Alabama’s Landon Dickerson set to anchor an NFL line at center

Alabama's Landon Dickerson won the Dave Rimington Award as the top center in the nation last season. (Associated Press)
Alabama's Landon Dickerson won the Dave Rimington Award as the top center in the nation last season. (Associated Press)

Here’s the sixth story of our position-by-position NFL draft series. Today, we’ll look at the top interior offensive linemen.

Alabama center Landon Dickerson, one of the top college players at his position, started his career at Florida State and could hear his named called in the first round of the NFL draft, which is set for April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland.

ExploreTop 10 interior linemen of 2021 NFL draft

He was a graduate transfer last season.

“It really means a lot to me that I was able to be a part of not only a national championship-winning team, but a Joe Moore award-winning offensive line, an Outland (Trophy) winning tackle and me receiving the (Dave) Rimington (award),” Dickerson said.

He was interviewed by the Steelers, Falcons and Giants during the pre-draft process and models his game after some of the NFL’s top linemen.

“Quenton Nelson is a guy I enjoy watching,” Dickerson said. “I like the way that he plays.”

He also likes former Falcons center Alex Mack and Tennessee tackle Taylor Lewan.

“The biggest thing just watching (Mack’s) game, he’s extremely smart and athletic,” Dickerson said. “He’s gifted. He does a great job of putting himself in situations where he knows he can win.”

Dickerson is recovering from knee surgery.

“It’s going really good,” Dickerson said. “I’m right on schedule.”

He was not distraught about not being physically able to participate in either of Alabama’s two Pro Days.

“Just really reassuring teams that they can watch the film and see if they want me or not,” Dickerson said. “They can also talk to our trainers and doctors if they want to figure out more details.”

Dickerson played one snap in the College Football Playoff Championship game against Ohio State, the final one of the game.

“It was fun to live that moment,” Dickerson said. “I don’t think there’s good words to describe everything that happened there. Just so much happened with this year -- the SEC schedule, COVID(-19) and not knowing if we were going to play. Being able to go in for one snap and be with my teammates one last time was a special moment.”

Oklahoma offensive lineman Creed Humphrey participates in the school's Pro Day workout for NFL scouts, Friday, March 12, 2021, in Norman, Okla. (Alonzo Adams/AP)
Oklahoma offensive lineman Creed Humphrey participates in the school's Pro Day workout for NFL scouts, Friday, March 12, 2021, in Norman, Okla. (Alonzo Adams/AP)

Credit: Alonzo Adams

Credit: Alonzo Adams

Georgia guard Ben Cleveland and center Trey Hill likely will be middle-round picks.

Cleveland ran the 40-yard dash shirtless and posted an impressive 4.85 seconds.

“I don’t know why I took my shirt off,” Cleveland said. “Just why not? The squirrel diet definitely probably helped cut a little bit of weight this offseason, so yeah, we put a really good time on that, so I’ve got no complaints.”

Hill, who was projected to be the top center in this draft last season, played well through eight games. After playing through pain, he underwent surgery on both knees.

Hill has a 5.69 prospect grade from NFL.com, which projects to being an backup or a special-teams player in the NFL. His experience at right guard will help in his bid to make a roster.

Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey is the second-rated center behind Dickerson, but he’s open to playing guard.

“I told every team, I’m not just a center,” Humphrey said. “I want to be on the field wherever I can be. I see myself as a versatile guy. I can play at any three interior positions, for sure.”

Humphrey, a three-year starter for the Sooners, has studied NFL linemen.

“In the offseason, I do a ton of NFL study,” Humphrey said. “The three guys that I always looked at throughout my career at OU that I like to watch and steal some things from them would be Travis Frederick from the Cowboys, Maurkice Pouncey from the Steelers, and Nick Mangold from the Jets.”

USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker likely will be the first interior lineman selected in the draft. USC needed him to play left tackle in its short six-game season. He put forth some strong performances.

“I think it raised my stock a lot,” Vera-Tucker said. “It was a blessing to play at left tackle, especially since I hadn’t played out there for about four years. It was real good playing out there. It was a little weird at first, but at the end of the season I felt more comfortable out there.”

USC coach Clay Helton knew Vera-Tucker had the physical traits to be an upper-tier draft selection long before this past season. Vera-Tucker just didn’t have as much film, nor the chance to show off his versatility as someone who can play both tackle and guard.

“I really thought it was a very wise decision to play this season, these last six games,” Helton said. “He was right in that first-round, high second-round category prior to the season.”

Georgia offensive lineman Ben Cleveland blocks for Stetson Bennett against Auburn on Saturday, Oct 3, 2020 in Athens.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Georgia offensive lineman Ben Cleveland blocks for Stetson Bennett against Auburn on Saturday, Oct 3, 2020 in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION SERIES

QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs

RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs

WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs

TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs

OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs

OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the top 10 picks in D. Led’s Mock Draft 4.0:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)

3. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

4. Atlanta Falcons: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)

6. Miami Dolphins: Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)

7. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

8. Carolina Panthers: Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)

9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain (CB, Alabama)

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