We continue our pre-NFL Combine breakdown of the top 5 prospects at positional rankings of note for the 49ers. Thus far, we have highlighted the wide receivers, offensive guards, cornerbacks, running backs, and offensive tackles. Today, we take a look at another potential need on the offensive side of the ball, the center position.
A year in review for the 49ers’ center position resulted in some need of improvement with inconsistent play plaguing the unit. Considering the inconsistent play of the players playing immediately next to him, Daniel Kilgore held down the fort and relatively did a decent job. The question was, did Kilgore’s play garnish him an opportunity to get re-signed by the 49ers. Well, with a three-year $12 million deal Kilgore recently signed earlier in the week, it appears that question was answered. However, the extension does not preclude the 49ers from bringing in competition to challenge Kilgore, a challenge he has been fighting throughout his professional career and to his credit, has shown success winning. Nevertheless, Kilgore does mesh well with Jimmy Garoppolo (not to mention improved game play when Garoppolo was at the helm) and the chemistry can only build and thrive from there.
The difference now is John Lynch and the 49ers being faced with the opportunity to completely rebuild the interior line of the offense to an athletically zone blocking stable of interior linemen perfectly fitting a Kyle Shanahan system. Although it may be unlikely with the Kilgore extension, free agency and trade options are possibilities to provide the extra competition with names being thrown around such as John Sullivan, Ryan Jensen, Matt Paradis, Weston Richburg, Brett Jones, Travis Swanson, among others. However, it’s the new crop of rookie centers poised to make their marks in the NFL, where the 49ers will likely do their due diligence in combing through the prospects determining if one of these interior offensive linemen have the necessary skill-set to succeed in Shanahan’s zone blocking system. And with Kilgore likely being the starter at center this year, I highlight center prospects with the versatility to play offensive guard and may very well be initially projected at guard with the belief the 49ers may draft this type of prospect and give them an opportunity to be the center of the future. I feature the top 5 centers in play, as well as a notable middle round sleeper.
Top 5 Centers Featured
Billy Price - C/OG
Billy Price, No. 54 - Ohio State
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 312 | Age: 22-23?
40 time: 5.19
Billy Price is a highly technically sound center prospect that brings tremendous toughness and versatility to his game. Making the switch from guard to center, Price is a hard-nosed physical player with elite power and excellent durability (has 44 consecutive starts). The former high school track and field athlete displays great power at the point of attack with quick feet and excellent body control (great knee bend), balance, and toughness finishing blocks all the way to the whistle.
Price showcases solid athletic ability in pass protection sliding laterally adjusting to movement staying square while mirroring, as well as providing excellent technique in his hands and fluid feet working in concert with his upper body driving defenders off the ball with aggression (moves well in space). He possesses superb football instincts, premier foot agility (can snap and move with fluidity left and right), and a great ability to anchor the pocket setting the base of the pocket allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket.
Round Projection: 1st
Isaiah Wynn - OG/C
Isaiah Wynn, No. 77 - Georgia
Height: 6024 | Weight: 308 | Age: 22
Arms: 33 1/8” | Hand: 8 1/2”
40 time: 5.06
Although Isaiah Wynn lacks the ideal measurables at a shade over 6-foot-2-inches and 33 1/8-inch arms, he is a prospect that should not be underestimated. With the versatility to play all offensive linemen positions (displays the physical attributes, athleticism, and strength to dominant at center), Wynn is an ideal athletically gifted guard/center prospect with excellent explosion, power, and quickness. Wynn displays fluid and light quick feet, impressive explosion and excels pulling and reaching the second level quickly. He showcases excellent lateral agility adjusting to movement and mirroring well in pass protection maintaining superb balance (rarely off his feet). Wynn has a nice pop at the point of attack with violent hands, and also displays the athletic ability to swing his hips blocking in space when reaching the second level and/or pulling effectively creating clear lanes.
Wynn has a slender lower half (will need to improve functional strength), but his explosion and impressive athleticism allows him to move swiftly with fluidity, and the mindset to win with technique and leverage. A zone blocking prospect at the next level that would be an ideal fit for the 49ers.
