The Mother Lode
Division III center prospect Quinn Meinerz has become very popular both among Rams fans on TST and within the draft scouting community. Daniel Jeremiah (a former NFL scout) couldn't stop gushing at the Senior Bowl about how much he loves Meinerz. So, let's take a closer look at him.
Meinerz is in the midst of one of the strangest draft rises I can remember in recent years. Sports Illustrated ranks him as the best center in this draft. I think he's a better prospect than Will Hernandez, who was the 34th overall pick in 2018, which could make Meinerz a potential 1st round pick. The odd thing about this is Meinerz didn't even play center in college and didn't play at all in 2020. He also played at a considerably higher weight in 2019, before showing up at Mobile slimmed down. Much of the hype and momentum for Meinerz in this draft is based on 3 days worth of practices at the Senior Bowl (he didn't play in the game.) Talk about a small sample size. This "new and improved" version of Meinerz, playing a brand new position, we've never seen that player in a real, actual football game. If a tryout player showed up at rookie minicamp and looked great, would you immediately sign him to a $13 million contract?
If you break down his measurements and attributes, Meinerz arguably isn't really that much better as a prospect than Eric Kush, who was a 6th round draft pick by the Chiefs. Kush played at a Division II school, had a faster shuttle time and an identical 10 yard split time compared to Meinerz. Kush weighed less at the time, but he's currently listed at 317 pounds, about the same weight as Meinerz. He only started 1 game in 2 seasons for KC, before getting waived at the start of his 3rd year. The Rams were his 5th team. He got to show off his tank tops on Hard Knocks, but he didn't stick on the roster. He got injured the following year and has never established himself as an NFL starter. He is currently a free agent.
Lance Zierlein compares Meinerz to Ryan Jensen, the center for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Okay, but Jensen was a 6th round pick who didn't play a single offensive snap until his 3rd season (part of this was because he had undiagnosed sleep apnea his rookie season.) He was on the practice squad most of his 2nd season and didn't become a starter until breaking out in his 5th NFL season. You would never draft a player in the 1st round and try to stash him on the PS for 2 seasons. If I told you Meinerz would be good in 2025, would that make you super excited about using a 2nd round pick on him in 2021?
Though the Meinerz hype train might be getting a bit out of hand, I still think he's a very good prospect. When I read some of the scouting reports about him by draft experts, it feels to me like they have to work hard to try to come up with excuses not to rank him higher. One comment said Meinerz had feet that were quick, but not sudden. I don't even know what that means as applied to an offensive lineman. Lance Zierlein says he needs to improve his footwork into his block fits. Is that the best they can come up with? Like having a list of weaknesses for Tom Brady's wife, saying that her hair is too long.
6'3 1/4'' tall, 320 pounds, 33'' arms, 82'' wingspan, 10 1/4'' hands (Senior Bowl measurements)
Notice that he has a wide frame. Austin Corbett is 6'4 3/8'' tall (over an inch taller) with 33 1/8'' arms (virtually the same arm length), but only has a 78 7/8'' wingspan (basically 3 inches smaller).
4.86 sec (40 time), 1.73 sec (10 yard split), 32'' vert, 9'3'' broad, 4.47 sec (shuttle), 7.33 sec (3 cone)
Played at Wisconsin Whitewater (Division III school). He wouldn't be the first center from that school to be with the Rams. Nate Trewyn was an UDFA in 2019 who the Rams added to their PS in the middle of the 2019 season and retained on a future contract. The Rams waived him in July of 2020. Trewyn was the center playing next to Meinerz in 2018.
Name pronounced "miners". Junior in 2019. An article said he's 22 years old, but I haven't been able to independently verify this. First Team All American in 2019. Played 29 combined games in 2018 and 2019. One of 4 team captains in 2019. Was a semi-finalist for Campbell Trophy, had 3.28 GPA in physical education, did variety of volunteer work, including with Special Olympics.
Did football, track and wrestling in high school in a small town in Wisconsin. Was 5'9'' tall and 180 pounds as a high school freshman. Determined to make varsity, he showed up as a sophomore at 6'2'' tall and 260 pounds. Says that he weighed 315 when he left HS, though college listed him at 290 as frosh.
Nicknamed "The Gut" in high school for his famously rotund physique. His great uncle has a fishing camp in Ontario, Canada where Meinerz spends time working and fishing. He made a viral outdoor workout video up there, showing himself lifting wood, carrying around propane tanks and knocking trees to the ground, like a Rocky IV training montage. If I can change, you can change, everybody can change!
