by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Blue Gold Sports.
As this year comes to a close, Draft 412 will take a look at the 2023 and 2024 draft classes by position. The following is a current “Best Of” list for both offense and defense, taking a look back at the top players from last year’s draft party and ahead to the coming NFL selection process in April.
From Draft 412 to you… Happy Holidays and get your mock drafts ready!!
The best offensive lines in the NFL start strong up the middle at the center position. The perfect center is cerebral and can call out blitzes and knows what each lineman’s duties are on every snap. Good NFL centers are hard to come by and are not a guarantee in every draft.
The 2023 NFL Draft had 7 centers selected and here are the best of last year’s selections:
1- NY Jets - Joe Tippmann
Joe Tippmann was a very late riser in last season’s draft. Going into draft day most outlets, including Draft 412, had him going in the late 2nd, early 3rd round. He started the season as a mid-late round draft pick but improved his game all season long at Wisconsin and eventually became the first center off the board on draft night. He has been solid for the Jets since being inserted into the starting lineup and appears to be the leader of a good, young offensive line.
2- NY Giants - John Michael Schmitz
John Michael Schmitz was considered the best center prospect entering the 2023 NFL Draft. In a down year for centers, he was the one name that had established himself throughout the course of his collegiate career. After being the 2nd center off the board in the 2nd round, Schmitz stepped right into the Giants' lineup. Through 11 starts, he has had his ups and downs, appearing overmatched at times (and has been credited with giving up 4 sacks). There are only 2 rookie centers playing in 2023 and Schmitz is only a rookie and has the ability and skill set to be a productive starting center in the NFL.
As we move from the 2023 draft to the 2024 NFL Draft, here is Draft 412’s Top Center prospects:
1- Sedrick Van Pran - Georgia
Van Pran is the best center prospect out of the past two draft cycles and has a chance to become a leader long term on an offensive line. He did not allow a sack in 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2023. He has the football IQ desired by O-Line coaches and plays with an edge. He will not get out round 2.
2- Zach Frazier - West Virginia
Frazier started all 12 games last year for the Mountaineers and was as reliable as they come over his career at West Virginia. This is a prospect who was born to play center. His football IQ is through the roof, and he does a good job of playing at a low pad level and anchors well against bullrushes. He will be an immediate fan favorite wherever he lands for his toughness.
3- Jackson Powers-Johnson - Oregon
Powers-Johnson is a versatile offensive lineman who has lined up at tackle, guard and center over his collegiate career. In 2023, his first season as a full-time starter at center, PFF had him graded as one of the highest ranked centers in the country. He is a no-risk draft pick with his versatility alone. A great late day 2 draft prospect.
4- Matt Lee - Miam, FL
He has only allowed 1 sack in the last 3 years and blocks as well in either running and passing schemes, which will help his draft stock.
5- Drake Nugent - Michigan
Drake Nugent had an amazing season for the Wolverines, taking over for Olu Oluwatimi. He was credited with giving up 1 quarterback hit and 0 sacks all season long. His size is the scouts' biggest concern.
6- Beaux Limmer- Arkansas
Beaux Limmer has accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game and will be a prospect to definitely keep an eye on. At Arkansas, he started full seasons at both guard and center and his versatility will be an exceptional grab in the later rounds of the draft.