With Short Arms Wide Open
"If I could make the Earth and my dreams the same. The only difference is to let love replace all our hate." Creed, Higher.
A very recent CBSSports mock draft has the Rams taking Oklahoma center, Creed Humphrey, in the 2nd round at pick 57. After Humphrey's stunning Pro Day workout where he posted fantastic testing scores, it is very possible that he won't still be on the board at that point. He might even be a 1st round pick.
On the other hand, maybe slot 57 is too high for Humphrey. I found Humphrey to be a very challenging player to evaluate and grade. Some prospects, and centers in particular, feel like they are straightforward and easy to figure out. Not so with Humphrey. I watched video on him from all 3 seasons he played at OU. I watched clips of him at his Pro Day and from Senior Bowl week. Even after all of that, Creed Humphrey is still an enigma to me. I can't tell if he's going to be a multiple All Pro NFL center or if he's an overrated prospect who is about to get exposed in the pros. Instead of his great workout scores settling this debate, they only make things more confusing.
One of the first things that jumps out about Humphrey is that he has abnormally short arms relative to his size. He's nearly 6'5'' tall, big (312 pounds) and has a wide frame (his wingspan is 79.5'', which is better than Austin Corbett at 78 7/8''.) Humphrey's arms, however, are only 31.75'' long (Corbett has 33 1/8'' arms.) He doesn't have T-Rex arm length like Austin Blythe (30.25'' arms), but Blythe is a small player. Shorty Rams center Brian Allen is 6'1'' tall, but his 32.75'' arms are a full inch longer than Humphrey's. Just another way that Humphrey is a very odd prospect.
A typical arm length for an NFL center is about 33 inches long. Not many good centers have arms shorter than 32 inches. There are a few. Nick Mangold (barely under 32 inches) is an example of a great one. John Sullivan has 31.5 inch arms. Sully was a 6th round pick and early on in his career, some people thought that Sully was a bad starter who wasn't going to make it.
Tony Pauline of PFN says Nick Mangold is the best pro comparison for Humphrey. We'll revisit this a bit later.
6 foot 4 5/8 inches tall, 312 pounds, 31.75'' arms, 79.5'' wingspan, 9 5/8'' hands (Senior Bowl measurements)
Humphrey smashed it at his Pro Day workout, posting fantastic testing numbers.
5.09 sec (40 time), 33'' vert jump, 4.46 sec (shuttle), 7.54 sec (3 cone), 29 bench reps, 9'4'' broad jump.
Team Captain in 2019 and 2020.
PFF WAR stat ranked him as 3rd best college center in 2020, behind Landon Dickerson (Alabama) and Drake Jackson (Kentucky).
Did not allow a single sack in 2019 and 2020.
37 career starts in 3 years. 11 starts in 2020, 14 starts in 2019.
Snaps the ball left handed.
Academic all conference. Finance major.
Was an excellent wrestler in high school. His dad also was a very good college wrestler. 4 star recruit. From Shawnee, OK. Jim Thorpe and Brad Pitt both were born in Shawnee.
Doesn't know why his parents named him Creed. There was a band popular in the late 90's called Creed. Carl Weathers, who played Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies, played football for the Oakland Raiders and in the CFL. He was an UDFA linebacker. One of the characters in the sitcom, The Office, was named Creed.
Surgery on hand, sat out Spring 2019 practices.
Lance Zierlein gave him a 6.24 draft grade and compared him to Ben Jones. LZ likes his intangibles, leadership and core strength. Doesn't like his below average length and average athleticism. Called him a positional blocker who didn't generate movement in the run game and said he was more of a steady player than a star.
Tony Pauline (PFN) called him a dynamic zone blocking center, fundamentally sound, wide base, knee bender, good range with outstanding vision. Said Humphrey wasn't strong at the point of attack and didn't generate movement as a run blocker. Noted his great weight room strength in the bench press and squat.
TDN said that he was a man, gap and power scheme center (notice this is 100% the opposite of PFN calling him a zone blocking center.) I understand the confusion. I don't know what Humphrey is scheme wise either.
Describing himself in 2019, Humphrey said "I'm a natural born leader." In interviews, he comes across as humble and understated, gives intelligent and thought out answers to questions. He physically looks like a cross between Ben Jones, the Titans center, and the comedic actor John C. Reilly ("Step Brothers" and "Wreck It Ralph".) Likeable personality who should fit in very well in OL meeting room and be a positive influence to make the unit more cohesive.
