By: Jack Borowsky | @Jack_Borowsky
This 2021 NFL Draft class is shaping up to be a really good one. The interior group is no exception, with many big-name players expected to go very high. With the value of the interior pass rusher continuing to go up, there is a greater emphasis placed on having high-quality players on the inside of the offensive line. That old notion of the most critical position on the offensive line being a left tackle, as the blindside defensive end is the hardest player to stop, is long gone.
Being able to stop players like Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and nose tackles who can get after the quarterback are what the league is transitioning to in 2021. Defensive coordinators are starting to do a lot more to manufacture pressure as well. With all that, the center position is vital for success and there just aren’t enough of them to go around. Luckily for NFL teams, this year’s class features a player who has the ability to be one of the best in the league: Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey.
The best center in the draft has been a well-known name for the past few seasons. Humphrey got his first start early on during his redshirt freshman season and was immediately one of the best players at the position. Most of the time, it takes offensive linemen a while to adjust to the speed and overall play strength required to have success at the collegiate level but that wasn’t the case with Humphrey. He didn’t give up a sack or even a quarterback hurry on the season. There was even a six-game stretch during the season where he didn’t even give up a pressure.
The tape backed up Humphrey’s performances too. He had the maturity of an NFL veteran, being asked to do a lot while also protecting the quarterback. Humphrey never looked lost on the field, which shows his intelligence and maturity, two of the most important aspects of playing center. If an organization is taking an offensive lineman high, they expect him to come in and start from day one. Humphrey proved that he won’t have a problem with any adjustments to the next level on his freshman film.
Going into his redshirt sophomore season, there was a lot of hype that Humphrey had the makings of a future first-round pick. He had a solid season but there were performances like his conference championship game against Baylor that left something to be desired with the amount of talent Humphrey possesses. Rather than jumping ship, as he still would have been a very high draft pick, Humphrey went back to Oklahoma to prove he was the best center in the nation. He did just that.
It seemed like any mistake that was on Humphrey’s film was fixed this season. He was elite from the first snap of the season until the last. He stepped up in the big moments too. His performances against Oklahoma State and Florida on primetime were excellent. His wrestling background was on full display throughout the season, as he consistently won the leverage battle. Even at 6-foot-5,” there should be no issue with him sticking at center.
His brute strength allows him to stay very patient and in front of defenders at all times. Humphrey is also always on the field. He didn’t miss a start during his sophomore and junior campaigns. Whoever drafts Humphrey knows they are getting a durable player that can come in from day one and be a high caliber player. The tape speaks for itself with Humphrey and what he’ll bring to the locker room as a leader will be huge.
Sometimes teams will get caught up in testing numbers and untapped potential but they shouldn’t overthink Humphrey. With the way he progressed from his sophomore to junior season, there is no reason why he can’t be a top-five center a few years into his NFL career. With all that in mind, Humphrey is the best interior offensive linemen in the draft and he has the ability to end up as an All-Pro caliber player.