Playing center in the NFL isn’t just about having the physical skills to hold up against the onslaught of 300-plus-pound defensive tackles for 60 minutes, it also takes an astute player who understands blocking schemes and can lead five lineman as a cohesive unit.
Travis Frederick seems to fit that job description just fine.
A double major in computer engineering and computer science at Wisconsin, Frederick made computer programming, microchips, user interface, and web and app development his life outside of football. He says his personality fits somewhere in between a computer nerd and football player.
“I think (being smart) translates well to the football field,” Frederick told detroitlions.com. “I think, first of all, as an offensive lineman, you have to be smart. You have to see things and make adjustments.
“As the center you have to be the leader of that and I think the engineering (background) marries really well with that. Engineering is really the art of problem solving. All the sudden, you see a look on the field from a defense that you haven’t seen yet, you have to figure out how to solve this problem. You have to find a way to get around it.”
The Lions hosted Frederick for one of their allotted 30 pre-draft visits in Allen Park on Friday to learn a little more about his exploits on the football field.
Frederick was the first freshman in Wisconsin history to start a season opener on the offensive line when he lined up at center against Northern Illinois in 2009. He switched back and forth between guard and center to fill holes due to injury, but settled into the center spot permanently his senior season in 2012.
“I’ve had pretty much equal reps at both positions,” he said. “It’s great for me because I know both positions inside and out. That helps, not only because you can play both, but when you know what the guy next to you is doing inside and out, it allows you to understand the entire offensive line better and kind of look ahead at what should be happening.”
Frederick is trying to become the 15th Wisconsin linemen drafted since 2000 -- the most of any school in the country -- and is considered a second- or third-round pick by most analysts.
The Lions covet versatility and one of the things they value most for their interior linemen is the ability to be multidimensional - playing both guard and center. When the Lions have to decide which 46 players to keep active on gameday, a player who can play both guard and center is a valuable commodity.
Some analysts have described Frederick as a “cerebral” player, but one who lacks athleticism. He ran the second-slowest time among linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and did 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
“Everyone has their own opinion and people generally assume I’m not athletic because of my size (6-4, 320) or because I ran a slow 40-time at the combine (5.58),” he said. “But I don’t think the 40 has a whole lot to do with what offensive linemen do.
“I think I do very well at the things that have to do with offensive linemen. I did well in the three-cone drill (7.81). I did well in the shuttle (4.76). I have a good 10-yard split. These things aren’t things that people are necessarily looking at -- they see the 21 bench reps and the 40.
"I think teams get a chance to look at the film and see what they need to see.”
The Lions have an immediate need at right guard after releasing Stephen Peterman following the season and continue to look for a long-term answer at center with
Jeremiah Green found a way to impress
For the second consecutive day, the Lions hosted a draft prospect who wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but found a way to impress scouts nonetheless.
Thursday it was former Texas Tech safety Cody Davis. Friday, former Nevada linebacker Jeremiah Green was a guest at Allen Park for a pre-draft visit.
Davis earned himself a number of visits (has already been to San Diego and plans to visit the NY Giants) after a scorching 40-yard dash time of 4.47 seconds at Nevada’s Pro Day last month.
At 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, his 40 time -- along with a 39.5-inch vertical and a 10”1’ broad jump -- had teams like the Lions wanting to take a closer look at the two-year starter at SAM linebacker for the Wolf Pack.
“When I watched (the Combine) I saw a lot of guys there that I felt like I definitely could have performed better than and I didn’t get the chance,” Green told detroitlions.com. “I felt like at my Pro Day I demonstrated all of my athletic ability.”
Now the focus for Green is harnessing that ability. He said he struggled at times in college distributing his speed on the football field, which sometimes made him overaggressive. He said he sometimes took bad angles trying to get to ball carriers too fast.
Green’s Pro Day showed NFL teams that he has one thing they can’t teach -- size and speed. In the latter rounds of the draft, teams are looking more at the physical attributes of players and whether they can do the job physically, knowing that some molding will have to take place.
Green’s performance last month just might have taken him from a priority free agent before the workout to a late-round pick later this month. He has the physical tools that could match up well with some of the athletic tight ends and running backs in the pass game.
He’s trying to prove to teams that he can also play in the box and be a three-down player.
“When I played at Nevada I never really played much in the box,” he said. “But when I did play in the box, I felt like I was a physical enough linebacker and I feel like I could handle it.”