Quentin Johnston headlines the Horned Frogs’ 2023 NFL Draft class, but he’s not the only one on the radar. With his NFL draft scouting report, TCU C Steve Avila has a chance to earn consideration as a potential NFL starter. But in a deep and talented center class, where exactly does Avila file in? Let’s take a closer look.
Steve Avila NFL draft profile
2021 was a massive step up for Avila, who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors after starting 11 games at center for the TCU Horned Frogs. But NFL evaluators may find just as much solace in his history and background. Not only is Avila an elite collegiate center in the present day, but he has the experience and ability to move around the line.
Avila was, in fact, a guard recruit out of high school. He stood at 6’4″, 300 pounds, with a documented 5.25 40-yard dash, 4.51 shuttle time, and a 25.3″ vertical jump. A low four-star recruit on ESPN’s board, Avila fielded offers from schools like Kansas State and Utah but chose to stay in-state. Hailing from Grand Prairie, Texas, he made the half-hour drive to Fort Worth to join up with the Horned Frogs.
Since enrolling at TCU, Avila has steadily morphed into an asset on the offensive line. He was a valued backup in 2019 after redshirting in 2018 and started nine games at center, right guard, and right tackle in 2020. In 2021, Avila moved to center full-time. And the results speak for themselves.
Avila has proven positional versatility. But his first chance in the NFL will come as a center. What is his potential there?
- Position: Center
- School: TCU
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’4″, 334 pounds
Steve Avila scouting report
The contenders keep climbing in number. John Michael Schmitz, Sedrick Van Pran, Ricky Stromberg, Joe Tippmann, and Jarrett Patterson are just a few of the prospects in contention to be the first center off the board. Does Avila have what it takes to join the group?
The first thing you notice about Avila on film? The dude is big. Listed at 6’4″ and over 330 pounds, Avila has a massive, boxy frame with overwhelming width and frame density. Even beyond that, however, Avila has an excellent combination of length and natural leverage. His length is an asset that not all centers have, and he makes the most of it.
Avila doesn’t have elite athleticism to go with his size, but he’s not a liability in that department, either. The TCU C has enough burst to get upfield off the snap with solid efficiency and can accelerate to fuel leg drive once anchored. He has enough lateral mobility to match linebackers in space when tracking upfield, and he can match rushers laterally, then flip and chase around the apex when they commit. Moreover, Avila flashes good accelerative capacity at times when attacking second-level defenders.
Serviceable athleticism aside, the majority of Avila’s physical appeal comes with his size, power, and strength. The TCU C has stifling grip strength when anchored on opposing frames. His hands latch with force and can be very hard to break off. Avila also has the core strength to keep linemen in front of him as they strain laterally to break free. His unique length allows him to maintain anchors against longer, more powerful opponents. And when he’s on a stable base, he has the grip strength to withstand violent clubs and rips.
Avila’s most dominant physical trait is his power exertion. He can exert massive amounts of power with extensions after latching onto opponents. Additionally, he can extend and sustain power exertions with urgent leg drive. His length and frame density combine to afford him elite power capacity. The TCU C carries rare knock-back power with his hands, as well as the sheer mass behind his movement.
To that end, he’s able to supplement extensions with violent rotations and blast defenders off their feet with lower-body activation. His power consistently knocks back opponents and creates space. He can load up devastating power from his base and forklift opponents out of lanes, then drive them upfield. The TCU C explodes into contact as a help blocker and can bowl over unsuspecting defenders. He can also use one-armed extensions to wrench back linebackers who enter his wheelhouse.
Avila’s boxy profile comes with visible stiffness, but he’s not completely devoid of flexibility. The TCU C has enough flexibility to lean and seal out defenders in space. Furthermore, he has the hip flexibility to adjust blocking angles and turn upfield with minimal strain. And in pass protection, he’s shown he can swivel around quickly after extending to seal off delayed blitzers.
Avila plays with natural knee bend and can lower himself and acquire leverage to get under opponents. He’s also shown he can play beyond his center of gravity and use his base to cushion himself on extensions. He’s able to quickly get under pads and latch inside the torso off the snap and can use his length to lock out and unleash energy on extensions.
