In the post I did about the West Virginia center, I suggested that the best center prospect in the 2024 draft might not be a player who was a center in college. One such candidate is the left tackle for Washington, Troy Fautanu, who most boards list as a guard prospect. On PFF's big board, the top official interior OL prospect is ranked 56th. Meanwhile, Fautanu is ranked 41st and Graham Barton of Duke is 28th, so effectively those 2 guys are the real top IOL prospects in the draft, per PFF. I'd also throw in the huge Oregon State RT, Fuaga, because if he plays inside at G, he might be the best G prospect in the draft.
Fautanu might be the easiest prospect to grade that I've done this year. Some players, I really struggle with how to rank them. Fautanu was consistent in his pros and cons in the games I watched and once you see what my NFL player comparison for him is, I think it will be clear how I came up with his draft grade.
Name: Troy Fautanu. Turns 24 years old in October of 2024
School: Washington. Redshirt senior.
Size: Listed 6'4'' tall, 317 pounds.
3 star recruit from Nevada. Also was volleyball player in HS. Redshirted in 2019. Team only played 4 games in abbreviated 2020 season. Made 3 starts in 2021, one at LG. Had 13 starts in 2022, one at LG. Starting LT in 2023. Had dislocated shoulder in a game early in 2022. In interviews he's a grinder and humble, but not overly analytical, prefers to keep things simple and focus on playing fast and aggressive.
Josh Edwards (CBSSports) 129th overall (late 4th rd)
PFF board 41st overall
Drafttek 54th overall
PFN board 35th overall (their 3 analysts rank him 47th, 40th and 30th)
NFLMDD 59th overall
Steve Shoup 267th overall (this would be an UDFA, so I don't know if this is an oversight by Shoup or if he just really, really doesn't like this player.)
Buffalo Fambase 50th overall
His best trait is his foot quickness. Has fast hands and feet. I don't remember many NFL prospects who played volleyball in HS, but I think it shows in his hand eye coordination and hand speed. Punches in quick flurries. Quick feet will be valuable if DL fans out and tries to pass rush from wide splits, stressing the lateral pass blocking range of the OL.
Engages with a jolting, violent punch. Accurate punches. Quick out of stance from both 2 and 3 point stance.
Stays balanced in pass set. Good contact balance, keeps feet moving with proper base.
Physical help blocker. Ability to finish blocks and bury his opponent.
Natural athlete with quickness and change of direction ability in space. Adjusts well to moving targets. Able to turn his body in tight quarters. Very good body control at 2nd level and range on screen passes. Good agility as puller to navigate around traffic and line up target. Smooth at 2nd level, able to cut off LBs.
Arms are too short. Appears to have small hands. Defenders push or pull his arms down or away. Can be beaten by swim moves.
Weak grip strength. This is one of my biggest concerns with Fautanu as a prospect. He's a boxer, intent on punching, but unable to grab and control the opponent.
Gets stacked and shed by size and power. Longer opponents jolt him with initial punch, then can pull him down. Insufficient body mass, can get thrown off balance by club moves.
Not enough body mass to reliably anchor on run and pass blocks. Seal blocks can be broken. Doesn't have a wide frame or broad shoulders for short yardage and GL situations.
Average leg drive to displace DTs and move them off the LOS. Only average movement on combo blocks to push DTs down the LOS.
Can't play LT in the NFL. Unable to smoothly gain enough depth in kick slide. Had some very ugly reps trying to survive at LT in pass pro.
Tends to panic and have wild hand placements, which could lead to holding penalties. Doesn't play with discipline and control, reps can turn into street brawls full of punches, but not sustaining the block. Climbed to 2nd level, all he has to do is seal and grab the LB, but tries to punch him, the LB bounces off, pursues and tackles the RB.
Overreacts and opens himself up to countermoves in the opposite direction.
Had poor awareness to overload situation, didn't switch off properly to pick up DE.
I think his best position in the NFL would be center, but he never played that position in college and I don't know if he can snap. Had a couple of starts at guard, but mostly played at LT in college. Only played on the left side of the line.
About 2 years older than average draft prospect.
2nd round grade. (Connor Williams, 2nd round 2018, Dallas Cowboys, Texas)
Williams played LT at Texas. I wrote about him in that draft and suggested that if he didn't play LT, his 2nd best position would probably be at C. Williams was a solid, but not great guard for Dallas. Miami signed him in free agency and he had to learn to snap to become a center for them. He struggled with it and continues to sometimes have bad snaps. Over the last 2 seasons, however, Williams has been one of the best centers in the NFL.
In 2022, Williams had a 78.2 PFF grade. He has the 2nd most SIS points among centers, behind only Jason Kelce. This year, he had an injury and hasn't started all their games, but has an 86.4 PFF grade, making him the highest graded C in the NFL. The Dolphins do have a unique offense that maybe helps their OL pass block, but this doesn't explain the metrics, because Liam Eichenberg (a 2nd rd pick in 2021) filled in at C when Williams was injured, but Eichenberg only has a 45.3 PFF grade.
Fautanu isn't impressive as a LT and I question whether he even has enough effective length to be a great G in the pros, but he has very good traits that could translate to playing C. He has excellent foot and hand quickness and he has some strength as well, he's not one of those zone scheme only centers who are athletic, but have no power. So, I'm slotting him in where Connor Williams was taken, because if the 2 were in the same draft class, I think they would be on the same tier.