A fast riser as the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, is Joe Tippmann worthy of consideration as the best center in his class? Tippmann has tight competition from fellow Big Ten product John Michael Schmitz, but the Badgers blocker might have the highest ceiling in his position group.
Joe Tippmann NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Center
- School: Wisconsin
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’6″, 313 pounds
- Length: 32 3/4″
- Hand: 10 3/4″
Tippmann is a big blocker and makes a big impact wherever he goes. That’s the one-sentence summary for Tippmann — a 6’6″, 313-pound menace who mauls defenders on the interior line.
Tippmann set that kind of tone in high school when he played tackle for Bishop Dwenger in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In both his junior and senior seasons, Tippmann was a first-team All-Summit Athletic Conference honoree. And as a senior, serving as team captain, he was the league MVP.
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When an offensive lineman wins league MVP in high school and essentially wills his team to a state championship, it’s impossible to ignore. His dominance was what drew Wisconsin to him. In 2017, Wisconsin presented Tippmann with an offer, and the four-star recruit would eventually settle on the Badgers.
Tippmann redshirted in 2019 and was a reserve in 2020. In 2021, he unexpectedly shifted over to center. At first, it wasn’t clear if he’d translate in that role with his unique size. But he grew with each passing week and was a dominant center by his final start.
Tippmann would go on to carry the starting center role through the 2022 season as well. Now, he’s a legitimate factor in the 2023 NFL Draft interior offensive line class. How high can Tippmann climb up the board, and is Round 1 a possibility?
Joe Tippmann Scouting Report
Tippmann is a rare physical specimen. Listed on Feldman’s Freaks list last summer, he has a reported 1.65 10-yard split, a 635-pound back squat, and a 455-pound max bench. All the testing numbers say Tippmann is a rare talent. But does it translate on the field?
For a center, Tippmann’s size is overwhelming. The Wisconsin center sports a tall, wide frame, with enough length to envelop opponents and keep them across his face. For his size, Tippmann is a very explosive athlete. His reported 10-yard split reaffirms this, as does his mobility on tape. With his size and athleticism, Tippmann has projected versatility at center and guard.
Tippmann has rare initial quickness for a 6’6″ lineman and gets off the snap extremely quickly. He accelerates upfield when tracking linebackers in space and has the athleticism to square up linebackers in the open field and surge into contact. He also shows exceptional lateral burst. As a zone blocker, Tippmann quickly flips his hips off the snap and rushes toward the sideline.
Tippmann’s initial athleticism is most appealing, but the Wisconsin center has good utility in space as well. Most notably, he shows great range as a pulling blocker. He’s able to track linebackers from hash to hash and seal off outside runs. He also showcases above-average change of direction for his size, using ankle flexion to turn upfield through gaps while sustaining and building acceleration into blocks.
Mobility is an obvious plus for Tippmann, but his overall play strength is just as enticing. Tippmann has the grip strength to maintain anchors even when wrenched off-balance by powerful push-pulls. He also has the core strength to gather and absorb rushes after anchoring inside the torso.
Tippmann’s high-level combination of core and grip strength allows him to latch onto larger opponents and lock them down through reps amidst heavy resistance. Furthermore, he has the recovery strength to stymie rushes after getting worked back initially.
With his size and length, Tippmann is naturally granted high-level power capacity, which he uses to forklift larger defenders off the line when well-leveraged. He channels good force on two-hand extensions and shoves linemen back in pass protection.
Going further, Tippmann uses his explosive athleticism to supplement power exertion on moving blocks, generating great push at the point of attack. In situations where he’s wrenched off-platform, he’s able to quickly reset his feet and generate leg drive.
Tippmann’s size detracts from his overall flexibility in some aspects, but he still brings a respectable baseline in that department. The Wisconsin C has the hip flexibility to maintain his anchor amidst stress and redirect surging opponents out of plays with recovery athleticism. He can get skinny between gaps and sneak to the second level, quickly flipping his hips off the snap to wall off unblocked ends and bury gap invaders. Tippmann also owns enough flexibility to swivel around after anchoring to seal off backside pursuit defenders.
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An obvious point of contention with a 6’6″ blocker like Tippmann — especially on the interior — is leverage. While it’s not an overwhelming strength, Tippmann brings better leverage than expected. For his size, he’s impressively comfortable acquiring leverage and leaning beyond his center of gravity.
Tippmann plays with natural knee bend, and in pass protection, he very naturally recollects his base and leans into blocks while maintaining his center of gravity. Meanwhile, on running reps, Tippmann can acquire leverage off the snap, lowering and surging into contact with lean.
Leverage and technique are two crucial staples of offensive line play. Tippmann is trending up with his technique as well. The Wisconsin center flashes fast hands at the start of reps to widen opponents, then attacks and latches inside the torso. He has a decent sense of timing and feels for synergy with his hands.
