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NFL Draft Center Rankings

by Thor Nystrom

6. Connor McGovern (Penn State) | 6’5/308

Age: 21.8
SPARQ percentile: N/A
Comp: Roger Saffold (Lance Zierlein)

mcgovern graph

A former Pennsylvania Mr. Football, McGovern was plug-and-play all the way after enrolling at Penn State. As a true freshman in 2016, HC James Franklin threw him in at right guard off the bat  -- he started nine of 13 games  -- before pushing him further inside to center for the 2017 season. For his final year in Happy Valley, it was primarily back to right guard.

McGovern’s freshman campaign came just months after Christian Hackenberg left for the draft. Might have been for the best. McGovern has a lot of turnstyle qualities as a pass-blocker. He's a robotic mover who's also slow in sensing enemies at the gate.

Two numbers: 41 career quarterback pressures allowed (including 10 this past season) and nine career sacks allowed (four this past season). Trace McSorley offered a little wiggle and could scoot, but McGovern got him clocked a few times.

The 6-foot-5, 308-pounder does, however, offer a saving grace. You saw it on repeat whenever you turned on a Penn State game and saw Saquon Barkley or Miles Sanders busting through the middle for chunk gains. 

While his pass-blocking efficiency grade on PFF ranked just No. 72 in 2018, he ranked No. 15 in run-block success percentage at 92.4. His best fit is on a run-first team that’ll give him help in pass pro.

7. Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama) | 6’4/307

SPARQ percentile: 2.0
Comp: Matt Skura (Zierlein)

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A rural Iowa kid who was committed to the Hawkeyes as the No. 1 guard in his class, Pierschbacher was wooed by Nick Saban into flipping late. He ended up starting multiple years, first at guard and then at center.

Pierschbacher is a technical how-to video. He knows what he’s doing out there, and his feet, hands and form show it. But Pierschbacher is all grind and little pop. He lacks the athletic profile to excel in the NFL, a cement-footed, groan-when-he-bends, dad kind of a guard.

But heck, the kid’s got his lunch pail and his polish and his position versatility and his years under Nick Saban’s drill sergeants, plus oodles of big-game experience against college football’s best competition. And sometimes that goes a little further than we tend to think it will. Take, for example, the case of the guy he replaced, former Alabama C Bradley Bozeman.

Pierschbacher is an inch shorter and 11 pounds heavier than Bozeman. You could also say he’s more than twice the athlete! I kid, I kid — Pierschbacher tested in the 2nd-percentile and Bozeman tested in the 0.6 percentile last year.

Bozeman got taken by the Ravens in Round 6. He hung around, and ended up appearing in 11 games and starting one as a rookie. Similarly limited but also similarly battle-tested, Pierschbacher is no doubt hoping for a similar fate.

8. Javon Patterson (Ole Miss) | 6’3/307

Age: 22.1
SPARQ percentile: 20.3
Comp: Joe Looney

javon graph

Patterson’s first impression of the evaluating season was a poor one, as he repeatedly lost out on reps to the likes of Western Illinois’ Khalen Saunders while at the Senior Bowl. That example is an indicative one which we can use, here, because Saunders’ strengths -- particularly his short-area quickness -- play directly against Patterson’s weaknesses.

Patterson operates looser in space, but he gets a claustrophobic panicky vibe when confronted by skill in a phone booth. He's not imposing, and he's a mediocre size-adjusted athlete. Patterson also is coming off a mediocre season (PFF graded him 67.8; Lamont Gaillard was 78.2).

Where Patterson in the advanced metrics was in pass pro, where he ranked No. 10 among draft-eligible guards. That's something. He stays in front of you and he has a keen sense for danger. But the damning limitations in his game make him a coinflip proposition to get drafted.

9. John Keenoy (Western Michigan) | 6’3/299

SPARQ percentile: 5.1

* Was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine

Keenoy may be your classic Quadruple-A player, a dominant interior lineman in the MAC who doesn’t have the size, athleticism or strength to hang in the NFL. But in a center class that thins out very quickly, he needs to be mentioned.

Keenoy finished No. 1 among draft-eligible centers last year in run-block success rate, per PFF. He also finished inside the top-five in pass-block efficiency, snaps per inside pressure, and snaps per outside pressure.

The four-year starter logged 3,666 snaps in college, beginning his career on those great PJ Fleck teams before the coaching change. He’s absolutely earned a look from the NFL. And who knows, maybe he can keep overachieving. But those size and athletic limitations probably top him out as a backup center.

10. Brandon Hitner (Villanova) | 6’6/305

SPARQ percentile: 64.9

*Was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine

A strong collegiate tackle at Villanova who may be a little too lithe to swing a career on the outside in the pros, Hitner opened eyes at his pro day by testing in the 65th percentile. Already likely ticketed inside, Hitner’s athletic profile hints at more versatility than we may have thought heading in.

In conjunction with tape that showed a quick-footed smooth operator, Hitner is also a sharp kid lauded for his football IQ. An AFC executive told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein that Hitner’s intelligence is “off the charts.”

Hitner is a developmental flier, yes, but a developmental flier that could potentially back up several positions until he’s ready to permanently move into a slot of his own. Play strength will hold him back initially. But there’s enough to work with here to make a developmental flier justified.


11. Ryan Anderson (Wake Forest) 
12. Sam Mustipher (Notre Dame) 

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!