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Cam Jurgens: The center the Seahawks need

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NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks need to improve their offensive line in 2022. And you know who could instantly do that? Cam Jurgens. The swift footed, lightning-quick center who was born, raised, and educated in Nebraska Cornhuskers country is heading towards the NFL Draft and steamrolling everything and everybody who gets in his way.

Jurgens may just be the most explosive offensive lineman in this year’s class. His 4.92 40-yard dash at the combine turned some heads, but it really shouldn’t have shocked anybody; he was a 4-star Tight End coming out of high school before converting to full-time Center for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He is the son of a record-setting Track and Field athlete — his mother was a 12-time All-American and set numerous state and national records at both shotput and discus on her way to seven national championships (!!!) — so suffice to say his unique combination of physicality and athleticism is no surprise. And while Tyler Linderbaum of the Iowa Hawkeyes is getting all the attention, the two players posted nearly identical numbers at their respective combine/pro day performances, with Jurgens actually edging him in a few drills (including the 40), along with possessing the broader wingspan of the two.

Per the Draft Network:

“Nebraska center Cam Jurgens projects to the NFL game as a developmental prospect — one who offers a starting ceiling at the pro level and can be a plus starter for an offense that implements a lot of wide zone concepts, screen game and moving pockets. Jurgens offers some of the same appeals as Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum does in the draft, but he comes with marginally better size and presumably a cheaper price tag. Jurgens leaves Nebraska with three consecutive seasons starting at the position and Third-Team All-Big Ten honors under his belt for the 2021 season after redshirting his true freshman season in 2018. Jurgens first arrived in Lincoln as a tight end prospect but quickly acclimated to life in the trenches.”

Seems like a pretty perfect match for Shane Waldron and Andy Dickerson if you ask me. And in case you were worried that his guy is just a blocking technician, then obviously you haven’t heard that he has a bit of a mean streak in him. While he has some stuff to clean up — he got credited with 6 penalties in 2021, which tied for 15th most among all FBS centers — that is just a reality of his developing game, and whichever team drafts him will have to work with him to shore up his style in the pros. And I would say it’s worth it, if only to bring an identity back to this offensive line that has been sorely missing as of late. Just watch a play like this against the Sooners and imagine having this level of intensity back on the offensive line... playing in the NFC West, this team needs a lineman that doesn’t back down when he lines up across from the fronts of the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals.

Now, I will be the first one to say that combine and pro day performances don’t paint anything close to a complete picture; but why is the world so high on Tyler Linderbaum and so ambivalent towards Jurgens? The obvious answer is that Linderbaum projects as a day one starter, and is the much more pro-ready prospect. On the other hand, opinions vary wildly about where Cam will end up and how he projects as a pro. Example: Dane Brugler has him listed as his 49th overall prospect in the Beast, essentially placing him squarely in mid-2nd round territory. However, the consensus board has him ranked as 103 in this class, making him a late-3rd/early-4th prospect. But I think he would be a great value pick in the middle of the 2nd round, and an absolute steal in the 3rd. Translation: Jurgens is a starter in the NFL. I think he will compete for reps from day one, and will be impossible to keep off the field by season’s end, even if he is a year or two away from starting to uncover his true ceiling.

Looking at his film, you see his eye-popping explosiveness on display; he is almost always the first guy off the ball (as the center should be) and he uses his athleticism well. His lateral quickness would Chuck Knox grin. But despite his size and speed combo, he plays like a much bigger guy. In some ways, his style is much more reminiscent of previous defensive line converts than a former pass catcher — he is a technically proficient mauler. More on that to come, but first let’s look at some film. You will see a player who is aggressive, always attacking, with explosive power in his hands.

To his great credit, he played in arguably the toughest pass rushing conference in the NCAA. According to Pro Football Focus, the Big 10 featured five of the top ten pass rushing units out of all Power Five schools; he played games against the Michigan Wolverines (1st), Wisconsin Badgers (3rd), Michigan State Spartans (6th), Ohio State Buckeyes (7th), and Illinois Fighting Illini (10th). Not only this, but he also had the opportunity to play against the fearsome 4th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners front. He had struggles in these games, to be sure, but he still generally performed well and made it through the entire season without allowing a sack. He is capable as both a run blocker and pass protector, though he likely projects better in the passing game long-term. But nobody told him that; or, at least, they didn’t tell him twice.

Watching him play, it is hard for me not to see a little bit of J.R. Sweezy in him. Sweezy was admittedly a guy who I always liked more than some, even if he had a penchant for boneheaded (and occasionally costly) mistakes. Similarly, this might be the biggest knock on Jurgens; outside of concerns about his size/frame, the most quantifiable issue with his game is the propensity for penalties. This over-aggressiveness manifests itself not only in the laundry, but also in his susceptibility to getting caught off balance; when you watch his tape against Oklahoma (available on YouTube — it is one of his lowest graded games of the season per PFF, but his highest graded game in his Draft Network profile), you can see him really lean into his blocks at times, and when he hits his target, this sometimes works out; he is able to sustain contact and shows absolutely no signs of quitting until the whistle. But this also puts him in a position to get pulled off balance by stronger and more savvy defensive lineman... you know, the types of players who he will be constantly playing against in the NFL. He is developing his anchor, and can still get bullrushed, like in the play below against fellow 2022 NFL Draft prospect Perrion Winfrey.

I am not overly concerned by any of these issues, however. What I see in Cam Jurgens is a hard-nosed player with a fire and intensity that you can’t coach. Even if the team were to draft the former Cornhusker, they don’t need to rely on him immediately if he proves to be a bit too raw on day one. The team went out and signed Austin Blythe, who started games primarily at Center and Right Guard for the Rams while Waldron and Andy Dickerson were still in LA. However, the team website currently lists him as a Guard, which may not mean much, but it could mean that this team is far from done adding competition to the interior line. A veteran could always be an option here, but it is hard to beat pairing a young center with a new QB (even if the team elects not to draft/trade for one this season). While Cam Jurgens may need some reps to really get his bearings, I can’t help but feel he would be a huge improvement for this offensive line, and likely sooner than later.