PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft with its’ position previews. Jon Ledyard previews the center position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at center, while also providing a detailed list of this year’s top pivots. In addition, Scott Reynolds offers up the team needs and the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – the most likely center for the Bucs to select in Rounds 1-3, and in Rounds 4-7.
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What The Bucs Have At Center
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Tampa Bay has one of the league’s better centers in Ryan Jensen, who enters his fourth year with the Bucs. General manager Jason Licht made Jensen the highest-paid center in the NFL when he signed him from Baltimore in 2018. After an up-and-down first year in Tampa Bay, Jensen has put together two really strong seasons in helping the Bucs win Super Bowl LV.
Bucs C Ryan Jensen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Jensen enters the final year of his contract at age 30 making $10 million and it may be time to start thinking about finding his eventual replacement. Tampa Bay has just one other center on the roster following A.Q. Shipley’s retirement in newcomer Donell Stanley, who is in his first season.
What The Bucs Need At Center
If he has another good year the Bucs may opt to re-sign Jensen after the 2021 season. But finding an heir apparent in this year’s draft would be wise for the long term. Tampa Bay will also need to find a starting-caliber back up for this year in case something happens to Jensen. Drafting an interior lineman – one who can snap – almost seems like a must this year.
Dickerson’s tape is so steady that if he didn’t have significant injury concerns he’d be a lock for the first round. As it is, Dickerson’s injury-prone college career will give teams pause in the first couple rounds of the draft. It’s anyone’s guess as to when he comes off the board, but whatever team takes him is getting a guy will work his tail off, be a great leader and teammate, offer positional versatility between guard and center and scheme versatility between gap and zone. Dickerson is a definite Bucs target at No. 32 or at No. 64, assuming the medicals don’t scare Tampa Bay off.
Humphrey is probably one of the more under-discussed potential Bucs draft picks in the class. Featuring elite toughness and physicality at a position that calls for it, Humphrey has been raved about in Norman for years now. He’s going to emphatically check the football character and leadership box for the Bucs, and he’s got years of quality tape in pass protection and in the run game. Humphrey can get overextended a little bit and I question his core strength when he squares up with bigger, longer interior defenders, but he’s a true scrapper who uses his wrestling background to his advantage.
Humphrey’s guard-center flexibility, character, toughness, smarts and tape should all be attractive to the Bucs, and I doubt his average arm length will scare Tampa Bay off given the guys they’ve had at center under Jason Licht/Bruce Arians. Don’t be surprised if Humphrey is a Bucs target at No. 32 (probably in a trade back) or at No. 64 (maybe in a trade up).
Wisconsin-Whitewater C-G Quinn Meinerz – Photo courtesy by Wisconsin-Whitewater
Meinerz’s 2019 tape was the last we saw of him in a game setting, but it was enough. Yes, it looks like he will need to play with better control and posture in the NFL, but Meinerz has rare power and athleticism to go along with elite football intelligence and work ethic. The way he physically dominated the Senior Bowl, in his first competition outside of the D-III level after a year of not playing football, was incredible. There will be a learning curve and he has some things to improve on technically, but there is an awful lot to like in Meinerz’ game. He’s probably going to be a second- or third-round pick, and someone the Bucs will strongly consider at No. 96, depending on how their first two picks went.
4. Ohio State C Josh Myers – RS Junior – 6-5, 310, N/A
Myers goes full tilt every snap and did it with much improved body control in 2020. His ability to find angles as a blocker allows him to consistently be in great position, but his hands don’t always finish what his feet start. To be clear, Myers is aggressive and physical on every snap, he just needs to sustain blocks better with his hands. In pass protection his athleticism is evident, as he’s able to mirror and slide with defenders looking to get on his edge, while also dishing out punishment as an uncovered blocker looking for work. Myers has the ability to do it all at center or at guard, but consistency is still lacking despite the strides he made in 2020.
