I have not hidden the idea that I think center is an important long-term need for the Seahawks in this 2016 draft, and that I think Ryan Kelly would be a great candidate to fill that key role on Seattle's offensive line.
Should Seattle pass on Kelly, or should he go before their selection, or should Seattle choose to trade down -- there are other candidates. I explore many of these names below. I left off Joe Dahl, Connor McGovern, and Cody Whitehair from this grouping, not because I don't believe they can play center, but because I am not 100-percent sure that is something they want to do.
I have no information telling me that they would not want to play center, but for my study I put those three talented players in the "guard" column. Additionally, I would like to make a quick shout out to Zach Whitman for providing me and the greater community with SPARQ and measurable data both on his website and his Google Doc. This reservoir of data has helped me immensely in writing these articles and in studying the 2016 Draft.
RYAN KELLY, Alabama:
No player in the 2016 center Draft class combines size, length, athleticism, pedigree and tape like Ryan Kelly.
Kelly is rising up the boards and it's not a surprise. 6040, 311 with 33.625 arms and 80.625 wingspan are big for a Center in general, and big for a center in this 2016 class. Solid tester, but not off the chart. 55% SPARQ percentile for OL (for a Center that's good when you think of the tackles mixed into this grouping). 5.03 forty at the Combine. 26 bench. 30 vert. Kelly does not hit the Seahawks magical 9 foot broad jump benchmark, falling 5 inches short at 8-7. I read his 10 yard split at his pro day was 1.76 and he also dropped his forty down to 4.96. Kelly does all of this at closer to a "guard" weight, when most of the centers in this class are a few meals shy of 300 lbs.
I really dig Kelly in the run game when he spins around a DT to seal him off, while Derrick Henry breaks through the line of scrimmage. Alabama has benefited from a lot of explosive plays behind Kelly's work. He has an uncanny sense for this, with eyes in the back of his head to know where his runner is and where the defender wants to be.
Kelly gets push in the run game and moves quickly into the 2nd level. Faced high level of competition in the SEC and played in many big games inside and outside of the SEC. Leader-type who has Pro Bowl upside. Some second level targeting flaws show up in stretches and his pass pro is not flawless, but overall I think the tape is quite good. Kelly is strong, tough, athletic and I think Carroll should have a straight line into his mental makeup and locker room influence via Lane Kiffin. One to watch.
ISAAC SEUMALO, Oregon State:
High profile High School recruit who stayed home with family who coach, and have athletic ties, to Oregon State. Has all the tools you are looking for in terms of athleticism, power and size dimensions to be a good NFL interior player. You almost feel bad for the guy because in recent years there has not been a lot of talent around him -- he may be lonely in that regard.
May project better as a guard, but did play extensively at center in 2013. Sat out 2014 with an injury and played in 2015 as a right guard. Seumalo can even play spot duty at tackle. 60% SPARQ percentile. 6037, 303 could have perfect dimensions for an NFL Center. 33 inch arms. 78.875 wingspan. Ran a 5.19 forty and had good agility with 7.40 L-cone. Broad jump was 8 foot 9 inches.
Athletic, strong with good feet. Does not play soft, but I don't get the vibe that he plays "nasty". Can drive and pancake defenders when he wants to, and can pull around and pop his man square on the move. Has some lapses in pass pro with whiffs but I wonder if he gets bored as often his team is down big time late in games. Overall I think there will be a good market for Seumalo somewhere in Day 2 who can play anywhere on the interior.
NICK MARTIN, Notre Dame:
If you are grading strictly on pass protection only, Martin probably has the best tape in this Draft class at Center. Whether he has help from the Guard or is singled up in pass pro, he looks coached up and fundamentally sound.
Team Captain. Has the bloodlines, and example of his brother Zach, and I suspect that can be a very positive influence to prepare him for big time college football, the draft process and the training and demands of an NFL player.
Not a great tester but lateral agility looks good on tape. Arms not long, but can seal in the run game. Super aware in pass protection and always doing the right thing from what I can tell. Strong DT can push him a bit at times but overall stout in the run game. I feel confident he will be an Upper Rd 3 type player or maybe higher. 19% SPARQ percentile. 28 bench. 28 vert. Broad jump relatively poor at 8 foot 1 inch. 6041, 299 with 32.5 inch arms and a 78 inch wingspan.
