25 Jul Preseason Scouting Notes: Michael Saffell, OC, California
Senior | 6’2” 290 lbs | Huntington Beach, C | May 4, 1999
An undersized, squatty interior OL with a sturdy anchor, good balance, and a mean streak
Michael Saffell heads into his second season as the starting center in California’s RPO-heavy spread offense. He’s accrued 11 starts at center and 8 at guard over his three seasons with the program and has missed games due to injury in each of the past two years. Saffell has experience running primarily zone and duo blocking schemes, and he helped lead the Golden Bears to an 8-2 record in games he finished in 2019. He is a bit undersized for the position and has a squatty build with a thick torso and low center of gravity.
– Good communication skills up front. Calls out and picks up blitzes well
– Shows above average ability to reset his feet and drop a hard anchor against bull rushes
– Very effective chipping to the second level to take on linebackers in tight quarters
– Adept at manipulating defenders’ leverage and momentum to his advantage
– High-motor player and mean finisher
– Well-balanced player with good core strength. Keeps a wide base and shows the ability to recover well when he loses balance
– Looks for work when uncovered and does well to catch stunts and games from the DL
– Knee bender who shows good ankle flexion
Areas to improve:
– Has a tendency to let his hands drift out wide in pass protection, Will result in holding calls at the next level
– Limited power. Doesn’t create a vertical push as a rush blocker against interior DL
– Lateral agility is merely adequate on zone runs and while blocking in space on screens
– Has had some issues with bad snaps out of shotgun
– Needs to maintain low pad level more often. Pads tend to rise after initial pop at the POA
– Must stay healthy to prove he isn’t injury prone
– (2019) Left Oregon game early with an undisclosed lower body injury and missed the following two games
– (2018) Season-ending lower body injury knocked him out for the year in his sixth game
As an undersized offensive lineman without any truly elite traits, Saffell likely will be drafted late on Day 3, if at all. However, due to his strong anchor, balance/flexibility, and positional flexibility, he should be a valuable multi-positional backup at the end of an NFL roster. He will likely carve out a career as a third center/fourth guard and will be valued for his ability to play in multiple schemes.
What to watch in 2020:
First and foremost, Saffell needs to show that he can stay healthy to prove himself worthy of a draft selection. Missing time in the 2020 season would be a big blow to his stock. Additionally, Saffell has the unenviable task of needing to simultaneously add weight and improve his lateral agility. He has adequate play strength, but will be well-overmatched by larger 0- and 1-techniques at the next level unless he adds mass. Improving his lateral agility isn’t a complete must, but it could make him much more attractive as a backup option, particularly to zone-heavy teams.