Technical and Aggressive
Maintains a low center of gravity. For a taller center, he stays low and doesn't play tall. "Dancing bear" who waltzes with defenders and is difficult to knock off balance.
Balanced stance with feet wide. Good contact balance. Only a few plays did he get thrown or knocked to the ground, pretty rare. Some games he wasn't on the ground at all. Almost always finishes the play on his feet. More common for his opponent to be on the ground than for him to end up on the ground.
Good hand placements. Sound technique. If his hands get knocked off, he replaces them quickly and accurately. Wrestling background shows, he has good feel for hand fighting, skilled grappler.
Can generate some torque and throw defenders off balance or to the ground. Finishes blocks with aggression and attitude, pushing defenders down or belly flopping on them if they are on the ground. Grabbed DT and tossed him to his knees on the ground. Grabbed a blitzing LB and slammed him to the ground.
Gets hands up and engages quickly after snap. Can slide quickly sideways after snap to engage.
Sustains seal blocks on runs by quickly shuffling sideways to maintain blocking angle.
Good Pass Blocker
Controls blocks by getting his hands inside and grabbing the defender near the shoulder pad.
Stays balanced in pass pro, doesn't overreact. Able to stop counter moves. Keeps himself between the defender and the QB. Good lateral foot quickness to recover and sustain blocks.
Understands how to anchor to slow down the bull rush.
Very good football IQ. Can make protection calls and audibles. Very experienced starter. Good intangibles.
The LB mugging him drops back into coverage. He knows the LG will block the DT. The C quickly sees the other LB on a B gap blitz on the other side of the LG and knows that the LT has to block a different defender to the outside. He smoothly slides past the LG to pick up this blitz. This is a good mental play, showing that Humphrey has a strong grasp of the protection plan. The LT messes it up, because he tries to block the same LB instead of blocking the DE, causing a sack, but that's not the center's fault.
Very good timing against basic twists. Repeatedly, he sees the twist, stays patient on the 1st DT to give his guard more time, instead of passing it off to quickly before the G is ready, then switches off smoothly to pick up the 2nd DT. Rock solid job against most twists and basic games by the DL.
Smart adjustment when the DL slanted on run play. He immediately adjusted, passed off the DT and blocked the DE instead.
He's blocking the NT and there is a potential LB cross blitz behind it. He protects the A gap, helping his RG, while eyeing the 2nd LB. When he sees that the LB is going out to cover the RB in the flat, his head turns back the other way to look for more work.
Very aware to LB blitzes into A gap on both pass and run downs, while engaged with the DT. Does a good job picking them up to prevent or minimize penetration into the pocket or backfield. Sometimes blocks 2 defenders simultaneously to protect the middle of the line. Excellent timing when engaged with DT to come off the block and pick off run blitzing LBs.
Not fooled when LB pretended to pass rush, stayed patient and turned his head, ready and in position to block his secondary assignment.
Scans and helps his guards. Aware to looper from outside, picks up the DE. Saw his LB drop back into coverage, turned his head to make sure there wasn't a twist coming, then when he recognized it was clear turned his head back the other way. I liked this play, because it demonstrated his ability to sort through in his head the proper progression and reaction to each key.
On some of their gap runs, he had to block both the DT and a backside crashing DE or OLB. He did a great job making himself wide to "block the doorway" and sometimes blocked 2 defenders simultaneously to stop backside pursuit.
High floor. I'd be surprised if Humphrey turns out to be a massive draft bust. On paper, seems like at a minimum he should be a starting center in the NFL. Probably could be a day one starter as a rookie. Not a raw player or a project. He's experienced and technically advanced enough to be able to play immediately.
Potential developmental upside. If Humphrey is more athletic and explosive than we thought, then maybe what happened was Oklahoma's gap run heavy and RPO based offense didn't properly use his talent and was holding him back. Maybe they had him block in a phone booth too often and didn't give him a chance to become more proficient at zone blocking techniques, because he didn't get enough experience doing those types of things. Once he gets into the NFL, he might make a substantial jump in improvement.
The Pro Day numbers say that he's a great athlete. It is confusing, because for the most part the games don't reflect this athleticism. Seemed like he moved better and was quicker in some games compared to others. Several games, he looked very average as an athlete, both in terms of mobility and in play strength. Hard to tell exactly, because OU's offensive scheme had a bunch of plays where he didn't have to move very far.