Says his weight was up to 335 pounds by end of 2019 season (team officially listed him at 320 that year.) Wasn't happy with his performance, felt that "The Gut" was out of control and hampering his play, so he dedicated himself to eating better and shedding weight. Showed up at the Senior Bowl weighing 320 pounds. Made a video of himself dunking a basketball. Also decided to learn the center position, trying on his own to learn how to snap the football. In March of 2020, did 30 bench reps in team testing drills, and had other testing numbers similar to his pro day scores.
His head coach says that in over 30 years of coaching, Meinerz "might be the most intrinsically motivated person I've ever known."
NFL scout compared him to Shaq Mason of the Patriots. Defenders at Senior Bowl told Jim Nagy that Meinerz was the strongest opponent they had ever faced. Has some viral highlights at the SB, including pancaking Osa Odighizuwa of UCLA on a run play.
Early on the 3rd day of practice, he broke a bone in his right hand below the ring finger. He finished practice, but couldn't play in the game. Instead of leaving town, he stayed and handed out water on the sideline during the game, which might say something about his football character and unselfish attitude.
Meinerz wasn't supposed to be at the SB, he was originally on a waiting list. Landon Dickerson got hurt and then Josh Myers had surgery for a turf toe injury, and a spot opened up for Meinerz. If it weren't for Josh Myers getting hurt, I wonder if Meinerz would only be a middle round prospect right now. A scout for The Draft Network did a report on him prior to the Senior Bowl, watching 5 of his games from 2019. He said Meinerz was a below average athlete, extremely raw, and maybe if he developed on the practice squad, towards the tail end of his rookie contract maybe he could earn a regular roster spot. Sounds more like a 6th round pick than a 1st rounder to me.
Very noticeably leaner and better balanced at the Senior Bowl compared to his final 2019 game. Previous version made me think of a St Bernard dog lugging around a barrel. He wasn't exaggerating when he said "The Gut" was out of control, that's exactly what the situation was, his huge belly was a problem.
Says he likes playing in a power scheme better, likes blocking on double teams and pulling. In interviews, he's humble, motivated, grounded, shows a good understanding of blocking fundamentals, solid football character.
ESPN 54th overall, 2nd guard (2nd round)
CBSSports 95th overall (late 3rd round, just behind Josh Myers at 94)
PFF 53rd overall, 2nd center (2nd round, ahead of Creed Humphrey at 70)
Tony Pauline (PFN) 78th, 6th guard (2nd to 3rd round grade.) In TP's profile, he says Meinerz is a Day 3 prospect who should go early in the 4th round. I wonder if maybe he he boosted Meinerz's ranking later, not sure exactly why the written text from the evaluation doesn't match the big board grade.
Sports Illustrated, the top center, 2nd round grade.
Drafttek 79th overall, 7th guard (3rd round, just ahead of Josh Myers at 80)
The Draft Network 105th overall, 7th interior OL (late 3rd to 4th round)
Daniel Jeremiah 44th on his top 50 board.
Bucky Brooks not one of the top 5 interior OL prospects.
Lance Zierlein 6.31 draft grade. 44th ranked prospect (just ahead of Tylan Wallace), 3rd interior OL. Other similarly graded OL by LZ last year included John Simpson 6.35 (4th round, pick 109), Robert Hunt 6.34 (2nd round, pick 39), Lloyd Cushenberry 6.32 (3rd round, pick 83) and Ezra Cleveland 6.29 (2nd round, pick 58).
None of those rookies were particularly impressive last year. Simpson had a 45.8 PFF grade, Hunt 65.8, Cushenberry 40.5 and Cleveland 66.2. PFF lists Jamon Brown's 2017 grade as 64.5. All of those rookies trailed Austin Blythe, Austin Corbett and David Edwards in PFF grades last season.
LZ likes his core strength, wide sturdy base, leg drive, punches in flurries. Says he leans forward a little too much and is average getting to 2nd level landmarks.
Daniel Jeremiah says he had balance issues in 2019 both run and pass blocking, but looked better at the Senior Bowl. Likes his athleticism to slide and mirror, unique ability to leverage and roll his hips on contact to uproot defenders in the run game, but says he comes with risk due to the jump in competition. DJ thinks he can develop into an elite starter.
PFN says he's explosive at the point, not naturally flexible as an athlete, top heavy, is a gap and power scheme lineman only who is not suited for a zone blocking team.
Todd McShay's recent mock draft has him going to Seattle at pick 56, one slot before the Rams are on the clock. If they really like this prospect, Rams fans might be left signing:
Oh draft darling, oh draft darling
Oh draft darling, Quinn Meinerz
You are lost and gone forever
Dreadful sorrow, Quinn Meinerz
Nasty and physical, finishes blocks with attitude. A DB's worst nightmare when they see him coming towards them at the 2nd level. One play, he drives the LB completely out of the TV picture, at least 10 yards downfield.
