From now until the 2024 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Michigan C Drake Nugent.
#60 DRAKE NUGENT/OC MICHIGAN – 6’2, 301 LBS. (R-SENIOR)
– Dense frame all throughout
– Very good anchor, holds up well against bull rush
– Good play strength, creates displacement at the line of scrimmage
– Solid competitive toughness, plays through the whistle
– Excels in big-on-big situations in the phone booth
– Solid understanding of angles and leverage
– Great latch strength
– Reach blocks better than his athletic ability suggests
– Lacking overall length
– Limited athletic ability
– Sells out on blocks and gets his body weight and center of gravity too far out in front of him
– Feet get too close together when drive blocking, opening up opportunities for DL to shed
– Ends up on the ground too often while blocking in traffic
– Plays a little tall while moving forward, bends at waist instead of knees
– Originally a three-star prospect out of Highlands Ranch HS in Lone Tree, Colorado
– Played his first four seasons at Stanford before transferring to Michigan
– 39 total starts across five seasons
– Team captain in his final season at Stanford
– 2023 Rimington Trophy Finalist
– 2023 First-team All-Big Ten (coaches, media)
– Academic All-Pac-12 honoree
– Missed most of senior season of high school with an undisclosed injury
– Son of former Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts QB Terry Nugent
– Played exclusively at center
– National champion in 2023
Nugent is a throwback, physical center with plenty of power in his upper and lower half to stalemate the biggest of defensive tackles. When it comes to creating displacement and driving defenders back off the line of scrimmage, Nugent is impressive. Some of the positives here are also negatives as he tends to sell out to drive a defender back and doesn’t keep a wide enough base or a low enough center of gravity. He also tends to lean at the waist rather than gain leverage with knee bend.
As mentioned with the issues bending at the waist, keeping his feet too narrow, and standing tall at times, he ends up on the ground more than you would like. He falls fast and he falls hard. A couple times he even rolled up on some of his teammates which is a liability in the trenches.
A lot of those balance and center of gravity issues are not present in his pass sets. He latches on with good inside hands, bends at the knee, and uses a nice wide base to anchor down. When he is latched, it helps his ability to move laterally and mirror a defender’s movement.
He probably won’t test well at the NFL Combine, and some of that limited athletic ability leads to varied success on the move. From the three games watched, he wasn’t asked to climb to the second level, reach block, or pull that often. If he doesn’t get off the line perfectly, he doesn’t get to his spot on time. He has a good understanding of using his arms and latch strength to get his feet across on a reach.
Overall, Nugent will likely be best in a gap scheme where he can use angles and use his strength to drive defenders out of holes. He can be an effective pass blocker against bigger defensive tackles, but will struggle against superior length or athleticism. In the right system, he can be a solid starter within the first couple seasons. For the Steelers, I am not sure how he will fit into Arthur Smith’s wide zone scheme with being asked to play in space a bit more. He has a lot of starting experience in college, all at center, and was a team captain his final year at Stanford.
Projection: Early-Mid Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.1 – Rotational Player (Fourth Round)
Games Watched: Vs. Rutgers (2023) At. Minnesota (2023) At. Penn State (2023)