One thing that concerns me about the PD workout is the reports describe Humphrey as being 302 pounds. I haven't been able to verify if that is based on an actual weigh in or where that number comes from. If accurate, that is 10 pounds less than he was at the Senior Bowl (312 pounds) and it is nearly 20 pounds less than his listed playing weight of 320 pounds. At the PD press conference, Lincoln Riley noted that Humphrey had slimmed down.
Did Humphrey intentionally lose weight just to do the testing drills better? Brian Allen of the Rams is currently listed at 303 pounds, so if Humphrey is at 302, he actually weighs less than Allen right now. Can Humphrey play with strength on the field at 302 pounds? Or, would he look like Brian Allen (maybe worse, since he's taller with shorter arms)? If he has to bulk back up and add 15 more pounds to get back to "normal", does this partly explain why the Pro Day numbers don't match the game tape?
Too slow, not agile enough. Slow on both short and long pulls. Not able to get out on screens quickly or adjust to defenders in space well. Was unable to get out wide on screen to make his assigned block. Stumbled trying to pull, not natural and fluid in transitions when changing from going forward, backward and sideways. Tries to fold around guard, but too slow and not able to build up enough momentum to effectively block the LB.
A common picture on a large number of plays was Humphrey standing at the 2nd level, with has arm extended out to his side, while the LB went around him to get involved in the tackle. Not able to climb quickly up to the LB. Doesn't have great change of direction and small area agility to mirror the LB and make the block. Sometimes grabs LBs when he's out of position for block and leaves himself vulnerable to potential holding penalties. Behind LB on screen pass, unable to make block, then grabs the LB from behind around the collar. Not able to block spy LB in space, allowed him to tackle the QB.
Not a good combo blocker. Too slow or gets caught up on DL, unable to climb or too late to climb up to the LB. Other times, he engages, but he doesn't have enough strength and power into the block and doesn't make an effective block on the LB. Weakly caught the LB instead of hitting him. A couple times he stumbles or isn't balanced and can't get square to the LB. Mediocre combo blocks result in the LB tackling the RB. Repeatedly missed the LB, because he was too slow on combo block. Doesn't generate much movement on the 1st block of the combo.
Bad Wide Zone Blocker
This is a big issue if the Rams draft him, because McVay uses a scheme based on wide zone running plays. The center position is very important on these types of runs.
Had some big struggles blocking on outside zone running plays. DT gets into his chest, overpowers him and drives him 3 yards backwards, into the path of the RB. DT pushes him backwards and C struggles to seal, the run works, but only because the outside edge is wide open. In a typical NFL wide zone run, this type of penetration would disrupt the run, because the C would have been pushed into the frontside gap, while the defender is controlling the leverage to the backside if the RB tried to cut back.
Not fast and quick enough to climb diagonally on outside zone run to block the LB, then awkwardly grabs the LB across the chest as the LB tackles the RB. Late climbing, can't get to block.
Several other outside zone runs, again pushed 2 yards backwards off the LOS. Pushed 3 yards off the LOS and shed on zone run. Pushed back 2 yards, overpowered and shed, then RB stuffed. NT overpowers him, then forces the RB to bounce out wide. Beaten by NT on zone run, stumbled and went to ground on knees.
Again, big penetration on zone run. Able to seal his guy to prevent TFL, but it messes up the angle for the RB and makes it easy for the other defenders to tackle him and stop the play. NT throws him off balance on zone run, then knocks him to the ground. Another time, NT swims over him and beats him on zone play. Against DE, struggles to make seal block against power and length of defender. Wide zone and instead of flowing wide, the DE slants into him, then stacks and sheds him.
Repeatedly tried to make reach blocks on outside zone runs, but failed to get his hips around to successfully seal off the defender.
At first, I wondered if this was only a problem in 2020, but even going back to 2018 games, this still was a problem fro Humphrey. I wondered if Humphrey had some type of injury, but I wasn't able to find any info saying he wasn't at full health.
I don't get it. The testing numbers say Humphrey should be plenty athletic enough to be a good zone blocker, but he's doesn't demonstrate it in the games.
Maybe someone who knows much more about offensive line play could tell me if there is some flaw in his technique or a footwork issue or why exactly he struggles blocking wide zone runs, but this is a big issue if he's going to play for the Rams. If he is a better fit for power scheme, gap runs and inside zone, then maybe Humphrey simply doesn't fit the Rams offense. He could be great for a different NFL team, but not good as a Ram.
