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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Center Solution Could be Highly-Touted Georgia Center

Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran was once considered the top center in the 2024 NFL Draft class, and his slide down boards could benefit the Steelers



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Georgia Center Sedrick Van Pran

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a center, with 2023 starter Mason Cole struggling in his second season with the team and his release, which has eyes turned to the 2024 NFL Draft class for potential solutions.

The good news is that there are lots of quality centers in this draft class — perhaps a historic haul at the position.

Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson has become the favorite center to be taken, and it now seems likely that he will be a first-round pick. Graham Barton played tackle at Duke, but he projects to be an interior lineman at the NFL level, and some teams would use him at center, including likely the Steelers. 

West Virginia center Zach Frazier has been repeatedly linked to the Steelers in the second round, but recently has been shooting up draft boards.

But there is a fourth option, and for a long time, a lot of people thought that option was the best of the bunch. That is Georgia center Sedrick Van Pan. At one point considered a first-round pick, his NFL Mock Draft Database average now has him in the middle of the third round.

Listed at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Van Pran came out as a redshirt junior after starting for three seasons at Georgia and winning two national championships. This past season, he was a first-team All-America selection by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

For most of the season, Van Pran was considered to be the top center prospect in the country. So how did he end up fourth? 

For one, Powers-Johnson came out of relative obscurity in the Pacific Northwest. An underclassman, it wasn’t even a sure thing that he would come out for the draft this season. With Oregon having a strong year and several other high draft picks on the offense, he got a lot more attention in 2023 than he had coming in.

Then, he went to Mobile and had about as good of a week at the Senior Bowl as possible. Van Pran and Barton, meanwhile, made the curious choice to withdraw from attending the Senior Bowl, and Frazier went but didn’t practice while rehabbing a broken leg. But Barton tested like a freak at his pro day. Van Pran could be the perfect fit.

Matt Miller believes that Van Pran has fallen down boards a bit.

“I was really surprised that he didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl,” Miller said in a conference call with Steelers Now this week. “I thought that was going to be a great opportunity for him. I think the biggest thing that he has to show is that movement ability at the second level, so the combine is going to be big for that. Because it’s all agility, right, so being able to see how the balance in space, the movement in space, the speed and quickness, those are all going to be huge for him. Thinking about the position-specific drills, I think that’s where he can put himself back I that conversation with Zach Frazier, with Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon. Because when the season started, he was the top center on every draft board that I was aware of, at least. This is a great chance for him to get his name back into that mix.”

Of course, the Steelers might not necessarily be rooting for him to do so. Pittsburgh has plenty of needs, including tackle and cornerback in what appear to also be deep first-round groups. If they could take a tackle — like perhaps Van Pran’s teammate Amarius Mims — in the first round, and then land Van Pran on Day Two of the draft, that would probably be a close to ideal result for Omar Khan and company.

On Saturday, Mel Kiper released his big board of rankings. All of the top three centers were still above Van Pran? But in the Top-25, they’re nowhere to be found. And interestingly, while Barton is the top center, Frazier comes before Powers-Johnson. The signals continue to come for the Steelers that there might be a much softer market for center despite apparent needs for the position across the league. It is a position that is routinely discounted in drafts, though, so it naturally tracks. But the team needs to find a center, and it seems like most analysts believe it’s a great class to have that need. But Van Pran, if the Steelers wait, might be the natural pick in the third round if they want to wait.