Brandon Vitable, the intelligent and experienced center of the Northwestern Wildcats, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after starting all 50 games of his collegiate career. Vitable finished the season as an Honorable Mention All-Big 10 performer for the second straight year. He received the 2014 National Football Foundational National Scholar-Athlete award (one of 17 honorees) as well as being named a Capital One Academic All-District selection. Vitable was named Academic All-Bit 10. He’s a smart and experienced player, with both attributes being of extreme importance for the center position. Physically, Vitable is a stocky 300 lbs who appears shorter than his listed height would suggest. He’s not a long-limbed guy, but that’s not much of a negative for the center spot. Athletically, Vitable possesses good movement skills and can work his way through traffic when reaching his assignment. He does a nice job switching off combo blocks and he possesses good body control and balance. He’s a smart and heady player, reading and reacting quickly to oncoming pass rushers or defensive stunts. At times, however, Vitable’s lacking top-tier strength is exposed by the powerful and penetrating bull rusher. Vitable struggles to hold his ground and lacks a really sound anchor; at times, his lacking anchor threatens the pocket’s integrity. The same concern holds true in the run game, as the strong, penetrating defensive lineman seems to give Vitable problems. He appears best fit in a ZBS that relies more on movement up front; it’s difficult to project much success in a phone booth right now for him. However, he does scrap and fight and positions his body well to seal defenders. He’s active until the whistle, and he’s always looking for someone to hit.
BOTTOM LINE: If Brandon Vitable was a little bit stronger, we could be looking at a Day 2 prospect. However, the fact that he shows some glaring problems when going head-to-head versus stronger opponents gives pause at pushing him into that level. That said, Vitable’s invaluable on-field experience, good football IQ and obvious intelligence, makes him an appealing guy to develop into a potential starter one day. If he can add some bulk and increase his strength, he will start in the NFL. If, however, he’s maxed out in that capacity, he’s at worst a heady reserve that will be valued on a depth chart.
GRADE: 6.5 (4th round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)