5. Illinois C Kendrick Green – RS Junior – 6-2, 305, 4.88
Like most of the remaining centers, Green will operate best in a zone scheme at the NFL level. At Illinois that is where he stood out, hitting reach blocks with startling explosiveness off the snap. Green will bring it all game long, but physically there are going to be some match-ups that overwhelm him in pass protection. There isn’t a high ceiling here and he has to be in the right scheme to be successful at his size. Green will probably be drafted in the Rounds 3-4 range by a team other than Tampa Bay.
Dalman is such a fun watch if you’re an outside zone nerd, as he consistently makes tough reach blocks and overtakes looks easy on tape. As a run blocker in a wide zone scheme Dalman can help a team tomorrow, but it’s unclear how he’ll ever handle bull rushes in the NFL. Dented pockets are headed in the direction of Dalman’s next quarterback, as the Stanford center just doesn’t seem to have enough mass to hang with the big boys on passing downs. He’d get destroyed in the Bucs scheme. But in an outside zone scheme, Dalman could be an ideal fit at center.
Best Of The Rest
7. Kentucky C Drake Jackson – RS Senior – 6-2, 293, N/A
Hailing from a run-heavy offense, the big question surrounding Jackson was how he’d look in pass protection at the Senior Bowl. The answer was a resounding “not great!” which poses concerns about his ceiling in the NFL. Jackson is a zone-only center prospect whose play strength will always be a concern, but could be a fill-in starter in the right style of offense. Definitely not a fit in Tampa Bay.
8. Georgia C Trey Hill – Junior – 6-3 1/2, 319, 5.45
Georgia C Trey Hill – Photo courtesy of Georgia
Hill is a soul-snatching center prospect who will grind an opponent to dust if he can catch them just right. Unfortunately he’s also a bottom-tier athlete at the position, with very little ability to get much done outside his grid, especially when facing quicker defensive tackles. If Hill can control his weight, he’ll be a solid backup center in a scheme like the Bucs’ for a long time.
9. Penn State C Michael Menet – RS Senior – 6-4, 301, N/A
Menet will be 24 before his rookie season begins, and he still gets bullied on his college tape. That’s a pretty major concern considering his technique and timing are pretty maxed out already. Menet is a good blocker on the move, but playing offensive line is still a trench game above all else.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Center
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Alabama C Landon Dickerson
Dickerson would be a Top 20 selection in this year’s draft if not for a torn ACL he suffered in the SEC Championship Game. His surgery went well, and Dickerson even suited up for the National Championship Game and snapped the ball to end Alabama’s victory. Dickerson was seen doing cartwheels at the Crimson Tide pro day and he should be healthy to start his rookie season. But Dickerson does have some injury concerns dating back to his days at Florida State. He tore his ACL as a freshman and also suffered ankle injuries. If he checks out medically and is healthy he has Pro Bowl potential.
If the Bucs draft Dickerson in the first or second round he would be the heir apparent to center Ryan Jensen. Yet the 6-foot-6, 333-pound Dickerson has also started games at guard and could be the eventual replacement for Alex Cappa in 2022. Dickerson plays with a nasty, old school demeanor. He’s a bully in the trenches with his brute strength, but also displays great technique and has a fantastic football I.Q. Dickerson was a leader at Alabama and his charisma would be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay’s locker room.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Indiana C Harry Crider
Indiana C Harry Crider – Photo courtesy of Indiana
Crider could be a seventh-round pick or could go undrafted. The 6-foot-3, 307-pound lineman is one of the strongest centers in this draft class, benching 31 reps of 225 pounds. A very smart player, Crider received his degree in criminal justice in just two and a half years as a junior when he entered the starting lineup at left guard, starting 12 games. Crider also started a game at center in 2019 and then moved to center full time for the 2020 season, starting all eight games.
The Bucs crave position versatility along the offensive line, and Crider brings that as a late Day 3 selection given his experience at both guard and center. Crider could use a year in an NFL weight room to develop his core strength to help anchor against bigger defensive tackles at the next level. He also needs to work on his hand placement and technique at center, given just one year at the position in college. But Crider’s mixture of intelligence and toughness will serve him well as he transitions to becoming a pro.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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