Connect with us

2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Could Benefit from Top Center’s Slide Down Draft Boards

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
Georgia Athletics

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a center, with 2023 starter Mason Cole struggling in his second season with the team and his contract ending at the end of the 2024 season, 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.

As many as three players could be taken in the first round, which would be unprecedented. Only two were taken in the entire 2023 NFL Draft. The last first-round center was Cesar Ruiz back in 2020.

Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson has become the favorite to be the first center 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. Frazier has also entered the conversation as a first-round pick, which could limit the Steelers options to needing to draft one in the first round or not get one at all.

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 underclassmen, 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.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of NFL scouts, Van Pran’s Bulldogs missing the college football playoff and him not participating in the Senior Bowl has led to a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

Van Pran could change that at next week’s NFL Combine, with ESPN analyst Matt Miller saying that a strong week could bring the Georgia center right back to the forefront of the draft class.

“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 idea result for Omar Khan and company.