Naturally, Avila’s length grants him exciting potential when engaging in hand fighting. The TCU C quickly gets his hands up off the snap in pass protection. He can load up his hands and store power, then latch with force and nullify rushes. He brings a combative mentality as a hand fighter. Avila can load and extend with brutal quickness, then reload with efficiency. Going further, the Horned Frogs blocker can use independent punches in rapid succession to jar and misalign defenders off the snap.
Avila is able to replace his hands swiftly after extensions and regain leverage. But there’s also a methodical edge in Avila’s game. He has shown he can flash his hands to manipulate defenders into certain attack paths, then violently extend, latch, and absorb. In a similar vein, Avila shows above-average awareness. He keeps his eyes and feet active when serving as a help blocker. Moreover, he can shift his focus while keeping his base. He processes leverage quickly and can pass off looping defenders, maintaining discipline.
Avila’s footwork is fairly efficient. As a run blocker, the TCU C can use shuffle steps to glide upfield and square up linebackers in space. He can also use fast feet to solidify positioning heading into blocks. Meanwhile, in pass protection, Avila keeps a wide base with steady weight transfers. He can roll his base back while keeping width. And when given the opportunity, Avila imposes his will with relentless energy at contact. He’ll capitalize on imbalanced, poorly-leveraged defenders and drive them into the turf.
Avila’s areas for improvement
While Avila isn’t an athletic liability, he may experience scheme limitations at the next level. The TCU C doesn’t have great change of direction in space. He experiences some stiffness when he needs to get out of his stance and pursue defenders on scramble drills. Additionally, he often needs to take a gather step or two before redirecting.
Expanding on his athletic limitations, Avila also lacks elite range and won’t consistently chase down second- and third-level defenders. Going further, Avila lacks elite explosiveness upfield. While he has decent burst, he can’t always clear the line and reach linebackers at depth before runs develop.
Elsewhere, Avila doesn’t always showcase the necessary grip and core strength to maintain anchors on the move. His feet sometimes halt at contact, neutralizing leg drive. And on pass protection reps, he doesn’t always show the required flexibility to absorb power and keep from being displaced consistently. Similarly, Avila lacks the elite hip flexibility to turn on a dime and recover in space after overpursuing angles.
While Avila is naturally well-leveraged, his stance can undergo more refinement. The TCU C sometimes drifts too far upright at contact, neutralizing his lower body. He occasionally leads with his head on moving blocks and lurches past his center of gravity, losing balance and leverage. Avila struggles to sustain moving blocks in space, too often striking and failing to grip. At times, he plays with too much lean, which can impact his balance working against power.
Going further, Avila can do a better job latching onto opposing frames on moving blocks, as his hand placement can be unstable. He sometimes rushes to extend off the snap and gets caught with his feet idle. Premature extensions not only impact balance but leave his torso open and exposed to power. He’ll also occasionally panic and extend with flat feet when overshooting moving blocks. Overall, his feet and hands can have more synergy at times. His eagerness to extend can leave him with a lopsided form.
Among other things, Avila sometimes struggles to recollect his base once defenders get inside his frame. The TCU C can be late recognizing defenders breaking free inside as a help blocker. Conversely, he can show better patience, prematurely committing and opening space. And lastly, Avila sometimes overpursues blocking angles while moving in space.
Current draft projection for TCU C Steve Avila
There will be lots of vying for positioning in the 2023 NFL Draft center class. It’s a stacked position group, and that’s something that may work against Avila. Nevertheless, Avila grades out as a fringe Day 2, priority Day 3 prospect. Provided that he keeps performing at a high level, he should be looked at in the middle rounds as quality center depth or a potential starting talent in more confined schemes.
Avila’s lack of elite athleticism is the main concern when projecting his ceiling. Although he has a respectable athletic baseline, he’s not the most natural in space. The TCU C doesn’t have elite range, struggles to change directions, and doesn’t sustain moving blocks consistently. There’s reason to believe he can improve in that phase. But right now, his most proven utility comes inside a phone booth.
In close quarters, Avila’s combination of length, power, and hand quickness can be dangerous for opposing linemen. As a pass protector, his wide frame can be tough to get around, and his combative hands and grip strength can effectively nullify 1-on-1 blocks. And in the running game, he has the power and leverage to generate initial displacement and open lanes inside.
Avila might not have the brand of mobility desired for outside-zone schemes, but his displacement potential can be an asset in power and gap looks. Though he may be a bit scheme-specific, Avila has the potential to be a solid starter in the right system, and he’s great depth, regardless, with his experience at multiple positions.