Very good pad level. Gets under DT at LOS, walks him backwards 2 yards.
Outstanding hip snap on solo block against DT, gets pads under DT, drives forward with legs.
Generates movement in short yardage situations. Drives out of stance after snap, keeps pads low, gets shoulder under defender. Mashes DT on down block. Runs legs through the defender on run blocks.
Fast runner with excellent range. Chipped DT, then at cruising speed easily covers 10 yards. After INT, athletic diving effort to try to make tackle. On screen pass, made a block 25 yards from the LOS. Able to make sharp turn while running at speed.
Skip pull monster. Shuffles to his right, lines up the LB, then absolutely destroys him, driving him back 6 yards.
Shocking acceleration relative to his size, very quick climber to 2nd level. On both wide and inside zone runs, he steps laterally, then sees the DE widen. He turns toward the LB to climb and explodes forward, hits the LB and drives him backwards. Good combo blocker.
Gets shoulder to chest of defender on zone runs, flashes some ability to get his hips around to seal. I don't agree with PFN when they say he can't play for a zone scheme team. While it might not be the best fit for him, I think he has enough athleticism to make zone blocks. His value maybe should be discounted by a team like the Rams, but I don't think they need to take him off their board or drastically drop him in his grade. Rob Havenstein isn't a good fit for a zone team either. It is kind of amazing that even though Hav has been a good player Rams, he'd probably be an even more effective lineman if he played for a different team where he'd have a better scheme fit.
Able to make 2 effective blocks in quick succession in a number of different contexts. Stays low, changes direction well. This is a good trait in terms of translating to the speed of the NFL game, it shows both physical athleticism, but also being able to process mentally quickly and play with anticipation.
Keeps feet wide on pass blocks. Heavy, outstanding anchor. Feet stay wide even when he's moving laterally to sustain pass block.
Good hand fighter, both hand speed, but also accuracy with hand eye coordination. Strong punch in pass protection. Solid grip strength. Disrupts pass rush moves with early hand wrestling.
Flashes excellent lateral foot quickness when pass blocking. Good lateral quickness and change of direction when helping in pass protection.
Aware to LB blitz while engaged with DT, nails the LB. Aware to twist, delivers powerful shove on 2nd defender as he comes around to the inside. Aware to twist by DTs, stands up the 2nd DT on pass block, gives up zero movement. While blocking the DT, sees that his LT is in trouble and tries to reach out with his arm to help block the DE. Aware to looping LB coming behind a DE.
Sneaky move where he shows his hands, then quickly pulls them back, getting the DT to extend his arms, then LG quickly reengages.
Looked quick in position drills at pro day. Flexibility in both upper and lower body, not a stiff athlete, despite strength and weight. Hopped sideways to dodge cut block.
Leadership skills and strong work ethic.
Solid arm length for center, though just average for a guard.
Position flexibility, can play both G and C.
New England Patriots fan.
Pretty shaky on several individual pass pro reps at the Senior Bowl. Beaten by a wide variety of moves that all attacked his outside shoulder. Once that happened, I felt that maybe he got a little nervous, because he overset and another time started to retreat and get happy feet. Natural to need to adjust to the higher level of competition, especially since he didn't play football during the 2020 season. Still, if he's already a bit stressed by Senior Bowl players, he's going to have some "welcome to the NFL, rookie" moments when he sees what guys like Aaron Donald can do. I like both the hands and feet of Meinerz, but he'll likely need some time to learn how to coordinate them properly. Could have some growing pains early on.
Balance problems in 2019 playing at heavier weight. Repeatedly pulled to ground by push pull moves. Out front on screen pass, when he tries to change directions to block the LB, he slips and falls down, then struggles to get back up on feet. Tries to get LB while engaged with DT, but as he reaches out he loses his balance and falls forward to the ground. Loses balance and stumbles forward on pass block. Gets taken to the ground on short yardage play. On ground too much. Defenders were able to use his momentum and body mass against him in 2019, especially if they were smarter about it. Like a BattleBots fight where the robot's primary weapon is so powerful that the kinetic energy can be harnessed to cause it to destroy itself. Balance issues not entirely gone, got ripped to the ground down at the Senior Bowl one rep. Are we really going to assume that he's fixed his balance issues based on just a few days of practice? Daniel Jeremiah might think so, but he's not the person who could get fired if Meinerz flops in the NFL. It is easier to say that when you aren't putting your own neck on the line for the player.