Short Arms and Underpowered
Arms sometimes too short to prevent DTs from getting into his pads or pushing away his arms. Bigger and stronger defenders can throw him off to the side and disengage. One DT was able to get a "reversal" against him. Humphrey tried to throw the DT to the ground, but the DT grabbed a hold of Humphrey and used the momentum to sling shot throw Humphrey down to the ground instead.
If he misses his initial grasp, he can be beaten instantly. Trying to seal on a gap run, the DT shoves him off and he can't grab on, allowing the DT to get to the inside of the block. LBs can beat him in joust situations, knocking him off immediately and tackling the RB.
Against bull rush, his feet too got wide on one play trying to anchor, then his foot slipped. This led to him getting completely run over as he fell straight backwards onto his rear.
Beaten by some push pull moves. Other times, he wobbles and is trouble but able to recover and stay attached against the pull. Probably wrestler in him again, he's able to grab on, move his feet and not fall down, saving block.
Defender doesn't even need to push him first, then can also cause him trouble just by quickly pulling him down. Also can push the outside of his arm, then attack his edge, trying to get around him before he can grab them.
Thrown off balance by push pull in pass protection. Almost lost to swim move. Some plays where he gets jostled off balance, he either gets saved by another blocker or the play is over so quickly, it doesn't make any difference. Hard to tell if Humphrey knows it is a quick pass or run and he doesn't have to sustain for very long, or if he just got lucky that he didn't have to block solo for longer.
Even if he's in good shape at first, sometimes the DT can push his arms up (like a roller coaster harness) and disengage from the block late.
G passes DT off to him, and he's not able to prepare quickly. Able to grab the jersey of DT near shoulder pad and pull the DT back towards him to gain control of block, otherwise he looked like he might have been in trouble.
Not powerful, doesn't create movement in short yardage situations. Rarely did he drive defenders on double team or solo blocks. There was one block where he looked very good working a double team, good hip snap, got pads under the DT and got a great push. A few times, he pushed guys down or backwards. But, the vast majority of the time he wasn't asked to and didn't move defenders out of gaps or push them backwards. His job was primarily just to get in the way and seal them off from the play.
Struggles to hold space at the front of the pocket against bull rushes. He anchors well enough to avoid getting beaten, but he gets pushed backwards, 5 to 7 yards off of the LOS. In their scheme, this normally didn't matter at all, but in an NFL offense where the QB has to climb forward into a more condensed pocket, this could be a substantial problem. Sometimes saved from giving up more space when a G or the RB comes over to help him. What is a typical depth for a QB's drop, maybe 8 yards? If your center gets driven too far back, there is no room for the QB to step up. He's just going to get sacked by the edge rusher or he's going to run smack into the back of his center if he tries to move forward. There was a play last year where Goff steps up away from pressure and his left foot steps on the back of his guard's foot (I think it was Corbett), messing up the throw. That is what can happen if the interior OL is 6 inches too far back. Imagine what happens if they are pushed 2 to 3 yards too far backwards. We don't have to imagine, we could just watch some 2019 Rams games to see what it looks like (on the play where Brian Allen gets injured against the Steelers, he ends up on his knees on the ground 9 yards behind the LOS.)
Susceptible to giving up secondary pass rush, because as he tries to sustain pass blocks, sometimes his arms will slip off the defender or they will push his arms off of the block.
Very Good, but Not Elite Awareness
Not aware to looper, late to see it. Lucky there wasn't a LB blitz added and RB was available to help, otherwise likely would have resulted in sack. Late reacting to T-E twist, barely able to recover and save block. Burned by a twist when he never picks up the DE. Got surprised by twist and the first DT drove him 9 yards backwards. There was a complicated blitz one play where the C had to track 3 different LBs and Humphrey appeared to get surprised, reacted late and wasn't able to help the G in time.
Ducks his head on some 2nd level blocks, so that the crown of his helmet is pointed down like he's bowing. I don't like this. It could lead to a concussion from a helmet to helmet blow. Plus, since his eyes are pointed down at the ground, he's vulnerable to a variety of moves by the LB, such as swim moves or pulling the chair out where they could try to take advantage of him ducking his head forward.
Gap scheme plays by OU involved him making many very simple blocks where he just had to momentarily seal off the defender on the backside of a run going away from him. RPO plays also minimized the number of times he had to sustain traditional pass blocking sets for much time.
Virtually all of his snaps were shotgun or pistol formations.
