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Profiling the 2023 draft prospects at center

Should the Rams draft a pivot? They have two on contract

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Minnesota v Maryland
John Michael Schmitz points to the 2023 NFL draft
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

There is much talk about the Los Angeles Rams drafting an offensive lineman with, at least, one of their first two picks. Fans would love an interior lineman, particularly a center. Here on Turf Show Times, a case for John Michael Schmitz was recently made. But should L.A. really use their top pick on a pivot?

Both current Rams centers, Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton, are under contract for 2023. And yes, financial matters do have a large say in things. Any move to get rid of Allen (cut or trade) before June 1, would cost the Rams more in dead money than they would accrue in cap savings. Although Shelton could be moved on from easily and save a tad over $2 mil cap space, he offers dual position versatility as a backup and has logged 15 starts over the last two years.

Over the past 10 years, 79 centers have been drafted, basically eight per year, with 17 of those in the first two rounds. Interestingly, 13 of those have been chosen in the Sean McVay years (since 2017). On my board, I have nine centers with draftable grades. With further research others could possibly be added, but as it stands now, here are the top centers in the draft. Maybe the Rams won’t have to use their top pick.

As I see it, there are four distinct tiers of talent levels. The monetary amounts are rookie salary cap numbers, according to, for the corresponding rounds.

Tier #1-Rounds 2 ( $1,727,696 ) & 3 ( $1,056,419)

Pick #36 of Round 2 is probably a little rich for all three, certainly for Oluwatimi and Wypler. Schmitz had a very good Senior Bowl week and is the top prospect in a center talent pool that has no real difference maker. What price should you put on the top center in a thin draft? A simple physical comparison to Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton reveals all three prospects show only a small upgrade in height, mass, or length, so the Rams won’t be getting a road grader out of this tier. The Rams took Allen at #111 of the of the 4th round and Shelton was an undrafted free agent.

John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota - 6’ 3 1/4” / 306 lbs. / 9 5/8” hands / 32 3/4” arms / 78 7/8” wingspan at Senior Bowl

Very durable, became a starter in 2020 and finished with 31 straight. Nice build for a center, compact with a stout bottom half. Neither mauler nor elite athlete, more of a solid workman-like performer. He fits into the Rams offense well, he has good lateral move skills and footwork. Gets off well and shows strong hands, he locks up and sustains blocks till the back gets through. His film doesn’t show him consistently driving defenders out the hole and that same film shows Minnesota not running up the gut in short yardage situations, choosing to go off tackle. On pass sets, he is patient with his punch and uses that grip strength. He can set a wide, balanced base or ride the defender past the play. He has both the quick processing/reaction and agility to slide over and help out or pick up stunts/twists/loops. A fine player whose sum is better than his individual parts and has the highest floor of all the prospects.

Olsegun Oluwatimi, Michigan - 6’ 2 1/2” / 308 lbs. / 8 5/8” hands / 33” arms / 80” wingspan at Senior Bowl

Started 49 of 50 games over four college seasons, the first two at Virginia (played with Rams QB Bryce Perkins in 2019), before transferring to Michigan. Way too many high-end accolades to list, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the physical dominance of the consensus “best lineman in the nation”. Stellar, fluid move skills with good upper body and grip strength. His pass blocking is very good with the agility and awareness to do battle head up or move laterally to pick the late blitz or stunts/twists/ loops. In the run game, more of a technician/finesse player than drive blocker, his legs look a little thin to have a lot of power. Oluwatimi is technically sound player with experience and success on the field, it’s tough to live up a big-time reputation.

I put this film clip to show how so many are buying into the hype. He lets the defender get low position and gets driven four yards into the backfield and off his feet, falling on the aggressor. You can read the headline for yourself and decide.

