This is the fifth installment in a position-by-position preview of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Overview: There has not been a guard or center drafted in the top 10 in the past four years, and only two have gone in the top 10 the last 10 years. That should change this year. On average over the past decade, about 15 guards and six centers are drafted per year. Grade: A.
The Best: Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are on a run of producing good offensive linemen for the NFL the past few years. Nelson is as elite as Zack Martin, the All-Pro guard who Dallas picked 16th in 2014. Nelson could go eighth to Chicago, since the Bears have an O-line need and just hired Harry Hiestand from Notre Dame to coach the position.
"As a blocker my mindset is being dominant," Nelson said. "I want to dominate all my opponents and take their will away to play the game by each play and finishing them past the whistle."
Bills View: The good news for Buffalo is guard is a strong position in the draft. It's good at the top (which doesn't help the Bills) and good in the middle rounds (which should benefit the Bills).
Guard went from a likely consideration to a priority position with this week's announcement by Richie Incognito that he plans to retire. Coupled with the Eric Wood injury, the Bills all of a sudden have suffered the unplanned loss of their two most veteran, highest-rated offensive linemen.
The Bills had to start thinking about backing up the soon-to-be 35-year-old Incognito with a youngster, anyway. Middle-round prospects include Nevada's Austin Corbett and Auburn's Braden Smith (in the third round), LSU's Will Clapp, Humboldt State OT/OG Alex Cappa and Virginia Tech's Wyatt Teller (in the late third to fifth) and Washington State's Cole Madison (in the fourth or fifth).
The dire need to draft a center was taken off the table when the Bills signed Russell Bodine from Cincinnati. Bodine, who has made 64 NFL starts, will have competition from incumbent backup Ryan Groy. What if a center the Bills love is on the board in Day Two? The Bills had a private visit with Arkansas' Frank Ragnow. He could be in the mix with Buffalo's No. 96 pick.
Ragnow would be a great culture fit for Sean McDermott, plus he has the versatility to play either guard spot if the Bills wanted him to compete with Vlad Ducasse as a rookie or replace Incognito. Ragnow played 42 games at Arkansas but played 15 games at right guard.
Ragnow is a Minnesota native who likes ice fishing.
“I was ice fishing with my little brother over Christmas," he said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I have an app called ‘Deeper.’ It’s a fish finder on your phone. I caught a fish, and my phone was on my lap. I stood up and it went down the hole. Brand new iPhone X. I screamed pretty loud. I had insurance but it was a big pain. I’d had it for two weeks."
A lot to like: Nevada's Corbett could be a Bills option at No. 65 if they've somehow already filled bigger needs at receiver and linebacker at that point. Corbett is projected at guard or center, even though he started 48 games at left tackle. He wrestled as a youngster and plays with a nasty streak. His favorite Raider (he's a Las Vegas native) is old-time Hall-of-Fame center Jim Otto. He's a 4.0 student who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.
Said Corbett: "I just live in the books. I love school. I'm a nerd."
Top center: It appears Iowa's James Daniels will be the first center off the board, perhaps late in the first round, because of his athleticism and upside. Look for Ohio State's Billy Price to be a second-round pick. Price is a two-time team captain for the Buckeyes and started 54 games, most in Ohio State history.
Strong men: UTEP's Will Hernandez lifted 225 pounds 37 times, tops among all offensive linemen in the draft. The average for guards and centers is 26 repetitions. The road-grading Hernandez was one of the few bright spots for UTEP, which went 0-12 in 2017. He started 49 straight games at left guard and then had a strong week at the Senior Bowl. Nelson and Auburn's Braden Smith were right behind Hernandez with 35 repetitions.
Sleeper: Colby Gossett, G, Appalachian State. He started 45 games and allowed only one career sack playing in the Sun Belt Conference. He's a sixth- or seventh-round prospect.
TOP 10 INTERIOR O-LINEMEN
1. Quenton Nelson*, G, Notre Dame 6-5, 325 Immediate NFL star, just like ND mate Zack Martin of Cowboys.
2. Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso 6-2, 327 Made 49 straight starts, starred at Senior Bowl.
3. James Daniels*, C/G, Iowa 6-3, 306 Third-year junior is only 20. Has long arms, big upside.
4. Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia 6-2, 308 Versatile road-grader for star Georgia runners, started 42 games.
5. Billy Price, C, Ohio State 6-3, 305 Made 55 straight starts and was two-time All-America.
6. Braden Smith, G, Auburn 6-6, 315 Stout, 3-year starter voted SEC's top OL.
7. Austin Corbett, G, Nevada 6-4, 305 Could play guard or tackle. Only did 19 reps of 225.
8. Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas 6-5, 312 Great size, three-year starter, never allowed a sack. Could go higher.
9. Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech 6-4, 311. Recruited as D-lineman but made 43 starts for Hokies.
10. Will Clapp*, C/G, LSU 6-4, 314 Not a super athlete but long, strong and reliable.
Story topics: 2018 NFL Draft