The Green Bay Packers have a number of positional needs that must be addressed in the 2014 NFL Draft but one position that is seemingly being overlooked right now is center.
Evan Dietrich-Smith, the Packers starting center in 2013, signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs this offseason, leaving Green Bay with 2013 fourth-round pick J.C. Tretter as the favorite to start at center in 2014.
While Tretter may end up being a solid fit for the position, the fact is the Packers have no other experienced centers. Even Tretter didn’t play the position in college and was transitioned there after playing left tackle at Cornell.
Some have guessed that Don Barclay could be a candidate at center, but after filling in for the injured Bryan Bulaga the past two seasons, he is still set to the third tackle and could very well be needed there again some time this season.
Therefore, it’s imperative that Green Bay comes away from the 2014 draft with a player capable of pushing Tretter, so without further ado here are five centers the Packers should consider selecting in the 2014 Draft:
1. Marcus Martin, C-G, USC – Martin is a 6’3, 310-pound Junior that left USC following three consecutive seasons as a starter for the Trojans offensive line. In 2011, as a true freshmen he was the team’s starting guard, the first freshmen to start at guard on the USC offensive line since 2004. Then after two seasons at guard, Martin shifted over to center in 2013 and continued to impress. Martin is the most athletic and explosive center available. He does an outstanding job getting to the second level but can also hold his own against defensive lineman. At 20 years old, he also has more upside than any other center prospect in the draft. Once viewed as second round pick, some are starting to project Martin as a late first-rounder.
2. Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State – Richburg is a four-year starter, who has as much playing experience at the center position as anyone in the 2014 draft. At 6-3, 300-pounds, Richburg has the kind of size teams are looking for at the center position but is also a good athlete and solid all-around blocker. He is physical in the run game and does a good job of getting to the second level but also shows good feet in pass protection. He should be available in the second round and could be a real possibility for Green Bay with the 53rd pick.
3. Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas – Swanson is a big, athletic center that is an impressive 6-5, 315-pound prospect. He is a four-year starter, who played in 48 consecutive games for the Razorbacks. The former Rimington trophy candidate (award for top center in college football) is a physical player, who plays the game with an attitude. He has long arms which can help him in the passing game and he is explosive off the line of scrimmage. He also does a great job of staying engaged with defenders and finishing blocks. There is still some polish that needs to be added but he is a solid prospect that should come off the board sometime in round 3 or 4.
4. Bryan Stork, C, Florida State – Stork was a three-year starter for the Seminoles and is another player that comes into the draft with tons of experience. He would be a good fit in Green Bay due to his expertise at both shotgun and conventional snaps. He’s a good athlete with good size at 6-4, 315-pounds. He also has good feet in pass protection and goes a great job getting to linebackers at the second level. However he does struggle with bigger, stronger defensive lineman and could stand to add some strength. He has fallen on draft boards recently but is at worst an early day three prospect.
5. Tyler Larsen, C, Utah State – Larsen was a four-year starter for the Aggies and possess good size for the position at 6-4, 312-pounds as well as above average athleticism. He is good with his lateral movements and excels in getting out in space on linebackers. However, he has a tendency to struggle against big, strong interior lineman and could have some issues with NFL defensive tackles. He is another player that should come off the boards in either round 3 or 4. Some doubt whether he can transition from the Mountain West to the NFL right away but he is a smart player with enough strength and athleticism to hold his own while he adjusts to bigger, faster defensive lineman.
Well that’s all for now folks but there will be more content coming on the draft in the coming days so stayed tuned. And as always if you want to interact with me directly feel free to comment below or reach out to me on twitter – @thepackersguru.