I liked his tape at center better than his tape at guard, but he can play guard in a pinch. I think his NFL position will be center.
MAX TUERK, USC:
For Seattle, I think they would grade Tuerk ahead of Martin due to their offensive system. Probably the most athletic feet of all the centers in this Draft class. Tall, and could probably stand to add 7-8 lbs of good weigh in the NFL. Has injury history and never tested, but my suspicion is that if healthy, he would test quite well.
Not necessarily a power player, but I would not describe his play as "finesse". When he gets downfield he is looking to stay engaged with the defender and run his feet versus overpower them and bury them. I am fine with that because it keeps him alive in the play.
Some flaws in his pass pro creep up here and there and will allow some lateral penetration but can recover. Best puller in this class, runs his pull urgent with a tight arc and usually hits his target square. Good movement and athletic enough that he has played guard and tackle in the past.
Like Ryan Kelly -- there is a thread that ties back to Pete Carroll via Lane Kiffin and in this case, also, Steve Sarkisian. Carroll may have good inside information on his athletic abilities when healthy and his psychological makeup. 6050, 298 lbs with 32.5 inch arms (should stay inside) and 79.5 inch wingspan. 22 bench press matches the tape -- more athlete than power game.
May not play much in 2016 coming off injury and may want to give him a year in the weight room and rehab room. Solid 3rd Round to me, and if healthy with good testing, pretty sure he would go in the 2nd round.
JACK ALLEN, Michigan State:
Not a good tester by any means, but the tape is clean. Plays within himself and plays stout. Assignment correct and stays on his feet. All American accolades with 47 starts mostly at center, and 5 at Guard. (Allen has even spot played at tackle.)
Connor Cook was not a Captain for MSU, but Jack Allen was. Allen is only 6012, 294 but arm length is decent for a Center at 32.25 and wingspan is 77.125. L-Cone was pretty bad at 7.9 with 23 bench reps and a vert of only 26.5. Broad jump was ok at 8 foot 5 inches. Only a 9-percent SPARQ tester for NFL offensive lineman, he won't be winning any medals at the Combine.
Whether the defensive front leaves him covered or uncovered, in run game or pass protection, he is usually doing the right thing and more often then he hits his target square & sticks. He didn't test well, but from my eye his movement skills are solid -- he is not a stiff. Not an elite athlete by any means but this can flat out play, and I trust him. Seattle may pass him up if they don't approve of the testing, but if I needed a center and he was alive in the early part of Round 4 I would snatch him up with no regrets.
GRAHAM GLASGOW, Michigan:
The first game I watched of Glasgow I felt "5th Round, if that," but I am glad I went back and watched two more games with an open mind.
Glasgow is really a guard that converted to Center in his final season with Jim Harbaugh as the new coach. Measures 6057, 307 with 33.625 inch arms and a 79.625 inch wingspan. Glasgow, for all intents and purposes, is 6 foot 6 and I wonder if in the NFL he should go back to guard. Tested okay for an interior lineman with 26-percent SPARQ percentile. 5.13 forty with 1.77 10 yard split. 25 inch vert with 8 foot 10 inch broad jump.
Not a finished product at center, nothing he does is polished or crisp. He does play with power and effort and plays tough. Balance can be off at times and can be caught leaning or rocked by a DL. Won't give ground on the bull rush. Targeting is more of an adventure as is most of his playing in-space, but he can combo block okay. Pulling is a bit sloppy. In short yardage, a NT can get low and get up and under him a bit, possibly because he is so tall. I think he will have value in the NFL as either a guard or center, and worst case scenario would be a valuable backup that can play two spots. That always helps a team when they are looking to finalize their 53 man roster. Late 4th Round Value because he has some positional versatility. If graded strictly on his work at Center-perhaps more Round 5.
EVAN BOEHM, Missouri:
Won't win any body-beautiful contests and arms are short at 31.625, but does have a wingspan of 79 inches. 8-percent SPARQ percentile. Ran only a 5.33 forty with a pretty poor 10 yard split of 1.91. 8 foot 0 inch broad jump (I believe the worst score for Combine Centers) probably takes him out of the Tom Cable zone, but not off the board for many NFL teams.
