John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota | NFL Draft Scouting Report

With his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, can veteran Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz pace the incoming center group and stake his claim on early-round capital?

After a 2022 class that saw Tyler Linderbaum dominate the center group, the race to be the first center off the board is once again wide open in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. With his NFL draft scouting report, can Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz reign supreme over his counterparts?

John Michael Schmitz NFL draft profile

If you watched Minnesota’s offensive line in 2022, one thing was clear: They loved to hit people. Daniel Faalele got the most press with his massive frame, but the entire Golden Gophers’ line exuded a physicality that’s hard to teach. Even tight end Ko Kieft served as an extra lineman at times and relished the chance to knock a few teeth loose.

That unyielding physical mentality spanned across Minnesota’s entire front, and Schmitz was at the center of it. Schmitz wasn’t always viewed as an eventual NFL talent — a mere three-star recruit coming out of Flossmoor, Illinois — but his long, winding college career has helped to unearth his talent on the national stage.

Schmitz redshirted in 2017, then played mostly on special teams in 2018. He then started four of 13 games played in 2019 and started six games in 2020. Then, in 2021, Schmitz started all 13 games at center, earning second-team All-Big Ten recognition for his performance.

Schmitz’s career has been one defined by steady, gradual progression. And if that progression continues at its current pace, big things could be in store in 2022 and beyond.

  • Position: Center
  • School: Minnesota
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height/Weight: 6’4″, 320 pounds

John Michael Schmitz scouting report

Schmitz is battling against an incredibly talented center class, with returning studs and up-and-coming prospects alike. But with his combination of natural talent and amassed experience, Schmitz could ultimately be the top player at his position.

Schmitz’s positives

It can be challenging to evaluate athleticism for centers at times, considering the condensed space they constantly play in. Such a trait becomes easily visible when centers move in space — see Cameron Jurgens from the previous cycle. But in the thick of the trenches, athleticism can be harder to pinpoint. You have to have an eye on landmarks, the most notable one being the 1-technique defensive lineman, who lines up outside the center’s shoulder.

Centers who can get outside the 1-technique off the snap when moving laterally pass the necessary athletic threshold. Schmitz falls under that category. Not only can the Minnesota C get outside the 1-tech off the snap, but he can also give himself enough space to flip his hips. His lateral burst out of his stance allows him to work across-face against the 1-tech and traverse gaps with relative ease.

Going further, Schmitz can track outside fairly efficiently with steady lateral shuffles and has good range tracking to the sideline. While his range isn’t elite, he can cover decent ground in space. Additionally, Schmitz actively accelerates into blocks in the open field. The Minnesota C can get out in space and pursue linebackers at varying depths when heading to the second level. And for his size, he has above-average change of direction.

Size, of course, isn’t much of a concern for Schmitz. Though he doesn’t have the longest frame, he’s 6’4″, 320 pounds. He’s strong and well-sized, with great mass and density in close quarters. With that frame, Schmitz brings near-elite functional strength. With his immense upper-body strength, Schmitz can latch and maintain anchors amidst heavy resistance. He has the strength to keep defenders within his frame and control them while channeling power from base. He can also maintain his anchor while rotating around blocks, adjusting his base.

Even against longer opponents, Schmitz can flex and maintain his anchor with stifling core and grip strength. His strength and stored power afford him great recovery capacity after losing initial leverage on anchors. The Minnesota C uses his strength to pave open lanes at the A gap and can then use his mass to wall off those lanes. With that strength, he can also keep defenders from infiltrating lanes on moving blocks.

Schmitz’s lack of elite length does put a cap on his power capacity, but he still brings a definite power element to the fold. He can bring up ample force from his lower body, and he’s able to displace defenders after latching and loading his base. Moreover, he’s able to sustain power exertions and move defenders with steady, urgent leg drive. He can channel his short-area burst effectively with his lower body to displace defenders.

From a composite standpoint, power exertion deals with the proper use of both the lower and upper body. Schmitz has shown he can draw power from his upper half as well. He’s able to make contact and then extend, maximizing energy output at the point of attack. Furthermore, he consistently launches into contact and brings great initial knock-back power. The Minnesota C also flashes the ability to generate upper-body torque on extensions and stress opposing frames.

Schmitz is dense and heavy as a blocker, but he possesses impressive overall flexibility for his physical profile. The Minnesota C shows great control with his hip alignment. He can start to flip his hips as he works across-face, then adapt and redirect when defenders work outside. Going further, Schmitz has the hip flexibility to swivel around opponents while maintaining his anchor, sealing off opponents from plays.

In a similar vein, Schmitz has shown he can sink his pads to align his base and effectively channel power from his lower body. He’s well-leveraged and fairly well-balanced while playing beyond his center of gravity. He frequently acquires proper leverage when attacking defenders and extending inside the torso. That natural leverage acquisition helps Schmitz maximize his traits and technical execution.

