On the eve of Ohio State's 2021 season, Harry Miller was expected to be the starting center. Luke Wypler was going to be the backup. Miller was a former 5 star recruit. He is extremely intelligent, was the valedictorian of his high school, with a nearly perfect GPA as a mechanical engineering student at OSU. NFL scouts told him he projected to be a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. He also did charity work, making many mission trips to Nicaragua.
Unbeknownst to everyone, Miller at the time was in a deep depression. He contemplated suicide. Not knowing about Miller's situation, some OSU fans held out hope that he would return in 2022 and might beat out Wypler, who was viewed as having a solid, but not great 2021 season. In March of 2022, Miller retired from football. At first, he was terrified of the idea of going public and sharing his personal story, but eventually he decided to tell people why he had quit football.
In the fall, Miller received an award from OSU for his courage. It is worthwhile to watch his speech from that event, especially the very end where he tries to express his feelings with a story about a boy building sandcastles on the beach each day, only to see them get washed away each time by the ocean tide. Miller has the heart of a poet and very eloquently conveys why he felt disassociated from the path in life he was expected to follow.
As football fans, we often only view the sport through a very narrow prism of success and failure. Did our team win the National Championship or the Super Bowl? Did we win or lose the game this week? What was the QB's passer rating and how many yards and TDs did he have? How many fantasy football points did the player get for me? In the big picture of life, almost all of those things don't really matter nearly as much as we build them up to be. Like all other sports, football is just a game. It is supposed to be about having fun, creating joy and entertainment. NFL football is played by grown men, but football originally was a game played by school aged children. Somewhere along the line of building a billion dollar business and creating a dog-eat-dog environment where players and coaches are all chasing multi-million dollar contracts, the pure, unadulterated joy of playing a child's game got trampled and lost.
Momentarily, I'll drone on at length, paragraph after paragraph, about whether Luke Wypler is a good prospect and whether the Rams should draft him, but all of that is just white noise, the steady beat of waves clapping at the shoreline. Whenever Wypler gets drafted, to whatever team he goes, if that moment not only causes celebration for Wypler and his family, but also somewhere else brings a small sense of pride and perhaps even a wry smile to a certain former Buckeye teammate of his, who once might have stepped into those same NFL shoes, that would be just fine. Let that moment stand on its own. For at least a second, set aside any impulse to be jaded, cynical and pessimistic. Don't worry about whether that sandcastle will last until the next morning or get toppled by the incoming tide. If you love the game of football, whether as a player or a fan, just let it remind you of the reason you came to the beach in the first place.
Name: Luke Wypler. Turns 22 years old in May. Redshirt sophomore.
School: Ohio State, studied management and industry
Combine measurements: 6'3'' tall, 303 pounds, 31 5/8'' arms, 9 5/8'' hands, 76 5/8'' wingspan. 5.14 second 40 time, 1.83 second split, 4.53 second shuttle, 30.5'' vert jump, 8'10'' broad jump, 29 bench reps, 7.64 sec (3 cone).
At the Combine, Wypler says there is an NFL center that he greatly admires, studies his film in detail, considers himself to be similar to and models his game after. That player is... Brian Allen of the Rams!
Brian Allen: 6'1 1/8'' tall, 298 pounds, 32 3/8'' arms, 9 1/4'' hands, 76 3/4'' wingspan, 5.34 second 40 time, 1.87 second split, 4.71 second shuttle, 26.5'' vert jump, 8'3'' broad jump, 27 bench reps, 7.81 sec (3 cone).
Wypler is taller than Allen, but his arms are a hair shorter. Wypler has an edge in some of the testing scores, but not by a large margin.
From New Jersey, 4 star recruit. Was 205 pounds as HS freshman. Great wrestler. As a hobby in HS, did some stand up comic routines at a comedy club. Also said to be an expert juggler. Played OT in HS, recruited as a center by OSU. Dad was a college LB. Mom is a nurse who has a Ph.D. Played baseball, lacrosse and hockey as a kid.
Enrolled early at OSU in spring of 2020. Wypler says that he had big struggles at start of spring practices, with multiple bad snaps and constantly getting pushed backwards. Covid cancelled the rest of spring ball and Wypler was relieved, because it gave him the chance to go back home and try to improve.
Ryan Day said that Wypler is a Type A personality, a perfectionist who watches extra film. Ideal center mentality who communicates well.
Redshirted in 2020. Surprise starting center in 2021, 13 games started. Per PFF allowed zero sacks in 2021. Started 13 games in 2022. No missed starts in 2021 and 2022.
