Writing draft profiles gives you a pretty good sense of how good the potential draft picks were in college, and how they'll translate into pros, but there's something to actually knowing how good a kid is because you've seen him play in over 30 games. If the player went to Notre Dame, I've assuredly done so, and that includes C Braxston Cave.
Cave has anchored the Fighting Irish Offensive Line the past three seasons, starting 35 games in that stretch. His presence was definitely missed in 2011 when he suffered a foot injury against Wake Forest, as ND had only given up five sacks all season before the injury, and they gave up 12 in the final four games without Cave in there. He clearly made a difference, not only in physical protection, but mentally knowing where blockers would be coming from, etc. In 2012 Cave was a Finalist for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's top Center, and helped the Irish average nearly five yards per carry on the ground, and 189 yards per game.
Because of Brian Kelly's infatuation with playing musical chairs at QB, Cave never had the opportunity to have a long time with a single QB, making his job a bit tougher than most Centers. Add in that 85% of his snaps were from the shotgun, and I can't remember a bad one, and Cave demonstrated being able to get thrown in with anyone and do well. The change in Offensive style when Kelly was brought in, as opposed to the more pro-style Offense run by the coach who recruited him, Charlie Weis, also didn't phase Cave.
Cave is a little undersized, and not particularly quick, so he's getting looked at in the 5th or 6th round range. It also isn't helping him that Centers generally aren't a premium position, so they tend to get drafted later no matter how good they are. The Colts spent some good money on Samson Satele last offseason, and quite honestly he failed to live up to expectations, getting out-played, in my opinion, by A.Q. Shipley. I see quite a few similarities between Shipley and Cave, mostly size-wise, and the fact that they'll never quit on a play. For a 6th round pick, the Colts could do much worse than Cave. Some team is going to be pleased when he arrives on their team, so it might as well be the Colts.
Scouting Profile from NFL.com:
Tough-as-nails center with good overall strength and the intelligence to lead an NFL line. Gives good effort to sustain run blocks through the play, whether it’s a reach block or chasing down Mike linebackers when asked. Good enough feet to move to correct blocking angle while engaged. Displays bend and a punch to knock linebackers away from the play in space.
Not overly athletic and possesses average size and strength. Stiff, lacks quickness, and balance. Stops his feet and bends at the waist in one-on-one blocks, better tackles can pull down and disengage.
POSITIVES: Anchor of Notre Dame's offensive line in 2012. Tough and strong at the point of attack with good base strength and balance in his stance. Works hard to gain body position to create run lanes. Shows good awareness to pick up the blitz and is known as a smart, heady player.
NEGATIVES: Choppy footwork and average foot quickness are exposed in space. Spends too much time on the ground with slower than ideal hands. Type of prospect who leaves you wanting more, lacking a consistent nasty demeanor. Struggled to sustain blocks during practices at the Senior Bowl, playing tight and lacking the athleticism to recover.
NFL Comparison - Collin Baxter, C, San Diego Chargers
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