Because he want to a tiny high school (Big Foot High School. I'm not kidding), Travis Frederick wasn't highly recruited in spite of twice earning all-Wisconsin offensive and defensive prep honors. he secured a scholarship after impressing the Badgers' coaching staff during a summer football camp. Then, after graduating high school early, so he could participate in spring practice, he performed so well that he became the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener in school history (in no small part because Cowboys 2011 seventh-rounder Bill Nagy was - gasp - injured and could not play).
Frederick started four games on the season (two at center, two at left guard) then, after redshirting in 2010 (due to the incredible depth on the Badgers' offensive line), started thirteen games (eleven at left guard and two at center) in 2011, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. He followed that up with a stellar 2012 campaign during which he started all 13 games at center and was named first-team All-Big Ten.
As his early success suggests, Frederick boasts a high football intelligence that, at center, allows him expertly to diagnose defensive alignments and to adjust the offensive line accordingly. He has excellent size, yet is mobile enough to get to the second level and block in space. In addition, he's a good technician and has a nasty attitude: he's a finisher. On the other hand, he lacks elite athleticism and can be beaten inside by explosive D-linemen when he fails to set up quickly. Here he is in action against Big Ten rivals Michigan State and Ohio State and locking horns with Stanford in the Rose Bowl game.
What do our scouts say about Frederick? Their thoughts follow...
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): top-rated OC; 31st overall
Pass Protection: Massive interior OL with very good awareness, adequate initial quickness in set and a powerful punch. Very quick with his hands. Technically sound with angles. Does a great job of helping out OG while keeping head on swivel. Rarely gives ground to bull rush. Has good core strength and upper body power. Lacks ideal quickness and athleticism at OC. Occasionally struggles to redirect laterally in time to pick up quick blitz/stunt. Feet will occasionally go dead after initial contact in pass pro, which is an area he can improve upon.
Run Blocking: Strong, mauling interior OL in the run game. Lacks ideal mobility and can be slow getting out to second-level at times. But a smart, crafty run blocker with good initial quickness off the ball. Does an excellent job with first step angles as a reach and scoop blocker. Has quick, strong hands and is crafty with hand placement/usage (gets away with a lot of clutching and grabbing of DL because of his inside placement). Has the upper body strength to lock out and the lower-body strength to drive defenders off the line.
Awareness: Very good awareness in pass pro. Keeps head on a swivel. Helps as long as possible before peeling off to pick up twist, stunt, or delayed blitz. Can look a bit lost on second-level as a run blocker at times. Has experience at both OC and OG, much like 2012 second-round pick and former teammate Peter Konz (Falcons).
Toughness: Plays with a chip. Not content until he has finished the DL off. Shows some savvy with hand-to-hand combat.
Intangibles: Intelligent, hardworking and driven. Majoring in computer engineering. Academic All-Big Ten in 2012. Member of National Honor Society in high school. Parents are Darrell and Elizabeth Frederick.
National Football Post (Russ Lande): top-rated OC; 71st overall
Strengths: Strong and powerful, Frederick consistently shows ability to "get a good fit" on DT and is able to keep DT pinned on LOS in pass pro. Although his 40 time is terrible, he is quick out of stance to set-up and make contact with DL. He does a good job of bending knees and pass blocking with good base/leverage, which allows him to slide well side to side to maintain in pass pro. Once he gets ahold of DT he has the strength and technique to consistently maintain his pass blocks. He does a good job of getting off the ball quickly on in-line run blocks, makes contact with good leverage and can pin/seal DL to the side of the play to open the inside hole. For a player who ran such a bad 40, he is surprisingly effective making short pull and lead blocking LB in the hole. In addition, he is effective chipping DT and stepping through the LOS to seal block LB to the side of the play. He has experience starting at both guard and center, so versatility is definitely a plus.
Weaknesses: Frederick is not a top athlete and while he can effectively make short pull, he lacks speed to get outside the OT to lead block on outside runs. Despite showing the ability to set-up quickly in pass pro, he is late at times getting his hands on DT, which allows explosive off the ball DT's to get into gaps to get backfield penetration before he is set. While he is productive blocking in space when defender is on his track, he lacks the quickness and athleticism to adjust off track to block a moving target out in space consistently.
Summary: Having played guard most of 2011 (Except when he filled in for Peter Konz when he was injured), Frederick switched to center in 2012 after Konz graduated and was much more effective there. While he weighed 312 at the Combine, he played in the high 320's/low 330's at Wisconsin and definitely is at his best when at that weight as it gives him the size and playing strength to physically tie up and control DT. He is never going to be able to adjust to block effectively out in space and will have trouble dealing with explosive off the ball gap shooting DT's due to his lack of top athleticism. Overall, Frederick is being downgraded because of a bad 40 time at the Combine, but he is a good center prospect with the talent to be a solid, workmanlike starter in the NFL who is able to physically control man once he locks up on them. He would be an excellent fit for a team like the Ravens.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): top-rated OC; 48th overall
Positives: With sheer mass and a strong base to anchor, Frederick looks the part. He has power in his punch and lays heavy-handed. Wins in a phone booth and can open holes in the run game. Good leg drive and lower-body power. Can also play either guard position. Measured 17.3 percent body fat at the Combine.
Negatives: Relies too much on his upper body strength and tend to play too top-heavy. Has untapped power and could play with better knee bend. Balance needs improvement. Lateral agility is average. Plodding mover. Doesn't show quickness in reaching the second level to fit on LBs.
Summary: Started final 27 games of college at guard and center, showing versatility and experience. Large, physical, short-area blocker who can wall off with NFL strength. Would be the biggest center in the league and may project to guard in a power-based blocking scheme. Shed weight prior to the Combine.
Ourlads (Dan Shonka): 2nd-rated OC; 57th overall
Junior entry. Three-year starter with experience at guard and center. Fringe athletic ability for his position. Dropped 20 pounds form the end of the season. A power player who gets push in the run game. Smooth and aware enough to handle inside stunts. Can anchor a bull rush. Gets movement on the down player. He has the size and strength to dominate a nose tackle. Roots defender out of the hole. A three position player with experience at guard and center. Has a tendency to lose his knee bend and play high, thereby losing his leverage. Some lower body stiffness. Should eventually start with pro physical development.
Our panel rates Frederick from the very late first to the early third. In essence, he is a second-rounder capable of going a bit earlier or a bit later. I'll follow suit, placing him in the second round on my "little board," as I'm skeptical whether he'll last until the 80th pick, where the Cowboys currently sit in round three.
The former Badger is a bit different than the other O-line candidates who the Cowboys brought to the Ranch for pre-draft visits, as his game is not athleticism or quickness (although he does flash good feet on occasion) but brute power and solid technique. Because of that, I doubt they are interested in him at guard; rather, they see him as a potential upgrade at center (where, as Lande notes, he's a better player), particularly in terms of power and ability to root out big nose tackles and anchor against pass rush heavies.
That said, I'm not sure he represents enough of an upgrade to justify a second-day pick. This draft is too deep at positions, like guard, defensive line and safety, where the team has more aching needs. If they can secure his services with a third day selection? Ol' Rabble would be just fine with that...
Next up: Michigan State TE Dion Sims