After first game of 2022 season, he was seen wearing a walking boot. Reportedly dealt with a right ankle injury for most of the 2022 season. In a different game I watched, he appeared to twist his left ankle. At certain moments in 2022, it seemed to me that his ankle was clearly bothering him, because one time on a long pull block, near the end of his long run he started limping. One a pass block play, it looked to me like he was hopping around, like he couldn't push off on his foot at full strength and it was painful to put extra weight on it. I wasn't sure how to factor this into the evaluation, because he didn't have a great anchor in pass pro even when fully healthy, but I imagine his leg situation made it even more difficult for him to hold ground. So, his actual susceptibility to bull rushes probably isn't quite as bad as it looked in 2022.
Professional attitude in interviews. Says he's willing to play anywhere he's asked, whether G or C.
ESPN 2nd guard, 76th overall (interesting that they list him at guard, because almost all the other draft reports view him as a "center only" prospect)
PFF top center in draft, 46th overall. Slightly ahead of Tippman at 53rd with JMS in 3rd place at 76 on their top 100 list. They have Avila at 41st.
TDN 87th overall
NFLDB 70th overall
PFN(Industry) 2nd center, 80th overall
Drafttek 3rd C, 89th overall
Lance Zierlein 96th overall among combine participants
Shane Hallam 100th (late 3rd to early 4th)
Brian Bosarge 96th
Chad Reuter mock draft 73rd (Tippmann was 89th in this mock.)
So this range of rankings would place Wypler anywhere from middle of 2nd round to early in the 4th round, with a strong consensus placing him in the 3rd round.
Sports Illustrated: Technically sound in pass pro. Decent movement skills, but awareness, arm length and play strength are below NFL starter level. Inconsistent displacing defenders. Anchored and had excellent hand placements against Jalen Carter. Looks for work. Some initial quickness. Decent speed to 2nd level. Good foot speed, stout base. Recovery athleticism. Rarely off target snaps. Maxed out physically. Subpar arm length. Lacks position versatility. Can be late to recognize blitzes and stunts. Doesn't consistently identify which OG needs help. Pad level a concern, defenders get into his chest. Questionable play strength. Powerful DTs drove him backwards in pass pro and he couldn't move them in run game. Can struggle to mirror at 2nd level. Struggles to sustain on move. Occasional balance issues. 4th round grade.
TDN (Joe Marino): Polished technician. Under control, stays square. Competes to stay leveraged. Understands angles. Executes long pulls and connects with moving targets. A positional blocker. Good lateral movement. Standout pass blocker, good awareness and technique. Lacks any true standout physical traits. Modest length. Compromised anchor. Scheme limited, lacks positional flexibility. A starting C on a zone scheme blocking team. Jake Grove NFL comp. 3rd round grade.
NFLDB: 3rd round projection. Graded by NFLDB as the 2nd best pass blocking center in the nation in 2022. Excellent hand placements. Good understanding of angles as climber. Smart, instinctive. Good at 2nd level. Finds defenders with hands immediately and moves feet to sustain. Elite lateral quickness, speed to mirror the fastest speed rushers. Underrated athleticism. Plays with mean streak, generates push at POA. Will punch smaller defenders instead of latching on. More of mauler than mover in run game. Ducks head and gets upright, falling off 2nd level blocks. No outstanding physical characteristics. Average overall strength. Easily loses balance when upper body gets over feet. Limited arm length. Won't make it past end of 2nd round in draft [I have no idea how your draft report can say he won't last past the 2nd round and give the same player a 3rd round projection, but whatever.]
Lance Zierlein: 6.20 draft grade (eventual average starter), Garrett Bradbury comp. Undersized, but highly athletic. Initial quickness gets him to best angles. Capable puller. Struggles to sustain. Aware in pass pro, but vulnerable to bull rush. Punches with inside hands. Maintains base through mirror. Short arms. issues with snap timing in 2021 causing penalties. Trouble handling powerful opponents. Can be bull rushed back to QB.
Naturally low center of gravity. Good squatty frame that is ideal for a center. Not as small as Brian Allen. I know it might not seem like a big deal. What is 2 inches difference in height? If 6'3'' to 6'4'' tall is perfect for a center, then I feel it does make a difference if the center is 6'1'' tall as opposed to being 6'3'' tall. Luke Wypler isn't a big guy, but he's also not a midget.
Easy, fluid mover, light on feet. Good 2nd level blocking range. Very good range making diagonal run to get out in front of WR screen pass.
