block in space. That can lead to some inaccurate, or outright missed, blocks.
(Powers-Johnson is OC number 58)
Powers-Johnson projects as a starting interior lineman immediately upon being drafted. He has the potential to be a good starting center as well as a very good guard, depending on his future team’s needs.
It might be best for him to start at guard and play there for a year or two as he acclimates to the speed and power of the NFL. His tendencies to allow his hips to rise when blocking downhill and his hands to be imprecise could be vulnerabilities for savvy interior defenders. Playing a year or two at guard would allow Powers-Johnson to hone his craft while also getting him valuable experience. Ultimately, Powers-Johnson’s greatest value will likely come at center and he should wind up there eventually.
Does he fit the Giants?
Yes, though what position he would play would be a factor.
Final Word: A high second round value who could be a fringe first rounder.