In today’s NFL, teams seem to be looking for offensive linemen with position versatility within the trenches, whether that’s a tackle that can play guard, or a center that can play both guard positions.
Good news for 2023 NFL Draft hopeful Jerome Carvin out of Tennessee, he has position versatility — and experience — in abundance entering the draft process.
Carvin (6035, 308) played in 59 career games for the Volunteers, starting 42 of them during his time on Rocky Top. Of those 42 games, Carvin started 20 at left guard, 17 at right guard and five at center, including 12 starts at left guard in 2022 as the Volunteers were a national championship contender before injuries derailed Tennessee’s season.
At the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas, Carvin saw reps at center and both guard positions, moving around quite a bit to try and display his versatility and athleticism overall, putting together a strong showing overall in Las Vegas. That versatility seems to be his calling card overall, which is something he was forced into quickly upon enrolling at Tennessee as a freshman.
A former four-star recruit coming out of high school and a top 10 player in Tennessee, the decision to become a Volunteer was an easy one for Carvin, which now has him on the cusp of achieving a lifelong dream he’s had since he started playing football at 7 years old.
Speaking with Steelers Depot from inside the players lounge in The Velvet Room of the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during Shrine Bowl week, Carvin detailed how he obtained that versatility, and where he believes his best fit in the NFL is moving forward.
“I came in as a right tackle, but we had injuries in camp in the spring. I enrolled early, and I got bumped inside and I stayed there ever since,” Carvin told Steelers Depot.
That bump inside included reps at both guard positions and center, a position he had never played in high school, let alone peewee football.
“I had never snapped the ball before getting to college,” Carvin said. “My coach was like, ‘Hey, we need you to like really do this. And so I started getting reps in practice and then it just went on and off from there. Just being available for wherever my team needed me at. So, I started out at right guard in my career because we had Trey Smith had left guard.
“It definitely was a learning curve as well, just because it’s different,” Carvin added. “Tackle is different from you playing inside, you know? And that’s what I played in high school, but once you get down all three interior spots, they are very similar.”
Smith, of course, went on to become a sixth-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 NFL Draft, falling due to medical concerns. Smith was a top-flight guard coming out of college and has played at a Pro Bowl level his first two seasons in Kansas City. A close friend of Carvin’s, Smith has helped the latest Tennessee offensive lineman entering the league be prepared for what’s ahead.
Having that cheat sheet throughout the pre-draft process from a guy like Smith has been a huge help for Carvin, who spoke at length with teams like the Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals in Las Vegas, he told Steelers Depot.
Thanks to that versatility on the inside, he’ll have a number of suitors entering the NFL. However, there’s one position he truly feels he’ll be the most successful at in the NFL, and it just so happens to be the position he’s least experienced at: center.
“I always like to tell people I’m a guard that can play center,” Carvin said. “So, I can play either guard positions by now and of course center’s my secondary, but honestly I feel like my game would translate better in the league if I was a center.
Citing a former NFL standout like Rodney Hudson, Carvin has spent a lot of time watching the former Raiders and Cardinals center throughout his time at Tennessee, trying to learn the nuances of the position in his free time to better prepare him for the NFL. Still, with 37 of his 42 starts in college coming at left or right guard, it was a bit surprising to hear the Tennessee standout stating his best fit in the NFL might be at center.
“I feel like, honestly, I just had early-on success at center, and I feel like my game translates more at center,” Carvin said. “I think I’m a smart guy, too. “I can read defenses, I can declare spots and things like that. So, I think center going from inside out, I think I’d be fine.”
Teams are certainly interested in the versatility, searching for ways to save on a roster spot by having a piece that can play multiple positions in the trenches. Add in the fact that Carvin has plenty of experience in a pro-style and spread systems at Tennessee, and he’s certainly an intriguing piece overall.
However, one area of his game that he’s added in recent seasons could really make him an intriguing piece on the inside, that being his independent hand usage as a blocker, something that is quickly catching on in the NFL as linemen search for new ways to win against more athletic, agile interior defensive linemen in today’s game.
“D-linemen are getting really good at swiping hands, and so you swipe two man and they get around you, it’s hard to recover,” Carvin said, detailing why he switched to using independent hands. “And so I say I like throwing independent hands because one, he swipes, he swipes the outside hand down. You still have another hand to recover and honestly still be in good shape, as well as like, just giving him a different look.
“Independent hands I feel like is the go-to and it is really important. So, independent hands are important. I love ’em.”
Based on his athletic profile (33 3/8-inch arms, 82 1/4-inch wingspan) and his overall versatility on the inside, Carvin will be sought after in the draft process, especially coming from the SEC with the experience he has against top-flight talent the last four years.