You're probably thinking - centers! Yes, finally a position we can talk about that the Rams need. Tim Barnes is a journeyman backup, playing admirably but not someone that should really be relied upon as a future star. Demetrius Rhaney beat up Barrett Jones, which is like winning a participation trophy in JV cheerleading.
Suffice to say, the outlook at center doesn't inspire confidence.
That's where the draft comes in. Centers are about the bottom of the barrel when it comes to positional value, so there are normally options even into day three that could potentially be starters. Enter Kyle Friend.
Friend is an All-AAC first team player with 33 consecutive starts under his belt, was a stalwart on the Owls' line and became a team captain his sophomore year. Likely to be a workout warrior (sub 5.00 40 time and 40+ bench reps) at the combine, he's a late day three pick. Does he have the potential in the NFL? Let's examine.
Friend is an active offensive lineman. He's quick out of stance to fight off the initial 'pop' and displays a wide base with active hands. Here's a good play against Austin Johnson of Penn State (a fringe 1st rounder in the draft) to demonstrate:
You can see the speed off the snap. Friend initially is able to stop Johnson by using his arms to keep him away, but Johnson is able to then get on the inside and drive him back. Friend does a good job of trying to reset and is aggressive enough to dig in and try to out-leverage Johnson.
Here is another example with a better angle, this time in the game against Houston:
This is a good play showing his technique. He's quick out of his stance, displays a wide base and has functional enough footwork for a center.
One of the things Friend struggles with is blocking when he is given a wide zone. He's physically quick enough, but he doesn't always position himself correctly to make the block when a rusher is on either side.
Most centers have issues with interior speed (it's why Aaron Donald is so successful), so it's something that he'll need to work on to become a better prospect.
Friend does a great job as a run blocker. He's athletic and aware enough to be able to play in a zone scheme, but he doesn't display the most functional lateral movement. Still - he's a center. Think phone booth. He's good at driving blocks - he is the type of lineman who will try and run through you:
Here is another example, but this time he goes to the second level:
The thing that stands out here is how comfortable he is in wide open space. He keeps himself square, doesn't lunge, and is able to lock on and drive his defender back nearly ten yards.
Overall, there is a lot to like about Friend. He has the measurables and the experience. His tape shows a decent center prospect who needs to improve the finer points of his game (working on his footwork and keeping his hands aggressive during a block), but one that shows plenty of promise.
His athleticism, strength and experience make him an excellent prospect in the third day of the draft.