Luke Wypler, Ohio State - 6’ 3” / 300 lbs. / 9 3/4” hands / 31 7/8” arms / 76 5/8” wingspan at

A solid player who would fit in well with the Rams. Good movement skills and footwork. Asked to reach block and pull around edge regularly, strikes well on move. Builds leverage with his stocky build, good knee bend, stellar timing with his punch, and then stays engaged to the whistle. At this point, he’s more of a technical player and needs to work on play strength. He’s a younger prospect, only 21 and has only three years of college play. On pass sets, he keeps hands inside, sets a solid base, and is attentive to to stunts/twists/loops.

Tier #2- Rounds Rounds 4 ( $887,414 ) & 5 ( $815,992 )

Looks like there could be value here. All three have good size, length, and athleticism and play for run-oriented offense that have similarity to the Rams.

Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin- 6’ 6” / 317 lbs. at

Well-built athletic specimen, with proportionate length. Named to 2022 Feldman’s Freaks list for athleticism and strength. 22 years old and lacks game experience, only two years and 23 starts. Here’s your mauler who drives defenders off the ball with leverage and natural power. For a tall player, he keeps his knees bent and pad level square and low to create the bulldozer leverage. Tippmann has the speed to pull around the corner and the footwork for reach, seal, and cut off blocks. He has much room for improvement, young, tall prospects need to keep working on footwork and keeping low leverage. Pro’s will test his anchor and lateral movement skills. If he blows up the NFL Combine, it may take a Round 2 pick to own him. He has that much of an upside.

Alex Forsythe, Oregon- 6’ 4” / 312 lbs. / 10 3/8” hands / 33 1/4” arms / 81” wingspan at

Named to the Senior Bowl, but did not weigh in or play. Battled through the second half of last season with a shoulder injury. Played guard and tackle in his early Oregon days. Another in a long line of Duck linemen with good technique and pass blocking. Forsythe is a solid high-floor prospect and the best gauge of his work I can find is his film versus Georgia. Although the Ducks took an ass-whoopping and he wasn’t dominant, Forsythe did show he can play competitively and solidly against a talented, multiple front defense.

Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas- 6’ 3 1/6” / 315 lbs. / 9 5/8” / 33 1/8” arms / 80 3/8” wingspan at East-West Shrine Bowl

Just turned 22 and had 44 SEC starts, including 11 at guard. Solid workman-like performer who plays better when moving straight ahead. Stromberg is not a slug though, he has experience in a move blocking scheme, the footwork to reach block, and gets to the second level well, but being a mauler fits his physical tools best. Strong upper body. Good pass blocker, sets a wide base, has strong inside punch/hand fighting skills, and when latches on, he doesn't let go.

Tier #3- Rounds 6 ($803,833) & 7 ($779,093)

The movement of prospects at the back end of the draft and beyond is fluid, but as a rule, they are of developmental, practice squad grade. Since 2013, 27 centers have been taken in the last two rounds. Of those, only Matt Paradis, Austin Reiter, Austin Blythe, Chase Roullier, Bradley Bozeman, and Nick Allegretti have multiple seasons as a starter.

Juice Scruggs, Penn State- 6’ 2 3/4” / 308 lbs. / 10 1/4” hands / 33 3/8” arms / 82” wingspan at East-West Shrine Bowl

Tough, hard-nosed player who overcame a serious car accident injury when ejected in 2019. He rehabbed for 17 months, eight in a brace, before getting back on the field. He brings center/guard versatility. Scruggs set a good, wide base and holds his ground in pass protection, using his length and strong hands to advantage. Not a mauling drive blocker who bowls through defenders in the run game, nor is he a plus athlete. He can, however, move foes laterally and has enough footwork and movement to fit into an outside zone scheme. Pro Football Focus named him a standout during East-West Shrine Bowl workouts.

Jake Andrews, Troy - 6’ 2 1/2” / 319 lbs. / 10 1/4” hands / 32 1/4” arms / 78 3/8” wingspan at Senior Bowl

2023 was his first season at center, after 23 previous starts at guard. Stoutly built with the strength to turn and seal, not a fluid mover. Would fit best in a power scheme. Struggled somewhat during Senior Bowl workouts. When he keeps his hands/punch inside, he’s tough, but is inconsistent with placement. Although he sets a solid, wide base against bullrushes, is not agile enough to cover up speed in the gap.

