One of the most undervalued position groups in the NFL Draft has to be interior offensive line. They’re never talked about near the top of the draft. Most offensive guards and centers are taken on day two and three of the draft, but they solidify offensive lines across the league. It’s understandable, though. They don’t play “premier” positions like quarterback or defensive end. Not all interior offensive linemen are the most athletically gifted players in the league. Most importantly, though, they play one of the most physical positions in football, so there’s also the risk for injury. With that said, there are plenty of solid interior offensive linemen in this class, and it could be the deepest this group in years. Let’s take a look at one of them:
Coming out of Fitch High School in Youngstown, Ohio, there was a highly touted offensive lineman named Billy Price. According to 247sports.com, Price had 12 offers, including those from Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. After plenty of thought, he made the decision to play at Ohio State. During his tenure at Ohio State, Price made 55 straight starts that ranged from left guard, to center, to right guard. In 2016, he was a second team All-American honoree and he only got better during the 2017 season. This past season, he earned first team All-American honors and ended up winning the Remington Trophy as the nation’s top center. Despite playing alongside players like Jamarco Jones and Pat Elfein, Billy Price was fantastic in his own right.
- Exceptional quickness off the ball and in space
- Hand placement in run blocking and pass protection is consistent on the chest plate of defender
- Consistently locks out on the defender, maintains leverage and steers with control
- Gets into his pas -set quickly with good base and hand placement
- Gifted laterally, which helps him execute at high level in zone blocking scheme
- One of the strongest interior offensive linemen; more than adequate in one-on-one situations
- Versatile lineman who can play anywhere on the interior
- Consistently aggressive and has the mental/physical makeup to exceed at the next level
- Processes well against blitzes and defensive line stunts
- Efficient at getting push at the point-of-attack (POA)
- Good combo blocker who can also drive and pull
On this play above, you’ll see Billy Price (OC 54) displaying plenty of the strengths listed. He moves well laterally against a nose tackle that hard steps and tries to double swipe his way around the star center. In the video you’ll see that lateral movement, but most importantly, the ability of Price re-setting his hands and re-establishing himself in pass protection. For the most part, his hands are locked inside (nose tackle fights them off and Price’s right hand ends up on the shoulder pad), he plays below pad level and rolls his hips to get underneath the nose tackle.
On the above play, you see Billy Price (OC 54) absolutely wall this defensive tackle. Before we get to what happens after the snap, notice what he’s doing pre-snap. He’s pointing out the linebackers and reading what his key is doing with his hands before the snap. Odds are that the defensive tackle is telling the linebacker that he’s going to that A-gap. As for what happens post-snap, let’s take a look at his hand placement and footwork. He power steps to his left, presents a wide base and locks his hands inside. Most importantly, he’s below pad-level and maintains leverage through the entire pass set. Consistently, this happens throughout every game for Billy Price.
This play above is one of my favorite plays from Price (OC 54). Right after the snap, his slide step to the left is perfect. He’s immediately below pad level and, again, you’ll notice perfect hand placement. It’s not until the defensive tackle is attempting a spin move that his hand placement becomes off-target. Before the spin move, you’ll notice the strength that he carries and then after the spin move, notice how he stays with the defender laterally.
Continuing on the strengths of his play, you’ll notice what he does laterally. He’s gifted in this area and he does a nice job recovering. You’re probably asking, “recovering from what?” He false steps with his right foot and his base becomes sluggish. His right foot is back, but his left foot moves forward so he isn’t square and opens the door to get beat. However, he recovers with his strength and quick hands. While the nose tackle attempts to make a move, he stays with him laterally.
- Despite operating well in space, he doesn’t stay clear on his path. He gets wild and, at times, will lunge at a defender
- Could be more patient in pass protection
- As discussed above, footwork isn’t a huge concern, but it can still be refined
On the play above, you’ll instantly notice how quick Price (OC 54) is after snapping the football. This was one of those plays on which I couldn’t believe how quick and explosive he was. However, as he pulls, you’ll notice he’s lunging toward his key (LB 53). That’s never something an offensive lineman should do in the open field. That forces them to lose their feet and to lose any of the “bang” that’s expected from them at that level.
Normally, you have Price (OC 54) doing a really good job of picking up blitzes and sliding over in protection. However, that isn’t the case with this play. There’s a blitz from the linebacker and Price is at fault because it’s right up the middle. The linebacker wanted to go through the A-gap on the left side but ended up going off his course and through the middle of where Price should have been. I’ll give credit where credit is due, Price did a nice job on the nose-tackle that’s lined up across from him. He consistently wins the hand battle on the inside, but once Price fully extends, he should have his head on the swivel and notice the linebacker right there. Putting trust into the left guard to slide over and help has to happen. With that not happening, the quarterback (J.T. Barrett) is flushed out of the pocket.
Despite having the versatility to play all over the interior, I believe that Billy Price is best suited to play center. He was a first team All-American in his first full season as the Buckeyes’ starting center. He’s a smart and instinctive player who has incredible strength for the position. Not only that, but he’s also fantastic in the run game, operates well in space, and is good in pass protection. He has miscues in pass protection with his footwork and missing a blitz here or there, but with that being said, he’s the most complete center in this class.
With the graphic above, you’ll notice a breakdown of pass blocking snaps from Pro Football Focus (PFF). This graphic is from before the bowl games, but it still illustrates the type of season Billy Price had. Of 381 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed one sack, two hits and seven hurries for a total of 10 pressures allowed. That brings him to a pass blocking efficiency (PBE) of 98.0, which still ranks him very highly.
When the 2018 NFL Draft rolls around, I won’t be surprised when Billy Price enters the first round discussion. It’s almost a certainty that he’ll remain my top-ranked center for the entire draft season. With a grade of 5.45 on our grading sheet, he’s a sure first-rounder. There’s no telling what range he’ll go in the draft, but I’d assume it would be somewhere in the top 25 selections of the first round. For this to be a guarantee, he’ll need to light up the NFL Scouting Combine, which he’s expected to do. There are many people expecting him to be one of the strongest offensive linemen there, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he surprises people with his athletic ability.
Despite not playing one of the premier positions in football, Price plays a pivotal role in a team’s success. From the ground game to protecting the quarterback, and even reading the defense in front of him, he’ll be a key player for a team’s offensive line. When your team drafts him, it won’t be the pick of your dreams because he isn’t a wide receiver or running back, but without him, your dream players could become a nightmare. Billy Price is good, folks, and he’s only going to get better on Sundays.
(Here’s what Billy Price says to the people that say centers don’t matter. Interior offensive lineman matter, bro. Especially centers.)