It is not unusual for a few draft prospects each year to have played for their father in high school, but Ferentz’s father, Kirk, has had the pleasure of coaching him for five years at the University of Iowa. It was the second son Kirk instructed since joining the Hawkeyes after the 1998 season (after spending time as a NFL offensive line coach), and now James’ older brother, Brian, is the team’s offensive line coach after spending four years with the Patriots. The youngest member of this family affair isn’t the biggest pivot man in this draft, but has learned enough from his brother and father in terms of technique that scouts can see him latching on at the next level.
An all-state pick as a junior and senior in Iowa City, Ferentz also letter for four years in wrestling, another very popular in the state and a fine training method for the grappling often going on in the football trenches. He played in just one game as a redshirt freshman in 2009 before taking over the starting center job for every game of the 2010 seasons. Big Ten coaches, other than his father, voted Ferentz honorable mention all-conference after a junior season where he started every contest for the second straight year. As a senior, Ferentz once again started every game, and was named to the Coaches All-Big Ten second-team.
Excellent on the move, consistently hits target on a reach block or at the second level. Very technically sounds, uses leverage and positioning advantage. Plenty of foot speed to stay in front of a running back in space. Solid first contact on slanting blocks despite lack of ideal size. Gets under pads with strong punch and not afraid to finish blocks off with aggression. Heady pass protector, head is on a swivel and can have an arm on two rushers. Has excellent footwork to accomplish responsibility. Hand use is active and continues to attack in one on one pass blocking situations. Also, lower half bend and flexibility allows him to absorb momentum. Has the anticipation and grip to sustain at the second level. Obvious fit for a heavy zone-blocking scheme.
Lacks overall size and pure bulk, which will put him at a major disadvantage when man-up against bigger, faster NFL defensive tackles. At times he gets top heavy and overextends when blocking straight ahead. Has majority of difficulties against bigger defensive linemen that line face up and look to punish on first contact. Does not get every blitz protection call right, some A-gap blitzers run free.
Ferentz is a team leader with pletny starting experience under his belt, but his lack of size is a major detriment. However, is is mobile and plays with sound technique. While he's frequently overpowered, and will get caught lunging, he will likely be drafted late.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.