Struggles to remain centered on the defender. Can be too aggressive and eager to deliver knockout blow. Hits LB with power, but his hands are not placed inside to the chest, allowing the LB to bounce off the block and shed it. Pushing DT backwards, but the DT throws him off balance to the side. Driving DT off the LOS, but he's not square and the DT is able to turn him, and the LG ends up behind the DT while grabbing his jersey, which is borderline holding. I love powerful, physical linemen, but you also have to play under control and with technique. The defender isn't just going to stand still like a blocking sled and let you drive him. Unless it is Cory Littleton, they move to the side and use their arms to try to disengage. He's not going to be able to just unload on guys like he did at the Division III level, he'll end up falling off of blocks.
Doesn't always scan and see danger behind him as helper in pass protection. On screen pass, looks like he's holding the LB.
Considered to be a better fit for gap and power scheme teams, not a fit for a zone blocking team like the Rams.
Is it a weakness that I can't list more weaknesses? There isn't much video to watch and it was at such a low level of competition, there could be additional weaknesses that are "unknown" at this point, because we don't have enough information. Meinerz could be Jahri Evans (4th round pick 2006 from a Div II school) and be great immediately as a rookie or he could get to training camp and the coaches realize he's going to take more time to develop than they thought.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Brian Winters (3rd round 2013, 72nd overall, Jets, Kent State.) 2nd round grade.
Winters played LT and RT in college. He was 6'3 5/8'' tall, 320 pounds, 32.75'' arms, 77.25'' wingspan, so overall similar in size to Meinerz. Winters was a nasty, physical blocker and showed quick feet pass blocking as a tackle. I like Meinerz better than Winters as a prospect, but overall they are comparable.
Winters had an ankle injury in training camp as a rookie, but went on to start 12 games that season at LG. He graded as one of the worst guards in the NFL, 77th out of 81 and was equally poor in the run and the pass. He surrendered 10 sacks and 15 hurries, a pace of 13 sacks if he had played all 16 games. The entire Rams team in 2020 only gave up 25 sacks.
Winters wasn't any better his 2nd year, then tore his ACL that season. The following offseason, the Jets cross trained him as a backup center (Nick Mangold's final year would be 2016). He finally broke out his 4th NFL season starting at RG. This was the only year of his career that he had a PFF grade of at least 70. He ranked 29th out of 72 guards.
The Jets were so pleased, they signed him to a 4 year contract, giving him the 9th highest guard salary in the NFL. He got injured very early the following season and struggled. Last season, Winters had a 54.6 PFF grade playing for the Bills. Arizona recently signed him to a vet minimum contract. He also qualifies under a CBA provision that discounts the salary cap charge, making him cheaper to the team for cap purposes than his actual salary.
If Winters hadn't had so many injuries in his career, maybe he would have developed into a good NFL starting guard. He's played through injury and been on the field when he was far less than 100%. He's been a "what might have been" player, and only had that one good season. Other than that, mostly average performance and frustration.
When Matthew Stafford was starting his career with the Lions, he had a veteran center on the team named Dominic Raiola, a former 2nd round pick in 2001. Raiola played his entire 14 year career with Detroit. When Stafford was a rookie, PFF graded Raiola as the 13th best center in the league. In Stafford's 5th season, PFF graded Raiola as the 2nd best center in the NFL and said he gave up zero sacks that season. Raiola and Meinerz had similar testing numbers, but Raiola was an undersized center, shorter and lighter compared to other NFL pivots.
Sometimes, you have to go with your gut and what better prospect to apply that method to than "The Gut"? I didn't know much about Ali Marpet either, but I still liked him enough to have him graded higher than Rob Havenstein. I had Hav mocked to the Rams that year as a 3rd round pick. Hav was pick 57 overall, while Marpet was pick 61. The Rams maybe made the right move, because a tackle is generally more important than a guard, but Marpet is really good. He had an 86.7 PFF grade last season. Everyone wants to talk about Tom Brady, but Marpet is one example of the strong supporting cast around Brady in Tampa. Marpet has played both guard and center. He's one of the best interior linemen in the league. Like Meinerz, Marpet played at a Div. III school. His annual salary is nearly $11 million.
My gut says Quinn Meinerz will be a good NFL player. Might not be right away, but his physical tools are very good and he has the right intangibles. He has Pro Bowl level potential. He should be graded similarly to Ali Marpet and I think he would be a solid pick if still available to the Rams at 57.
When Quinn Meinerz gets here, everybody's gonna jump for joy
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing, like the mighty Quinn