Tippmann often extends once opponents enter his wheelhouse and when he’s on base. Moreover, he shows glimpses of fast, independent hands. He can swat at opposing extensions and promptly latch. Particularly in 2022, Tippmann excelled at keeping his hands tight and re-establishing anchors through battles with linemen.
Turning the attention to his lower body mechanics, Tippmann has fast, active feet off the line and has shown to keep a strong, wide base when absorbing contact. He carries fast feet into blocks and uses his fast feet to adjust angles and build momentum. Furthermore, the Wisconsin C can recollect a uniform base amidst contact and absorb rushes with a stable lower body and leverages his feet very well.
Especially for centers, awareness is another vital trait and one that Tippmann has flashed. As a help blocker, he’s able to drag on adjacent defenders with one-arm extensions while remaining cognizant of activity across the line. He has the awareness to flip around and wall off over-pursuing defenders with his frame on moving blocks. When working upfield to the second level, he quickly strikes, retracts, and stacks blocks.
A second year as a full-time starter only honed Tippmann’s awareness at the middle of the line. He’s an extremely smart, high-IQ blocker who very quickly processes motion over the middle of the field as a pass protector, plus he has great angle awareness. To top it all off, he effectively calls protections and identifies blitzes pre-snap.
Tippmann mends his game together with a great baseline level of physicality. The Wisconsin center consistently relocates defenders and paves lanes upfield and will punish defenders who sacrifice leverage to seek contain by sending them into the dirt.
Tippmann’s Areas for Improvement
Tippmann’s size and athleticism culminate in tantalizing upside. But his size also contributes to several drawbacks, most noticeably his leverage. While Tippmann has shown to acquire leverage off the snap, his tall frame can make it tough to manage it consistently. Shorter opponents can easily get under Tippmann’s pads, exploit superior leverage, and generate movement.
Expanding on Tippmann’s leverage, the Wisconsin C can be tugged over his center of gravity relatively easily. Angled stunts can cause him to lurch and lose balance, and he sometimes retracts too far upright, heading into contact, allowing defenders to get under his pads and quickly shed. In space, his pad level can be too high, impacting his ability to drive power through and sustain blocks.
Leverage will be an area of concern moving forward for Tippmann. But there are other areas of improvement to note. His length, while good, is not quantifiably elite. At his size, he naturally needs to take a few steps to gather himself in space at times, and he doesn’t have elite change of direction. Tippmann’s strength also occasionally falls short of the elite mark. His frame is a bit lean and can get worked back by powerful opponents.
Tippmann could also better align his base to maximize torque and rotation off the snap. His rotational freedom can be more consistent on clubs and extensions. Moreover, Tippmann could better load his base when exerting power. His tall frame sometimes makes it difficult for the Wisconsin C to align his base beneath him adequately. Additionally, when blocking in space, Tippmann’s feet can stall at contact. He can better carry and sustain leg drive into moving blocks upfield.
Tippmann is trending up operationally, but he’ll occasionally bear hug opponents on moving blocks, increasing his susceptibility to penalties. At times, Tippmann can be more efficient at loading and exerting power with his hands. His placement and precision could improve with independent hand-fighting, and he sometimes attempts to extend while imbalanced.
Tippman could still strive for greater synergy, and his recovery footwork could be more controlled at times when tracking back in pass protection. There are times where his footwork appears staggered and imbalanced when matching opponents. Tippmann improved here in 2022, but on occasion, his base is still too narrow , impacting his balance and range of motion. It doesn’t help that he sometimes shows moderate stiffness when needing to redirect to combat outside/inside moves.
Lastly, Tippmann can over-pursue blocking angles when tracking upfield and be late to stack upfield to linebackers after chipping linemen off the snap.
Current Draft Projection for Wisconsin C Joe Tippmann
After a season of improvements, Tippmann grades out as my top overall center prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s a fringe first-round player who should field consideration late in Round 1. If he’s still available on Day 2, he’s a priority prospect at a position with scarcity.
Tippmann graded as a late Day 2 prospect coming into the 2022 season, but visibly improved his footwork, hand usage, and became more consistent with his angle management and diagnosis ability. All of those technical improvements only served to insulate his elite physical skill set.
Few centers have the physical foundation that Tippmann has. Though his size could cause issues with leverage, his combination of size, athleticism, functional strength, and power capacity is rare. Tippmann is explosive off the snap, rangy as a pulling blocker, and delivers great force and physicality at the point of attack. When he’s latched, it can be very hard for defenders to break free.
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It’s also encouraging that Tippmann is far from a liability with his leverage. For his size, he’s surprisingly competent when it comes to acquiring proper pad level and playing beyond his center of gravity. Through that mechanism, he can channel power and effectively attack blocks in the trenches. If Tippmann continues to stack his growth from 2022, he has a near-dominant physical skill set.
Tippmann has the tools to be the first center off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft. He has the versatility to play either center or guard at the next level, but his football IQ, in particular, is what compounds his appeal as a potential impact starting center. Trending up, at his ultimate ceiling, Tippmann could be one of the best centers in the NFL.