Excellent body control. At the LOS, if he's on the move he can twist and turn his body so that as he engages the DL he has proper leverage and the optimal angle to make his block. Maybe this is from his background from being a good high school wrestler. It is an underrated physical attribute you won't see measured at the Combine. Has "wrestler hands", on short 3rd down run, able to win upper body fight, push DT to the ground then finish him.
An experienced zone blocking center. Not elite in terms of hip fluidity, but does a good job getting his hips around on seal blocks. Outstanding timing and coordination with both his RG and LG on some reach blocks, the G gets the DT, buying time for the C to get his shoulder upfield of the defender, Wypler takes a great angle out of his stance, then even in confined spaces can squeeze his body and turn, making an effective seal as the G continues forward to climb to a different defender. Made excellent reach block, getting to DT aligned directly over the G.
If he's on the move going towards the outside, he runs under control, so if the LB moves, he can slow down or speed up to mirror.
Very good sense of timing on combo blocks. Recognized that DT was slanting away and immediately climbed up to LB.
Repeatedly on short yardage runs, when there is a diagonal run blitz by LB, he makes great adjustments and picks off the LB to prevent A gap penetration. Outstanding timing on short 3rd down, knew run blitz was coming, but held his water and stayed on NT, trying to give his G more time to get into position, then finally coming off block to pick up the LB to protect the A gap.
Stays under control when climbing to 2nd level. Doesn't go so fast that he loses balance or can't mirror the LB. Takes short, choppy steps climbing.
Quick into stance in pass pro, keeps his hands inside. Able to maximize his limited arm length and get full extension. Patient with initial punch, good hand accuracy and timing. Quick, active feet, takes small steps to stay balanced in his stance so that he can sustain his block and mirror the defender.
"Looks through" the DT and recognizes twists and blitzes by LBs. While engaging NT, he sees the LB coming from behind the DT and slides over to pick it up with his hands inside frame. Against NT, after engaging block, C sees the LB looping around and moves to side to pick up DT being blocked by the G. Against 3 man loop, quick reaction to turn body and pick up DT being passed off by G.
Let go of LB pulling away from him, so that he wouldn't draw holding penalty.
Shotgun snaps are accurate, even in game with drizzle where the ball was probably slightly wet. Not all shotgun, had some snaps under center.
Normal age for prospect. No know major injury history.
High floor, ready to contribute sooner rather than later.
Shaky anchor and ability to hold integrity of the front of the pocket. Back foot is not strong and firm in pass pro, he can lose his anchor and be forced to give up ground. Does a "reverse bicycle" with his feet as he gets driven backwards. Gets knocked back in pass pro by LBs who convert speed to power. Can get shocked by initial blast, but does a very good job keeping his balance, often eventually settling down the bull rush or at least delaying them, so that he doesn't take a complete L on the rep. Settled down bull rush, but by that point the NT was 6 yards behind the LOS, the QB had to slide to the side to find a passing window. LB blitz blasted him off his feet. Even a LB mugging him was able to immediately drive him backwards after the snap.
In pass pro, has a habit of allowing the DT to punch first, then reacting, which can give the defender an advantage.
Lack of length is an issue. In pass pro, can get violently thrown sideways if defender grabs him inside. Doesn't have effective grip strength to control defenders to prevent counters, so defenders sometimes shed him. In pass pro, he's vulnerable to push pull moves and spin counter moves.
Not a people mover. Doesn't generate movement on combo blocks. No explosion into LB on short yardage run. Not able to generate movement in short yardage with solo block.
Struggles vs big NTs. Can get manhandled at the POA by DTs with superior length.
When he goes to the 2nd level, aggressive LBs can blast him backwards. One time, the LB blasted him backwards and shed him.
Doesn't have elite short area burst. While he has good mobility, he doesn't have that shocking 4 yard explosion that some prospects like Cam Jurgens, Quinn Meinerz or Josh Myers possess, where they can accelerate in space and destroy a LB or DB.
Makes more mental errors than I'm comfortable seeing. Allowed NT to split between G and C through A gap and pressure the QB. Errors made in pass pro and I can't tell if this is due to inexperience by the G next to him or there is lack of communication by the C failing to alert the G to the situation. Loop by LB, the RG should pass of his DT to the C and slide over to block the blitzing LB, but both the C and RG block the DT while the LB is 100% free, heavy pressure on the QB. Mental lapse allowed LB blitz to be free up the A gap. Scans okay as helper in pass pro, but occasionally he'll get stuck looking one direction and not have head on swivel to look back the other way.