Round Projection: 1st-2nd
James Daniels - C/OG
James Daniels, No. 78 - Iowa
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 295 | Age: 20
40 time: 5.24
James Daniels is one of the most athletic center prospects in this years’ draft class. The young 20-year old and former high school football and track athlete is a product of Iowa’s zone blocking scheme. At 6-foot-4 and weighing 295 pounds, Daniels bestows an ideal combination of size, length, strength, fluidity, foot speed, and athleticism to fit in Kyle Shanahan’s system. A leader on the field with a high football IQ, Daniels displays his smooth athleticism and quickness off the ball with excellent foot agility easily capable of snapping the football and firing off the ball moving laterally fluidly outmaneuvering defenders with speed and sealing with hip flexibility, leverage, and power. He showcases great change of direction skills maintaining balance and blocks terrific in space reaching the second level with tremendous quickness and power behind his pads jolting defenders with heavy hands. In pass protection, he is stout at the point of attack and displays excellent ability to anchor the pocket, setting and maintaining the base of the pocket allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket away from the trash.
A technically sound prospect, Daniels shows great ability to read defenses and has tremendous football instincts, plays with the toughness and grit finishing all the way to the whistle, and finishes blocks with great technique, power, foot quickness, and top-tier athleticism. Brings versatility capable of playing all interior offensive lineman positions and is a premier zone blocking day one starter at the next level that would be an ideal fit for the 49ers.
Round Projection: 2nd
Frank Ragnow - C/OG
Frank Ragnow, No. 72 - Arkansas
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 319 | Age: 21
40 time: 5.18
Frank Ragnow is not as athletically gifted as James Daniels, but is a solid athlete in his own right with great smarts, football instincts, size, strength, toughness, and fluid movement skills. The former high school football, basketball, and track athlete is explosive at the point of attack (quick first-step), blocks with leverage and sound technique, a road grader in the run game with a great punch at the point of attack and solid leg push driving defenders. Ragnow displays nice foot agility snapping the football and moving laterally with fluidity, and is able to set quickly in pass protection maintaining a nice wide base. He shows a great ability to anchor the pocket setting a solid base of the pocket with excellent balance and body-control allowing the quarterback to step up. Showcases a great ability to adjust well in space with his quick feet sliding laterally adjusting to movement and the patience and explosive punch to stifle defenders.
Per Pro Football Focus, Ragnow led all FBS offensive linemen with a 93.7 overall grade dominating in the run game with a score of 92.4 and a 88.3 mark in pass protection. Scheme diverse, Ragnow is capable to start and succeed in a power system, but with his quality balance, athleticism, foot speed, and great movement skills he shows an ideal fit in Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Shows the versatility to play guard and center at the next level.
Draft Projection: 3rd
Mason Cole - C/OG
Mason Cole, No. 52 - Michigan
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 305 | Age: 21
40 time: 5.14
Mason Cole is another technically sound center prospect that brings tremendous toughness and versatility to his game. A true leader and team player (willing to play all over the OL), Cole showcases impressive athleticism with excellent foot agility easily capable of snapping the football and firing off the ball moving laterally smoothly. He displays great change of direction fluidity and is solid blocking in space reaching the second level with quickness and power.
Cole shows great ability to read defenses and has tremendous football instincts (high football IQ). Stout at the point of attack and displays excellent ability to anchor the pocket, setting and maintaining the base of the pocket allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket away from the trash. Brings versatility capable of playing all offensive linemen positions. Played left tackle for the Wolverines.
Round Projection: 3rd
Middle Round Sleeper
Austin Corbett - OG/C
Austin Corbett, No. 73 - Nevada
Height: 6041 | Weight: 310
Arms: 33 3/8” | Hands: 10 5/8”
40 time: 5.15
Austin Corbett is another offensive linemen prospect with tremendous versatility. An offensive tackle at Nevada, Corbett has shown the ability at the Senior Bowl to play all offensive linemen positions extremely well. Ideally a guard at the next level, Corbett is a highly technically sound prospect that provides the utility style versatility and reliability (played more than 600 snaps in college) that would benefit the 49ers.
Corbett is a smart hard-nosed physical player with solid strength. The former high school football, basketball, wrestling, and track and field star is a strong broad-shouldered prospect with a tenacious competitive playing style and nice body control (great knee bend), balance, and toughness finishing blocks all the way to the whistle. Although a bit stiff, he displays solid athletic ability to adjust in in pass protection sliding laterally adjusting to movement staying square while mirroring (great awareness). Corbett has good technique in his hands and has fluid feet working extremely well in concert with his upper body driving defenders off the ball.
Round Projection: 3rd-4th
Player measurables courtesy of team pages and All-Star games. 40 times projected.