Four year starter and son of a coach. Strong push in the run game and can steer open lanes. Nasty -- will hit defenders to the echo of the whistle and beyond. Will give up the shoulder at times in pass protection. Better in the run game and better when the defender is two feet from his helmet. You want this guy going forward and in a phone booth. I think he gets a little overhyped, but I think has solid value in the upper 5th Round.
KYLE FRIEND, Temple:
Remember in 2012 when people said "If Russell Wilson was 2-3 inches taller, he would have gone two rounds earlier in the Draft?"
If my friend, Kyle, was 2-3 inches taller he would probably go in the 4th round. 66% SPARQ percentile. Super strong on tape and benched a whopping 41 times at his Pro Day. Why did he not get a combine invite?
My friend, Kyle, is six feet tall. 6005 to be exact. 295 lbs. Arms are only 30 7/8 inch. Tested solid with 5.09 forty and a ten yard split of 1.71. L-cone solid at 7.48. 8 foot 6 inch broad jump and 28.5 inch vert.
3 time Team Captain. Really good college player. Drives his feet and has good targets on the second level. Has played guard in the past, but at his size can only play center in the NFL. At times can be swallowed up by longer defensive tackles and will let some penetrators slip past his shoulders in pass pro. Some teams may take him off their board because of the measurements, but I think some NFL team needing a center as a starter or backup will give him a shot late in the Draft.
AUSTIN BLYTHE, Iowa:
On my first watch, I hated this tape because I felt he was on the ground too much. I watched more and appreciated him better after two more games.
Former wrestler and three-time state champ, but I thought he was almost trying to score takedowns too much early in the play when he felt he was being beat. I feel you should ideally want to keep your feet as much as you can in football because you never know how long a play may extend. He can anchor in pass pro, but I see Blythe late on blitzes and stunts in pass protection.
40 starts at Center. Defenders can slip off this guy late possibly due to length issues. At times big, strong defensive tackles can stack and shed him. In the run game he can push the pile and he brings his feet with him when he gets to the 2nd level and can get low. 2nd Team All Big-Ten (I assume Jack Allen was 1st Team as he should be). Team Captain. 6021 and 298 with only 30.25 inch arms. Wingspan was 76. Bumped his SPARQ numbers from around 25% to 50% because he improved his vertical by four inches to 31.5 inches at his Pro Day. 29 bench. 8 foot 3 inch broad. 5.34 forty with a 7.52 L-cone.
JAKE BRENDEL, UCLA:
I kept going back to Brendel hoping to see something I missed with a very optimistic light. He always left me wanting more. Brendel tested very well across the board. 6041, 303 with 31.625 inch arms and a 76.625 inch wingspan. He was the best center tester at the Combine, running a 5.01 forty with a 1.72 ten yard split.
L-cone was 7.31 and bench was solid at 25. Vertical was 28 and his broad jump was 9 feet 0 inches. 86-percent SPARQ percentile. He does not play with that type of explosion on tape. Looks thin. Not sticky enough on blocks both in the run game and pass protection. When plays gets extended he is often standing and watching-not looking to find work.
Not nasty- does not finish enough. He does not get manhandled, but does not manhandle others. For the most part adequate but no inspiration in his game. Perhaps someone bumps him up because his testing was so good, but I could not bring myself to push him up out of the 6th round.
Other guys that I looked at briefly, but didn't have strong convictions as 6th round or better were Marcus Henry (VMAC visitor), Spencer Pulley, and Matt Skura. I watched Mike Matthews and really didn't think he should have a draftable grade. Of the four I mentioned I probably liked Henry the best, tested at 37-percent SPARQ percentile and seemed ok on tape. Perhaps projects to be a solid NFL backup.
As the Draft will be quickly upon us, this will be my last positional ranking write-up, but I will look to dig deeper in the Offensive Tackles and Guards in the next week. I won't be able to put pen to paper with text, but I hope to solidify rankings for those positions at least on down into the 5th round. My hope is to present an Offensive Draft Board that covers the Draft down into the 4th and 5th round hopefully before Thursday. Stay tuned...