Cross blitz by LBs. The C and G made a total mess of it, again, I don't know if this because the G messed up or if the C didn't alert him to slide over and pick up the other LB. Complicated 4 man game by the defense, I don't know if Wypler and the other linemen knew what just hit them, a jailbreak. Sure, that's a really tough one to handle, but that's the kind of stuff you're going to see in the NFL. College defenses, they typically don't get so fancy. While Wypler's awareness is pretty good, he's not on the same level compared with some of the other center prospects we've seen in recent drafts.
Not always at proper depth to help his guards in pass pro.
Snaps only have average velocity.
Some issues with the operation of getting snap off. One play, C doesn't snap the ball and it is a delay of game. Another play, looked like he snapped it too early and it is a false start, because offense wasn't set. Not sure what's going on there, if Wypler did anything wrong or it was someone else's fault, but process wasn't always smooth and clean.
I don't know anything about the guards next to him, but they seemed to be pretty good players (It's Ohio State, so I assume those dudes were probably 4 or 5 star type recruits) and this helped Wypler, both on run and pass plays. Center getting driven backwards by bull rush, but G comes over to help and knocks the DT to the ground. As described above, did a great job working in coordination with G to make reach blocks, but if the guards hadn't done their jobs properly, Wypler wouldn't have been able to get to those blocks.
Profiles talk about how Wypler is the latest in the line of Ohio State centers to go to the NFL, but should we view that as a positive or a negative? Look at how recent OSU centers have performed in the NFL (for any season that they got substantial playing time as starters, I compiled their PFF grades):
Pat Elflein (3rd round 2017): 66.6, 41.9, 64.7, 48.0, 50.1
Billy Price (1st round 2018): 55.6, 41.9, 62.3, 51.3
Michael Jordan (4th round 2019): 43.7, 55,7, 50.7
Josh Myers (2nd round 2021): 60.4
A combined 13 seasons for these 4 players, all drafted 1st through 4th rounds, and zero years where any of them had a PFF grade of at least 70. Only 1 out of those 13 seasons did any of them achieve a grade of at least 65. 9 out of those 13 seasons had grades below 56.
When Brian Allen looked overwhelmed in 2019, he had a PFF grade of 58.6. Think about that for a moment. 69% of the seasons played by the recent Ohio State center draft picks have been worse than the 2019 version of Brian Allen. Instead of NFL teams continuing to draft OSU players so high, maybe the question they should be asking is whether they are overrating these prospects purely because they went to school at Ohio State. Wypler is from NJ, so let's say he had gone to school at Rutgers. If he had played there, would we be talking about him as a potential 2nd round pick right now?
Let me get this straight, the plan is for the Rams to replace Brian Allen, because he's supposedly a garbage center, with a player who intentionally models his game after Brian Allen and is trying to emulate him? And we're going to do it with a prospect who has strengths and weaknesses (e.g. gets bull rushed back to the QB, is a good zone blocker, but doesn't have power and strength to move opponents, has short arms) that are almost exactly the same as Brian Allen's profile. Doesn't something about that plan seem a bit off? Are we trying to achieve an upgrade, or do we just hate Allen so much that we want the name on the back of the jersey to be spelled differently?
Not a great candidate to use at guard, but that's exactly what I thought about Austin Blythe and the Rams had him starting at guard. Not scheme versatile, because Wypler probably can only play for a zone scheme team. You'll want to try to find a bigger and stronger guy if you want to switch over to a power scheme. Might have a high floor, but also has a lower ceiling. Has potential to be a starter, but unlikely to ever be an elite starter.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
3rd round grade. (Brad Meester, late 2nd round 2000, Jacksonville Jaguars, Northern Iowa)
Meester was 6'3' 3/8' tall, 298 pounds, 32 1/8'' arms, 34'' vert jump, 9'2'' broad, 25 bench reps, 5.1 second 40 time, 1.84 second split, 4.43 second shuttle, 7.46 second (3 cone). He was an excellent student in college.
Meester started an incredible 14 straight seasons for the Jags, initially as the LG, then later at center. He was very durable, rarely missing a start. Meester never made a single Pro Bowl. Maybe he was never an elite center, but he's probably one of the best draft picks the Jaguars have made in the entire history of that franchise.
I feel the major draft experts have this player pegged properly. If you need a starting center, Luke Wypler is a good candidate to draft with the expectation that he'll eventually become your starter. Might not be day 1 as a rookie. Probably the best thing for his career would be to serve as an apprentice for at least one season and learn from a good veteran center, like when John Sullivan was still a Ram. The way Brian Allen's contract is structure, the Rams theoretically could draft Wypler, let him sit behind Allen for one year, then move Allen via trade or as a cap casualty release in 2024.