It feels like BJ Finney has been manning the center spot for Kansas State forever. And in college football, four years really is forever. He burst on to the scene in 2011 as a redshirt freshman who had walked-on and worked his butt off to get the starting nod. And he didn't look back. He helped pave the way for Heisman finalist Collin Klein, he helped keep Jake Waters upright long enough to throw to Tyler Lockett, and he was one of the unquestioned leaders on a team full of them. So much so that he was K-State's first 3-time team captain from the offensive line, and one of the few in school history. B.J. was an All-Big 12 performer every year: honorable mention as a freshman and sophomore, and first team as a junior and senior, also sharing the conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year award in 2014. Finney was also named as a finalist for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center in 2014. Coupled to that is a humble and friendly young man. So lets take a look where our fearless leader may go in the NFL draft this weekend and why.
Finney's biggest strength is that grey matter between his ears. You can't start as a freshman (or really, at any time) for Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder without being able to learn and execute the playbook, as well as working hard every day. And we all know the tales of the size of The Wizard's playbook. To be the captain of the offensive line, you need to be able to read the defensive front to help adjust to the scheme being called. We don't have any GIFs or video for you, but his vision and awareness are above-average. He also is a high-motor guy, willing to work harder than the other guys, as well as a high-tenacity guy (he's not going to give up because it's tough).
Finney is a fundamentally sound blocker. He's not the biggest guy on the line, nor the strongest. But he uses great footwork and solid arm skills to get leverage against larger defenders. His size is an asset when it comes to pulling and blocking downfield, as he has the speed and quickness to block into the second level. His solid fundamentals and intangibles lead to our final strength point...
While he was the Wildcats starting center his entire career, he was no stranger to playing at other spots along the line if injury dictated a shuffle. The most recent example was the Alamo Bowl game where Finney finished the game playing right tackle (better than the starters there, sorry Messrs. Liddle and Kleinsorge). NFL draft boards have projected that B.J. could move out to guard based on his skill set, but his natural position is right in the middle.
Obviously, its pretty easy to get banged up playing football. But Finney never missed a game in his career, starting all 52 games at K-State (his first start at right guard, the next 51 at center). And he plays like someone who has seen that much action, using his veteran knowledge to his advantage (see, the grey-matter is still showing through here). This also means he never missed a game due to injury, so NFL GM's can rest easy at night knowing they have a tough guy who isn't likely to miss much time.
You wouldn't normally consider a 6'4" 300lb man small, but for an NFL offensive line, he is undersized. If he were even two inches taller, he would likely be looking at a first-day grade. The scouts main complaint is his lack of "elite" arm-length, or basically he has normal-length arms and not ridiculously long ones. And while Finney is strong, he's not setting any weight-lifting records. His combine numbers did raise a few eyebrows, but they were only above-average compared to his peers.
Style of Play
The main knock against Finney here is that he doesn't have a "mean-streak" (of course, I don't think there's a mean bone in the guy's body, but I digress...) and may lack the aggressiveness required for the NFL. He also tends to play high at times, not using his whole body for leverage and instead trying to use upper-body strength. Against college competition, this was generally not a big issue, but Finney isn't likely going to be able to out-muscle many defensive tackles in the NFL.
All over the place. CBSSports.com has him rated as the #3 center and a third or fourth round pick. FoxSports.com has him mocked to the Bengals as a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round. But draftbreakdown.com has him as a seventh-round pick, as the last draftable center. Being a third-round-plus pick means there is a lot of variance, and little consensus, and no real clue who might take him this weekend. Near and dear to many readers here, the Kansas City Chiefs may be in the market for a center in the middle rounds. If the Chiefs take both Lockett and Finney, you'll probably hear a cry of collective euphoria coming from the purple faithful in Kansas and Kansas City.
Editor's Note: Scouts reports referenced from CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and NFL.com player breakdowns.