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2018 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 5 Centers

James Daniels

James Daniels

The 2018 NFL Draft is set for April 26-28, so you still have time to get ready with the Athlon Sports 2018 Draft Guide. With 526 players ranked and needs outlined for every NFL team, it has everything you need.

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Here's a sneak peek at our top five centers in this year's NFL Draft:

1. Billy Price

COLLEGE: Ohio State

STRONG POINTS: Price (above, right) was an absolute rock in the middle of Ohio State’s offensive line, a four-year starter (and two-time first-team All-American) who lined up at guard and center. He’ll likely play the pivot in the NFL, and he was dominant there as a senior. He has the savvy and the raw power to command an offensive line. Along with the high football IQ to call protections, Price combines the strong arms and vice grip with core strength and flexibility to manhandle defensive linemen. He plays with the wide base and firm anchor to stonewall defenders as a pass protector. A nimble mover, he’s a snap-and-step guy who has the quickness and flexibility to get out on reach blocks and seal off defenders. He shows a tremendous understanding of angles, and he plays with the toughness and mean streak to thrive in the run game. He was a two-time captain at Ohio State and showed exceptional durability, starting all 55 games of the past four seasons.

WEAK POINTS: A good-not-great athlete, Price lacks range in the run game. When moving out in the screen game, he’ll too frequently end up lunging if he’s had to venture too far downfield. His athleticism will be tested against NFL-caliber quickness inside as a pass protector.

SUMMARY: As a prospect, he’s right up there with former Ohio State greats like LeCharles Bentley and Nick Mangold, and he’s a superior prospect to recent Buckeye pivots Corey Linsley and Pat Elflein, both of whom are currently quality starters in the league. Price can step in to just about any scheme as a Day 1 starter, and there’s a good chance that there are Pro Bowls in his future.

FINAL GRADE: 1st/2nd round

2. James Daniels


STRONG POINTS: A nimble, athletic pivot, Daniels might be the best reach blocker to come out at this position since Travis Frederick (2013). He’s exceptionally quick, a snap-and-step center with a strong, flexible core. He has the grip and upper-body strength to lock on to bigger linemen before re-positioning himself to seal the defender. His hand placement is excellent, consistently shooting inside and latching on. When he moves to the second level, Daniels shows the quickness and overall athleticism to recalibrate and hit smaller moving targets. He has good foot speed and can get downfield in the screen game, where he’s adept at landing blocks. In pass protection, he’s able to mirror against quickness and plays with a wide base and good leverage, allowing him to play bigger than his listed size. Developed by one of the country’s best programs for offensive linemen, he’s heady enough to make protection calls, and he reacts quickly to stunts and twists up front. He also might have some room left to develop if his age is any indication; Daniels, who was a true junior in 2017, will still be only 20 when the upcoming NFL season begins.

WEAK POINTS: Because his size is a little less than ideal, he may ultimately struggle to handle some of the NFL’s bigger nose tackles. Although he appears to have room on his frame to add more weight, teams may not want to compromise his athleticism and range.

SUMMARY: He and Price are 1 and 1A in this year’s draft class, and Daniels might appeal more to teams that use a lot of outside zone runs. He should be a quality Day 1 starter with a chance to develop into one of the NFL’s best centers.

FINAL GRADE: 1st/2nd round

3. Frank Ragnow

COLLEGE: Arkansas

STRONG POINTS: A snap-and-step pivot with initial quickness and flexibility, Ragnow is very good on reach blocks. He’s at his best working in a phone booth, where he has the strong grip and core to control defenders. He anchors well in pass protection as well, playing with a wide base and rarely getting caught off-balance. He’s a heady center who started at the pivot each of the last two seasons, aware against stunts and blitzes and capable of handling protection calls. He also has experience at right guard.

WEAK POINTS: Ragnow, listed at 6'5", is a bit tall for a center and sometimes gets too high, giving up leverage and losing power. He shows limited range when getting out in the screen game and too often struggles to land solid contact on linebackers at the second level. Medicals are a potential issue as well, as he missed half of his senior year while dealing with a high ankle sprain.

SUMMARY: He doesn’t have the upside of the top two centers in this year’s draft — Billy Price and James Daniels — but Ragnow is a high-floor prospect who can fit just about any scheme and settle in as a quality starter.

FINAL GRADE: 3rd/4th round

4. Mason Cole

COLLEGE: Michigan

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STRONG POINTS: A heady technician with good movement skills, Cole lined up all over the offensive line during his time at Michigan (started at left tackle as a freshman, sophomore and senior; started at center as a junior). He does impressive work on the move, understanding angles well and consistently getting himself squared up and in position to seal bigger defenders. He consistently wins when fighting in a phone booth, showing strong hands and a strong core. Very aware when it comes to picking up blitzes and stunts, he would be capable of calling out protections.

WEAK POINTS: The 6'4", 295-pound Cole is on the small side; he has the toughness and technique to play bigger, but he’s going to struggle against some of the NFL’s mammoth nose tackles. And while he’s also a coordinated athlete who can move, he doesn’t have exceptional range. He’s limited in what a team can ask him to do.

SUMMARY: Teams will appreciate Cole’s savvy and versatility, though he will mostly appeal to squads that utilize an outside-zone blocking scheme. He has starter potential, though his ceiling isn’t nearly as high as the guys at the top of this position group.

FINAL GRADE: 4th round

5. Will Clapp


STRONG POINTS: A three-year starter who moved from guard to center last season, Clapp brings a lot of size and power to the middle of the line. He’s a mauler who’s at his best fighting in the phone booth, with the ability to re-establish the line of scrimmage with a powerful lower body and the strong hands and vice grip to steer defenders. He is aggressive when moving off a block to the second level, a nasty finisher who can drive a linebacker out of a play.

WEAK POINTS: Better going forward than backward, Clapp lacks the nimble feet needed to stay in front of quickness in pass protection. Still a work in progress at center, he needs to be more precise with hand placement when reach blocking. Medicals are a concern as well; he dealt with a nagging shoulder injury in the past, and he needed hip surgery in 2016.

SUMMARY: Clapp has the size, strength and toughness to be a future starter, either at center or at right guard. And he could be a quality starter if a position coach can get his technique cleaned up.

FINAL GRADE: 4th round

Other centers that could be drafted: Bradley Bozeman, Alabama; Brian Allen, Michigan State; Patrick Morris, TCU