Do you want the Rams to draft a center this year? Who would be your top choice for the Rams? Perhaps it is the reliable and steady Luke Fortner? Could it be the Senior Bowl human doorstop, the pass blocking machine that is Dylan Parham? Maybe the powerful, but raw Cam Jurgens? Perhaps Alec Lindstrom with his NFL family ties?
Admittedly, I haven't studied every possible center draft prospect in this class (is that even humanly possible?), but a player caught my attention who is a very underrated option for zone blocking teams. He's Zach Tom, the OL from Wake Forest.
Tom hasn't escaped the attention from Lance Zierlein, who has a 6.10 draft grade on him as a center prospect. LZ likes his pass blocking, technique, body control and intelligence, but says that lacks aggression and size, is susceptible to push pull moves and has a questionable anchor. I agree with LZ's evaluation, it is consistent with what I see on tape.
This is how Tom's draft grade compares to centers from recent drafts:
Michal Menet 6.16 (7th rd 2021). Waived as a rookie, now on a futures contract with the Packers.
Nick Harris 6.12 (5th rd 2020)
Zach Tom 6.10
Keith Ismael 6.10 (5th rd 2020). He had to start some games last season when Washington lost their starting C to injury and PFF gave him a 64.9 grade, ranking 19th out of 39 centers.
Mason Cole 6.10 (3rd 2018); Max Tuerk 6.10 (3rd 2016); Graham Glasgow 6.10 (3rd 2016)
Drew Dalman 5.88 (4th rd 2021)
Several major draft boards don't have Tom ranked at C, they have him listed as an OT in the 7th round to UDFA territory. ESPN has him listed as a G in about the late 5th round. Tony Pauline projects him as a center in the 5th to 6th round.
Brian Bosarge of DraftCountdown appears to be the only other expert I looked at with a Day 2 ranking on Tom. He has him as the 98th overall prospect (late 3rd round) at the center position.
Turns 23 years old later this month. Spent 5 years at WF, got business degree in 2021 and was an MBA student. Graduated with 3.76 GPA, received numerous academic awards. 3 star recruit, did shot put in HS.
Played center early in career at WF through the 2019 season. PFF said that he didn't allow a single sack up to that point in his career and in the 2019 season playing at center he didn't commit a single penalty.
In 2020 and 2021 he played at LT. PFF graded him as the best pass blocking offensive lineman in FBS. He was a 2nd team All American in 2021. Started every game for WF from 2019 through 2021.
6'4'' tall, 304 pounds, 33 1/4'' arms, 10 3/8'' hands. Was listed by WF at 6'5'' and 295 pounds.
4.94 sec (40 time), 33'' vert jump, 9'10'' broad jump, 4.47 sec (shuttle), 7.32 sec (3 cone)
Those are excellent testing results. Let's compare them to the numbers for Garrett Bradbury, an athletic, but undersized zone scheme center who was a 1st round draft pick.
Bradbury: 6'2 7/8'' tall, 306 pounds, 31 3/4'' arms, 10 1/2'' hands
4.92 sec (40 time), 31'' vert jump, 8'8'' broad jump, 4.53 sec (shuttle), 7.41 sec (3 cone)
Tom has the edge against Bradbury. More length and at least as much if not a bit better athleticism.
I think Tom is a better prospect than Keith Ismael and Nick Harris. Drew Dalman was very intelligent (engineering student at Stanford), but if they were in the same draft I'd take Tom over Dalman.
Tom played in a gimmicky RPO based college offense, so I don't necessarily take PFF's pass blocking grade literally, but he is overall a good pass blocker. He has lightning quick feet and a wide stance. His ability to shuffle back and forth to mirror and recover while staying balanced makes it difficult for defenders to get around him. He battles hard to sustain and defend the blocking angle on both run and pass plays. Bursts out of his stance quickly, shows very good awareness.
As a prototypical zone scheme center, He lacks body mass and has a smaller frame. Struggles to anchor, he's going to get driven backwards by more powerful NFL defensive linemen. As LZ pointed out, he fairly frequently gets caught losing his balance and tipping forward, either because the defender pulls him down or because he falls for a pass rush move and lunges forward. He has little lower leg drive and power, his run blocking ability is going to have to be based on his mobility and quickness.
His high intelligence is one of the traits that makes him a good pro prospect at center. He also should have some position versatility for a ZBS team. While C is likely going to be his primary position, his arms are long enough that he could probably backup the G spot and even perhaps be an emergency OT if a team gets decimated by injuries along their OL.
I'm going to give Tom a 4th round draft grade. If he's available for the Rams on Day 3, Zach Tom from Wake Forest could be a sneaky good pick.