Schmitz has the physical tools and the experience, and the latter shows up with his awareness in both phases. As a run blocker, Schmitz has the patience to let defenders work across-face, then seal them against the guard to open lanes inside. He can also effectively stack blocks moving to the second level and divert upfield after flushing contain defenders outside.

Meanwhile, in pass protection, Schmitz brings similar mental acuity. The Minnesota C gets his head up immediately after initial blocks, keeping an eye out for delayed rushers. He can pick up delayed blitzers while anchored and launch into gaps to stymie rushers. Schmitz has an active help mentality, doesn’t get tunnel vision, and will surge into unencumbered rushers when he identifies them.

With his hands, Schmitz can attack the torso off the snap with two-hand punches, then widen his grip and latch onto his opponent’s frame. He’s able to buoy defenders with tight hands while matching laterally with his base. He can also quickly replace his hands against power rushes and re-establish his anchor. Additionally, the Minnesota C can briskly swat extensions and latch in succession, showing fast hand capacity.

Schmitz’s footwork is another point of strength. The Minnesota C quickly establishes a wide, strong base on reps, which he can use to absorb power and stabilize his center of gravity. He can also roll back in phase while absorbing that power. He has active footwork when anchored and can quickly flip his alignment to redirect defenders. Schmitz can keep his base uniform while resetting his alignment to maintain leverage in real time. And as a run blocker, he’s able to tighten his stance through gaps while tracking upfield at an angle.

Finally, Schmitz brings a tenacious physicality that molds his game together. He’s a relentless finisher who will steamroll opponents into the ground with leg drive. He actively seeks to bury opponents in the turf. But more than that, he consistently takes advantage of opponents who sacrifice leverage. He’s not reckless but precise and calculated with his finishes, and he consistently blocks to the whistle.

Schmitz’s areas for improvement

Schmitz is an extremely well-rounded prospect with few glaring weaknesses. His length, however, is a notable concern, and it precipitates to other areas. Schmitz’s length is visibly average, which can affect his leverage against longer defenders. His shorter span can allow longer defenders to latch and tug him beyond his center of gravity. Similarly, he’ll sometimes try to compensate for his average length by reaching too far and lurching forward on blocks.

Beyond his length, one could argue Schmitz lacks a quantifiably elite athletic trait. While his initial burst is exceptional, there are times when he isn’t quite able to get outside the 1-tech on zone runs. He also lacks great change-of-direction ability in space and sometimes veers past defenders while trying to redirect.

Going further, Schmitz doesn’t quite have elite power capacity. Not only does his length somewhat mitigate that, but his rotational freedom can also be limited when generating upper-body torque. While he’s impressively flexible overall, slight torso stiffness can prevent him from cycling all the way through rotations at times, which can limit his ability to displace opponents fully.

Schmitz can also stand to further refine his game in a few operational areas. The Minnesota C sometimes plays too tall into contact and anchors too high up, which can detract from his leverage. He’ll also drift upright after contact at times, stalling his power output and minimizing displacement. He’s relatively comfortable playing with lean, but that can be detrimental. He sometimes leans too much and loses control on moving blocks upfield.

Expanding on his operational traits, Schmitz’s hands occasionally drift too high when establishing anchors, and he doesn’t always establish grip on contact. His hands can slip past blockers, resulting in lurches and lost balance. Schmitz’s initial placement can be more precise and efficient, and he occasionally goes too wide with his hands, exposing his torso to power. With his hands too wide, he sometimes inadvertently wraps around defenders, drawing penalties.

Elsewhere, Schmitz’s feet can be a bit lumbering. At times, he tracks back on his heels in pass protection, impacting his stability amidst contact. And as a run blocker, he occasionally overshoots blocking angles while diverting upfield on zone runs.

Current draft projection for Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz

Schmitz was underrated in the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, and he’s underrated now as he returns for his sixth year. Although he’ll be a 24-year-old rookie, Schmitz grades out as an early-round prospect and a future NFL starter on tape. He could be in contention to be the first center off the board. Late Round 1 may be a stretch, but anywhere in the Day 2 range, the Minnesota C is fair game.

There’s always a certain reservation that comes with prospects who exhaust their eligibility at the collegiate level. Some CFB veterans lack the physical tools to leave early for the NFL and thus have reduced ceilings when they declare. That’s not the case with Schmitz. He has the awareness, football IQ, footwork, and tenacious physicality that you’d expect from a tenured offensive lineman. But he’s also surprisingly explosive and fluid in congested areas, and his functional strength is a near-elite trait to build around.

Schmitz’s average length slightly lowers his ceiling. And his advanced age may subtract a prime year or two. But NFL centers can play well into their 30s, and Schmitz’s tape suggests he could be a productive, scheme-versatile starter early in his career. Schmitz has the strength and power to pave open lanes between the A gaps, and he has enough mobility and flexibility to execute a variety of zone blocks.

Someone is going to get a very good pro in Schmitz. The Minnesota C has the physical and operational tools to be a mainstay at the center of an NFL line for a decade or more, and his aggressive style helps set the tone.


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