The importance of stellar play at the center position has been on full display during this year’s NFL playoffs. Of the four teams in the conference championship round, three of them had their starting center voted into the Pro Bowl and were all once high draft picks for their respective teams (Ragnow, Humphrey, Linderbaum).
A player who fits the same type of profile of those elites is Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson.
Most have long considered JPJ to be the top center prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, and his performance last week in Senior Bowl practices only strengthened that case. Although just a one-year starter, Powers-Johnson was named a consensus All-American in 2023 after a truly dominant season, and he’s just scratching the surface of what he could become at the next level.
With the Jacksonville Jaguars coming off a season of miserable interior line play, could Powers-Johnson be on the table for Trent Baalke and company in the first round? Let’s dive a little deeper into his game in the first of our 2024 NFL Draft player profiles series.
Hands: 9 5/8″
Arm Length: 32 1/8”
(official Senior Bowl measurements)
- Team captain
- Scheme versatility
- Can play anywhere on the interior, although his ceiling is higher at center
- Incredible mover in space for his size. His lateral agility and acceleration when getting out wide jump off the screen
- Quick to anchor with his imposing frame and mass
- Super fast and powerful hands flash consistently. Proved to be a great recovery tool when beaten off the snap
- Consistently keeps balanced through the point of contact
- Incredible grip strength. Particularly evident when tasked with getting his mitts on smaller, more agile players in space
- Moves through combo blocks with poise and climbs to the second level with intention
- Just 16 career starts on the offensive line (Had 1 start at DT as a freshman)
- Processing on blitzes comes and goes but he’s so good at recovering it doesn’t hurt him much
- As good as he is in space, I would like to see more examples of physicality when finishing plays in the open field
- His modest wingspan shows up when lengthier rushers get into his chest
- Always has his head on a swivel but it can lead to lapses in technique on his initial block when in combo situations
- Guilty of a false step here and there. Could clean up the footwork a touch
- Had five false start penalties in 2023
Projection and Fit
In a really deep class of interior offensive linemen in the 2024 NFL Draft, Jackson Powers-Johnson stands above the rest as the most NFL-ready prospect in the group.
This center draft class got a nice bump when Jackson Powers-Johnson decided to go pro. His 2023 tape is outstanding. Size + athleticism + power + toughness.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 3, 2024
JPJ absolutely in the OC1 mix. pic.twitter.com/fDQSp7bYD1
He has the power, size, technique, and versatility that every team across the NFL looks for at both the guard and center positions. Pair that with his scheme flexibility and you have the makings of an immediate starter at the next level.
In terms of his fit in Jacksonville, Jackson Powers-Johnson would be an immediate upgrade at both the left guard and center spots for the Jaguars. He has experience in both zone and gap concepts coming from Oregon’s pro-style system, so adjusting to Press Taylor’s offense should be seamless.
Powers-Johnson is by no means a perfect prospect, but what he is is a technically sound mauler that would instantly elevate a lifeless Jacksonville rushing attack, while also adding a bit of an edge to an otherwise pillowy soft interior. His combination of physicality and reliability would be a breath of fresh air on this Jaguars front.
While 17th overall might seem a little early for a center, you’d be hard-pressed to find another player on the board that would be as big of an upgrade over the current starter at their respective position. It isn’t sexy, but it just might be the best thing for this offense in 2024.
Grade: 8.4 (immediate starter)