We can only venture to guess exactly how long that might last because Packers GM Ted Thompson no doubt has an offensive lineman in his sights to draft. Like all the linemen Thompson targets, the draft pick will have to versatile. It’s not a matter of if Thompson drafts a center, but when. TT can find those lineman gems hidden in the mid to later rounds and we expect that to be the case again this year.
Two centers recently compared side-by-side by Russ Lande of the National Football Post as part of his “Pick your Poison” feature caught my eye. Lande’s expertise in breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick and Alabama’s Barrett Jones is insightful and informative.
In the end, it is Frederick that Lande expects to be chosen first over Jones. Though both have their obvious strengths (Jones is incredibly intelligent and has played all five positions along the line; and Frederick, is simply a better pass and run blocker on all levels), it’s their weaknesses that set the two apart, according to Lande.
Here is how he best describes Frederick’s pass protection strengths:
… he does get his hands inside the DT’s shoulders “to get a good fit” nearly every snap, which allows him to lock on and control his man. Unlike Jones, Frederick is able to bend his knees and sink his hips to pass block with excellent leverage, which combines with his ability “to get a good fit” and his natural strength so that he can stop any straight ahead pass rusher in their tracks. In addition, his blocking with base enables him to slide side to side surprisingly well to maintain in pass pro and adjust to different stunts/games and blitzes.”
In describing Jones’s pass protection strengths, he says:
“Jones has quick feet and is able to get out of stance and set to block fast. He accentuates his quick set-up by delivering a fast and aggressive punch to the DT. In pass protection, when Jones gets his hands on the DT first to slow his initial charge, he is often able to tie man up and keeps him on the LOS.”
But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of flexibility and bend, it’s those characteristics that give Frederick the upper hand, according to Lande in both pass and run blocking.
In the end, Lande says both players will most likely become starters in the NFL, but will have different impacts on their teams. About Jones he says, “[he] will be the tough, scrappy over-achiever who cannot get movement on in-line run blocks and constantly has trouble blocking the big 320+ pound DT’s, both on run blocks and in pass protection.”
This is why Lande feels Frederick will be the better of the two: “Frederick … will never be confused with one of the most athletic centers, but he will be one of the more physically dominant ones in the league. He will get his hands on the defensive lineman and will be able to dictate the play to them.”
It’s Frederick’s physical presence on the field as opposed to Jones’s more cerebral play that will be the difference between the two and the reason why Frederick will probably be taken somewhere in the second round, while Jones will be more in line with a third round selection.
But, as always, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where TT has these two players on his draft board and if he’s even interested in drafting either one or has someone completely different targeted.