Occasionally, a few snaps would go slightly off target. Some high, a few low, a couple off to the side. None were so bad that they flew over the QB's head or bounced way short, but sometimes they slightly threw off the timing of the play or caused the QB to drop the snap. In the NFL, an off target snap can also cause the QB to drop his eyes and look at the ball instead of immediately starting to read the defensive coverage. Like most centers, a couple of his bad snaps were because he had to move far after the snap and he was thinking more about getting his body going out of his stance and lost focus on making sure the snap was on target.
Ceiling could be limited. Some experts, including Jim Mora Jr. (former UCLA and Falcons coach) have said that while Humphrey is a very good prospect and should be a reliable pro, he might never become a star. Mora said that Humphrey lacks length and is susceptible to a bull rush. Granted, draft experts said that Marshal Yanda was a low ceiling prospect. Yanda turned out to be probably the best guard of his generation and likely will be a HOFer someday. But, is it worth drafting a center early if he only turns out to be an average starter?
Pro Comparison and Grade
Nick Martin (2nd round 2016, 50th overall selection, Texans, Notre Dame.) 3rd round grade.
Lance Zierlein compared Humphrey to Ben Jones (early 4th round 2012 Texans, Georgia.) Based on the games, I think this is a fair comparison. I don't know whether to continue with it, because if you go by the Pro Day numbers, the better comps could be Nick Mangold of the Jets (1st round in 2006, Ohio State) or Ryan Kalil of the Carolina Panthers (2nd round, pick 47, 2007 Carolina, USC.) Both Mangold and Kalil were multiple time All Pro centers. Combined, they made a dozen Pro Bowls.
Jones was an underrated player when he was with the Texans. He played some guard, then did a great job as the starting center in 2015, his 4th pro season. The Titans signed him as a free agent in 2016 on a 4 year $17.5 million contract ($4.375 mill salary), then extended him in 2019. He has a $7.25 mill cap hit for 2021. Last year, Ben Jones had a 78.6 PFF grade and was the 5th highest ranked center in the NFL.
Tale of the tape comparing Humphrey to Kalil and Mangold:
Height: 6'5'' (Humphrey) vs 6'3'' (Kalil) vs 6'4'' (Mangold)
Weight: 312 vs 299 vs 300
Arms: 31.75 inches vs 31.5 inches vs 31 7/8 inches
40 time: 5.09 vs 4.98 vs 5.09
Vert jump: 33 inches vs 26 inches vs 27.5 inches
Bench reps: 29 reps vs 34 reps vs 24 reps
Broad: 9'4'' vs 9'8'' vs 9'8''
Shuttle: 4.46 vs 4.34 vs 4.36
3 cone: 7.54 vs 7.50 vs 7.47
I decided to use as a comp the center Houston drafted in 2016 to replace Ben Jones. The Texans were pleased enough with Martin to sign him to a 3 year $33 million contract in 2019 ($11 mill salary), but they recently waived him to save cap space.
I think it is reasonable for Pauline to say that Humphrey is the next Nick Mangold. I think it is just as reasonable for Zierlein to say that Humphrey is more comparable to Ben Jones. I don't think either of those evaluations are "wrong". All 4 of these centers, Kalil, Mangold, Jones and Martin were successful in the NFL. They all became at least solid starters. None of them were busts.
The reason I don't have Humphrey graded higher is I couldn't tell you what he's "great" at. He's not super powerful like Travis Frederick. He's not a true prototypical "big center" like Ryan Kelly or Frank Ragnow. He's not super quick like Jason Kelce. He's neither an elite pass blocker nor a superb run blocker. My concern is that 4 years down the road, his team might think he's "okay", but wonder if it is worth the money to sign him to a 2nd contract.
One of the best centers in the league right now is JC Tretter of the Browns. I really liked him in that draft as a OT from Cornell. He was a 4th round pick in 2013. PFF ranked him as the 2nd best center last season. It is kind of crazy (or lucky) that the Packers at one point had both Linsley (5th round 2014) and Tretter and neither of them were drafted in the first 3 rounds.
Tretter arguably is the better prospect compared to Creed Humphrey. He was 6'4'' tall, 307 pounds, 33 3/8'' arms, 5.09 sec (40 time), 29.5'' vert, 4.69 sec (shuttle), 29 bench reps. Beyond just the measurables, Tretter was lighter on his feet and a more naturally athletic mover on the field compared to Humphrey.
I'm not high enough on Humphrey to treat him like the next Nick Mangold in the draft. He's a very good player, but I'm not convinced that he's a special player.