Erik McCoy
Getty Images

NFL Draft Center Rankings

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: April 9, 2019, 3:26 pm ET

The spider web of each prospect's test results from the NFL Combine comes courtesy of MockDraftable. SPARQ composite scores are provided by Zach Whitman. All players’ ages are calculated as of September 2019.

This is the sixth installment of my NFL Draft deep-dive scouting series, following quarterbacksrunning backstight endswide receivers and guards. Next up: offensive tackles, then we move to defense!

1. Garrett Bradbury (NC State) | 6’3/307

Age: 24.2
SPARQ percentile: 91.7
Comp: Jason Kelce/Max Unger (Danny Kelly)

bradbury graph

Brought to NC State as a 6-foot-3, 250-pound three-star tight end, Bradbury gained 15 pounds during his redshirt year while rehabbing from a shoulder surgery. The tight end thing wasn’t really working — Bradbury wasn’t fast enough. A brief trial run at DT didn’t take. 

But Wolfpack HC Dave Doeren had another idea. He summoned Bradbury into his office the offseason before the 2015 season and told him he was being moved to the offensive line. Doeren sold the move as being a better fit for Bradbury’s skillset. Bradbury agreed. And so he became a guard. 

Bradbury spent his redshirt freshman year affixed to the bench gaining more weight and learning his new position, the mechanics of it, the technique. And maybe the most important (and under-discussed): The attitude.

Bradbury became a starter as a sophomore in 2016. You remember that team with Matt “Dayes of Glory”, Nyheim Hines, Jaylen Samuels, Ryan Finley (I think he’s been the starter since the Jim Valvano era) and that sick defensive line fronted by Bradley Chubb?* Bradbury was an unknown starting guard on that team, more raw project than intriguing NFL talent.

*Also Jack Tocho! A name so nice you have to say it thrice.

Bradbury jumped onto the radar the next year, in 2017, when Doeren summoned him for another position talk convo. Bradbury was now a center. From the start, it was clear that he was born to play it.

A serviceable starter at guard in 2016, Bradbury immediately became one of the nation's five-best centers in 2017. He returned to win the Rimington as the nation’s undisputed best in 2018. In NC State’s outside-zone-heavy running game, Bradbury’s athleticism really shined. 

Reach blocks and seal-the-linebacker-or-this-play-is-doomed second level assignments require a blend of short-area quicks, lateral agility, and technique. Bradbury was born with the first two and acquired the third through dogged work. As for his pass blocking? Bradbury didn’t allow a single quarterback pressure in 2018. To be fair, the Wolfpack aerial attack skewed conservative and didn’t require its linemen to block for as long — but still! 

He’s a team leader who earned respect the hard way — by failing, failing again, remaking his body, finally breaking into the starting lineup at his third position, and then becoming the nation’s best center at his fourth. And I’m not just talking about lock room stuff. Bradbury is the quarterback of his offensive line. Pre-snap at NC State, he was diagnosing the defense and calling out as much information as Ryan Finley was. 

And boy does Bradbury play hard. Infectious, clean-burning, workmanlike intensity. Not a surprise from a guy who went from a short, slow, failed tight end to a Round 1 offensive lineman in four years' time.

Bradbury’s weaknesses aren’t surprising. He isn’t physically imposing, and he isn’t a power guy. Bradbury is the guy who beats you to the spot, gets his hands on you, slides into your pursuit path, and tries to seal it off with footwork and fight from there. He’s not out there mauling people, and he’s never going to drop the heaviest anchor in pass pro. 

But bull rushing isn’t necessarily his kryptonite or anything. A king of leverage and movement, Bradbury has developed a strategy to deal with power pass rushers that involves re-directing ever-so-slightly and then keeping his chest in front of you at all costs so you can’t shed or cross. Basically, he’s face-to-face boxing you out like Dennis Rodman. Doesn't have to be violent to be effective.

Bradbury is destined to play for a zone-blocking team, where all his strengths will play up and his relative weaknesses will be mitigated. I see a perennial Pro-Bowler. I also see a slick developmental triumph for Dave Doeren, who kept twisting the Bradbury Rubik’s Cube until he solved that son of a gun.

2. Erik McCoy (Texas A&M) | 6’4/303

Age: 22.0
SPARQ percentile: 62.4
Comp: Pat Elflein (Charlie Campbell)

erik mccoy graph

Whereas Bradbury wins with freak athleticism, McCoy is more of your classic, well-rounded pivot. He’s a good-looking prospect who handles power a little better than Bradbury while still being a plus athlete himself.

A three-year starter, two of those under the Kevin Sumlin regime before last year’s maiden voyage under Jimbo Fisher, McCoy is a tough out for interior lineman because he doesn’t have any obvious holes in his game to exploit. He’s quick off the snap and generates movement in the run game, where he’s got a pop-and-move thing going on. McCoy is trying to send every guy he engages with.

But McCoy doesn’t have a trump card like Bradbury does. He’s more north-south quick than he is east-west nimble — most of his damage occurs around the space he snapped the ball. He’s not a poor athlete — his tests confirmed as much — but you don’t want him hunting linebackers on the reg like Bradbury does.

