Hunter Nourzad’s Draft Profile | Penn State, C Scouting Report

Penn State's Hunter Nourzad isn't always mentioned as one of the 2024 NFL Draft's top centers, but his scouting report tells of starting ability.

The 2024 NFL Draft center class has a lot of talent to offer, but the scouting report of Penn State’s Hunter Nourzad is one that sometimes gets overlooked. Following in the footsteps of Houston Texans’ second-round pick Juice Scruggs, could Nourzad go off the board earlier than expected?

Hunter Nourzad’s Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 6’3 1/8″
  • Weight: 319 pounds
  • Length: 32 1/8″
  • Wingspan: 79 3/8″
  • Hand: 10 3/4″
  • Position: Center
  • School: Penn State
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior

Tenured, versatile, intelligent — these are the words that first come to mind when thinking of Nourzad. He was a 2018 commit for the Cornell Big Red after serving as a two-year captain at The Walker School in Marietta, Georgia. And by 2019, he was a full-time starter and second-team All-Ivy League performer at right tackle.

Nourzad carried the starting right tackle job through the 2021 season. After that, with 20 games of starting experience to go back on, he transferred to Penn State, eager to magnify his footprint and potentially challenge for NFL Draft notoriety.

In 2022, Nourzad started eight of 11 games played with the Nittany Lions, splitting time between guard and center. He was an All-Big Ten honorable mention, and when Scruggs left for the NFL, Nourzad shifted inside to become the full-time starter at the pivot.

In his lone season as Penn State’s starting center, Nourzad was immaculate. He rarely gave up pressure up the middle, and was a constant asset in the run game, earning second-team all-conference recognition for his play.

A strong offseason — in which Nourzad impressed at the East-West Shrine Bowl and logged 27 bench reps at the NFL Combine — helped compound the momentum he gained in 2023. But in truth, he’s always been a stellar prospect. It’s just taken time for his name to gain steam.

Nourzad’s Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Dense, compact blocker with great mass, a low center of gravity, and mitts for hands.
  • Frame affords a degree of natural leverage allowing easy pad-level maintenance.
  • Strong base and effortless controlled lean allow him to play square and control reps.
  • Explosive lateral mover who can reach the 4i on counter runs and drive through blocks.
  • Has the explosiveness to reach the strong-side DE when hinging out on GT power runs.
  • Can use lateral mobility to match pass rushers and maintain angles in pass protection.
  • Has good speed and range in space, and can plow defenders out of second-level lanes.
  • Can violently latch, anchor, and snatch-and-trap defenders, burying them into the turf.
  • Able to torque through successive extensions while keeping his hands tight and active.
  • Can exert power inside the torso, then transition to snatch moves and end rushers.
  • Has shown he can gather rushers with active hands while keeping upper-lower synergy.
  • High-IQ pivot man who can call out blitz threats and process post-snap rush rotations.
  • Has the vision to recognize blitzers working across-face and reposition himself.
  • Combines rare calibration quickness in his hands with grueling strength and physicality.
  • Easily enters and exits his stance, and can wall off and drive over-zealous run defenders.

Weaknesses

  • Has below-average length, which can reduce his blocking range and maximum power.
  • Sometimes feels the need to over-extend to compensate for length, resulting in lurches.
  • Doesn’t have high-end foot speed, change-of-direction, or swivel flexibility in his hips.
  • Is lumbering as a short-range mover, lacking corrective quickness to match his burst.
  • Lacks elite malleability and recovery capacity, and can lock his hips against power.
  • On occasion, can strive for slightly better base load off the snap, to sustain power.
  • Occasional upright alignment off the snap can allow for displacement from opposing DTs.
  • Sometimes whiffs on initial anchor placement coming up from his stance, losing balance.
  • Can play with better control in his base when rotating to seal off gaps off the snap.
  • At times, widens his base too far when latching and anchoring, inhibiting lateral range.
  • Can struggle to bring his base with him when redirecting and driving moving blocks.
  • Sometimes freezes after initial power exertions and is late to respond to inside counters.
  • Occasionally too hasty getting downfield on delayed RAC plays, increasing penalty risk.
  • Will turn 24 years old in November of his rookie season.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

Nourzad grades out as a fringe top-100 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. He’s worth consideration as early as the mid-to-late Day 2 range. He’d be an even better value acquisition early on Day 3, but the going price for starting-caliber centers is high. That’s what Nourzad can be early in his NFL career.

Nourzad has all of the foundational hallmarks you want to see from centers. He’s explosive out of his stance, he acquires leverage easily, he carries tons of force in his punches and extensions, he has stifling anchor strength, and his football IQ ensures that he’s always in the right place.

There’s still room for Nourzad to improve his footwork and base mechanics, particularly when surveying adjacent gaps and swiveling around blocks in the run game. Additionally, he doesn’t quite have elite flexibility or change of direction, which slightly detracts from his ceiling.

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To that end, Nourzad’s below-average length also impacts his physical upside. It doesn’t show up as an issue too often because Nourzad maintains leverage so well, but there are times when Nourzad is goaded into overextending and lurching as a result.

Still, the positives far outweigh the negatives on Nourzad’s scouting report. A lineman who best fits power-gap schemes, but also has ability in zone looks, Nourzad has a high floor as a capable starter right out of the gate, and he can grow to become an impact starter with more work on his lower-body technique.

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