The conversation up until draft day will most assuredly focus on the top quarterbacks available and where they will land in the NFL Draft. Then there’s the saga of Jalen Carter, as many wonder how much his draft stock has dropped since the Combine. Yet, one of the more intriguing side stories few are paying attention to is the center position. Here’s the latest news and rumors I’m hearing surrounding the position heading into the 2023 NFL Draft.
Entering the draft, there are four teams that desperately need a starting center; the New York Jets, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals. The Houston Texans also need a blocker on the pivot, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are also in the market for a center.
Right now, there are three centers at the top of the position board, and all are from the Big Ten; John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota, Joe Tippmann of Wisconsin, and Luke Wypler from Ohio State. There are also several teams who project TCU guard Steve Avila to the center spot and have a high grade on the senior. Let’s take a look
NFL Draft News and Rumors: Latest on Joe Tippmann, John Michael-Schmitz, and Luke Wypler
Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
Shy of projecting Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski to guard, there is a faction in the scouting community who believe Tippmann is the best interior offensive lineman in this draft. He’s drawing comparisons to Frank Ragnow, and there’s a possibility Tippmann could be the first center off the board.
Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson, now an offensive line consultant for the Seahawks, met with Tippmann earlier this week as Seattle debates which center grades higher, the Wisconsin junior or Schmitz.
Tippmann could be the Seahawks’ selection at 20, the same pick the Lions used to select Ragnow in 2018. Seattle will also look to trade down from 20 with the hopes Tippmann or Schmitz are available later. I’m told discussions are already taking place to move that selection.
The Jets are another team very high on Tippmann, whose last official 30 visit is with the franchise in Florham Park. I mentioned in my recent mock draft that I expect Joe Douglas to try and move down from the 13th pick if the left tackles (Paris Johnson Jr. or Broderick Jones) are off the board when the team is called to the clock.
Trading down would be a multi-purpose move as the Jets would be in a position to select a center. It would also give them more draft capital, which they need to trade for Aaron Rodgers or replace what they gave away for the signal-caller.
Pittsburgh, Houston, and Arizona also like Tippmann. Additionally, if he falls out of Round 1, I feel confident in saying Tippmann won’t make it past the 35th pick, presently owned by the Indianapolis Colts.
John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
Several teams have Schmitz rated as the top center, an opinion I concur with. The main difference between Schmitz and Tippmann is that the Minnesota senior is expected to be able to step into a starting line-up on Day 1, whereas it may take Tippmann a little longer to work in with the first team.
Like Tippmann, the Seahawks sent Hutchinson to work out Schmitz. If they are able to trade down from pick 20, Schmitz could be their guy. If he happens to be available to Seattle at pick 37, it would be manna from heaven for the franchise.
I continue to hear the Giants are locked onto Schmitz. Offensive line coach Bobby Johnson privately worked him out, and the team brought the center in for an official 30 visit. I’ve had the Giants selecting Schmitz with the 25th pick in the only two mock drafts I’ve done this year.
The Jets also like Schmitz but, as with Tippmann, they’d have to trade down and likely won’t select him at No. 13 overall. With the Steelers and Colts selecting at the top of Round 2, no one believes it’s possible Schmitz makes it to the Jets in the middle of the round.
Luke Wypler, Ohio State
Wypler is viewed favorably as a Day 2 pick by half the franchises in the league, or at least the teams who favor zone-blocking linemen. He’s a bit more agile and mobile than Tippmann and Schmitz, which is a positive. The negative is that, unlike the other two, no one believes Wypler can be used as a guard, and he’s strictly a center.
The Texans and Cardinals are both very high on Wypler. The feeling at the Ohio State Pro Day was the Buckeye sophomore will end up with Arizona.
Would either the Texans or Cardinals take Wypler at the top of Round 2 or risk waiting until the third round? I think much depends on how quickly Tippmann and Schmitz come off the board. The sooner those two are drafted, the quicker other teams that need a center are likely to select Wypler out of desperation.
Of course, there is every chance that Wypler may not make it past the Jets in the middle of Round 2. I’ve known since Ohio State’s Pro Day that the Jets’ coaching staff loves Wypler, and they feel he’s a perfect fit for their system.
In our coverage of the OSU workout, you may remember I mentioned the Jets offensive line coach took Wypler, as well as Paris Johnson, to one end of the field and worked them out by himself after the pair completed drills for the greater audience.
I’ve also known since the Senior Bowl that general manager Joe Douglas is not as high on Wypler as the coaching staff and prefers a bigger blocker at center. Hence, if Wypler is still available in the middle of the second round and New York has made no moves for Tippmann or Schmitz, it’s a matter of the coaches bringing Douglas on board for Wypler.
One more interesting tidbit on Wypler to the Jets is that I’m told Rodgers is warming to the idea of taking snaps from the Ohio State product. Josh Myers, the Packers center and a former Buckeye, has been singing the praises of Wypler to Rodgers, who just wants a smart blocker snapping him the ball.
The Jets also seem to like Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg. They sent their offensive line coach to the Arkansas Razorbacks Pro Day and had Stromberg in for an official 30 visit. The problem for New York is they don’t have a third-round choice, and I’m not sure Stromberg lasts until their first pick on Day 3, the 112th selection.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
List to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.