I like two things macro-level contextual things about McCoy. I like that he excelled under two very different kinds of coaches running two very different schemes at the highest level of college football. And I especially like that he’s already proven the concept to the NFL, more than holding his own against top-shelf prospects such Alabama’s Quinnen Williams and Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence. I don’t expect McCoy to wait long for a call when Friday night (Day 2) of the NFL Draft kicks off later this month.

3. Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State) | 6’4/310

Age: 23.7
SPARQ percentile: N/A
Comp: Billy Price (Lindy’s)

jenkins graph

“Big E” famously played wherever the Bulldogs wanted him to play, and he did so on two coaching staff in two vastly different styles of offense. He ended up making starts at four offensive line positions (of all spots, RG was the exception).

Mississippi State HC Dan Mullen initially thought Jenkins would make for the perfect right tackle in his ground-and-pound hybrid take on the Urban Meyer offense. So after a redshirt campaign, Jenkins became a swing tackle, starting games at both LT and RT. The next year, he was moved to LT, perhaps his worst fit along the line. By the end of the campaign, Mullen had made him a guard full time.

Until the following offseason, that is, when Jenkins was shifted to center. And that’s where he spent the past two years. In 2018, Jenkins allowed no quarterback hits and a mere six pressures. Over his final two years on campus, he allowed only one sack. Where he really shines is in the run game. Jenkins’ calling card is a Stage 5 clinger propensity to latch on and not let go.

The ceiling is capped where his traits end: Jenkins is strong but definitely not a mauler, and he moves around fine, but isn't quick enough to trust that he'll pick off linebackers in the second level. He also can get lazy, with his posture, and also with his concentration and mindset. Jenkins does have some strong tape against good competition, but it was disappointing to see him face-plant against Alabama last year and begin to make unforced errors out of frustration.

May not be a Pro Bowler, but Jenkins has too many things going for him not to be an NFL starter. He's a big kid with sticky hands and plus-power, and he'll always, if nothing else, hold a sort of Nick Punto utility man appeal off the bench with legit four-position versatility (five in an emergency). Day 2 prospect who’ll compete for playing time immediately.

4. Michael Jordan (Ohio State) | 6’6/312

Age: 21.6
SPARQ percentile: 68.8
Comp: Alex Boone (Zierlein)

michael jordan graph

Consider him Elgton-lite. Or: Elgton-long.

I list Jordan at center, the position he moved to last fall. Most others list him at guard, the position Jordan himself thinks he’s best at. Lance Zierlein listed him at tackle. Jordan has the dimensions, the athleticism and the brains to theoretically play anywhere.

A four-star early enrollee, Jordan became the first true freshman to start on Ohio State’s offensive line since Orland Pace. The holes in his game are the slow-motion initial movements post-snap and the struggles with side-to-side movement. Jordan is extremely long, and he plays upright. 

For those reasons, tackle is off the table for me. I’d like to see if he can swing center before I kick him back to guard. I like his length at the pivot, and I also like having a guy with his brains, diagnostic skills and leadership qualities touching the ball every snap and calling out defensive alignments to his teammates. 

The profile is wonky. Jordan doesn’t have the lateral agility for tackle, and his struggles with short-area quickness and hitting moving targets in the second level don’t make him an interior fit for every scheme. But for goodness sakes, there’s too many tools here not to figure out a way to extract value. He’ll add a lot of value to a run game — when Jordan gets his hands on you, goodnight; he shows plus power, and he’s extremely difficult to shed because of his length.

If he proves unable to swing center, no problemo, he should be a solid guard. Worst case, you’ve got a utility guy on the bench who can back up multiple positions and contribute on special teams. And let’s not forget: Jordan will be 21 for the totality of his rookie campaign. He’s very young — there’s almost assuredly more potential waiting to be unlocked here.

5. Lamont Gaillard (Georgia) | 6’2/304

Age: 23.6
SPARQ percentile: 8.7
Comp: Rodney Hudson (Chris Trepasso)


Gaillard is yet another prospect with versatility. Georgia slid him all over the place the past few years as studs graduated and holes needed to be filled. Over that time, he made a name for himself in the SEC as a barkeep who isn’t buying your fake ID and is not afraid to grab you by the collar. He was an equal opportunity enforcer, ranked by PFF in the upper-echelon in both pass-blocking efficiency (20th) and run-blocking success percentage (9th).

Gaillard is two different players. One is a smooth, reliable technician. The other is the bartender who jumps into fights trying to drop people. In a way, Gaillard’s playing style is the offensive line equivalent of the improvisational quarterback. When things go south on a rep, instead of conceding, he throws the kitchen sink, working creative angles to lengthen pursuit paths and impede progress by testing balance.

Despite a fluid style more native to the UFC octagon than the NFL gridiron, Gaillard almost never gets flagged. Refs threw in on him just seven times for his career -- just two in 2018. While it’s fun to watch this kind of ragged, I’ll-gladly-escalate style of play, that style of play is necessitated by Gaillard’s athletic drawbacks.

He lacks power and twitch, and he isn't very agile. And I think that's why you should consider his freewheeling style a feature and not a bug. He eschews the very-much-there fundamentals in times of danger for the same reason that inferior armies took battles from open field into jungles. Gaillard is a guerrilla warfare player who draws raves for his leadership and intensity. I think he’ll out-play his draft slot at the next level. 

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’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!