I’m back to discuss the top guards and centers in the 2018 class. Both of these positions are much cleaner than tackle — which I covered previously — with guys being able to come in and play now.
Let me start off with my offensive line crush, Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson.
Q is an absolute monster. A goal among many offensive lineman is taking a defenders soul from them. That’s done by brute force. Not only are you physical, but after you pancake that defender, you let them know who’s boss.
And look, plenty of guys finish on the college level, some just because they are bigger and stronger than their opponent. Nelson finishes guys with excellent technique. His hat, hands, hips and feet all work in concert with each other to produce clinic blocks.
Nelson also has above-average mental processing and awareness, as seen when he went clear across to the other side of the line to knockdown this Georgia defender. This isn’t normal.
Still my favorite clip of any prospect this year. Quenton Nelson is going to very, very good.— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) April 15, 2018
So, you ask, what can he work on?
Well, there’s always something to work on. Nelson’s base can widen when he gets over aggressive, and that can lead to being susceptible to the push pull or maybe a quick arm over counter. However, he does show the ability to recover from a counter move. So basically, sometimes Q get’s too aggressive. Oh well.
Isaiah Wynn — We covered Wynn in the tackles section, but he’s most likely going to play guard in the NFL because of his size. Again, Duke believes Wynn is ready to roll now, with not much to work on.
Will Hernandez — He’s flown under the radar, but he won’t for long after he’s drafted in the first round. Will is a physical player with tremendous play strength. Remember, there’s a HUGE difference between being strong and having play strength. A player must know how to use it. Hernandez can routinely cut off the backside shade in the zone game, which is the hardest block for a guard.
Where Hernandez can improve is his hand placement. At times, he’s unable to rework and re-leverage his hands and it leads to a stalemate when he’s battling a defensive lineman. This will be an issue at the next level because he’s a tad undersized and will constantly have to work for leverage with his hands against opponents who have longer arms
Connor Williams — From Texas, he’s an intriguing prospect. Williams was considered the top prospect at tackle heading into the season, but he was limited with injury and didn’t look quite the same in 2017 as 2016.
He’s listed as a tackle but will most likely move inside to guard at the next level because of his limited range in pass protection. With his limited range comes poor sets to the proper landmark, which makes him more suited to guard. However, it will be interesting to see him when he’s fully healthy. If he’s fixed some of those range issues, he could slide back out to tackle in the NFL.
James Daniels — Moving along to the center class, which is loaded so let’s start with the Iowa product.
Daniels it the perfect fit for a zone blocking offense. He’s quick as a cat and hits his aiming points with physicality. He checks all the boxes fundamentally.
The one concern with Daniels, and this will continue throughout his career, is his size. He’s going to struggle at times with big nose tackles. It’s something plenty of centers have trouble with, especially earlier in their careers. However, Daniels will continue to put on weight and being a crafty veteran that can defeat bigger players with technique and quickness. I’m not worried about him.
Billy Price — The Ohio State center was in line to be the first center taken in the draft. Unfortunately, he injured his pectoral muscle at the combine, which required surgery to fix the tear. He can be ready for the season, but most likely the team that drafts him with start him on PUP. Price can play either guard or center and has excellent technique.
He’s not scared to take chances, but just like most lineman, he gets overaggressive, leans, and gets beat. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. He will learn to control his body better as he continues to get reps in the NFL.
Frank Ragnow — Here’s a player who’s been lighting up the offensive line scouting world the last few weeks. I even had a trusted person tell me recently he’s the No. 1 center in the class now.
Arkansas’ Ragnow is big and physical, but he often tries to use that physicality instead of using technique and moving his feet. That might work in college, but not in the NFL. So Frank, don’t lose that physically, but continue to work on bringing your feet to the party so you can take full advantage of your nasty streak.
Alright boys and girls, that’s it for the offensive line scouting from me for the upcoming draft! I believe all these players have the tools and mindset to be successful in the NFL. I hope they are able to reach their full potential.