Jacob Gall, Baylor- 6’ 1” / 295 lbs. / 9 5/8 hands / 32” arms / 75 3/8” wingspan at

Played guard at Buffalo before transitioning to Baylor and the pivot. Wins with plus movement and tenacity. Has troubles with setting an anchor against bullrush, needs to work on lower body strength. This is not to say he gets pushed around, when he can get the defender moving, particularly laterally, he sustains his blocks and can drive them out of the play. Likely scheme limited, fits into a spread or outside zone situation.

Tier #4- Priority free agents ( $750,000)

In the past, when discussing PS players, it’s been too often about keeping players who are up to speed with knowledge of the system and a team-first attitude, there’s nothing wrong with that. But with the newly extended NFL season, the extra time procuring talented taxi squad members and getting them coached up is time well-spent. The Rams dipped heavily into their practice squad last year and results were on the wrong side of mixed.

Grant Gibson, North Carolina State - 6’ 1” / 310 lbs. / 10 1/8” hands / 32” arms / 76” wingspan at

Let’s start with a question, do you think current Rams lineman Tremayne Anchrum was a good Round 7 draft pick? Both are similar in size and played in ACC, but Gibson’s physicality and college film stands head-and-shoulders above Anchrum’s. Creates leverage with a short, stocky build, keeps low with bend in his knees and gets good launch when he unhinges his hips. Nice move skills and agility, able to reach block, pull, and get to the second level. When he gets upfield, he is able to land his blocks.

Trevor Downing, Iowa State- 6’ 3 1/4” / 296 lbs. / 9” hands / 32 1/2” arms / 79 3/4” wingspan at NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Moved to center for his senior year, previously blocked from the guard position for current NFLer’s Breece Hall and Brock Purdy. Better at run blocking than for the pass, his frame looks a little lean to hold up without giving ground. Good blocker on the move, gets to second level smoothly and sustains blocks. Needs a lot lower body strength work.

Erik Sorensen, Northern Iowa- 6’ 6 1/3” / 306 lbs. / 10 1/4” hands / 33 3/4” / 82 5/8” wingspan at Hula Bowl

I previously capsuled Sorensen as a draft sleeper. He brings some experience at guard, as well. Has the athleticism/footwork to work in with the Rams and brings the requisite size and length, he just needs work on play strength. Good technical player and outstanding student, football as well as academics. Does a good job of bending at the knees and keeping a solid base.

Brett Neilon, Southern California- 6’ 2” / 295 lbs. / 9 3/4” hands / 31 1/8” arms / 76” wingspan at

NFL long shot who had a good season before an ankle injury shelved him in the PAC-12 Championship game. Size-challenged prospect is fun to watch with his non-stop motor and relentless aggression. He wins by keeping his feet in constant motion and ability to strike in space.

Which center should the Rams choose, if any?

Fans would love John Michael Schmitz at #36, I just hope it’s not backlash from missing out on Creed Humphrey last year. Taking him would be popular, but If you’re a believer in taking the best player available, there will be a number of difference makers, with higher draft ratings to be had at the top of Round 2.

I like the all-round game of Joe Tippmann and would take him in Round 4. Then double dip later, grabbing one of the priority free agents in the 7th. If the Rams go forward with the inside/mid zone and gap concepts, then it’s Sorensen or Gibson.

The additions of Tippmann and Sorenson would bring L.A. size and athleticism. With two incumbents already penciled in, they can be groomed as rookies and be ready for 2024. If Tippmann plays up to his potential, he could give Allen a go for the starting role. Sorensen needs a year of strength and conditioning, but has good traits.

Sorry though, I won’t believe the Rams are moving on from Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton until I see it.